Novatel Wireless V620 Wireless WAN Card (Verizon Wireless) review: Novatel Wireless V620 Wireless WAN Card (Verizon Wireless)
Novatel Wireless and Verizon have teamed up to release the V620 Wireless PC Card, which supports Verizon's EV-DO (Evolution Data Optimized or Evolution Data Only, depending on whom you ask) network. The combination of the cellular modem card and an available EV-DO network can give you high-speed Internet access anywhere within an EV-DO coverage area. Verizon's 3G high-speed data network takes advantage of the carrier's growing EV-DO network and makes it possible to connect to the Internet on the train, in the car, or at the airport, but this kind of convenience doesn't come cheap. The card itself costs only a little more than a standard Wi-Fi card. Service, however, is a hefty $79.99 per month for unlimited access. Verizon also offers a limited plan that supplies access based on data usage at 20MB for just $39.99 per month.
The V620 card looks like a standard PC Card, though the portion that sticks out of the card slot is a bit thicker than normal, to accommodate the internal antenna. Unlike the Sierra Wireless AirCard 580, it lacks a folding external antenna.
Installing the Novatel Wireless V620 card was a simple task. We loaded the included CD, ran the installation wizard, and popped the card into our laptop's PC Card slot. Windows XP automatically recognized the card, and within five minutes we were off and running (the card also works with Windows 2000, 98 SE, and Me). A click on the VZAccess Manager icon gets you into this easy-to-use applet. Simply click Connect, and the software dials up the Verizon wireless network. The VZAccess Manager facilitates access to e-mail and other installed applications, such as Microsoft Office, and also tracks usage and supports text messaging.
Verizon's EV-DO service (called BroadbandAccess) is currently available in 32 major metropolitan regions in the country, and the carrier plans to roll out service throughout the year. You can check Verizon's EV-DO coverage areas to see if it's available where you live. Our informal tests at various locations in New York showed the V620 to be the fastest and most consistent mobile PC Card we've tested, beating out the already fast Sierra Wireless AirCard 580. For instance, inside Grand Central Station, we recorded a bandwidth of 1,400.1Kbps. On a moving northbound train, the bandwidth dropped to a still impressive 822.9Kbps. Not surprisingly, at our office in the canyons of Manhattan, the data rate fluctuated between a dismal, dial-up-like 62Kbps to a LAN-like 767.4Kbps. (The downside of cellular modems is that they are subject to the same signal issues as your cell phone.) If you live outside of the current EV-DO service area, you're not entirely out of luck. The V620 also supports data access via Verizon's CDMA-based NationalAccess service at speeds of 60 to 80Kbps, and Verizon's Quick 2 Net service will get you access in a pinch at 14.4Kbps using a capable wireless phone or a Mobile Office Kit offered from Verizon. If you don't live in an EV-DO area but you travel a lot and need constant connectivity, this card will let you take advantage of EV-DO networks when you encounter them.
In addition to a quick-setup brochure, thorough documentation comes on the installation CD. Verizon provides a 15-day satisfaction guarantee on the card and service; customers can return the equipment and cancel service during that time and receive a full refund. Novatel Wireless provides a one-year manufacturer's warranty on the card. Verizon's toll-free customer service line is open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. PT, seven days a week. Verizon's Web site includes BroadbandAccess and NationalAccess FAQs, a glossary, and an equipment guide.