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Sierra Wireless 598U (Sprint) review:

Sierra Wireless 598U (Sprint)

The Sprint SmartView desktop client is quite nice, and has an intuitive and attractive interface. There is an Applications tab on which you will find helpful tools, such as coverage maps, a mobile broadband speed test, Wi-Fi location finder, and access to your account and usage. The only thing missing from the software is the capability to send, receive, and manage text messages, but we didn't find ourselves pining after this feature too much. Overall, we thought Sprint SmartView had a better layout and more useful utilities than T-Mobile and Verizon's software.

Case in point: the Sierra Wireless 598U also has an integrated GPS radio and A-GPS, and a GPS tab is included in the software that provides you with your location (longitude, latitude, and so on.) and lets you search for businesses close to your position. There are also shortcuts for restaurants, banks, gas stations, hotels, and coffee houses. Once you enter a search term or select a point of interest, it will launch to where you can view all the listings and addresses, see them pinpointed on a map, and get turn-by-turn directions. We were quite impressed with the GPS capabilities of the 598U; it was able to find our position in less than two minutes and the returned search results were accurate.

The Sierra Wireless 598U works on Sprint's EV-Do Rev. A network, which covers 18,600 cities and 1,832 airports, and reaches 270 million people. According to Sprint, average download speeds of 600Kbps to 1.4Mbps and upload speeds of 350 to 500Kbps. We tested the modem through San Francisco and, based on six tests using, we averaged 890Kbps for download speeds and 381Kbps for upload speeds. By comparison, the Verizon Wireless USB760 averaged 1.48Mbps for download speeds and 590Kbps for upload speeds and the T-Mobile WebConnect average 670Kbps and 310Kbps.

With a signal strength of about -76dBm, it took about 29 seconds for a 1MB picture to upload and 37 seconds to download a 2MB e-mail attachment. CNET's Web site loaded fully in 6 seconds, while The New York Times came up in 21 seconds, CNN in 16 seconds, and ESPN in 6 seconds. We'll continue to test the modem in different environments and cities and compare them with similar products, but we'd have to say the Sierra Wireless 598U is a fine portable modem that provides consistent coverage and swift data speeds.

Though Sprint speeds were slightly below Verizon's, we didn't notice a huge difference and were quite pleased with the data speeds and reliable coverage. The GPS capabilities were also accurate and useful, and it's hard to beat the price (free), so we'd have to say the Sierra Wireless 598U for Sprint is win-win.

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