Announced in August, Vodafone has today launched a USB version of its 3G data card to appeal to laptop users who either use an Apple Mac or have opted for an ultrathin or ultraportable laptop that doesn't have a PC Card slot.
Called the Vodafone Mobile Connect USB Modem, the new device, which connects via a USB port, costs as little as £49 ex VAT with price plans ranging up to £95 a month for unlimited access and 100MB of data abroad every month.
This new version of the 3G broadband data card, designed especially for users of the latest generation of laptops and Apple MacBooks, allows customers to access 3G broadband by simply plugging it into the USB slot on their Computer.
The pebble shaped device, which measures a compact 8.7 x 4.1 x 1.3cm is white in colour and looks like a smaller version of Apple's Mighty Mouse, just without any buttons. A small unobtrusive light shines through at the top giving you the status of your connection - green for GPRS and Blue for 3G, but it doesn't tell you anything more.
Your USB cable plugs into the top - yes more cables to get tangled in the bottom of your bag - and for USB1.1 socket owners there is a further longer cable in the box that allows you to plug in two USB connectors so you can generate enough power.
It's a neat idea and means that you don't have worry about external power, however if your two USB ports are on opposite ends on your keyboard your going to be stuck.
Getting your SIM in and out is easy as there is a concealed compartment on the side of the device that simply sides open to reveal the card slot.
Mac drivers come on a disk in the box or can be downloaded via Vodafone's website.
As for Windows users it's all automatic with the modem featuring a read-only Flash disk on board which holds all the drivers. This makes it really simple to get going and one that we like a lot.
On the Mac once installed and loaded it's simply a case of running the Vodafone connection software which finds the right network to join and lets you see the strength of the signal and then clicking connect on Apple Modem connect button.
Connection is as fast as previous 3G cards we've had from Vodafone and comparative to broadband as long as you are in a good signal area.
On the train - the place you are most likely to use it - the signal did well in our tests to hold the signal, although as with mobile phones we did find on our journey the signal and therefore speed did fluctuate.
from 49 plus vat
While the software is still not any better than previous outings for the Mac compared to what PC users get, Vodafone's approach in making the 3G data card technology available to users without a PC Card will be a huge appeal for this technology over other makes.
Here at Pocket-lint we use Vodafone's PC Card version for filing from conferences around the world. We liked it so much when we first tested it that it actually determined what laptop we bought because of the need of the PC Card.
With the Vodafone Mobile Connect USB Modem that's not an issue any more. It's small, it's compact and for any laptop owners who want to stay connected on their travels but don't want a PC card a must have.