Sierra Wireless AirCard 775 review: Sierra Wireless AirCard 775

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MSRP: $299.00
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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Provides nationwide mobile Internet access; compatible with networks around the world; easy installation.

The Bad Although this card works on a number of widely available networks, the fastest among them are still available only in limited areas.

The Bottom Line If you often work in areas with high-speed EDGE service availability, the Sierra Wireless AirCard 775 is your best bet for mobile Internet access.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.0 Overall
  • Design and ease of use 9.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 7.0
  • Service and support 8.0

Sierra Wireless AirCard 775

Designed for mobile professionals who think on their feet and work on the go, the AirCard 775 gives you nationwide Internet access anywhere you can connect to a GSM, GPRS, or EDGE mobile phone network. The AirCard 775 is easy to install, and it operates in any one of four bands used throughout North America, Asia, and Europe, making it a good companion for international business travelers. If speed is more important to you than handheld compatibility or quad-band flexibility, check out the AirCard 580, which can tap into state-of-the-art high-speed EV-DO networks, or the Novatel Wireless Merlin U520, which is designed for use with fast UMTS networks.

You typically purchase the AirCard 775 through a carrier that offers EDGE service, such as Cingular. Rates are currently priced at around $80 per month for all-you-can-eat service; this is not typically sold as part of your phone service.

Setting up the AirCard 775 is a breeze, but the procedure varies somewhat depending on the type of device you're using and the operating system you're running. You can use the AirCard 775 with laptops running any flavor of Windows from 98 SE onward and handhelds running Windows CE 3.0 or newer. Regardless of the type of OS you're running, the first thing you need to do is install the drivers, which are located on a CD that accompanies the PC Card. With a laptop, you simply insert the CD, and the installation wizard that appears on the screen will walk you through the process of loading the drivers and the card management software onto your system. The process is foolproof, and it takes less than five minutes.

The connection management and monitoring software for the AirCard 775 is called Watcher, which you access via a desktop shortcut. Watcher lets you connect to and disconnect from the Internet and gives you a graphic that indicates your signal strength when you're connected. The software also tells you what type of service you have at any given location: GSM, GPRS, or EDGE.

We tested the AirCard 775 on an EDGE network and were pleased with the results. In our trials, the AirCard delivered speeds around 174Kbps. That's a little slower than the speeds we saw with the Merlin U520, which clocked in at 248Kbps. But whereas the U520 works only in select areas where UMTS service is available, the AirCard 775 is compatible with nationwide GSM networks as well as faster GPRS and EDGE networks, making it far more practical for business travelers, who may not always be within reach of a high-speed EDGE or UMTS connection. We think the AirCard 775 is the better choice in most cases, especially if you happen to live in an EDGE service area. Check Cingular's coverage map to see if EDGE service is available in your area.

The Sierra Wireless AirCard 775 comes with a one-year warranty. First-level support for the device is handled by the carrier, who then transfers customers to Sierra Wireless if necessary. You can also find support and troubleshooting information on the Sierra Wireless Web site, which hosts free downloadable software and user documentation for the AirCard 775.

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