We’ve been trialling two wireless broadband notebook cards this month: Vodafone’s works using both 3G and GPRS while Unwired uses its WiMAXlike system.
Unwired’s card offers potential bandwidth of 750Kb/s as opposed to 385KB/s using Vodafone’s 3G and 170KB/s GPRS. Vodafone’s 3G coverage extends to Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra plus major airports, while GPRS is naturally available with most global phone networks – suiting it to global travel. You can choose which connection to use but mostly we let the application decide which was strongest.
In practice, performance was good around Sydney, though GPRS transfers displayed more lag – not good for applications like Skype. We tried streaming a radio station while heading out to the Hunter Valley, but it struggled once we hit city limits. After that, with no 3G, we struggled to get any website connection via GPRS. However, if you’re staying within cities it will suit most people.
The Unwired card constantly offered faster download speeds though responsiveness became an issue when the signal was weak – meaning Skype-like usage is variable. It’s only available in metropolitan Sydney at present but a Melbourne network is planned. It struggled to maintain a constant connection when on the move compared to Vodafone’s card when using it in a vehicle.
The purchase price is high for both. With Unwired though, you have a choice of buying the ‘Rabbit’ modem instead – it’s heavier but works with any computer and costs only $189. Neither really suit consumer usage though as tariffs can get high. With Vodafone, 100MB per month costs $30, $50 for 300MB or 0.2 cents per KB thereafter, with uncapped usage costing $100 per month.
Unwired plans work from $50 (400MB) to $110 (12GB) with excess usage being throttled back to dialup speeds. All in all, both are useful for people who want to access more than occasional data while on the move, but geographical limitations, pricing and usage caps limit wider appeal. If you’re staying in Sydney then go Unwired, if you’re moving elsewhere, take Vodafone.
This Review appeared in the April, 2006 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine
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