So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
3 Mobile Broadband Internet Key Modem (E180)
3's latest HSDPA Internet Key Modem features a slimline design and a rotatable USB connector.
- Stylish design, microSD card slot, reasonable speeds, good value plans
- Question marks over build/design, additional usage and roaming are expensive
3 Mobile's Internet Key Modem E180 won't break the bank but will provide you with a reasonable mobile Internet solution. The flimsy feeling hinge could be an issue in the long term and excess data charges are expensive, but speed and performance combined with reasonable plan costs make this definitely worth a look.
Price$ 199.00 (AUD)
3 Mobile has launched yet another Internet Key Modem that offers wireless Internet access the via the telco's high-speed 3G network. It features a slimline design, plug-and-play installation and a microSD card memory slot. The E180 Modem also has a USB connector that can be rotated 270 degrees.
The E180 Internet Key Modem delivers theoretical maximum download speeds of 7.2 megabits per second and upload speeds of up to 2Mbps. Of course, you'll never see these speeds in real life; the actual speed achieved will vary depending on a number of factors such as device capabilities, your location and equipment, as well as network usage at the time. Typical speeds should range from 600kilobits per second (Kbps) to 1.5Mbps.
3's mobile broadband service supports connectivity in HSDPA, 3G and GPRS coverage areas. If the HSDPA signal strength isn't strong enough, the service falls back to standard 3G (a maximum speed of 384Kbps). If no HSDPA or 3G signal can be received, then the modem will revert to standard GSM (60Kbps maximum).
The new 3 Mobile Internet Key Modem E180 is one of the more stylish mobile broadband devices on the market, but we do have some issues with its build. Despite the hinged USB connector rotating 270 degrees it feels quite flimsy, especially when plugging it into a USB port. A small LED denotes current status, including whether you are in a HSDPA, 3G or 2G coverage area.
Aside from its compact size, one of the Internet Key Modem E180's main appeals is the fact that the software required to use the service is installed on the USB device itself. This means much more flexibility in terms of using the unit on multiple computers, as you don't need to carry a software disk around with you.
During testing, the Internet Key Modem E180 performed well in our offices, receiving a standard HSDPA signal. The device has no problem with basic Web browsing, loading pages swiftly and without much delay. While downloading files in a standard HSDPA coverage area we were able to achieve speeds of up to 194 kilobytes per second (KBps), although speed frequently fluctuated between 160KBps and 180KBps. As an example, we managed to download a 65MB file in 6min 29sec, at a transfer rate of 173KBps.
The software included on the Internet Key Modem E180 scores points for ease of use and set up. It is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS X, and took less than a couple of minutes to install. The My3 menu is a convenient way to manage your monthly usage, view invoices or change account details. You can quickly view information on the current session in the Statistics menu, including duration of connection, the volume of data sent and received, and the current signal strength.
3's mobile broadband plans for the Internet Key Modem E180 start at $15 per month for 1GB of data and range up to $29 (3GB), $39 (6GB) and $49 (7GB) plans over 24 months. On top of this, the key has a device repayment of $10 per month. All plans charge an additional 10 cents per megabyte for any additional usage, and $1.65 per megabyte for any roaming usage.
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