Back in April, we took a look at the T-Mobile WebConnect USB Laptop Stick. It was T-Mobile's first 3G cellular modem, but these devices aren't new. In fact, T-Mobile's the last of the major carriers as AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless have had mobile broadband products for some time now, but we thought for the sake of comparison, we'd take a look at the offerings from the other service providers, starting with the Verizon Wireless USB760.
The Verizon Wireless USB760 modem is available for $49.99 with a two-year contract and after rebates and discounts. The price for its service plan is the same as T-Mobile's and customers can select from one- or two-year BroadBandAccess plans: 5GB for $59.99 per month or 50MB for $39.99 per month. While we thought T-Mobile's pricing was too high, Verizon has a little more argument in that it offers the largest 3G network in the U.S. (in case their commercials haven't drilled that into your head yet) and reaches 281 million people (with the Alltel acquisition).
Developed by Novatel Wireless, the Verizon Wireless USB760 measures 2.2 inches tall by 0.9 inch wide by 0.4 inch deep and weighs 0.6 ounces. It looks like a regular flash drive with no moving parts, so unlike the T-Mobile WebConnect USB Laptop Stick, which has a swivel design, you can't neatly tuck it to your laptop's side.
On the front of the device is a small LED that blinks green when connected. On its right side you'll find an external antenna connector. The Verizon Wireless USB760 doubles as a storage device, so on the bottom of the modem, there's a microSD expansion slot that can accept up to 8GB cards. The USB760 ships with a small plastic cap to protect the USB connector (though it was missing on our review unit) as well as a neck lanyard and reference material.
There's no software CD as it's all included on the modem. The Verizon Wireless USB760 works with any system running Windows (Windows 2000 Professional, XP, and Vista), Mac (Mac OS X 10.4.0 or higher) or Linux with a Type-A USB port. We tested the device on our Lenovo T61, and as soon as we plugged the USB760 into our laptop, the VZAccess Manager client automatically launched and guided us through the installation process, which was quick and easy. The desktop client's user interface looks a bit dated, but it's intuitive and allows you do a number of things in addition to connecting to the Web via Verizon BroadbandAccess or NationalAccess (Verizon's wireless Internet service). You can also check your usage and session log, send and receive text messages, as well as launch and manage applications. Like the T-Mobile WebConnect, there is no built-in GPS.
The USB760 works on Verizon's EV-DO Rev. A network, which averages download speeds of 600kbps up to 1.4Mbps and upload speeds of 500kpbs to 800kbps. It also features NovaSpeed software, which is designed to make simultaneous uploads and downloads faster. We tested the modem throughout San Francisco and based on six tests using Speedtest.net, we averaged 1.48Mbps for download speeds and 590kbps for upload speeds. The fastest speeds we clocked were 1.83Mbps for downloads and 590kbps for uploads. For comparison's sake, the T-Mobile WebConnect's averaged 670Kbps and 310Kbps and the difference between the USB760 and the T-Mobile WebConnect was quite noticeable.
With a signal strength of about -58dbm, it took about 8 seconds for a 1MB picture to upload and 1 minute, 4 seconds to download a 7MB e-mail attachment. CNET's Web site fully loaded in 12 seconds, while The New York Times came up in 20 seconds, CNN in 10 seconds, and ESPN in 8 seconds. We'll continue to test the modem in different environments and cities and compare them with similar products, but we'd have to say the Verizon Wireless USB760 is a fine portable modem that provided consistent coverage and swift data speeds.