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Review: Verizon UM150 USB EV-DO modem

While Wi-Fi hot spots may be proliferating, they're not always reliable and don't help you much when you're in between coverage areas. Neither do the usurious rates carriers are charging for Wi-Fi these days.
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Written by Jason D. O'Grady on
Verizon UM150 USB EV-DO modem
While Wi-Fi hot spots may be proliferating, they're not always reliable and don't help you much when you're in between coverage areas. Neither do the usurious rates carriers are charging for Wi-Fi these days. When you're in business and need Internet access while traveling there's no substitute for an EV-DO card. Granted, the service is tad expensive, but if you need to access the Internet to make a living, an EV-DO card and service more than pays for itself.

I'm currently testing the Verizon Wireless UM150 USB Modem which is a re-badged EV-DO modem manufactured by Pantech. (For the uninitiated EV-DO Rev. A increases the maximum burst rate from 2.45 Mbit/s to 3.1 Mbit/s and adds other improvements over the older EV-DO Rev. 0). Measuring 3.5 inches long and 1.2 inches wide (the pull-out antenna adds another 2.5-inches) it's not tiny, but surprisingly it fit into the tiny recessed USB port in the MacBook Air. The UM150 has a hinge that swivels on two axes allowing it to fit into most notebook USB ports without being obtrusive.

The package also comes with a and a Y–shaped extension cable which is useful for stealing extra USB power from a second port and convenient if your USB port is in a bad location. The UM150 also features a built–in microSD memory slot with 4GB+ capacity that doubles as a mass storage device, a nice feature if you use microSD.


 Image Gallery: Verizon Wireless UM150 EV-DO modem.  
UM150 EV-DO modem
 
UM150 EV-DO modem
 

The UM150 has a few features not found on other EV-DO modems I've used: LED lights for signal strength and power, a telecoping antenna (although I didn't have to use it) and an external antenna jack. The 3GStore sells external antennas and amplifiers for the UM150starting at US$53. Some people call the UM150 the poor man's Novatel USB727 because it's larger, clunkier, and slower than the USB727 – but it will cost you US$100 less.

According to Verizon, typical download speeds average 600–1400 kbps and typical upload speeds average 500–800 kbps. Naturally, actual speeds and coverage will vary. The VZW BroadbandAccess network is currently available in 248 major metropolitan areas and in 232 airports.

The UM150 EV-DO modem is available now from Verizon Wireless for free (after a US$50 online rebate) with a two-year contract. The service costs US$60 per month (US$0.49 per MB after that) for 5GB of access, 50MB costs US$40 per month (US$0.99 per MB after that). Both require a two-year contract. Verizon also notes that "if usage exceeds 5 GB/line/month, we reserve the right to reduce throughput speeds to a maximum of approximately 200 Kbps."

Despite the relatively high cost of the service an EV-DO can pay for itself in one trip and you can't beat its convenience. It's not for everyone though. If you don't absolutely need to be online during your layover or your have sticker shock at the price you're probably not a good candidate for this modem.

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