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Sierra Wireless Compass 597 Mobile Broadband Modem

At a Glance
  • Sierra Wireless Compass 597 Mobile Broadband Modem

    PCWorld Rating

    An easy--and stylish--way to get broadband Internet access while you're on the go.

Can a modem make a fashion statement? The Sprint Compass 597 from Sierra Wireless does just that. This wireless broadband USB modem is small, sleek, and exceedingly easy to use.

Sprint says the Compass 597 is the United States' smallest USB modem, and it is tiny: It measures 1.1 inches thick at its widest point, by 3.1 inches long by 0.4 inch thick and weighs 0.8 ounce. Highlighting its good looks are a slightly rounded shape and a soft orange light across the top that glows when the modem is attached to your PC. Unlike many wireless broadband modems, it has no flip-up antenna. As a result it looks just like a USB thumb drive--and the Compass 597 can double as one because it has a slot for microSD cards.

To get started, you plug the modem into an open USB port; the installation program, included on the modem, begins running automatically. After the modem runs through an automatic restart, you launch the Sprint SmartView application and choose an available mobile broadband or Wi-Fi network. SmartView has a neat and clean interface that's very easy to navigate.

The Compass 597 supports Sprint's 3G EvDO Rev A network where available (check at coverage.sprintpcs.com to see whether your area is served), which delivers download speeds ranging from 600 kilobits per second to 1.4 megabits per second. When I accessed the network from my home outside Boston, my download speed was 741 kbps and my upload speed was 110 kbps. Overall performance was very good, and I could browse the Web with no problems.

Among other extras, Sprint's SmartView app includes GPS capabilities. If you permit the modem to access your location, you can search for nearby points of interest, such as banks, restaurants, and gas stations. Clicking one of the links from within SmartView launches a Windows Live map of your area and any destinations you have specified. This feature is especially handy for travelers on a business trip.

Sprint offers the Compass 597 for a very reasonable $50 with a new two-year service agreement. To use it, though, You'll need a Sprint data plan; Sprint's data-only plan costs $60 per month for 5GB of data. If you travel frequently and want on-the-go Internet access, you'll find that the Compass 597 is a worthwhile--and good-looking--companion.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    An easy--and stylish--way to get broadband Internet access while you're on the go.

    Pros

    • Small, sleek design
    • Very easy to install--no software to download

    Cons

    • EvDO coverage not available everywhere
    • Data plan can be pricey
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