Optus uses the same hardware provider as everyone else bar Telstra for its USB modems, offering up the Huawei E1762 for our tests.
Apart from a different splash screen, this means the interface across all the non-Telstra carriers is functionally identical. It's not a particularly pretty interface, but it works and installation ran smoothly for us on our test notebook.
The SIM within the E1762 slots into a metal tray near the USB port, making it easy to remove if the SIM is being shared with other devices.
Optus has copped some flack for speed and connectivity woes with users over the past couple of years. Our test results suggest things may be getting better in this regard. Optus generally ran second only to Telstra in terms of download speeds.
Optus even managed the rare trick of outclassing Telstra in our regional test, although only by a small margin and arguably due to a single very low Telstra figure.
Just looking at the raw numbers, Optus' deals for both post and pre-paid users would seem like something of a bargain. $15 for 1GB of data post-paid, or 500MB on a pre-paid plan appears pretty competitive.
Optus' plans are the poster child for why you should always read the fine print, however. Despite first impressions, their current mobile broadband plans are arguably quite poor value.
For post-paid customers, the sting in the tail is that the data rates on a two year plan halve after the first year for exactly the same money.
Pre-paid customers get stung even worse, with the lowest expiry period of any provider on low-cost top-ups and the frankly outrageous practice of charging every login period at 10MB per time.
Simply checking if you've got some mail waiting will count as 10MB of data used every single time, even if all that happens is pinging a mail server.
Given that Virgin operates on the same network as Optus but doesn't have anywhere near the tortuous plan limitations, it's impossible to recommend Optus' plans as having particularly good value, despite the company's improving speed scores. For speed we'd suggest Telstra, and for value either Virgin or Vodafone are a better bet.