Despite looking like a USB thumbdrive, the VL600 doesn't have any built-in storage. This is rather disappointing, as you'll need to use the included CD to install the software, called Verizon VZAccess Manager, which is required to establish an Internet connection. Though this is not a big problem, it would be much more helpful if the software were embedded on the device itself to spare you from using the CD when you need to quickly use the VL600 with another computer.
Because of its rather bulky size, the VL600 might not be able to connect to all USB ports, especially the recessed ports in some laptops. To make up for this, it includes a 3-foot USB extension cord and a clip holster. Using these accessories, you can mount the modem on a laptop's screen.
The VL600 modem works only with Windows computers and supports Windows XP or later. Setting it up is easy. First you need to install the included software from the CD, which will also install the modem driver. After that, you insert the modem into the computer's USB port. Each time you plug it in, it takes about 30 seconds to be ready. Now just run Verizon's VZAccess Manager software, click "Connect," and you'll be connected to the Internet.
The software also enables sending and receiving text messages. We found that it was actually nicer to do text messaging this way, as you can use the computer's keyboard. You can also use the VZAccess Manager software to locate Verizon Wi-Fi hot spots; this is included in the data plan for free and is not counted toward the data caps.
The VL600 USB Modem blew us away with its performance. We tested the device in our office, which is notorious for bad cell reception, but the device consistently registered the download speed of 12Mbps. At this speed, you could download a DVD-quality movie of 800MB in about 8 minutes. In upload speed tests, the device also registered somewhere around 3Mbps.
To put this in perspective, 3G cellular hot spots we've seen offer around 1,000Kbps for download and 500Kbps for upload, about 10 times slower than what the VL600 has to offer. Also, most broadband connections, such as AT&T's DSL or Comcast cable, are slower or on par with the VL600's speeds.
Note, however, that you probably don't want to use the modem to download lots of data; when the cap (5GB or 10GB, depending on the plan) is reached, you'll have to pay another $10 for each additional gigabyte. As the data plans are rather expensive, the VZAccess Manager software prompts you about the amount of data usage each time you use it to connect to the Internet. You can also manually view this information by click on the "Usage" button.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Service and support
Verizon backs the VL600 USB Modem with a one-year warranty for the hardware and the same support that Verizon offers for cell phones. The company offers 24-7 technical phone support, and at its Web site you will find a section dedicated to the VL600 to help you get started and to troubleshoot problems.