SlashGear Exclusive - Sprint's U720 EVDO Rev.A USB adaptor

After the initial thrill of WiFi and coffee coming together in the form of a Starbucks hotspot wore off, I began to resent having to find the shallow circle of coverage 802.11 offers. Oh yes, it's all very well and good for your fancy New Yorkers, with more WiFi in the air than limo fumes (but only just), but for the rest of us a lot of the time we're reliant on cellular internet connections which, generally speaking, have been less than stellar.

So now imagine a world with upload speeds of 300 to 400 kbps and 450-800 kbps download speeds. That's was the promise of Sprint's EVDO Revision A network upgrade, which SlashGear covered back in October. It was meant to launch, packaged with the Novatel U720 USB adaptor, first on November 5th, then November 12th... and then Novatel broke the news to Sprint (and salivating travellers) that they'd forgotten to get the FCC's blessing for a "Y" cable that was part of the accessory kit. And so the waiting began again, culminating in a package our pin-up boy with all the frequent flyer miles, Vincent Nguyen, excitedly opened in a video ceremony over at Unbox.IT – go check it out, I'll wait. And then read on after the cut for our review, as well as a video of the U720 up and running on Mac OS X...

Okay, so the hardware is here; what's it like? Well, it's a little bigger than perhaps first expected – we've been spoilt by ever diminishing memory sticks and USB WiFi adaptors, so the added bulk of the U720 comes as a minor surprise. Still, any disappointment there soon wears off once you're enjoying EVDO, especially in any of the areas supporting high-speed Rev.A!

That last part, for some, will be the make or break argument for whether they buy now or hold off: so far, Rev.A is available in San Diego, Seattle, Milwaukee and Las Vegas, with further markets getting the speed boost soon. Our initial tests with a Samsung Q1 UMPC and the U720 in Phoenix (a non Rev.A market) yielded 512Kb/s downstream and 312Kb/s upstream; we'll have thorough speed tests shortly on the other Rev.A cards available, as well as comparisons of non-Rev.A markets versus Rev.A markets.

Check out how SlashGear got the U720 working on a MacBook Pro on page two...

Disappointingly, while the fact that it's USB and not PCMCIA means it can be hooked up to one of Apple's shiny MacBook Pro notebooks, Sprint's Access Manager software currently only works on Windows-based machines; however, using the OS X version of Verizon's VZAccess Manager lets you get online with the U720. The pay-off is a marked drop in speed, with our preliminary tests showing 342Kb/s downstream and 127Kb/s upstream on the non-Rev.A network.