Review: T-Mobile webConnect USB laptop stick

Let’s just cut to the chase, folks. T-Mobile’s first USB dongle is a welcome addition to the big magenta, but it has its flaws. However, as a long time T-Mobile customer I’m just happy to have a broadband dongle at all.

My speed tests in the Bay Area (CA) were quite good both in San Francisco and around the Bay. I was averaging between 700 and 800kbps down and around 300kbps up throughout the area. During the Kojima keynote at GDC I suffered multiple disconnects, but I figured that was a result of being deep inside Moscone’s South hall — although my T-Mobile BlackBerry 8900 had a strong EDGE connection. That’s all well and good but I don’t live in the Bay Area anymore. Manhattan is home these days.

I’ve sampled two areas of Manhattan with two separate Windows machines with not so similar results. My first testing point for the webConnect stick was near Penn Station and the results were pretty horrific. Upload speeds averaged a paltry 60kbps, but download speeds were tolerable at around 700kbps. The next stop is the TC/CG office, which is located near Gramercy Park. Average download speeds hovered around 728kbps with upload speeds topping out at 324kbps.

The key difference between my tests from last night and this afternoon are the network types. Last night I was connected over UMTS with a signal strength of -67 dBm while this morning I’m getting a strong HSDPA connection with the same signal strength. It’s unclear where it switches between the two, but I’ve seen it go back and forth when signal strength hits -70 dBm.

For T-Mobile’s first foray, it’s a pretty decent offering but a few things need to change before T-Mobile can really compete with the big dogs. First, support Mac OS X. I don’t say this because I own a Mac, though. It’s 2009 and you’ve had the luxury of waiting and seeing what the other carriers have done with their 3G dongles. They all support Mac OS X. Maybe it’s Huawei, but either way we shouldn’t have to wait until summer to use it. Second, team up with another company or make Huawei produce a smaller dongle. I do like the form factor of the webConnect stick, as it doesn’t protrude several inches from my laptop like Novatel or Sierra Wireless dongles, but it’s still enormous by today’s standards. I don’t think I’m asking too much here, and it’s something you’ll probably hear from others going forward.

That is all.