- ✓Installs automatically under Windows XP and Vista
- ✓Small and highly portable
- ✓Can be used with multiple computers
- ✓Attractive tariffs
- ✕T-Mobile's 'fair use' policy may trip up the unwary
- ✕Does not self-install on Apple Macs
Towards the end of last year, we reviewed Vodafone's USB 3G modem. By contrast with other PC Card-based modems, this was a plug-and-play device that was simplicity itself to use, which was enough to earn it an Editors' Choice award. Not to be outdone, T-Mobile has launched a rival. As more notebooks begin to incorporate SIM card slots, the long-term value of separate modems may be limited. But if you don't have built-in SIM support, the plug-and-play approach has immediate appeal.
The T-Mobile web'n'walk USB modem comes on a variety of web'n'walk Plus and Max tariffs. All offer unlimited data downloads, but that word 'unlimited' has an interesting definition, as the tariffs are subject to T-Mobile's fair-use policy. On Plus plans, 'fair use' is actually limited to 3GB per month; on Max plans, you get up to 10GB a month.
The T-Mobile web'n'walk USB modem is the same physical device as Vodafone's. It's a small, white plastic device measuring 42mm wide, 88mm tall and 15mm thick with a removable slot for your SIM card on one edge.
A single light on the top of the modem indicates connection status. The modem supports HSDPA at up to 3.6Mbps and will drop down to GPRS when this is not available. Blue lights indicate the faster speeds; green lights indicate when you are down to GPRS at around 56Kbps.
Two USB cables are provided with the modem. One is less than 20cm long, while the other is around 90cm. The latter cable has two ports at the computer end and can be used if the computer does not provide enough power for the modem through a single connection. This may be the case if you use the modem with a desktop computer, for example.
The T-Mobile web'n'walk USB modem comes in a DVD-style case. A CD provides drivers for Apple Macs — for which the device is not plug-and-play. A minimal getting-started manual is also included and there's further documentation on the CD.
Features and performance
Like its Vodafone counterpart, the T-Mobile web'n'walk USB modem is simplicity itself to install and use. We plugged it into our test notebook and, after a short wait, the setup manager started to run. Simply OK-ing all the options allowed the required software to install. With that process done, after a further short wait, T-Mobile's web'n'walk USB manager software loaded. The installation process is a once-only activity. On subsequent connections, the software runs automatically when the modem is plugged in.
The web'n'walk USB manager allows you to manage the SIM card's phone book and create, send and manage SMS messages; you can also manually connect, disconnect and monitor data connections. The software shows information such as daily, monthly and yearly upload and download data totals, so you can keep an eye on your fair-use limits.
Throughout the testing period we had no trouble with the T-Mobile web'n'walk USB modem. Its small size and portability has definite appeal for the mobile worker and it's an obvious device for mobile notebook users. However, it could also come in handy on those occasions when your main broadband internet connection decides to go to sleep for a while.