If you're still relying on dial-up and Ethernet connections when you're on the road, Toshiba's MyConnect makes for a compelling mobile service provider. Along with about 6,000 U.S. wireless access points, MyConnect boasts 20,000 dial-up and Ethernet locations--perfect for getting connected when Wi-Fi isn't an option. But wireless devotees will be disappointed by MyConnect's uneven wireless-security options, spotty hot-spot directory, and lack of international locations; for them, we recommend either Boingo Wireless or T-Mobile HotSpot.
Setup for Toshiba MyConnect is simple; once you've signed up for a plan on the MyConnect site, you can log on with your Web browser at any MyConnect access point--or, if you're a Windows user, you can download the MyConnect client, which makes it easy to detect and configure MyConnect Wi-Fi signals. (A MyConnect rep told us that a handheld client for enterprise users might be in the offing, but that there are no plans for a Mac version.)
MyConnect's connection utility is strikingly similar to T-Mobile HotSpot's; you get practically the same main screen, complete with info on the number of available access points in the area, the name of the hot spot you're connected to, how long you've been connected, signal strength, connection type (802.11a/b/g) and speed, encryption method (WEP or WPA), channel, and whether you're connected to a preferred (or preconfigured) network. Click the More Information link, and a window displays available networks and big, green Connect buttons. The MyConnect client also lets you set up profiles for your various connections, including settings for closed networks, encryption methods, and any VPNs or applications you want to launch once you're connected. Extras include a feature for adjusting the interface's transparency between 80 and 20 percent; you also get a connection log for tracking your Wi-Fi connection history. Unfortunately, you can't apply different skins to the interface, as you can with T-Mobile's sleek utility.
We were disappointed by the MyConnect access directory, which you can search offline using the connection app. While you can search by city, state, or area code and get a list of results in an Explorer-like tree, the directory doesn't have street addresses or phone numbers--a pretty critical omission, if you ask us. Although you can get street addresses if you search the online database, that won't do you any good if you're on the road without an Internet connection. (MyConnect representatives said they're planning on beefing up the access directory in the near future, but they didn't give us a time line.) That said, the directory includes local dial-up numbers (both 56Kbps and ISDN) and Ethernet locations--handy if you're stuck in a hotel without wireless access.