Most of my technologically aware friends think that I must have the best job in the world. They assume that being able to play with the latest technology, as soon as itâ€™s available, must be a Nirvana like working environment. Unfortunately, the reality isnâ€™t quite so heavenly, and much of the time Iâ€™m looking at products that are evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. Letâ€™s face it, looking at a brand new CPU thatâ€™s only differentiating feature is that itâ€™s clocked a few MHz faster, doesnâ€™t really get my pulse racing. However, once in a while something comes along that restores my faith in cutting edge technology, a product that works so well that it makes me wonder how I ever managed to survive without it.
The Vodafone Mobile Connect 3G Data Card is such a product, and now that Iâ€™ve been using it for a while, I donâ€™t ever want to be without it. Being an online technology journalist means that I need constant Internet access, no matter where I may be. This can often mean searching out WiFi hotspots, which usually carry a pretty hefty price tag, assuming I can find one. But the Vodafone Mobile Connect has allowed me to get online wherever and whenever I need to, without the need for WiFi hotspots , CAT5 cable or dialup modems.
The Mobile Connect, as the full name suggests, is a 3G data card that slips into the PC Card slot of a notebook, and enables it to connect to the Internet over Vodafoneâ€™s growing 3G network. The card also supports GPRS, so if thereâ€™s no 3G coverage where you happen to be, the Mobile Connect will drop down to the slower GPRS standard to keep you connected.
But I donâ€™t want to get ahead of myself â€“ letâ€™s take a look at what you get from Vodafone. Well, the Mobile Connect ships in a plastic case, similar to a double disc DVD box. Opening up the box reveals the Mobile Connect 3G Data Card safely locked away in its plastic carry case, surrounded by more protective foam. Youâ€™ll also find a user guide, a driver CD and the all important SIM card.
Installation is very simple and just involves loading the CD into your laptop drive and running it. Itâ€™s at this point that I should mention that the Vodafone Mobile Connect wonâ€™t just give you access to the Internet while youâ€™re out and about, it can also give you access to your office intranet. The latter will be particularly useful to corporate users that need to have access to the office wherever they may be. When you load the driver CD it asks you if you want to load the Internet version or the Corporate Intranet version of the software.
I chose to load the Internet version of the software, since I donâ€™t have a corporate intranet that I need access to. After being faced with some basic questions like which email client and web browser youâ€™d like to have associated with the Mobile Connect, youâ€™re prompted to reboot the machine. Once your notebook has started up, youâ€™re asked to insert the Data Card (after youâ€™ve installed the SIM card into it of course), and thatâ€™s it, youâ€™re all done.
The Mobile Connect application will launch automatically at start up and try to lock onto a 3G or GPRS signal, but it wonâ€™t connect until you tell it to. The one criticism I do have of the hardware/software integration, is that if you donâ€™t have the Data Card inserted when the notebook boots up, you canâ€™t plug it in and start working. For some reason, the card MUST be inserted when the application launches or it wonâ€™t find a network. This isnâ€™t a major problem though, since all I had to do was shutdown the application and re-launch it once the card was inserted. And, as Iâ€™ve already said, thatâ€™s the only criticism I have of this product, which is quite an achievement.