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It was almost two years ago that I reviewed the first 3G data card from Vodafone and it quite literally changed the way I worked. Being able to get online from almost any location really did make my life easier when I was out of the office. Since then I rarely go anywhere without a notebook and a 3G data card with me.
Back then Vodafone ruled the 3G data card market, by choosing to use hardware from Option, which quite simply wiped the floor with competing hardware at the time. But eventually the other network operators caught on and switched to Option hardware as well, meaning that Vodafone lost its initial edge.
But things have moved on in the 3G data card arena, with the implementation of HSDPA. Vodafone was the first network operator to announce the launch of its HSDPA network back in June, but it wasn’t able to get review hardware to me until a few weeks later. In fact, by the time that I received this Vodafone Mobile Connect Card, I had already tested and reviewed T-Mobile’s HSDPA card.
It comes as no surprise to see that the Vodafone Mobile Connect card is pretty much identical to the T-Mobile Web ‘n’ Walk card. Both network operators have gone with the Option Globe Trotter hardware, which marries HSDPA connectivity with 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. Also just like the T-Mobile card, the Mobile Connect is good for a very healthy 1.8Mbit/sec download speeds. There are faster HSDPA standards on the horizon, with 3.6Mbit/sec due early next year and 7.2Mbit/sec following that, but for now, 1.8Mbit/sec is a significant jump from standard 3G at 384Kbit/sec.
The Mobile Connect Dashboard has improved a great deal since I looked at the last card. Vodafone has shrunk down the icons and improved the look and feel of the software. The window that the Dashboard runs in is still larger than the T-Mobile application, even when viewed in “small mode”, but it’s not overly obtrusive on your desktop. You can setup the Dashboard software so that 3G is your preferred connection method, but it will use GPRS if there’s no 3G signal available. The Mobile Connect Dashboard also has separate connect buttons for 3G/GPRS and Wi-Fi, making it far easier to differentiate between the two connection options than it was with the T-Mobile Communications Center.