Vodafone Mobile Connect HSDPA ExpressCard
- Ease of use and setup, reliable connection, included PCMCIA adapter
- Network only capable of 3.6Mbps at time of review, expensive International roaming, coverage not thorough
Although Vodafone's ExpressCard is capable of 7.2Mbps download speeds, you'll have to wait a little longer to take advantage of them. As it stands, the Mobile Connect card is a solid, if unremarkable option.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
Vodafone's latest product in the mobile broadband line is the E800 ExpressCard, operating on their HSDPA network. Capable of supporting download speeds of up to 7.2Mbps, the Mobile Connect ExpressCard also includes an adapter to ensure compatibility with the larger PCMCIA slot.
Despite being capable of supporting download speeds of up to 7.2Mbps, the Vodafone network is currently only capable of download speeds of up to 3.6Mbps -- so you'll have to wait a little longer for faster speeds. Vodafone hasn't set a date for these speed upgrades at the time of review, but has promised it is an "ongoing network enhancement".
The Vodafone 3G network currently covers metropolitan areas in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast, as well as all major international airports in Australia. Outside 3G broadband areas, Vodafone's GPRS network will cover 92 per cent of the population.
We formally tested the ExpressCard in our office (based in St Leonards), though we also used it travelling in and around the Sydney and North Sydney CBD zones. For consistency, we performed a number of tests, ranging from small amounts of data like e-mails and Web browsing, to streaming services and then the downloading of files ranging from 1MB to 49MB in size. Do note that speeds are affected by a number of factors including coverage, location, hardware and software, so the results can be fluctuating.
For basic e-mail and Web browsing, the E800 is excellent, loading common sites like The Sydney Morning Herald and News.com.au. It was a little sluggish streaming video from YouTube, although this wasn't a major issue. Do note that if the area you are using the card doesn't have HSDPA coverage, the ExpressCard will struggle with more intense tasks such as downloading large files or streaming video content.
Downloading files in St Leonards, we were able to achieve speeds of up to 96KBps but regularly fluctuating between 62KBps and 86KBps. For example, a 49MB iTunes download took just over seven minutes to download, averaging about 72KBps. To ensure consistency, we downloaded the file three times, the ExpressCard producing a low of 58KBps for the 49MB file.
Vodafone offers international roaming for their mobile broadband service, meaning the ExpressCard can be used in a number of countries overseas. Unfortunately, the device is limited by the network it's running on, so speeds will be slower until other countries up their speed capacity. International roaming is charged at a fixed rate of 1c/Kbyte with a 1Kbyte increment and a minimum charge of 10Kbytes.
The Vodafone Mobile Connect software is quite basic, but fairly effective. You can take a quick glance at current connection strength and the amount of data sent and received in your current session. Installation is hassle-free and only takes a few minutes.
Vodafone offers a range of plans and pricing for the ExpressCard, depending on usage patterns. For more details, check out the data plans available.
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