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Sprint Aircard 595U
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Review posted September 25, 2007 by Lisa Gade, Editor
PC Card, ExpressCard/34, ExpressCard/54-- there are just too many card slots to worry about these days. And then there's the popular Apple MacBook, which has no card slot. Enter USB 2.0 -based solutions, which instead plug into your notebook's USB port. Pretty much every notebook made in the past 5 years has a USB slot, and those made in the past two or three years have the faster USB 2.0 kind, making the Sierra Wireless Aircard 595U for Sprint (not a card at all, despite the name) a little piece of compatibility heaven. Drivers for Windows ship on the companion CD and Mac drivers are available for download from Sprint's web site.
This is an EVDO Rev. A wireless cellular modem, currently the fastest networking technology available on CDMA networks (Sprint and Verizon use CDMA networks while AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM). And this isn't your grandpa's EVO Rev. 0 solution which always felt like a second class citizen compared to WiFi. Rev. A on Sprint's network in the US is definitely life in the fast lane when it comes to wireless data over phone networks, and it didn't leave us wanting for WiFi.
The USB connector pops out for connection to a computer.
EVDO (also written as EV-DO) is capable of download speeds in the range of 600kbps to 1.4Mbps according to Sprint and average upload speeds are 350 to 500kbps. In our tests, download speeds generally topped 1 Mb and upload speeds averaged 350k.
Sprint claims to reach more than 170 million people with their "Mobile Broadband" EVDO service, and most of that coverage area is the faster Rev. A. We tested their Rev. A service in the Dallas metroplex and in the greater Boston area, along with a far-flung visit to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. A significant percentage of the Cape is protected National Sea Shore and cell phone/data service hasn't been stellar in that vacation spot, yet we were surprised to get a good EVDO Rev. A signal on Sprint in residential and business areas on the Cape. In fact, overall we found Sprint's "Mobile Broadband" (called Power Vision on their phones) to be better deployed than their voice network.
The 595U is a compact wireless modem, though significantly bigger than a USB flash drive. It measures 3.5 x 1.5 x 0.8 inches and weighs 2.1 ounces. Sprint includes a base with USB extension cable which is handy if you wish to position the card near a window for better reception (we didn't find this necessary) or if the card blocks a needed adjacent port on your notebook.
The card has a small, replaceable 380 mA Lithium Ion battery. It lives under the gloss black pastic cover on the modem's front side. The battery must have some charge before the modem will function, but it takes just a few minutes to charge it to operational status over USB. There are LEDs for connection status and low battery.
The battery is under the front cover.
Verizon also offers the 595U on their network (but they aren't interchangeable since the modem is locked to the carrier that sells it).