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Sprint Ovation U760 EVDO USB Modem - First Impressions

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Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Sprint's Novatel Ovation U760 3G EVDO Rev-A USB Modem - First Impressions

Sprint Ovation U760 3G EVDO USB Modem
The Sprint Ovation U760 USB modem, a quarter, and a standard business card.

The Novatel Ovation U760 is Sprint's latest 3G EVDO Rev-A USB modem and at 2.24" (H) x 0.98" (W) x 0.47" (D) its also the tiniest Sprint 3G data device ever. Inside the box the U760 ships with are a special USB cable, a quick-connect keychain ring and a quick-connect lanyard, along with a printed user manual. What you won't find is a software CD because the software is once again, on board the USB modem and automatically presents itself for installation if the inserted modem does not detect proper connection manager already installed on your computer. The version of Sprint SmartView connection manager software that ships with the U760 allows for "one touch" activation, a significant improvement over older activation process that would often require the user to provide an unlock code and device phone number. Operating system compatibility includes Windows XP / Vista / 2000 as well as Mac OSX version 10.4.11 or later, including Leopard 10.5 Linux users should take note that Sprint lists the U760 as "linux friendly", but points customers to an outdated "Linux Setup Guide" that lacks specific information for the U760 that a linux user would really need.

Sprint Ovation U760 box contents
The Ovation U760 ships with a USB cable, keychain, lanyard and user manual.

The Ovation U760 is the same physical device as the Verizon USB760 but with different internal programming specific to Sprint. The U760 is the third generation USB Rev-A 3G EVDO modem made by Novatel, the same folks who brought us the Sprint's U727 and U720. As each new generation has come out, the USB modems have gotten smaller and smaller. Take a look at this photo showing all three generations of Sprint Novatel USB modems:

3 generations of Novatel USB modems
Top-Bottom: U720, U727 and the new U760

We mentioned earlier that the U760 ships with a lanyard and a keyring. The picture below gives a better view of how the "quick-connect" parts would work together. The U760 is not the first USB modem to ship with a lanyard, and we've made fun of lanyards before... who wears their USB modem around their neck?? This time around though, we have to admit that the keyring thing does make some sense. If not to use with an actual set of keys, we can see people attaching that ring to the inside of a laptop bag, and using the quick connect to allow a user to always know where the U760 will be "hanging around" ready for the next use.

U760 quick connect lanyard and keychain
The U760 quick connect keyring should be useful for something.

The other '3G accessory' that ships with the U760 is the strange looking USB cable shown in image below. At first, the "ears" on the one end of the cable didn't make any sense to us... until we attached the U760 to it and plugged the cable into a laptop, resulting in the "up in the air" position you see below. We speculated that the positioning was intentional, but wondered for what reason exactly. To help with keeping the U760 cool? To help the U760 grab better cellular signal? Surely it wasn't so the user could more easily see the bright logo light up at night?? To find out for sure, we've emailed our contact at Novatel... and they said it was simply to "position the device for user convenience" and get "the device further away from the noise of the laptop". Yeah. sure. but any USB cable could have done that. no sense spending money to have a special USB cable with shiny chrome "gooseneck" covering, and feet. what-ever.

Mysterious U760 USB cable
The USB cable keeps the U760 at an angle... but for what?

The U760 has a single LED light that switches from red to amber to green to indicate network connection status. Its also worth noting that the Sprint logo lights up, but not for any useful reason unless you really want your 3G modem to serve as a nightlight? We think its purely a marketing gimmick -- thankfully, not as bright as the 598U's is.

The U760 is just slightly smaller than the Compass 597 and the 598U, and considerbly smaller than the U727. How does this the U760 "stack up" against the current Sprint USB modems, and the other new modem - the Sierra 598U? Like so, literally:

Stack of Sprint USB modems
Top - Bottom : U760, 598U, Compass 597 and U727

As with nearly all recent USB modems, the Ovation U760 features a microSD slot, capable of storing up to 8GB of photos, videos, music and other documents -- if this dual-purpose feature is important to you, and you want the ability to store more within your USB modem, check out the 598U -- it claims to handle up to 32GB microSD.

The other "hardware" feature that the U760 has is one that is typically the most important to our customers: an RF/antenna jack that allows high-gain antennas to be attached... very important for users who often find themselves in areas with weak cellular signal. Here's a photo showing our U760 antenna adapter cable plugged into the side of a Sprint Ovation U760 (the jack hides under a little rubber plug. paper clips are useful tools after all.)

Ovation U760 adapter cable
The U760's RF/antenna jack allows for high gain antennas.

Our customers always ask when any new 3G device comes out is, "... just how fast is it? We've always maintained that all devices built to the "Revision A specification" are going to be as fast as all other devices built to similar spec, just as long as they receive the same signal to the same cell tower. Our tests with the U760 once again reinforce that opinion as results were very similar no matter what EVDO Rev-A device we tried. Here are U760 specific speedtest results performed today from our testbench in Dallas, TX:

U760 speed test. Same speeds as other Rev-A devices.

Sprint Novatel Ovation U760 Rev-A USB Modem -- Features

  • Easy Sprint SmartView Installation: No CD required for software installation on Windows or Mac Operating Systems.
  • One-Touch Activation: with just "one" more click after software installation, the device will be activated and ready to go.
  • Network Driver Interface Specification (NDIS): Supports Suspend and Resume after a period of inactivity, the laptop computer will go to sleep, or suspend. The Ovation U760will remain ready to reconnect when the operating system wakes up, or resumes. Also supports Always On, Auto-connect, faster connection time and intelligent data traffic routing.
  • Sprint Location Services: users can take advantage of Sprint Location Services to conduct a locate and search inquiry. Using the GPS chipset embedded in the device, users can plot their current location on a map and then search for nearby points interest such as gas stations, banks, or restaurants. Users can also enter their own custom point of interest query.
  • In Sprint SmartView: Applications drop down for ease of access to tools like Sprint Speed Test, the Digital Lounge for Mobile Broadband and other pre-defined applications
  • microSD memory expansion slot supports up to 8GB (16GB in Q409)
  • Rev. A Capable
  • Compatible with all devices supporting the Type A USB interface including desktops, notebooks, tablet PCs and PDAs
  • Built-in antenna
  • External Antenna Connector (see photo below. 3Gstore has several antennas for the U760 )
  • Messaging Text (SMS) -- Windows only.

By design, all cellular mobile broadband devices like the Sprint Ovation U760 USB modem provide internet connectivity only to the notebook or desktop computer that it is attached to. Perfect for travelers with a single computer, but many of our customers prefer to share the internet connectivity with multiple computers and even with their WiFi-enabled devices like the iPod Touch, or gaming consoles like the Nintendo Wii or Playstation 3 -- for those customers, the best solution is to use a 3G router like those from Cradlepoint.

Thankfully, the CTR500 and MBR1000 already fully supports the Ovation U760 ! For maximum portability, choose the CTR500 (shown in photo with U760 attached). For the most wifi range to and from the router and more versatility (because of its additional ethernet ports, two USB ports and expresscard slot) -- choose the MBR1000 (seen underneath the CTR500)

Sprint Ovation U760 works with CTR500 and MBR1000
The Ovation U760 works great with Cradlepoint CTR500 and MBR1000

3Gstore.com is now selling the Sprint Ovation U760 for just $49.99 after $50 mail in rebate -- thats $30 less than Sprint sells it for!

More importantly, 3Gstore customers receive superior customer and tech support from EVDO Experts that actually use and test these devices on a regular basis!

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 09 September 2009 )
 
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