This isn't the first 3G data card to be launched by a major UK network and undoubtedly not the last. ‘The C@rd' as O2 marketeers have dubbed it on its website offers a lot of the same features as existing products, so what sets the O2 version apart?



Installation is as simple as insertion of the software CD into one drive and the card into a spare PCMCIA slot. The card drivers mount and your new O2 connection manager then detects the strength of the available 3G or GPRS signal in the area, connecting you via the stronger of the two. A little LED, at the end of the antenna, changes from red (for no signal), to green (for 2.5G GRPS) to blue (indicating 3G availability). The card also doubles as a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) receiver, so you can go Wi-Fi when near a hotspot. The manager displays the strength of each type of signal so you can swap connection type, as well as offering a SMS feature and a comprehensive list of all the WLAN hotspots in your area. The software automatically lowers the image resolution on your browser so you can load pages faster, aiding speed but can make you wonder why your screen is suddenly fuzzier.

The 3G aspects of the card will only work if you have subscribed to an O2 3G service and been furnished in return with a 3G SIM card. A 2.5G (GPRS)-only version of the product is available, but you simply won't be able to access the internet with the super Kbs speed that 3G offers. Naturally with the card supplied by a major network, prices of product are tied directly to the data package you subscribe to and all these complications can be deciphered on the O2 website.

Verdict

Overall the card is as nifty as a hunk of plastic covering a mobile receiver can be, but the magic lies in the ease of use and the software. Installation was simple; I only reached a hiatus once, which transpired to be more to do with the amazing ability of Hackney to block any mobile signals from penetrating the borough boundaries, which renders mobile devices useless. In such cases assistance prompts do have a tendency to err on the side of ‘Why not go online to troubleshoot the problem?' Which of course you can't do, but if computer stopped giving pointless aid messages, we'd tire of them overnight.