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Review of HuaWei E170 USB Stick Modem
In these recent years, 3G and 3.5G are being adopted as a common and popular mobile network, HSPA (High-speed packet access) It is crucial for road warriors as it is much faster and easier to use than GPRS network.
A person needs 3G or 3.5G-enabled devices to use this high-speed network (of course, this service depends on the country’s telecommunications company). It may already be built into the equipment or may be an external unit.
This review is based on HuaWei’s USB Modem E170. HuaWei Technologies Co., Ltd is aggressively promoting their USB modems.
HuaWei’s latest USB stick modem is much smaller than its predecessor (E220). Technically, this USB stick modem is actually a modem, a USB flash, a virtual CD-ROM drive.
In this review, I will be using a modem from Singapore telecommunications operator StarHub.
The package from StarHub comes only in white color with StarHub logo. It comes packaged in a DVD size cover with a modem and an extended cable. The main difference between the E220 (predecessor) and this E170 is that the E170 already has a USB connection point. In normal operation, you don’t need to use an extended cable. In the operation manual, it states that this cable can be used to improve the signal. You need to purchase a SIM card specifically for this modem. Or you can use your existing SIM card on it. StarHub bundles this package with an unlimited data SIM card that is easy to install on the device.
The modem is very light and the finish is of high quality. The size is slightly larger than a convention thumb drive. Dimensions are 80.5mm long by 24.1 mm wide and 11.8 mm thick. It is glossy white in color and very well made. The USB connection is hidden by a very sturdy cover. The cover comes with silver hinges for you to hang this device. Near the USB connection port is the SIM card holder. It is carefully hidden and flush with the overall design. I can’t be too sure about that as the device might fall off if the device is being dragged (and you’ll only be left with the cover).
As mentioned earlier, this modem is a virtual CD-ROM drive. This is because the software is flashed into it and it is recognized as a CD-ROM drive when plugged in. A Dell laptop was used for this connection check. It took about 5 minutes to set up the modem automatically. You will first be prompted to install the software on the computer. This is a mandatory step. After installation, StarHub connection panel will be shown and you need to click on connect icon. StarHub connection is based on HSDPA/HSUPA/UMTS/EDGE/GPRS/GSM.
It takes a minute to connect (the modem I have is passwordless. So, when I push the connect icon it connects automatically).
Once the main panel is done it will show as connected and in the lower right hand corner of your computer, you can see the StarHub Modem logo.
In the main panel itself, you can switch to the statistics page to see the upload and download speed with a nice graph. There is also a text and phone book page that I haven’t explored. Basically, according to StarHub, a SIM card is a data card that cannot be used to make calls. However, basic text messaging is possible. As for the phone book, it is the SIM card’s contacts storage. For this bundle, there are 500 contact slots.
Ideally, this modem should have a download speed of 7.2Mbps using the StarHub service. However, the actual performance showed otherwise. This may be due to signal strength and download sharing factors.
Some tests were done by clicking a link on a website to a heavily imaged page and refreshing the same page. Both results are satisfactory as it loads within a minute.
The connection is stable. Of course, this unit was tested with Skype and a webcam. It has a slight lag, but this is probably due to the other party wireless connection. Therefore, it is not conclusive.
Road Warriors This little device is perfect for downloading emails and surfing the internet. Since the form factor is small, it can be easily carried. With an unlimited data plan, this unit can be connected to the internet throughout the day without worrying about bills.
HSDPA downlink is 7.2Mbps & HSUPA uplink is 2Mbps which is still not fast compared to LAN network. It’s not meant for gaming, and if you have very large files to upload, you may feel left behind.
If you intend to use it abroad, please check with your telecommunication operator on the foreign data rate. This can cause a huge dent in your wallet.
Overall, this device serves the primary purpose of connectivity on the move. With a small form factor, it can be carried anywhere. Connection speed is highly dependent on the telecommunication operator. Some connection heavy task can be too taxing, testing 1.8Mbps to 3.6Mbps on the previous model (E220). If you intend to use it frequently you should seriously consider the minimum standard of 7.2Mbps downlink. A must-have item for the Road Warriors at this point.
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