Three Mobile Huawei E353U Prepay 1GB - Black
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If you've already got a laptop and you want to get online, all you need is a dongle. It's a light, portable device that looks like a memory stick and is smaller than a chocolate bar.
Dongles are also known as USB modems because they plug into the USB drive of your computer.
Instead of waiting until you find a free wireless network that you can get onto, or using your home broadband connection, a dongle lets you take your internet connection with you, wherever you go. It actually has a SIM card inside it and uses a 3G data connection to get you online. So wherever 3 has a mobile signal, you'll be able to get internet.
Some people choose to keep a dongle in their bag when they travel; just in case they can't connect to any local free wireless networks. You might have seen people using them on the train or at airports. They mean you can stay on top of what's happening in the office while you're on the move.
Other people like to use a dongle as backup internet connection at home, so if their land line is cut off, or if they have problems with their regular broadband connection, they can still access the internet, check their emails or talk on Skype.
Our dongles come with software included, so you just need to plug them in and you'll be up and running straight away.
Huawei Standard dongle
Great all-round dongle with the latest HSPA+ technology
Plug it straight into your laptop
Up 40% faster than previous dongles
Works with PC and Mac
The Huawei E353 is the second modem from Three to support download speeds of up to 21.6Mbps and upload speeds up to 5.76Mbps.
The E353 uses the latest Qualcomm 8200a chipset which features network enhancements to provide a better experience while on the move and supports all major operating systems including Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Mac OS.
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It arrives in a tiny little box containing the USB modem itself, a 3 SIM card with 1GB data preloaded on it, a couple of little paper booklets about safety and how to use it and not much else.
To use it you simply slide the cover off, slip the SIM in the slot, put the cover back on and plug it into a USB port on your computer. It mounts itself as a CD so if you have autorun turned off you'll need to go open up My Computer (just Computer on Vista/Windows 7 I believe) and launch the "CD" from there.
It will install the drivers and software it requires and then you're ready to go. The application it installs is called '3 Connect' and this shows the current signal strength, lets you connect/disconnect from the internet, monitor your current and total bandwidth usage and even send/receive SMS messages.
As long as you have a good signal it takes a couple of seconds after hitting the 'Connect' button to be on the internet. If you don't have a good signal try using a USB extension cable between the modem and the computer to act as an antenna. There is a small socket on the side of the modem, hidden under a flap, that I suspect is for an external antenna but I couldn't find any explanation in the documentation so it's just a guess.
The speeds I've been experiencing are about what I expected. My signal level isn't great where I live and my 3 mobile spends alot of time at 3G speeds not HSPA+ which requires a better signal. I've been downloading at ~0.8MB/s which is ~6.4Mbit/s. I will update this review once I've taken my laptop out and about and tested the speeds with full signal.
The price of bandwidth is higher than I'd like. 3 charge £2.99 if you want 500MB which lasts just one day! They also offer three monthly top-up amounts:
£10 top-up for 1GB download
£15 top-up for 3GB download
£25 top-up for 7GB download
As you can see this isn't exactly a bargain. Especially not when you consider that they charge £15 for unlimited data on their PAYG phone plans. You are better off tethering a smart phone to your computer if you have that option. If you don't then this is what you're faced with.
I recommend preparing your browser (firefox) for minimim-bandwidth usage when you're going to use the 3 USB modem:
- Turn off images by default
- Install NoScript to prevent media loading automatically
- Install AdBlock+ to prevent bandwidth being wasted on loading ads
This will let you control what loads on a website other than the text so hopefully you'll be able to make the 1-3GB last much longer. I have setup a portable firefox package (portableapps dot com) which I only use when I'm going to be using the USB modem.
This is the best 3G USB modem deal available so I highly recommend it if that's what you're after. However, I can't rate it 5 stars simply because the ongoing costs are so high in comparison to their true cost. Bandwidth does not cost £10 per 1GB.
I checked prior to purchasing what the signal strength would be in the area I was travelling to. My hotel was on the second floor, and the table I used the laptop on was near a window which would have influenced how well it worked.
The installation was easy to set up (I used a Notebook). It's easy to connect with no problems. The dongle worked fantastic, as fast as Wifi however the only thing which was slower (and which it sometimes got stuck on) was videos. This didn't bother me as it was only for accessing e-mails and looking on the internet, however if I was using this dongle full time it may irritate me.
I've found the connectivity in my own house is not as good as the hotel which I stayed in (and it does work slower due to this), however this doesn't bother me as I only purely wanted the dongle for using on business trips.
I'd definately recommend this dongle for anyone who wants to use this on holidays, business trip, vacation, however would recommend someone considers the pros and cons I've mentioned if they want to purchase one for using in the house all the time at home.
When attempting to actually run the 3connect software however, it crashes at startup with the usual "3connect has failed to start" Windows 7 application crash dialog.
After much googling, this appears to be down to incompatibilities with some combination of Windows 7 64bit, the latest available Flash player software, and 3connect itself (as 3connect uses flash to display quite frankly useless graphics that the tool could very well do without). There does not seem to be any obvious way to fix this though; there is vague mention of updating the 3connect software, however such updated software is both incredibly difficult to find on the 3 site (their in-site search does not return the page) and furthermore does not have a supported version for this particular dongle (the Huawei E353).
The dongle and software do appear to function without issue on a Mac, however.
If you are intending on using this on a Windows 7 machine I would advise you look for an alternate product.
For reference, the 3 page with the 3connect update is: [...]
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