It’s funny I spend so much time in the office playing with hardware and tech and gaming throughout the year that completely miss out on some of the cool tech that requires me to get outside a little. When we plan out trips I sometimes take that chance to bring things along with me that require a little more time out of the office. Well for the second year in a row my wife and I decided to make the trip down to Florida to visit family. Along the way we spent a few days at the Mid-Season Invitational League of Legends games, snuck off to Disney World, and spent a few days on the beach in Daytona. Well I decided this would be a great time to check out something completely different. As an old school car guy and a tech nut I keep my ear to the ground when I can and I have seen GM pushing their OnStar with 4G LTE. I thought it would be interesting to see just what they have going on the tech side of things. I reached out to GM and they were surprisingly happy to drop of a 2015 Chevy Trax with all of the bells and whistles. We took the Trax down with us giving us a great chance to check out what they have going on.
Let’s be clear, this isn’t a car review as it is more a peek at what kind of tech you can get with a new car although I will talk a little about how the Trax worked out for us on the trip as well.
Product Name: 2015 Chevrolet Trax LTZ AWD
Product Provided by: GM
Written by: Wes
Pictures by: Wes
Trax Accessories on Amazon: HERE
With us focusing on the tech that GM has available in their entry level cars I’m going to break down the sections by a few of the main features, then from there I will talk about our experience with the Trax.
OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi
Even though it is just my wife and I on trips typically you might find it surprising just nice it is to be able to jump online whenever you would like. One of the main features of the Chevy Trax and with OnStar as a whole is how now you can have a built in WiFi hotspot in your car. OnStar already uses a cell connection so adding this feature wasn’t a huge leap for GM but as far as features go I don’t think you can find anything else more impacting, especially to family’s with kids. For me I spent most of the time driving so I really only took advantage of the feature when we stopped for breaks. I was able to quickly check emails, log into our house to check on our cats on our security cameras, and when I updated our excel file for tracking money spent and gas millage on our trip the file was able to sync to Dropbox each time. Seeing that the first part of our trip was down to Tallahassee for the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational I did get the chance to use the hotspot to listen to the PTL stream the night before on the way down.
My wife on the other hand was able to use the wireless a little more. She mostly used it connected to her tablet to play all of her games but it did allow her to browse the internet and most importantly look up all of the weird things we fight about when in a car for 13-15 hours at a time.
Beyond how we used it, how did the hotspot actually work? Well GM works with AT&T for the LTE coverage so the connection depends entirely on their service area. When driving down 75 through the country for the most part we had great service. I did stop at a rest stop in the mountains that I had good service on my Verizon cell phone but not on the hotspot. I do wish that they used Verizon because in my experience their coverage has been a little more complete but around town and on 75 the Trax Hotspot was great. Down in Florida we did end up driving through a state park coming back from Daytona Beach where the coverage for AT&T was weak. I think the main thing here is to take a look at the coverage maps, it really depends on where you live and where you plan on driving, AT&T has most of the interstate system covered though. From what I understand the OnStar 4G LTE Hotspot actually gets better reception than a phone as well because it uses a much larger antenna. I heard a story from a friend who is an automotive writer who said they were at a press event and no one had cell coverage and GM pulled a car up and turned on the hotspot for everyone. In my testing it was hard to compare because I didn’t have an AT&T phone on me.
For performance I saw a range of numbers depending on the coverage but on average I actually saw numbers faster than most home connections. Outside of my own home in northwest Ohio I had a ping of 90 to the nearest server on speedtest.net with 12.15 down and 5.65 up. That is actually more upload than my cable offers on their highest package!
Just like your cell phone the data on the OnStar 4G LTE Hotspot isn’t free though. You do get 3 gigs or three months of service when you first buy car. After that you can find monthly plans that start at $5 a month up to $50 a month. Also being an OnStar Subscriber can increase that as well. If you don’t need it all of the time you can actually pick up one day data plans or a one year plan with 10 gigs to be more flexible. AT&T customers can actually just add the hotspot directly to their plan as well for $10 a month and it will use your phone data.