USB Modem Review: T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 4G Laptop Stick Review
Editor's Ratings (1-5): 4
What's Hot: Amazing speeds in great coverage areas, easy to use, solid connection.
What's Not: Building penetrations isn't stellar.
For a network that doesn't have LTE, T-Mobile is pushing up the speed of its HSPA+ network very nicely. They have rolled out the enhanced HSPA+ 42 Mbps network in over 150 markets now and they backed it up with network backhaul. There aren't a lot of HSPA+ 42 Mbps devices out yet, but T-Mobile is planning on blasting smartphones, tablets and mobile broadband products out later this year. The T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 4G Laptop Stick, made by ZTE, is one of the first HSPA+ 42-capable products from T-Mobile, and if you are in strong coverage areas, you will get some amazing speeds with this little modem.
The T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 4G Laptop Stick is reasonably slim measuring 1.1 x 3.4 x 0.5 inches and weighs only 1.1 ounces. If you enjoy switchable backs on your phone, you should be happy to hear that the USB modem comes with three covers in different colors. The Rocket 3.0 4G has both a SIM card slot and a microSD card slot for storage. The T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 4G Laptop Stick has a foldable USB that protects the USB connector and makes it easier to carry it with you. Unfold the USB to 90 degrees when you plug it into your laptop, and the position will keep the stick standing up. The top of the USB modem has a clear strip to let LED light through. The LED light indicates connection status.
The T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 4G Laptop Stick works on T-Mobile?s 850/900/1800/1900MHz GSM bands as well as 1700/2100 UMTS bands. And since all GSM networks in the world run within these four bands, you can use the Rocket 3.0 to roam internationally data networks overseas. But the UMTA bands are only working on T-Mobile?s network in the U.S. The T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 4G Laptop Stick works with either Windows or Mac laptops and it comes with its own webConnect software and manager with auto installation. Remember to restart your computer (Mac and Windows) for the software to work.
The T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 4G Laptop Stick works on T-Mobile?s data network (mobile broadband) and T-Mobile?s Wi-Fi hotspots as well as your own WiFi networks. The connection manager can manage either connection as well as track your usage data. It?s easy to connect and disconnect using the WebConnect which also comes text messaging tool. Connections have been solid for us; even inside large buildings, we didn?t loose the connection.
The biggest attraction for the T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 4G Laptop Stick is its enhanced data speed on T-Mobile?s HSPA+ network. It?s been bumped up from 21Mbps to 42Mbps, doubling the theoretical speeds. T-Mobile has been rolling out the 42Mbps services quickly covering the U.S., and claims that the Rocket 3.0 4G Laptop Stick users should see nearly 10 Mbps download with peak speeds of 27 Mbps. In the real world, reception, indoor/outdoor conditions and packet-load on the network influence the speeds you get via the Rocket 3.0 4G USB modem. We tested the modem in various locations, and got some incredible speeds in great coverage areas and decent speeds indoors. See the following screen shots for data speeds on Ping time, download and upload.
Outdoors in a great coverage area:
Indoors in a good coverage area:
Clearly you can get some amazing speeds if you are lucky enough to be in great coverage areas for T-Mobile?s HSPA+ networks. We streamed movies via Hulu, the USB modem streamed everything smoothly with an ease. Surfing the web and checking email under the top speeds were fast, we couldn?t tell the different between the mobile broadband connections from WiFi connections. Keep in mind, there are not a lot of users or devices yet work on the 42Mbps networks, so there is almost no congestion issue right now.
T-Mobile?s HSPA+ has high spectrums and that means building penetration isn?t stellar. We?ve tested the T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 4G Laptop Stick in the same location, the outdoor speeds were twice as fast as the indoor speeds.
For Windows, the T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 4G Laptop Stick works with all editions of Windows 7, all editions of Windows Vista except the Starter Edition, and only Windows XP Home Edition and Pro Edition. For Mac, the USB Modem works with Mac OS X 10.4 or higher.
T-Mobile offers various data plans for the Rocket 3.0 4G Laptop Stick starting $25/month for 200MB. You pay $39.99/mon for 2GB, $49.99/mon for 5GB and $84.99/mon for 10GB plan.
If you live, work or travel to T-Mobile HSPA+ 42 areas, the Rocket 3.0 4G Laptop Stick is a great mobile broadband solution. It?s small and light, but the speeds you get can carry you through productivity tasks or even movie streaming. The USB modem will fall back on slower speeds if you are not in the enhanced HSPA+ 42 areas, and yes, you can use it international on GSM networks. The HSPA+ 4G speeds do vary depending on your coverage and building penetration isn?t ideal.
Price: $99.99 with a 2-year contract after rebate and discount; $199.99 retail. Web site: T-Mobile