3 Mobile Broadband USB stick - First Look

The mobile operator, 3, has launched a new service aimed at those with laptops and wanting to get onto the Internet from anywhere. I was kindly given their new broadband 'stick' to trial for 3 months to see if it would make a difference to my surfing habits.

When it comes to the true Internet experience, you can forget your mobile phones and iPhone's. It all comes down to screen size. Sure mobile Internet is nice for those quick times you need to check something or you want to idle away a spare 10mins. But for prolonged use, you really need a device that offers a large screen and a keyboard that was designed for human hands instead of mice!

For that reason, laptops are still king when it comes to going out on the road, and with battery life coming in around the 4hour mark, taking the laptop out to the park or on a train journey is no longer an issue.

Yet, take out the network, and suddenly you feel all very isolated.

This is the gap 3 is hoping to fill with their new Mobile Broadband USB stick.

As you can see with the photo here on the right (its the one in the middle), the stick isn't that big, and can plug straight into your laptop (or Mac) without any fuss. It is a little fatter than most so if you need to connect another USB device you may find yourself struggling for space. Fortunately 3 ship an extension cable that lets you put it elsewhere. One idea was to sellotape it to the case lid so you don't worry about accidentally hitting it while its on your lap.

Installation is a breeze. You first of all put in your SIM card to the stick which is done through a subtle tray in the nose of the stick. You shove in the stick and the software automatically installs and within a couple of minutes you are able to go online WITHOUT any rebooting.

The software is a small system tray application that lets you connect to the Internet over the 3 cellular network. From this application you get a whole host of statistics detailing how much data you've used up which is a very nice touch allowing you to keep track compared to the usage plan you are subscribed to.

As part of their mobile broadband package, you get unlimited SMS texts. The software that runs up gives you an interface to send and receive SMS texts, complete with an address book to quickly facilitate. No hint of any integration to your email client or address book.

I was a bit cynical of it to begin with, but I can say after just one weekend, I am in love! The ease at which I was up and running was a dream. Ironically, I am not actually within 3G coverage at the moment, but even outside of that, I was surfing around with ease without being asked to wait for too long.

My only complaint (or niggle) is that it would have been nice if the stick could also be a memory stick, of a few GB. That would eliminate the need for me to carry around my other stick and have everything on one.

The next couple of weeks I am about to embark on some traveling that historically I would be relying on my Blackberry for. I am looking forward now to be able to whip out the laptop at the airport (and in car) and get my full Internet experience.

For a limited time only, 3 are offering half price on this package.

oh by the way, this was blogged via the 3 stick!


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