CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. How we test routers

Sierra Wireless 598U (Sprint) review: Sierra Wireless 598U (Sprint)

Sierra Wireless 598U (Sprint)

Bonnie Cha Former Editor
Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.
Bonnie Cha
4 min read

We've reviewed the T-Mobile WebConnect USB Laptop Stick, the Verizon Wireless USB 760, and now to continue in our roundup of portable modems we checked out the Sierra Wireless 598U for Sprint, which is free with a two-year contract and after discounts. However, as with the others, you will need to sign for up for a data plan. Sprint's Mobile Broadband Connection Plan costs the same as the other two providers' plans, at $59.99 per month with a 5GB data cap, though overage fees are slightly higher than T-Mobile's at $0.05 per MB (compared to $0.02). Still, there are some benefits of the Sierra Wireless 598U that make it our current favorite of the group.


Sierra Wireless 598U (Sprint)

The Good

The Sierra Wireless 598U for Sprint offers EV-DO Rev. A data speeds and includes integrated GPS. The portable modem can also double as a storage device via microSD card and is compatible with Windows and Mac.

The Bad

The desktop client lacks the capability to send, receive, or manage text messages like its competitors can.

The Bottom Line

If you're looking for a fast, reliable, portable cellular modem, the Sierra Wireless 598U delivers and even offers GPS.

The Sierra Wireless 598U measures 3.1 inches tall by 0.9 inch wide by 0.4 inch deep and weighs 0.75 ounces. Like the Verizon Wireless USB760, the 598U looks like a flash drive with a simple plug-and-play solution. If you don't want the modem sticking out from the side of your notebook, Sprint includes a laptop clip and USB cable in the box, so you can attach it to the top of your laptop screen.

On the front of the device there are two small LEDs that indicate power and connection. The Sprint logo will also light up when plugged in (we hope you like the color yellow). On the right side, there's an external antenna jack, while on the left you will find a microSD expansion slot that can accept cards up to 32GBs.

Shopping for a faster internet speed?
We’ll send you the fastest internet options, so you don’t have to find them.

There is no installation software CD, as it's all preloaded on the device, and the modem is compatible with Windows (Windows Vista and Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or later) and Mac computers (Mac OS X version 10.4 or later). We simply plugged the 589U into our Lenovo Thinkpad T61 and the software and drivers automatically installed. The activation is easy and requires little user participation, but the entire process does take a few minutes.

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 Bing.com 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 Speedtest.net, 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.