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Home -> Phone and Data Card Reviews -> Sierra Wireless AirCard 595U for Sprint

Sprint Aircard 595U

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Review posted September 25, 2007 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

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.

Aircard 595U

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.

Aircard 595U

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.

Aircard 595U

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).




We tested the card and Sprint Connection Manager software with the Sony Vaio SZ650 notebook running Windows Vista. The software installed without a hitch, and once installation was complete, the wireless application prompted us to download the latest version. If you're a techie hoping to skip a few steps, go to Sprint's download section and download the latest software rather than first installing the possibly dated version on the CD.


Sprint Connection Manager

Connections were generally reliable, even with a relatively low signal of -89 db. Occasionally the modem and software failed to connect the first time, but the second attempt always worked. We noted that the weight of the Aircard tends to tug on the USB connector and we had to make sure it was firmly seated in the port on the notebook. Sprint's Connection Manager is an unobtrusive floating window (shown above), that can be further minimized to hide the set/received/total section. It indicates connection status (mouse over the connection symbol to see if you're connected to Rev. 0 or Rev. A) and signal strength is the cell phone bars style. The Menu button brings up more advanced settings and troubleshooting information, and you can use the software to activate the card if you receive in un-activated. In addition, the software supports text messaging and offers simple location based services-- for example, restaurants or gas stations nearby.

Aircard 595U

The stand with USB cable and the 595U.

Aircard 595U

The Aircard 595U in the included stand

Now that we've confirmed the card and software's reliability, let's take another look at connection speed. I was mightily impressed with EVDO Rev. A on Sprint's network. It really felt like a WiFi connection (granted an 802.11b public connection and not a fast 802.11n home or work connection). Though AT&T's HSDPA data network and cards are equal to EVDO Rev. A in terms of speed specs (both being in the 3.5G category), I've never gotten this level of performance from my AT&T Option GT Max HSDPA card. Testing on DSL Reports' site shows similar numbers for the two in terms of raw data transfer (with Sprint having a bit lower latency), but web pages load significantly faster using the Sprint connection. Verizon's USB720 wireless USB modem gave similar speed results, though we generally found Sprint had a stronger signal in our test regions. Keep in mind that Verizon generally has stronger rural coverage, if your travels take you outside of major metro regions.

Sprint charges $59.99 per month for service and the card is sold with a contract (2 or 1 year). The price is competitive, as both Verizon and AT&T charge $59.99/month. Sprint's usage policy for their unlimited data plan is more lenient than Verizon's-- Sprint promotes the use of streaming media for example, while Verizon's fine print states that streaming audio, video or games is prohibited. And much as we love the flexibility of GSM, at the moment, we pick Sprint's data service over AT&T's high speed network for performance. Sprint's 595U is hard to beat for fast data anywhere their EVDO service is available.


Web sites:,

Price: $79.99 with 2 year contract

Network: Sprint. Dual band digital EVDO Rev. A (backward compatible with EVDO Rev. 0 and 1xRTT). Supports both DUN and NDIS networking. Integrated antenna. Optional external antenna available separately.

Battery: Lithium Ion 380 mAh rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. Draws 3.3v power from USB port.

Size: 3.5 x 1.5 x 0.80 inches. Weight: 2.1 ounces (not including stand with extension cable).

Software: Sprint Connection Manager software and drivers for Windows Vista, XP and 2000 included on companion CD. Mac OS X drivers and Sierra Wireless' Watcher Lite software available for download from Sprint's web site.

Computer Connection: USB 2.0. Extension cable with stand included if you need to avoid adjacent port-blocking.


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