Optus E173 USB mobile broadband modem

Optus E173 USB modem review: A simple USB modem with plug-and-play support, an external antenna port and a microSD card slot

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Optus E173
  • Optus E173
  • Optus E173
  • Optus E173
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • 7.2Mbps peak speeds, ease of use, microSD card slot

Cons

  • Optus network still flaky in certain areas

Bottom Line

The Optus E173 USB mobile broadband modem is simple and hassle-free to set up and is capable of faster speeds than the cheaper E153 USB modem. However, the Optus network is still flaky in certain areas, so its best to check coverage before you purchase.

Would you buy this?

Optus' E173 USB mobile broadband modem supports download speeds of 7.2 megabits per second (Mbps) and offers plug-and-play support for both Windows and Mac computers. This USB modem also includes an external antenna port and a microSD card slot, and the increase in speed makes it a well worth the slight premium over Optus' slower and cheaper E153 USB modem.

Read our guide to the best prepaid mobile broadband modems.

The Optus E173 USB mobile broadband modem is finished in a lightweight white plastic. A slide-off rear cover houses microSD and SIM card slots, while an external antenna port for boosting mobile broadband reception is located on the side of the device. The microSD card slot allows the E173 USB modem to double as a portable flash drive.

The Optus E173 USB modem prevented access to the second USB port on our [[artnid:309066|13in MacBook Pro], even though it is not very large. On bigger notebooks this shouldn't be a problem though, and is more of a fault on Apple's part than on Huawei's, the manufacturer of the E173 USB modem.

The software required to use the Optus mobile broadband service is stored on the E173 modem itself and is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS X computers. The Optus software is easy to install and allows you to quickly access your prepaid account details and see sent and received data.

The Optus E173 USB modem has a theoretical maximum download speed of 7.2Mbps, significantly faster than the peak 3.6Mbps speeds offered by the cheaper E153 USB modem. Of course, these speeds will never be achieved consistently — Optus claims the E173 will provide typical real-world speeds of between 550 kilobits per second (Kbps) and 3Mbps, and as with all mobile broadband devices the actual speed achieved will depend on a number of factors such as your location and equipment, network usage and coverage, and network congestion at the time.

Using our Broadband Speed Test, the Optus E173 USB mobile broadband modem managed to achieve a peak download speed of 3.5Mbps, but it regularly downloaded at around 2Mbps. Upload speeds were relatively stable at around 700Kbps, but did rise over 1Mbps on occasions.

Optus sells the E173 USB modem for $49 and includes 1GB of data in the starter pack that is valid for 30 days.

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