Once you’ve slipped a SIM into the module and restarted the notebook, you simply click the Sierra Wireless AirCard 800 Series Watcher icon on the desktop. This will then read the SIM, and show the signal strength of its network – you then simply click the Connect button and you’re away. Like a 3G data card, the E8210 will connect at the highest possible rate, if there is 3G service present it will connect to that, but it will also drop down to EDGE or GPRS when the 3G signal is weak.
I used the E8210 in a variety of environments and it managed to lock onto a 3G signal in most instances. The reception is aided by the fact that the integrated 3G module makes use of the antennae built into the lid of the notebook, therefore negating the need to plug in an external antenna, as with a 3G data card. You can also send SMS messages direct from the E8210, making this laptop even more versatile.
Slapping a 3G SIM into the E8210 will give you a data rate of up to 384Kbit/sec, just like a 3G data card. However, the Sierra Wireless module is HSDPA compliant, which offers data rates of up to 1.8Mbit/sec. Although there are no HSDPA networks in the UK yet, it won’t be long before most of the major network operators launch HSDPA services. In fact Vodafone recently informed me that its HSDPA service should be going live in the summer.
If you do find yourself in range of a WiFi hotspot, you’ll have no problem connecting to it. There’s an Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG WiFi adapter inside the E8210 which will allow you to connect to 802.11a,b and g networks. There’s also an integrated Bluetooth module, so you’ll be able to transfer data from your mobile phone or connect to a Bluetooth enabled printer. You can also connect a Bluetooth headset to the E8210 and use the installed SIM card for making voice calls – could this be the most feature rich smartphone?
For when you’re in the office, the E8210 also sports a Gigabit Ethernet adapter for lightning fast connection to your network. Finally there’s a 56k modem, but I honestly can’t imagine that you’d ever need this with all the other connection options at your disposal.