Get a T-Mobile prepaid 4G USB aircard for $19.99

The Rocket 3.0 brings no-contract 4G service to your laptop and even comes with an assortment of colored faceplates.

The T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 4G aircard comes with three covers.
The T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 4G aircard comes with three covers. T-Mobile

Mobile hot spots are popular items these days, but there's something to be said for the plug-and-play simplicity of a USB aircard. Pop it into your laptop and presto, you've got broadband. And because it draws on your laptop's beefy battery, it's one less thing to keep charged (and one less charger to bring along).

For a limited time, T-Mobile has the refurbished Rocket 3.0 4G Laptop Stick for $19.99 shipped, plus a $15 prepaid data refill card. Regular price: $79.99 (plus $15, natch).

The Rocket measures 1.1 inches x 3.4 inches x 0.5 inch and weighs all of 1.1 ounces. It taps T-Mobile's HSPA+ 4G network to deliver peak download speeds of up to 42Mbps.

There's also a microSD slot, which might come in handy for, say, transferring photos from a camera. And T-Mobile supplies cobalt blue and dark violet covers in case you get tired of basic black.

That's about it on the feature front. Because this is a no-contract aircard, you're not on the hook for monthly service; you can purchase blocks of airtime as follows:

  • 300MB 1-week pass for $15
  • 1.5GB 1-month pass for $25
  • 3.5GB 1-month pass for $35
  • 5GB 1-month pass for $50

Needless to say, if you only occasionally need broadband to go, this is an affordable way to get it. And if you want to share that broadband with other devices, MiFi-style, you can turn your Windows 7 laptop into a hot spot with a utility like Virtual WiFi Router.

One word of caution: be sure to check T-Mobile's coverage map before you buy this. The last thing you want is to discover that you barely have any service where you work and live. But if you're covered, it's hard to beat $20 out the door for mobile broadband.

Bonus deal: Need to run an Ethernet connection from point A to point B, but don't want to fish cables through your walls and floors? Buy.com has the Zyxel PLA401v3 HomePlug AV powerline Ethernet kit for $49.99 shipped. It comes with two adapters; plug each into an AC outlet and you're good to go.

Bonus deal No. 2: Want to try Windows 8 without the usual hassles of partitioning or reformatting? Run it virtually. Parallels is offering its Parallels Workstation 6 for $9.99, a savings of $70. This virtualization software lets you run multiple operating systems on your Windows or Linux PC, without rebooting, and without disturbing your current OS setup. Neat stuff.

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