Sierra Wireless AirCard 510 /Sprint PCS
The Sierra Wireless AirCard allows you to connect to the Internet from virtually anywhere. This PC card has a small retractable antenna that allows you to pop it up, check your signal, and connect. Once connected you can browse the web, read e-mail, or chat with friends; anything you normally do online.
The technology used is the same in cell phones, and behaves similarly. The Watcher application has a signal bar that shows your signal strength. Sprint PCs coverage is very wide, and I have been able to easily connect in New York, Chicago, and Florida.
The setup is simple. The card plugs into your laptop (or other device) and the software install is very straight forward. You can be connected in less than 10 minutes. The performance of the card and service is very good. I have connected successfully from many stationary locations as well as in transit on commuter trains, planes, and automobiles.
The biggest limitation is the connection speed. The actual connection speed is consistently 19,200 BPS, less than a 28.8 modem. This technology should be used to access specific information as quickly as possible. To browse web pages, you must be patient, and perhaps even turn your graphic options off. I have found that downloading e-mail and Instant Messaging are two tasks that work well over this slow connection. There are some compression technologies that will be able to improve this performance, but 19,200 is what you get out of the box.
Wireless service, although slow, is convenient, cool, and does have some practical applications, but what is the cost? The card itself retails for $399, but can often be purchased at a discount with a Sprint service commitment. The two service plans at the time of writing were 1,500 minutes per month for $79, and 700 minutes per month for $59. A bit pricey for the casual user, but certainly worth while for the "road warrior." It would probably be less expensive to use the wireless card than to pay the outrages hotel phone charges while traveling.
Card Price: $399
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