Review: Verizon 4G LTE USB modem is faster than a speeding Sounder

Summary:Verizon launched their 4G LTE network last month and after trying out on of their available USB modem sticks I almost want to change my work methods to get onto this super fast network.

Verizon rolled out their 4G LTE network just over a month ago in rather broad fashion in something like 40 markets. At launch they have two 4G LTE USB dongles with data plans starting at $50 for 5GB of data. Verizon loaned me the LG VL600 USB modem for a couple of weeks and I have been using it on my daily train commute to check out 4G LTE coverage here in the Seattle/Tacoma area. You can check out my image gallery of the LG 4G LTE modem.


Image Gallery:You can check out a few photos of the Verizon LG LTE USB modem.
Image Gallery: USB modem in hand
Image Gallery: Verizon 4G SIM card

In the box

The small box for the LG VL600 contains the USB modem, VZAccess Manager CD, some brochures, and a Quick Reference Guide. The modem is shown in full size on the front of the box.

Specifications

Specifications for the LG VL600 4G LTE modem include the following:
  • LTE @ 700 MHz
  • 1xEVDO Rev A and Rev. 0
  • 4G SIM card
  • 4-color LED status indicator
  • Dimensions: 3.88 x 1.48 x 0.58 inches and 1.76 ounces

The hardware is pretty slick with a glossy black top, silver area for indicator light, and bottom made of soft touch material. The end flips up to reveal the USB male end that you simply place into your laptop USB port. The bottom of the USB modem slides off to reveal the 4G SIM card (shown in my image gallery).

VZAccess Manager software

You have to have the proper driver loaded up on your Windows-based computer to use the 4G LTE modem so you do need to use the included CD to get that installed. There is currently no support for Mac computers, but I am sure we will eventually see this rolled out.

After installing the VZAccess Manager software you may be prompted to download and install an update since the version on the CD may have been changed since you purchased the modem. Flip up the cover on the USB modem and place it in the USB port. Start VZAccess Manager to start using your new 4G modem.

There are four main tabs on the VZAccess Manager software, including Networks, Statistics, TXT Messaging, and Wi-Fi Locations. In the bottom right of the software is a button for Connect WWAN and that is pretty much what you need to click to get started with the USB modem. On the main Networks tab you can see buttons for usage and My Verizon that will give you this information. The Statistics tab gives you live statistics as you are using the modem and does not contain history. You can send and receive text messages on this tab. The Wi-Fi locations tab is used to help you find different WiFi hotspots in case you do not have coverage with the 4G LTE modem.

On the bottom of the VZAccess Manager software you can see signal strength indicators, connection status, phone number of the modem, and buttons for Start VPN and Connect WWAN.

Speed test results

I take the Sounder train to and from work every day so I spend 45 minutes each way from Puyallup to Seattle and tested the Verizon 4G LTE USB modem along this route a few times while also testing it out in downtown Seattle.

You may remember from my Sprint Overdrive 4G WiMAX testing that I saw maximum download speeds of just over 4 Mbps and upload speeds of about 1 Mbps. Well, as you can see in the list below the speeds I saw on the Verizon LTE network blew these Sprint WiMAX values out of the water. Granted, the network is pretty light on customers at the moment and we may see these speeds decrease a bit as the network gets more saturated. Verizon actually stated in their press release that they expect the loaded network to provide 5 to 12 Mbps download and 2 to 5 Mbps upload.

Speedtest.net results:

  • In Seattle, max download of 23.61 Mbps (avg of 15 Mbps) and upload of 12.87 Mbps
  • In Tukwila (first Sounder stop south), max download of 12.88 Mbps (avg of 10.5 Mbps) and upload of 12.36 Mbps
  • In Kent (second Sounder stop south), max download of 17.49 Mbps (avg of 14 Mbps) and upload of 12.04 Mbps
  • In Auburn (third Sounder stop south), max download of 14.24 Mbps (avg of 10 Mbps) and upload of 10.11 Mbps

We then went into Sumner and Puyallup where the modem was not picking up any 4G LTE signal. The modem did drop down to 3G though with the fairly typical 1-3 Mbps speeds.

While it is awesome to have wireless data speeds that are even faster than my wired Comcast cable Internet speeds at home, it can also be dangerous as you are likely to consume even more data. Verizon Wireless has a slick data calculator that I recommend you check out before deciding on a price plan. I tried out some options and if you stream one hour of video a day Verizon estimates you will use 7.62 GB in a month. If you work with 50 emails, visit 100 websites, stream music for an hour, and stream video for 30 minutes a day then you could consume just over 5 GB of data. I am not sure this calculator takes into account the 4G network, but you get an estimate of what is going on.

Price, plans, and availability

You can pick up the LG VL600 USB modem for $99.99 after purchasing online with a two year contract. The one year contract price is $169.99 and the month-to-month price of the USB modem is $249.99.

The 5GB monthly data plan will cost you $50 and the 10GB monthly data plan is $80. Each additional GB of data will cost you $10 with either of these two plans. You will also see a $35 activation fee when you sign up for a contract.

Final thoughts on Verizon's 4G LTE network

The current speeds we are seeing on LTE are phenomenal and nothing else comes close to it at this time. T-Mobile is getting closest to these speeds with its HSPA+ network, but Verizon is leading right now. I rarely work with a laptop on the go as I am more of a tablet and smartphone guy so I would like to see a 4G MiFi-like device on Verizon before I jump on the LTE bandwagon. However, I am sure there are many road warriors who will appreciate these speeds and data plans.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Networking, Verizon, Wi-Fi

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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