Need to buy a gift for somebody who loves technology but you can’t afford the big ticket items?
Telstra Corporation Turbo 7+ series USB Modem
3G Internet in a small package.
- HSDPA compatibility, 99 per cent population coverage, easy to set up, microSD card slot
- Inadequate Mac OS X support, expensive
Telstra’s latest USB modem improves slightly on previous iterations with the inclusion of a microSD card slot and increased upload and download speeds. However, with an expensive initial outlay and continuing data costs, Telstra’s option is surpassed by other mobile broadband solutions.
Price$ 439.00 (AUD)
Telstra’s Turbo 7+ Series USB Modem is the latest Next G-compatible device from the telco, providing HSDPA-enabled 3G Internet in a tiny package. Data costs and inadequate support for Mac users may deter people, but this device offers great speeds and coverage.
With its cap on, the Turbo 7+ Series USB Modem is about the same size as Vodafone’s Mobile Connect Internet USB Stick. It's a small package that fits in the necessary 3G modem functions, a SIM card slot and a microSD card slot to allow the device to double as a USB flash drive. The device’s required software is packaged on the USB drive’s internal storage, keeping the microSD slot free for other uses.
As with Telstra’s Turbo 7 series ExpressCard, the USB Modem uses a Next G SIM card as a form of user identification. Accompanied by a PIN number which must be keyed in by the user each time the USB modem is plugged in, the modem is painless to set up. The addition of a lanyard, a belt clip and a satin bag ensure the USB modem can’t be easily misplaced during everyday use.
Although the Turbo 7+ USB Modem is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS X, the device’s internal memory failed to mount under Mac OS X Leopard while a microSD card was inserted. Though this is a minor quibble and easily fixed by removing the microSD card during set up, it may be a stumbling block for some users when they first try to get the modem working. Thankfully, we didn’t encounter this problem under Mac OS X Tiger or Windows Vista.
The PC software is a Telstra-built “Turbo Connection Manager”, while Mac users must make do with a simple connection application from Sierra Wireless. Although both perform the most important function — recognise the USB modem and connect to the desired carrier — the PC version of the software provides a significant amount of extra functionality which is useful to both home and business users. PC users can send SMSs from their computer, manage their SIM card phonebook and access session usage information including the kilobytes sent and received.
The Turbo 7+ Series USB Modem can attain a potential maximum speed of 7.2 megabits per second downlink and 1.9Mbps uplink, though these speeds are unlikely due to congestion and signal strength. The speeds we encountered were closer to 200 kilobytes per second (KBps); a reasonable speed.
Testing the modem in our offices in St Leonards, Sydney, and in Sydney’s inner west, we downloaded several files ranging in size from 10 megabytes to 60MB in order to measure speed. Using the modem both with the external antenna and without, the modem delivered average download speeds of 241-259KBps, though on some occasions the speed dropped to 78KBps.
Upload speeds were also adequate, with average speeds ranging between 105 and 132KBps. Given that even landline ADSL2+ connections struggle to attain similar speeds, the USB Modem’s capabilities will be acceptable for most users.
Telstra claims its Next G network covers 99 per cent of the population, giving it a leg-up when it comes to remote areas. For metro users, though, options from 3, Vodafone and Optus all provide better monthly plans with little to no sacrifice in speed and coverage.
The Turbo 7+ Series USB Modem attracts at initial outlay of $438 making it quite expensive, though this cost is reduced when combined with one of Telstra’s wireless broadband plans. Plans range from $39.95 for 400MB quota with the modem for $299, to 15GB of data for $169 per month, with the modem’s initial outlay reduced to $149. Although the USB device itself is functional and doesn’t have many problems, the accompanying monthly costs and download quota are sure to deter some people.
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