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Vodafone USB Modem Stick - HSDPA Modem review



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Back in September 2004 I reviewed the Vodafone Mobile Connect 3G data card, and was amazed at how useful it was. As someone that's often having to work while out and about, the ability to get online from pretty much anywhere was something of a Godsend. Back then, the 384kbps download speed was impressive, with most home broadband users lucky to get 1mbps connections at the time. But the big turning point was the launch of HSDPA, which offered 1.8mbps on the move and really did give you broadband speeds while sitting in the park, or a coffee shop.

The big breakthrough came when Vodafone launched its Mobile Connect USB Modem back in November 2006. This device married the online-anywhere performance of the PC Card offering, with the flexibility of USB. Not only was the USB Modem compatible with any device that supported USB, including Apple Macs, it also had the device drivers embedded (at least for Windows). The result was an HSDPA device that you simply plugged into a USB port without the need for a driver CD to get it working.

Back in November Vodafone launched its new HSDPA USB Modem, nicknamed The Pebble. Not only did the new model have a sleek and stylish design that was bound to appeal to MacBook users, but it was also rated at 7.2mbps. Unfortunately when The Pebble launched there wasn't much in the way of 7.2mbps coverage, so I didn't get a chance to review it. But a couple of weeks ago Vodafone launched another 7.2mbps USB HSDPA device, this time called the USB Modem Stick, and this time I was able to put it through its paces.

As its name suggests, this latest HSDPA device from Vodafone resembles a traditional USB memory stick, although a pretty big one by today's standards. As such, there is no need for connection cables, with the device itself sliding straight into a USB port. It's also worth mentioning that absent minded users need not worry about losing the cap to the USB Modem Stick, since it's cleverly tethered to the device, thus making it impossible to lose without employing the services of something sharp. If your notebook can't accommodate a large USB device - like the woefully under-featured MacBook Air - you can use a USB extension cable, and you'll find one in the box with the Vodafone USB Modem Stick.

Like the original Mobile Connect USB Modem that I reviewed, the USB Modem Stick is a plug and play device. Simply plug it into a Windows PC / notebook and it will automatically install the required drivers and configure itself - it really is that easy. If you're a Mac user however, you're still going to have to install the drivers from the supplied CD before you can use the device. The beautiful thing about having the drivers (for Windows at least) embedded on the device is that you can easily transfer the USB Modem Stick to pretty much any PC with ease. If you need to download something to a friend's notebook, but you're out and about, you can simply plug the USB Modem Stick in, let it auto configure and then just fire up a browser.

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Bruce 1

August 30, 2008, 8:18 pm

I have had one of Vodaphone's modems for some time now. To begin with it was superb - as you say - it was showing 3.6 Mbits/sec and although clearly not that fast it was plently fast enough. We moved the "office" to another part of the house. Disaster! We can only get 53.6 speeds now which means no Skpe phoning, no downloads and lots of waiting for ANYTHING to arrive onscreen. I wondered if it were facing in the wrong direction but no it made no difference unless I took it back to the particular "hotspot". Within a few feet in any direction and the strength of signal has gone and 53.6 returns. It is incredibly frustrating that when we were made to sign a Vodaphone contract for a minimum of 18 months of this! So beware - they definately dont work well everywhere - and in these days where it is automatically assumed that you have huge download speeds - it isn't funny when you dont!!

I have tried e-mailing Vodaphone about the issue - but I always knew that they wouldn't care - and sure enough they didn't - I was kicked by one office to another like a football until, exasperated, I resigned myself to stone aged connection speeds.



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