I purchased my 3 prepay mobile broadband from Argos back in February. I decided to take the plunge after much thought and hesitation due to the many mixed reviews detailing people experiences with mobile broadband. My concerns were reliability and download speed. So far I've been more than satisfied with my all round mobile broadband experience.
There are various 3 prepay mobile broadband packages currently available. Mine was for the 12 months package - not necessarily a package that lasts 12 months but based on the idea of 1GB of data download per month. So if you download a lot of Mp3s your package may only last 6 months or less. One thing to bear in mind though is that the package will only last for a maximum of 12 months so you have to use up all your 12 GB allowance within this time if you want to get your money's worth. There are other 3 prepay mobile packages; one month or three months starter kits for example and these come with varying monthly data allowances.
The total cost for my package was £80 and this included the dongle or memory stick preloaded with the 12 GB of usage (smaller and slimmer than the one pictured above). The download speed is supposed to be up to 3.6Mbs but I would say that I only ever get roughly just over over 1Mbs - most of the time. I know this because I am use to using the 2MB bandwidth supplied my Post Office Home Phone and Broadband package and my mobile broadband is definitely slower. Having said this, it's faster and more reliable than I expected - certainly a lot faster than the old telephone dial-up system. On the other hand, if you're someone who is use to using a high speed internet package, supplied by Virgin for example, then mobile broadband may seem excruciatingly slow. I now see that the same package I have is being offered by Argos with a speed of 7.2Mbps but I doubt that this would alter my download speed where I live and I do wonder if anyone will actually get this.
Of course download speed will vary depending on where you live and some areas may still be unable to receive 3 mobile - it's important to check this out before you buy. I live about 5 miles from Liverpool city centre and use my mobile broadband in a house nearer the centre and in a high rise block of flats on the outskirts. Surprisingly I seem to get better reception in the block of flats.
Regarding reliability, getting cut off is a more common occurrence, but it really doesn't happen enough for it to spoil my online experience. What's more, it usually only takes a few seconds to reconnect. In contrast with my landline broadband experience, losing a connection can be a real hassle and usually means re-starting the computer.
Getting online in the first place after you turn on your lap top can be a little slower and one thing I dislike about 3 mobile broadband is that their homepage automatically opens every time you go online. If there is a way to block this I haven't found it. A Mobile3 information box will also pop up every time you make a connection - this provides useful accurate information regarding your past data usage and how much you have left, and less accurate information regarding the present bandwidth speed being used.
Once your GB allowance is reached/expires, an additional top-up and Mobile Broadband Add-on must be purchased. In my case I would pay £10 for each additional month. At present I am more or less on course to use up my allowance in 12 months - I use just under 1Gb per month. I find 1Gb per month is just about manageable for general web browsing and emails etc. I don't watch videos, use BBC iPlayer etc on account of the limited monthly allowance but also because the download would be too slow. I can't for example complete online surveys that include video content - the videos just stall too much of freeze altogether.
Another important thing to take into account when deciding what GB allowance you choose is the numerous 'updates' and 'add-ons' that an online user constantly has to download nowadays - in particular those supplied by Microsoft or virus protection packages. These updates can use up a considerable proportion of your monthly GB allowance which is why a package with a 3GB monthly allowance might be a more convenient option. A few weeks ago I was quite miffed off when I was forced to 'update' my '3' dongle and used up a quarter of a monthly GB in 10 minutes.
A big plus is the ease of setting up. The 3 mobile broadband package is very easy to set up and really is a 'plug in and go' package - a big advantage when compared to the expense, time and hassle that can occur when setting up a landline based broadband connection. The dongle is like a memory stick and you just plug it in to a USB port. One concern I always have though is looking after my dongle, especially when it's loaded with £80 worth of GB - if you lose it or gets broken you've probably lost your £80 or whatever's left.
So as I said at the beginning, so far I've been more than satisfied with my overall mobile broadband experience. Even though in terms of download speed it has been a small step backwards, I have found many advantages of using mobile broadband instead of a landline based package. The most obvious one is the freedom to go online in any location but there is also the ease of set up and not having to rent a telephone landline. Of course I know that it hasn't been as smooth for everyone and I have been lucky in that I have had no need to call customer services (touch wood).
I would recommend 3 mobile broadband as long as you take on board the issues of speed and data usage mentioned above. There are a lot of recent reviews on the Argos website with people complaining about the speed and not being able to watch BBC iPlayer. Mobile broadband will probably be considerably slower than your landline broadband, but for general browsing it's more than sufficient and it fills me with the deepest joy to know that I am now truly free from BT... forever!
I've had '3' mobile broadband for a little under a year now and have been pretty impressed with the service. I initially got this when moving house as i was going to be without a landline and therefore a fixed broadband connection.
How can you get mobile broadband?
You can pick up one of these modems from many places, including '3' Mobile stores. If you buy a pay as you go modem you literally just pay the money, register the SIM and away you go. If you're getting this modem on a contract it will typically be free upfront but you will need to sign up to a contract and monthly Direct Debit.
How much does it cost?
There are several different payment options available from Pay as you Go (where you have to pay for the modem itself) or Pay Monthly (where the modem is typically free) - much like a mobile phone contract. I'm on a £15 per month contract and have a free modem, contract prices range from £7.50 per month for 1GB data allowance to £20 per month for 15GB data allowance.
For Pay as you Go prices for the modem range from £29.99 to £79.99 with various levels of data downloads included.
Have a look at the '3' website for more information (www.three.co.uk).
How does it work?
The modem i have looks like the one pictured. You literally just plug this in and away you go. There is software stored on the modem which installs itself when you plug it in. The software has a small window which shows you the signal strength and has a button to connect/disconnect. You can also use this window to access your online '3' account where you can view your usage.
I have been very impressed with the signal coverage for '3'. I previously had a Vodafone mobile broadband dongle and the signal coverage i get from '3' is actually better (somewhat surprisingly). I live in central london so signal should not really be much of an issue but i do occasionally lose signal in basments etc (but then the Vodafone also lost signal in these areas too.
I would definately recommend mobile broadband to anyone who is out and about alot with their laptop and needs internet on the go, or has no access to a permanent fixed broadband connection. The connection speeds are understandably slower than fixed broadband but its more than sufficient for day to day browsing/email use.
I would also recommend '3'. The modem is very easy to use and i have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the signal.
I have one of these. I'm actually using it whilst sat on the train to write this review :)
When I got the modem, I paid (I think) around £40 for the modem and for 3GB worth of use (which would last as long as necessary - for me, about 2 months) I was going to use it to see how much I would need would I need to get one on contract.
Dongles are really useful if you commute or travel a lot, as you can use them pretty much anywhere you get a phone signal (which is nice :) ) However, in comparison to norma broadband, it has to be expected that tese will take longer to load the page, as they either work on 3G or HSDPA - and these are well below wired systems' capabilities.
They are pretty easy to use on both Windows and Macs, having used this dongle firstly on a PC and then on a Mac (Windows XP and Vista, Mac OS X) It's harder to install on the Mac, as you need to download the software, but it is easily found on the internet. Another niggle is that the top-up only lasts for a month, and then you need to top up again. Good for a casual user, but for a business I would suggest going contract if it was needed everyday.
The main nuisances are the slow speed and the ease of losing signal. The price is pretty good (either £10 for 1GB or £15 for 3GB) and you can get started kits that would give you an indication of how much you need to spend.
I first discovered three broadband a few years ago and was not really sure what it was all about and how it worked, as it was not advertised a lot then.
Mobile broadband gives Internet access that can be used pretty much anywhere, where you can get a signal that is. Its ideal for using on your laptop when your out and about so you don't need to be connected to the internet via the telephone line. We have two machines one with Vista and the other with windows 7 it works fine on both of these and is easily connected to both so can be used with both machines, I also know that it works on Windows XP as well.
It can be brought from most places that sell computers and the pay as you go can be purchased for about £20 and then its just a matter of topping it up.
However there is two options pay monthly or pay as you go. The first pay monthly costs £15 per month for 5GB worth of internet this contract lasts for 18 months and is taken by direct debit. There is also now a 1-month contract for the same price, which is better as you can cancel at any time by giving a month notice. The second is pay as you go the same as topping up your mobile but you just top up the Internet instead. This is easily done by getting a voucher from the local shops and then entering the voucher number on the three website. You can top up £10 for 1GB £15 for 3GB or £25 for 7GB.
Its easy to set up as its just a matter of connecting it to the USB port then it will auto install the software needed for it to run.
The good points
I find the speed very good and have not had any problems regarding this. With it being mobile broadband it can be used on different computers and can be used almost anywhere. An extra bonus is that you can add on texts so I can send texts to any phone from my laptop or computer. Its cheap and easy to use.
If you live in an area where you cant get a mobile signal then this will almost certainly struggle, as it's the same as a mobile regarding the signal. Also from time to time they do system maintenance during this time its hard to get online, however they do send you a text message to let you know when its going to happen.
Overall for me I find it a great way to get on the net a cheaper alternative if you are using the pay as you go as you can top up from as little £10. Would recommend if looking for an alternative from the phone line.
I am currently in a 18 month contract with three and I am so glad I am with them.
Speed - I usually achieve 2mb per second which is average of a fixed broadband line so considering this is wireless is an absolute bargain! Although please note that the speed does depend on coverage and so far my slowest speed has been around 100kbps although this still beats modem dial up which maximum was 56 kbps.
Coverage - Naturally this product works better when I'm using my laptop outside but inside there is still enough coverage to get a decent speed although please note that on the three site make sure you have HSPDA/3G coverage in your area for the internet as GSM/EDGE/2G wont be utilized as it is only intended for calls and texts.
Dongle - This was probably the hardest bit of setting up the internet as I had to install the dongle but all the information was in a different language. Therefore I had to call three up and I was told there was a new firmware for English out and that I had to navigate through the menus which I didn't understand to update it but luckily the assistant walked me through and within thirty minutes I was up and running the English client.
Overall great but if you are a bit of a technophobe its best to stick to landline broadband.
I think if I can remember correctly that I heard originally about this product from a 3 TV commercial, it said that internet was truly made free. I thought that looks like a great idea, and popped down to my local 3 store to pick one up, for a solid £29.99. I then topped up £20 on the modem, giving me for one month a total of 3GB worth of data to download.
I found the speeds of the dongle in my experience to be pretty solid and it did not fail me. It certainly was not as fast as the broadband speeds that I experience at home, but at the same time this is not the point, the point is that internet can now be used on the move. So for something that did not need to be connected to a landline to work, I was pleased. A web page would generally load in roughly 10 seconds or so, decent.
Another big issue regarding these modems is the data usage allowed for the price, and it really depends how much you pay and what you want to use it for. I bought this modem because it meant I could use it when on holiday, a trip, or just out of the house with my laptop. Meaning that I would only need it for webpages, and maybe a couple of Youtube videos, and these requirements fall well under the 3GB I was given. If you are a more eager internet user, or only go for the 1GB option for a tenner, then you may have to be a bit more careful when using one of these.
In terms of installation there was no hassle with this dongle. It is almost plug n play, but requires software to connect to the network, which is installed from a CD. The software is also used to measure speeds, say how much data is left, and also to receive any texts, something mobile broadband dongles can do.
Coverage is another issue, but while you may think it wont get good coverage where you are, if you can get a mobile phone signal then chances are this will work, the only problem being it will be much slower, and this does not apply to you if your phone is not on 3, as different networks get different coverage, this one may have more or less than yours. In my experience signal has been good, it even worked in Paris at no extra cost, to my disbelief. But on a holiday in Devon I could not get a bit of signal.
So I would certainly recommend one of these dongles to any internet users who would like to use it away from home and on holidays. It offers reasonable speeds and coverage, and is cheaper than many of the other alternatives from other companies, so I would certainly recommend it, especially a pay and go one, which only has to be used when you want to, for example a holiday month.
I decided to go for mobile broadband after moving house to the save money and hassle of setting up a landline and I am very happy with it. It is easy to set up - you just plug it in and and install. I take it with me to my parents when I go for a visit as they don't have broadband, its very convenient as you just pop it in your bag and plug it in to the other computer.
Setting up an account and checking your usage is also very easy through the three website. However if you are downloading films I would recommend you check regularly as I once went over my allowance and it cost a fortune (about £30 I think) So that was one very expensive film. Other than that I've had no major problems - occasionally it disconnects for no reason but I just pull it out of the USB and put it back in and it starts going again.
I recently bought the ZTE MF627 modem from 3 as I moved to a new flat and thought this might be a cheaper option than getting a landline and broadband.
The modem was £29.99 from a 3 shop, and was on Pay As You Go. When I bought it I added £10 worth of usage which gave me 1GB to use over the course of a month, and I could of course top that up again if it wasn't enough. For £15 you could have 3GB, or for £25 you could have 7GB. How much you spend depends on your internet usage. For 1GB 3 gives the following example of what you could do:
Send 1000 HTML/Outlook emails
Surf the web for 10 hours
Download 5 four-minute videos
Download 32 four-minute music tracks
This means you could do all of this, not one of the four. Now I don't do much at home apart from surf the web - I write reviews, look for bargains on Ebay, that kind of thing. Were I not using mobile broadband I would use BBC Iplayer, but to watch one programme on that would use half my 1GB.
I've had the modem for 2 weeks now and have used it daily, sometimes for 2 hours at a time and once for 8 hours while working from home, and I still have 900MB remaining - so I've used one 10th of what I have available. For me, 1GB is more than enough.
It's very easy to set up the modem. You get easy to follow instructions, and basically you only have to plug the modem into one of the USB ports on your computer and it installs itself. Once installed, every time you plug it in (I unplug it every time I shut down but you could leave it in) it takes a minute to register then comes up with the 3 connection toolbar and you click "Connect". When you're done, click "Disconnect". Also on this you can see the strength of your connection and which network you are on - there are three available, each faster than the previous one.
From the toolbar you can go to the "My3" website, which tells you how much of your purchased allowance you have used and how much you have left, and it is also where you top up. You buy a top up card like you would for topping up a pay as you go mobile, enter the number on this site and choose what you want to do with it - so here you would choose Data Usage and how much (1GB for a £10 top up etc).
I can't deny how easy to use this is, but it really is not good for me. I was planning to go with O2 as I have my mobile phone with them and have always liked them, however once I moved into my new flat I discovered the signal is rubbish. So a friend suggested I try 3 instead as they are known to be good for mobile broadband.
However, the signal for me is still rubbish, which make performance VERY slow (worse than the dial up I had 7 years ago). It switches between the three networks all the time, and once tried to charge me to go onto the Orange network, and I only ever have 1 out of 5 bars of signal. I've checked on the 3 website, and my area of West London has good coverage so I shouldn't have a problem - my guess is that it is the flat that is to blame, given the problem I have with my O2 mobile.
So although 3 mobile broadband is not good for me in terms of signal, the modem and the use of the connection are very good. It's easy to use and set up, and the toolbar makes it easy to see what your connection is like. However, it is worth keeping in mind that you may also get a bad signal - after all, I apperantly live in a good signal area, so I wouldn't expect it to be as bad as it is, even with a possibly signal-blocking flat!
Mobile Broadband is a newish technology which is set to take over in the race for the most accessible and useful internet access options.
I have been a user of the internet for over 10 years now and we all know how far the technology has come since the beginnings especially in terms of speed. Unfortunately you are never going to get the speeds you can currently achieve through a land line but mobile broadband (which uses mobile lines instead) but what it does over is portability, all you need is a laptop and your USB and you can access the internet anywhere you want.
I have home broadband but I also wanted internet access at the store where I work from time to time for those few quiet times! So when I heard about mobile broadband I was extremely happy as this was the answer to my prayers. I opted for the 3 mobile broadband as they were offering a special bundle which included both the USB plus 12GB of top up for £100. The 12GB lasts for one year or until you have used up the data. You then just need to top up your credit when you want to, this costs £10 for 1GB £15 for 3GB or £25 for 7GB.
I have had this for a few months now and I have been very impressed with both the coverage and the speed which I get from the 3 network. I have always been able to log on quickly and onto the 3G 9 times out of ten. I love being able to take my laptop anywhere and be able to log on to check my emails.
Although mobile broadband is expensive compared to home broadband and don't even bother if you want to download, it is great for light usage and I am sure it will only get faster and cheaper in the next few years!
I actually use this as my main broadband provider. My USB modem is slightly different to the one pictured, but ssentially it is the same.
I find the service is good, with decent connection speeds no matter where I am in the North East of england, as I use it in my line of work, in different locations. The signal is always 4 or 5 bars on the display out of 5.
If memory serves me right setup is an absolute breeze, plug in and it sets up and installs automatically. And the software that you use to connect to the internet is simple, and easy to use.
I run Windows Vista, and have no compatibility problems, and use Internet Explorer as my browser.
I cant however seem to be able to use Xbox Live through this.
I would deffinately recommend using this product, if you want broandband on the go, or dont want to give any money to British Telecom,. .. although thats another review...
I have been using the ZTE MF622 modem with 3 mobile for about a year now and all was good till recently when the connection kept dropping from HSDPA to 3G and i lost all connection to the internet after phoning them up about 5 times they take my modem in for repair & then send it out to the wrong address and then had the cheek to blame me for there mistake now that i have the modem back its worse than ever as now not only does it still drop from HSDPA to 3G but it now drops from 3G to no service and the operator is not found and the signal keeps jumping in and out like a yoyo and there customer service is alot to be desired too as twice now they have said that someone will get back in touch with me and as yet i have heard nothing back from them so i would avoid 3 mobile at the moment i've done some research and t-mobile and vodafone seem to be the ones to go for at the moment if your looking for mobile broadband
I purchased this Huawei E160G Usb Modem in October after a confliction between my landline broad band provider,so decided to give it a go with it being pay as you go and no contract.
It cost be £49.99 from Woolworths.
Its quick and easy to set up, Can be used on Pc or Mac and receives mails and surf the net anywhere with a 3 network.
Its a hand stick with a top to fasten.
You just plug it in a usb port and then the software automatically installs, no cds which is a great bonus.
The usb stick comes complete with a 3 sim card which you insert into a silver slot and then insert ino the usb stick.
I top up by a cash voucher on the 3 network.
It can be accessed by the desktop icon or the internet function on your tool bar where you can access other networks.
You top up by the three internet website, and you can register a account to see how much you have left and other useful information.
The cost is this:
Broadband Lite: £10 = 1GB
650 emails, 30 hours of surfing as well as downloading 30 two-minute videos and 60 music tracks.
Expiry date of top-up: 30 days or less if you use 1GB up.
Broadband plus: £15 = 3GB
2,000 emails, 100 hours of surfing as well as downloading 100 two-minute videos and 200 music tracks
Expiry date of top-up: 30 days or less if you use 1GB up
Broadband Max: £25 = 7GB
4,500 emails, 200 hours of surfing, as well as downloading 200 two minute videos and music tracks.
To be honest I surf everyday , dont tend to download much , but receive plenty of emails and lasts the full month for around £15.
I have broken 2 usbs they are quite bendy and its best to use the extension dongle provided.
Apparently you can link now more than one machine in the same house with a router as long as both machines are wi-fi, 3 have introduced this into the shops, I saw in last weekend in Superdrug which Im going to try and purchase and follow up the results.
You can use the usb modem anywhere though not just inside the house, travelling etc, its great for my daughter whose dad doesnt live with us, so can take a laptop there and receive the internet.
For consumers looking to access the internet on the move at comparable speeds to fixed internet access, mobile broadband is worth considering.
I signed up to an 18 month deal with 3 mobile for their 5GB monthly package costing £15 per month. They currently offer a range of pay monthly deals ranging from 1GB through to 7GB on a 12month contract where you have to pay for the modem (priced at around £48.93), or 1GB through to 15GB on the 18month contract where the modem is bundled free. The cost of these plans range from a minimum of £10 per month to £30 per month.
The reason I chose 3 Mobile broadband was because they were offering a short term promotion. When I checked the coverage their network provided in my area I was also impressed. Compared to T-Mobile and Vodafone, 3 Mobile offers HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) UK Coverage of 90% (T-Mobile 84% and Vodafone 81%).
They are also upgrading their network over the next 2 years so that by the early 2009 98% of the population will be covered. The final tranche of network improvement will take place in 2010.
HSDPA is the new standard for sending data over the mobile telephony network at broadband speeds. The data is sent in small packets (similar to the internet) in order to ensure that data is transmitted in a reliable and controllable manner. Mobile broadband from 3 enables data to be sent at speeds up to 2.8Mbps (the current theoretical maximum is 3.6Mbps). As part of the upgrades being rolled out, the maximum speed will gradually be increased across the United Kingdom by 2010.
It is worth noting that because the signal is being sent wirelessly, there are certain factors that will affect the service you receive. The closer you are to the signal (the mast) the faster the internet speed you will receive. If a larger number of users are using the same mast at the same time, the slower and less reliable the service you will receive. And as with wireless internet access in general, obstacles such as trees, tall buildings etc. that stand between you and the signal will interfere with the quality of the service you receive.
At present, 3 offer a range of mobile dongles. These devices are all USB and come preinstalled with the drivers you need to set it up on your system. They are easy to set up as you only need to follow the onscreen prompts. Each of the dongles is compatible with Windows XP and Vista. It is also possible to install some of these on Linux machines, but you may require further drivers to enable this (these can be downloaded).
My dongle was a Huawei E156 model (Huawei are a Chinese conglomerate who specialise in the telecommunications sector) which was similar in size and appearance to a standard USB drive. It was a well built and robust device that was also nice to look at (if you understand what I mean hear!).
It was easy to set up on my Windows Vista operating system and I was up and running in no time.
The service I currently receive is temperamental. I find that early in the morning it is more difficult for the dongle to locate a signal. At certain times during the day it slows down quite dramatically, although I put this down to the volume of users on the network at that time. I think that once the network improvements are introduced to my area this will improve.
I am pleased with the service overall but would not be able to rely on this as my owenly means of connecting to the internet (luckily I also have fixed internet access).
I can't say that I'm particularly knowledgeable about the multitude of broadband options that are currently available to the average computer user.
I don't know a great deal about download speeds, upload speeds or bandwidths.
I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this respect, and so I'm simply going to tell you about my own personal experience of Three's mobile broadband modem, without swamping you with all the mind-boggling technical jargon.
When Three first brought out their mobile broadband modem just over a year ago, I was quick to snap one up on a 2 year contract. I'd been waiting for something like it to come on the market for at least a year prior to its emergence.
The reason I was waiting (rather than signing up to a standard broadband package) was that I knew I was likely to be moving house within a year and I didn't want to be tied to a phone line.
This is where mobile broadband became so appealing for me - there's obviously no need for a phone line and therefore no line rental. In fact, I didn't even have a land-line at my old address, so getting normal broadband would have involved some installation costs as well as the line rental.
The two year contract came at a cost of £15 per month with a 3Gb monthly download limit, and the modem came free on this deal.
The modem was surprisingly easy to install. No installation discs necessary - just plug it in via the USB port and it pretty much installs itself. Within 5 minutes of getting the modem out of the packet, I was online!
Naturally I immediately wanted to test out the capabilities of the modem, so I tried some general surfing and downloading. I found that the speed was maybe a little slower than my previous experience with landline broadband. This didn't upset me too much though because I wasn't planning on doing a lot of downloading, I just wanted to surf the internet. And this is the question you should be asking yourself if you are contemplating getting mobile broadband - "What do I intend to do with it?"
If the answer is general internet browsing - then that's great - this could well be the product for you. If in addition to this, you like taking your laptop around with you and want to be able to surf wherever you go - this modem is certainly for you!
However, if it's multiple downloads (especially games, movies etc) you're interested in then you'll almost certainly be better off with landline broadband.
The slowish download speeds (the best I've observed is around 100K/sec) and more importantly the monthly download limit (typically 1Gb, 3Gb or 5Gb) make this modem a no-no for serial downloaders.
As I mentioned previously, I use my mobile broadband for general internet surfing for maybe 1-2 hours per day and I have never approached the monthly 3Gb limit (typically 1 to 2Gb usage). This is just as well really because I believe expensive rates can be charged for anything over the monthly limit. Thankfully though, you can see your current monthly usage at any time by logging onto your account on the Three website.
Over the course of a year, I have noticed that the modem can be a bit intermittent in terms of speeds - especially in the evenings. This can be very frustrating at times especially when waiting for an internet page to load for example. However, this flaw is most likely due to the fact that I live in a block of flats (even my mobile phone signal isn't that great). I've used the modem in other areas of the country and found it to be 100% reliable.
Despite this issue, I would still go out and buy the product again mainly because it is a simple, cheap and versatile way of connecting to the internet without the need for a land-line.
In summary then, I would recommend this product for people without (or not wanting) a landline and who want to surf the net at home and/or in various geographical locations.
The modem is now available on various pay-as-you-go or contract packages from Three from as little as £10/month and with possible bonuses from cashback sites.
When I first bought my laptop, I was desperate to get back online having left my old PC and most of my other belongings when I moved away from my ex. In case you haven't already guessed from my other reviews, I'm a bit of a geek when it comes to earning and saving on the internet so it was essential for me to get back online.
I did a bit of research and, since I wasn't sure how long I'd be staying in my current accommodation, I decided I wanted to opt for pay as you go broadband access. And this is where the ZTE USB Modem came to the rescue.
The ZTE USB Modem is Three's or 3's flagship USB dongle modem. It's available on contract or through pay as you go. I opted for the latter. I bought mine about 6 months ago and, at that time, find it for £49 on Ebay when it was retailing for approximately £99 elsewhere. The price has since come down so you can pick these up for the same price as I paid from a range of reputable sellers including 3 and other mobile phone outlets and I've even seen them stocked in Woolworths.
The modem looks just like in the picture above. It's a sleek black design with lime green accents and the 3 logo in lime green. I don't have a ruler to hand and the drawer where my nick nacks are stuffed is a dangerous Pandora's box so the approximate measurements of it are 9 x 4cm and it's less than 2cm thick. Think the size of a diddy, skinny mobile phone. It's compatible with Windows Vista, XP and Mac OS X.
When the box arrived, I opened it up and rushed to fit the SIM card that was supplied. There's also a USB wire included to plug it straight into your computer. I still don't have a CD drive for my laptop (that's another thing on the 'to buy' list) but the ZTE USB Modem is clever enough to work using plug and play. So once you've plugged it into your USB port, your computer will recognize the new hardware and go about setting it up.
The SIM came with a minimal amount of free credit which gave me enough time to check it was all in working order and to activate some credit. If you're using this on pay as you go, you can top-up your account online using a debit or credit card on the 3 website. I prefer to top up at Boots where I can earn some advantage card points as well and the occasional £5 skincare voucher. To do this, I simply ask at the till for £x credit for 3. This has caused some confusion when the assistant was adamant that I could not have £15 credit for free!
You can then use your voucher code to top up your account online. Pay as you go broadband customers have three options through 3. Broadband Lite is £10 and gives you 1GB, Broadband Plus is £15 for 3GB and Broadband Max is £25 for 7GB. They perhaps aren't the most competitive rates if you are using your broadband solely from home but you do have the added benefit of using your dongle to access the internet from anywhere. Hadn't I mentioned that yet? Well, the slight proportions of the dongle mean it's easy to take with your laptop so that you can access the internet anywhere you heart desires (provided you have broadband coverage there!)
So far, I have to confess that my laptop hasn't been on any exotic trips with me. It has survived the move from the smaller flat next door to my new bigger flat, and the ZTE USB Modem has continued to provide me with broadband access from my new home. I use the 3GB package which usually lasts just under 1 month. I spend about 5 hours a day doing general surfing and I do download quite a lot of music each month. I did try the 7GB package one month but there was a lot left over at the end of the 30 days and unfortunately you can't carry over any unused allowance so it made sense to me to get the lower package and top up every 25 days or so.
As for speeds, I've never had any problems with my day to day surfing. Coverage is provided by 3's HSDPA high speed network but when this is not available, the modem reverts to 3G access. Of course, this means nothing to me but you techies out there might understand it better than I do. I have done some downloading and yes, the speeds are slower than I was used to with my previous Virgin Max package, but it's a small price to pay for the convenience of pay as you go and mobile internet access. It certainly isn't snail pace slow when downloading and still gets the job done.
I've not had any problems with my ZTE USB Modem since purchasing it. I'm always able to log on when I need to and 3 send me an email to the program when my available data usage is running low so I know to top up. It is also available through a contract which enables you to get the ZTE USB Modem for free and offers cheaper monthly fees than pay as you go and I'll certainly consider switching to that option when my credit rating has improved a little more because I'd struggle to find a fault with this nifty little modem.
Finally, one last treat for the techies amoungst you:
14.5 x 89.4 x 42.6 mm (looks like my estimates weren't too far out!)
HSDPA: max 1.8Mbps
3G: max 384Kbps
GPRS: max 48Kbps
HSDPA: max 384Kbps
3G: max 64Kbps
GPRS: max 24Kbps
What's in the box?
Windows 2000/XP/Vista or Mac OS X