Mobile broadband is fast becoming a viable alternative to fixed-line and Wi-Fi for laptop-toting travellers. are cheap, relatively fast, and best of all, they give you the freedom to go online wherever you please.
We've tested our fair share of these devices, including, most recently, the Sierra Wireless Compass 88 -- available via O2 on contract or as a standalone unit that's compatible with a SIM card of your choice.
The Compass 885 looks like any other mobile broadband dongle. It connects to your laptop or PC via USB, but can be tethered to the top of your laptop screen if you use the bundled extension cable and clip. One side of the unit is home to an external aerial antenna port, which comes in handy when 3G reception is weak in your area.
What separates the 855 from most dongles of this type, however, is that it includes a microSD memory-card slot just above the SIM-card bay. This allows the unit to double as a USB memory stick. We can't imagine this being particularly useful to most people, but we applaud its inclusion.
The Compass 885 allows 7.2Mbps HSDPA downloads and 2Mbps HSUPA uploads, although that's upgradeable to 5Mbps HSUPA via future firmware upgrades. In our tests with a SIM from 3, it worked flawlessly, and although the speed and reliability of downloads varied depending on our location, we were perfectly happy with it.
What we weren't happy with was the price. A SIM-free Compass 885 costs a hefty £140 from online stores such as Devicewire.co.uk. It's also available free on contract with O2, but if pay as you go is a necessity, you're probably better off with the , which is also free on contract, but will only set you back £39 SIM-free.