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

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.

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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

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Talkback

24 comments
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  • RE: Review: Verizon 4G LTE USB modem is faster than a speeding Sounder

    You really should look in to Clear and thier 4G network.<br>I think it costs less and there is no data cap.<br>They have been expanding thier network for a little over a year now.<br><br>Althought I do have to admit, those speeds you quoted are better than Clear at the moment, at least in Chicago.<br><br>I do not have Clear but have been investigating using it as an alternative.<br><br>
    tykew
  • 4G LTE

    Clear and Sprint share the same network. To be fair, I wouldn't say that Sprint/Clear or T-Mobile's networks are fully loaded either. As time goes on and their 4G customer base grows their speeds will diminish as well.
    lawtoja
  • RE: Review: Verizon 4G LTE USB modem is faster than a speeding Sounder

    Those speeds not really close to my home comcast speeds and the prices are wowvery high for little data. I usually tether my evo on sprint 4G here in chicago since I have an unlimited plan for $50 a month thats everythinhg and average 10-12 megs at home I pay $29.99 for comcast and hit 50 megs but will soon upgrade to comcast 100 meg service for $49.99 a month
    Fletchguy
  • RE: Review: Verizon 4G LTE USB modem is faster than a speeding Sounder

    Doesn't the Sounder have Wi-Fi already? I would bet it is much faster even than any 4G service, plus the speeds don't degrade to 3G when you go down south.
    pablo89_98@...
  • VPN access is not reliable

    I've had this modem for a month. Verizon has yet to address my issue with connecting to my work VPN. There is an entire forum of others who have the same problem on Verizon's forums. You will get very flakey connections. What's worse is Verizon gives me the run around.. sometimes denying there is even a problem.
    rumurphy
    • RE: Review: Verizon 4G LTE USB modem is faster than a speeding Sounder

      @rumurphy I have the same problem. I haven't been able to connect to our VPN for about 5 days now. It used to take a few to 15 minutes to connect - and now, nothing.

      I can't belive they don't have a fix for it. It's a show stopper.
      AlzVoice
    • Verizon admits there is a known issue for VPN

      Finally got Verizon to admit there is a known issue. They are "waiting for a software update". My VPN was working sporadically up until today. Not at all today. they have a ticket number that you can use to see of they have an ETA for update. 404-2705
      Bobvpn
      • RE: Review: Verizon 4G LTE USB modem is faster than a speeding Sounder

        @Bobvpn
        Verizon is keeping this very low key. The 4G network will not handle VPN connections reliably EVEN when a 4G user's device is in 3G mode!!! They understand this is a major flaw BUT there is no ETA, nor has there been for months. I backed out of 4G completely after a constant VPN disaster on 4G. This is one of the most amazing launch failures and it's getting so little press. Verizon, unfortunately needs to feel the heat. If they don't get it fixed soon, I and the 10 others in my account stack are going to be forced to move off Verizon.
        Road_Trip
  • Exciting stuff, but...

    These speeds you cited sound really appealing. Like you, I would prefer to have a wi-fi puck so that I can connect my smartphone, tablet, laptop, or gaming system and take advantage of those speeds.

    But as a CLEAR user, I appreciate not having to worry about data transfer caps. On 3G, I never got close to hitting a 5 GB cap; on 4G, I could easily imagine streaming video and having to constantly check my usage.

    I don't mind if Verizon and others have to charge a premium for their heaviest data users, I just hate that right now, that's not even an option.
    the.ksmm
    • RE: Review: Verizon 4G LTE USB modem is faster than a speeding Sounder

      @the.ksmm
      I agree!

      It's comparable to selling you a car that travels 200 miles per hour, and only a mile of road. After that mile, you start paying dearly for more road.

      Good business model for them, for sure. It's certainly far easier to accumulate overages when you can reach your data cap in a couple of hours.
      lelandhendrix@...
  • RE: Review: Verizon 4G LTE USB modem is faster than a speeding Sounder

    Any MOBILE broadband device is not meant to be your primary internet source. A wired connection is always going to be faster than wireless, and cheaper since you cant carry it around with you. Verizon actually promotes wifi use where available in order to not go over the plan.
    MrsGray
    • RE: Review: Verizon 4G LTE USB modem is faster than a speeding Sounder

      @MrsGray
      >> A wired connection is always going to be faster than wireless<<
      haven't been on DSL, have you?
      sackbut
    • RE: Review: Verizon 4G LTE USB modem is faster than a speeding Sounder

      @MrsGray

      Unless your like me and it is your only choice!!! No cable or DSL available but 4G is. :-)
      marskej
  • RE: Review: Verizon 4G LTE USB modem is faster than a speeding Sounder

    5GB and 10GB is a fraction of what you will use with these download speeds. You will blow by it faster than you can blink an eye. They are counting on overages. Netflix is out and many other streaming sites even you tube if you have kids like mine who love funny videos.
    1fstfred
  • RE: Review: Verizon 4G LTE USB modem is faster than a speeding Sounder

    This all sounds good but I have used everyone's service. Depending on time of day and location, speeds are allover the map and signal quality (as the reviewer experienced) are not consistent.

    Adding the cost of data, it's one more thing to have to deal with. I agree that mobile should not be a primary way to get online. I am willing to pay but I need to know wherever I am, I can count on getting minimum speeds to get my work done. I've used everyone but t-Mobile over the last few years and this is not case. I don't go to rural markets so that's not the issue. This isn't entertainment, my company pays to make me more productive and available to clients. I think the cost is high unless there's a 100% guarantee on service availability and speed. The coverage maps are worthless.
    roanschneider@...
    • RE: Review: Verizon 4G LTE USB modem is faster than a speeding Sounder

      @roanschneider@... you hit the nail on the head for me as well. At those prices I need to be absolutely sure that I am getting max pipe for the buck. The price seems a little steep to me at the moment.
      SCRooster
  • Mac OS X support

    Since the LG VL600 doesn't have Mac drivers, Verizon's *other* 4G/LTE USB modem (the Pantech UML290) is a better option.

    Here's a link from Howard Forums on how to hack the driver to work on the Mac: <a href="http://pp.ht/efIahI" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://pp.ht/efIahI</a><br><br>- Jason
    Jason D. O'Grady
  • RE: Review: Verizon 4G LTE USB modem is faster than a speeding Sounder

    I have this modem and it gets a message every time i use it that sez " sim card not recognized", but it still works. Not as fast as you have seen, but here in Texas it's better than no coverage at all..
    keynthwest@...
  • VPN

    VPN functionality is very processor intensive and most broadband routers..
    wellvpn
  • RE: Review: Verizon 4G LTE USB modem is faster than a speeding Sounder

    I'm considering replacing AT&T ADSL, which has gotten slower and slower over the past 3 years. While my older Verizon cell phones gets only 1 to 2 bars reception and speeds of 200kbps down and 300-400 up, my new Samsung Droid Charge gets 8-17Mbps down and 6-10 up, without dropouts so far. We do upload some good-sized art files every week or so, but no movies or music. It may make sense for us. I will try to measure our usage. Can I attach it to a network router for use in a small LAN?
    bobbowhale