So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Telstra Corporation Turbo 7 series Wireless Gateway
Mobile broadband for the masses
- Uses SIM card instead of PC Card, ease of use, Next G-compatible
- Initial set up is slightly convoluted, Wi-Fi antenna can’t be replaced
Performing well as both a router and a 3G modem, the Turbo 7 series Wireless Gateway is a solid mobile broadband option. It isn’t as portable as its ExpressCard counterpart, but the added functionality and ease of use are well worth it.
Price$ 529.00 (AUD)
Telstra's Turbo 7 series Wireless Gateway combines a Next G-compatible modem and 802.11g wireless router for an all-in-one portable Internet solution. It isn't the first to market — Billion's BiPAC 7300GX and D-Link's 3G Mobile Router (DIR-451) both provide similar functionality. However, whereas these products require a separately purchased PC Card, the Turbo 7 modem/router allows you to simply use the included USIM or any other data-enabled Next G SIM card.
The Netcomm-built device uses Telstra's Next G service to provide speeds of up to 7.2 megabits per second downlink and 1.9Mbps uplink, a significant improvement on Telstra's Turbo 3 series. An integrated router offers 802.11g Wi-Fi and four port 10/100 networking for distributing the 3G connection to several devices at once. Although the device's Wi-Fi antenna is fixed, its dual Next G antennas aren't, allowing them to be replaced with higher-sensitivity or extended antennas if needed.
The Connection Manager is provided on a USB stick for both Windows PCs and Macs, so there's no need to go hunting for the correct software prior to use. The manager isn't required, but it does provide detailed status information and a quick link for users to check their Next G data usage.
The device is equipped with a pre-determined WPA-PSK passkey and a randomised SSID with information provided on a personalised card for ease of connection. When users enter the passkey and SSID during initial setup, the information is saved on to the USB stick for later transferral to any other devices that need connecting. This isn't exactly necessary, as users can access the network simply through their Wi-Fi connection manager. However, it does make life easier for novices.
As a modem, the Turbo 7 Wireless Gateway performs quite well. We tested the device in a variety of locations, experimenting to find the best possible coverage in a typical indoors setting. Speeds in our location averaged 259KBps, with some file transfers dropping below 140KBps. Both downlink and uplink speeds are highly subject to Next G coverage, though for a device designed to be easily portable and adaptable to various settings the Turbo 7 performs adequately. These speeds don't rival potential speeds from ADSL2+ but they do provide a compelling argument in favour of the product for use during travel.
The device's integrated Wi-Fi router also managed fairly decent speeds. Limited to 802.11g Wi-Fi, the Turbo 7 Wireless Gateway isn't able to compete with 802.11n routers. Nevertheless, at close range the router is able to transfer data at an average speed of 2.93MBps. At 15m distance, with several brick walls as obstacles, these speeds dropped to 2.1MBps; this certainly isn't the biggest speed drop we've seen at that distance.
Next G's coverage of 98.8 per cent of the Australian population certainly makes a compelling argument in favour of the Turbo 7 series Wireless Gateway. However, Telstra's Next G broadband pricing is quite costly, so you may want to limit your data sessions. The addition of a four-port router and a fairly fast 802.11g Wi-Fi router makes this device is a solid performer in almost all respects and a good option for travellers and those in rural areas alike.
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