Design and features
OK, you know the drill. If you've read through our round-up of the best USB HSDPA wireless broadband modems then you'll have noticed a pattern. At this time your options when choosing a wireless broadband service are limited to buying a USB modem or a USB modem, and the Optus E1762 is no different. It's no bigger or smaller, no wider or slimmer, and like the modems we've reviewed from 3 Mobile and Vodafone, the E1762 features a microSD card slot that turns this modem into a mass storage device as well, though no memory is included.
The software needed to connect to the Optus network is built-in to the modem and with auto-execute when you plug the modem in for the first time. Our experience with this set-up was flawless; the three systems we tested the software on, it unpacked and installed with almost no interaction from us — no tricky questions to answer and no annoying registration. Though again, this is standard with all the services we've tested in the last six to 12 months.
What will define this product is the service, and this is where things get murky. The E1762 is HSDPA capable with a theoretical maximum of 7.2Mbps downlink speeds and 2Mbps uplink. We tested the Optus service using the E1762 and a Panorama data card antenna (sold separately for about AU$50) in three locations around Sydney including the CBD and north of the Harbour Bridge.
The Panorama antenna, while flimsy-looking, did improve the strength of the signal in the test location with the weakest signal, bringing it up from 2G signal only to an HSDPA signal at about 50 per cent strength. When attaching the antenna at the location with the best signal it did nothing at all, we still experienced fluctuations in speed and it couldn't help to elevate the results above the 2Mbps range.
We ran two sets of speed tests, one with the antenna connected and one without, and we saw huge fluctuations in the speed of data. Line speeds peaked at about 2Mbps and bottoming out at a measly 180Kbps, with the tests results showing speeds at most points in between at some stage during testing.
These results, while wholly inconclusive due to a multitude of factors, do prove one thing: you need to test this service thoroughly before you commit. Optus representatives informed us that the company employs a seven-day contract termination period for new wireless modem customers. So take the modem home, use it in numerous places you're likely to regularly connect and at times of day you'll use the modem most and make sure you get the service you expect. If you use the CNET broadband speed test you should see results ranging from 500-1500Kbps or better, if you don't then take it back.