The USBConnect 881 is definitely ahead of its time or rather ahead of schedule since none of AT&T’s markets support HSUPA. That doesn’t stop us from wanting to take a first look at the device as well and test how well it performs under the current network – HSDPA.
The unit is sturdy and well built. The USB part of the connector neatly folds up when not in use. You just need to be extra careful when it’s plugged in and you happen to be using your laptop on your lap. There’s a big chance you may accidentally bang it on something if you move around. I’m pretty careless, so there’s a big chance I’m going to whack it on something and break it off. Therefore, from a design point of view, I prefer the internal ExpressCard EX720 by Novatel.
I was very surprised to that the USBConnect 881 featured a removable battery. This is a good thing since 3G is really greedy on battery power, especially if it’s connected to the laptop while not plugged into a power source.
As far as speed goes (see results below), AT&T’s HSDPA is on par with Sprint’s EVDO Rev. A. I have no complaints there. However, when HSUPA comes online, that will be a different story. It will be interesting to see how Sprint WiMAX compares to HSUPA when it rolls out mid next year. Make sure to check back later when these new networks are online for a full review.