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Thursday, 20 September 2007

Review of Franklin CDU680 aka Sprint U680 EVDO USB Modem

Franklin CDU680 available NOW
Sprint U680 USB Modem Review

UPDATE: The Sprint U680 has been discontinued. Click here to view currently available Sprint devices

The Franklin CDU-680 was released September 2007 and it has been the EVDO USB Modem that many people have been waiting for. The CDU-680 is around 1/3 the size of previous USB Modems (like the Novatel U720 or the Sierra AirCard 595U) and similar in size to the U727. In addition to its much smaller size, Franklin has added many new features not previously found on an EVDO USB modem.

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Sierra AirCard 595U (left), Novatel U720 (center), Franklin CDU-680 (right)

CDU680 and U727, side by side
Sprint U727 and CDU680, side by side

Features Include:

  • EVDO Rev-A Device
  • Approximately 1/3 of the size of previous USB Modems
  • Built-in 64mb flash drive
  • Built-in GPS
  • Antenna Port for external antennas and amplifiers
  • Windows XP/Vista, Mac OS X, Linux Connection Managers already loaded on installed flash drive (no need to carry a CD with you). Also Getting Started PDF Pre-Loaded on flash drive.
  • Full Mac OS X Connection Manager including GPS Support
  • Swivel USB Connector
  • USB only Requires a Max of 500ma - Y Adapter Cable is not typically needed, however one is included for additional power and better positioning of CDU-680

Franklin CDU680 available NOW


Built-in 64mb Flash Drive

The built-in 64mb flash drive isn't a lot of storage, but does include the connection manager installers for Windows XP, Vista (32 bit or 64 bit), Mac OS X and Linux. This is a pretty impressive use for the flash drive. You can walk up to almost any Windows, Mac or Linux computer with a USB port (any laptop or desktop) and have everything that you need to connect to Sprint's mobile broadband network. No need to carry a CD - in fact a CD is not even included in the package.


Impressive Speeds

The Franklin CDU-680 performs as well as the other EVDO Rev-A USB modems. During our initial testing, we were seeing speeds clocked below.


A Word About Speed Tests -- For our opinion on device speeds, please read this blogpost!

Comparing Signal Strengths with Other EVDO Modems

Franklin CDU-680: -77dBm RevA
Sierra 595U: -77dBm Rev A
Novatel U720:: -77dBm Rev A

Test results above, were all from exactly the same location, and all done within minutes of each other, on the same exact laptop. All USB devices gave identical signal stength readings. During our testings all devices performed similar in speeds - however, when doing speed tests, you may get different results with each test. For our opinion on device speeds, please read this blogpost!

EVDO Router Support

UPDATED 02/07/08: The CDU680 is compatibile with the Cradlepoint CTR350, PHS300 and the MBR1000 . The CDU-680 does not work in the Kyocera KR1 EVDO Router. For the latest on router compatibility, see our EVDO Router Compatibility Chart.
Franklin CDU680 and Cradlepoint CTR350
Franklin CDU680 works with Cradlepoint CTR350

Franklin CDU680 and PHS300 Router
Franklin CDU680 and Cradlepoint PHS300

Cradlepoint MBR1000 with CDU680 (and V740/UM150)
Franklin CDU680 and MBR1000 (as well as V740 and UM150)

Sample Image

Mac OS X Features:

Franklin was one of the first companies that supported Apple computers and, once again, they offer impressive Mac OS X support. The CDU680 is compatible with all Macs that have a USB port and are running at least Mac OSX 10.4.7 or later, including Mac OSX 10.5 Leopard! (Leopard users might want to read this before buying their CDU680)

Please note that the GUI support will only be available on Intel Based Macs (Not PowerBooks or other G3/G4/G5 PowerPC Macs - however, the modem will still work).

After installing the Macintosh software from the flash drive onto Intel Macs and rebooting, the first thing that you will notice is the signal strength indicators in the menu bar. This may look VERY similar to the Apple WWAN drivers that Apple has built-in since Mac OS X 10.4.7, BUT it is not the same as it has many more features.

The signal bars in the menu bar indicate how strong your signal is:

UPDATE 02/20/08: Latest Software improves Signal Bar -- now features RSSI Signal!

Franklin CDU680 RSSI

Pull down on the signal strength and you see the complete menu bar. Select 'Connect' and a few seconds later you are connected to Sprint's Mobile Broadband Network.


Mac Activation Built-In

This isn't a big deal for Windows users but for Mac users, this is BIG. The CDU-680 is a rare EVDO device that can undergo the first time activation completely on a Mac. With almost all other EVDO devices, Mac users would need a Windows computer or BootCamp to do the first time activations. Note: When purchasing your CDU-680 from, your CDU-680 will already come activated/tested and ready to use.

GPS - Full Support for Mac OS X

A true 'first' for Mac OS X users is full GPS support. Again, Windows users have been enjoying 'Location Based Services' for some time now, but as is all too common, Mac users had been left behind. There is still no Mac OS X GPS support from Sierra, Novatel or Sprint. With the CDU-680, Intel Mac users wanting GPS/LBS can rejoice!

From the pull down menu, select "Location and Search Services", and you can find places that are close to where you are located right now. In the screen below, I clicked "Find Nearest Gas Station" and within a few moments, a Google Map opens up and shows me my location and the location of all the closest gas stations.


The hidden GPS External Antenna

On the bottom of the CDU-680 is an external GPS antenna port. When one is made available, an external antenna should improve the GPS accuracy and give the GPS a clear view of the sky for certain applications.


G3/G4/G5 Features and Functionality

The included software also works on G3/G4/G5 Macs running OSX 10.4.7 or later. There is an extra step you have to follow to get it working correctly. Email support at 3Gstore dot com and we can give you the needed steps to make the Franklin CDU-680 to work on you PowerPC Mac (include your 3Gstore Invoice #).

Linux Support - Built-in

The CDU-680 is the first EVDO device to come with linux compatible software. While its not a full connection manager, it does allow you to connect to Sprint's EVDO network with only two simple commands.

All you have to do is copy the "Linux_Ubuntu" folder from the CDU-680 flash drive to your desktop. Then open a terminal window and run the following commands:

Run "cd Desktop/Linux_Ubuntu"
Run "sudo ./connect"
Then you will be prompted to enter your root (administrator) password
The device will then switch to modem mode and connect to Sprint's network.

Franklin says this script is specifically for Ubuntu, however; I expect that it should work with the most popular distros of linux. Check back soon, as we will be testing the CDU-680 on some of the more popular flavors of linux.


The image �� cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Windows Support - Of Course

Franklin (of course) supports Windows. GPS is fully supported via Location Based Services.

  • ##DATA - Changing Home Agent Supported
  • ##RTN - Supported
  • ##DEBUG - Supported
  • Locking in EVDO Only - Supported
  • Hover mouse over signal bars to see dBm signal strength


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The image �� cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

So What are the Negatives?

UPDATE! as of 11/20/08, we now have adapter cables for the CDU680 in stock at No available antenna adapter cable for the CDU-680. This means, today, you cannot add antennas and amplifiers to the CDU-680. However, is working to have an antenna adapter in the next few months at our store. In fact, we have a prototype of one that DOES WORK, since this is a new connector, it will take up to 8 weeks to get the initial delivery.


Franklin CDU680 antenna adapter cable

as of 11/20/08, we now have adapter cables for the CDU680 in stock at

No abiity to upgrade firmware natively on Mac OS X. If Franklin ever needs to upgrade the firmware, only the Windows connection manager can do the firmware upgrade, You can do this upgrade under BootCamp on an Intel based Mac.

There is no signal strength (dBm) signal strength indicator when running under Mac OS X. When we add antennas and amplifiers , seeing the dBm number is a lot more important in adjusting antennas and amplifiers for best performance. Franklin has indicated they will add this in a future release.

UPDATE 02/20/08: Latest Software improves Signal Bar -- now features RSSI Signal!

Franklin CDU680 RSSI


Overview - Recommendations

It is great having all your connection Managers for all OS's with you at all times. If you erase them, you can always download at Franklin's Support site. You have around 49MB left over on the flash drive for your files. Not a lot, but handy if you need it.

For Mac Users, this is the EVDO modem you have been waiting for. First EVDO modem to support native Mac Activation "out of the box" for Sprint, first EVDO Modem to fully support GPS on Mac. The Franklin CDU-680 provides Mac OS software for Intel-based Macs only, however, it can work on older Macs.

We think the USB form factor is a smart choice. The other 2 form factors are PCMCIA (a dying breed used in older laptops and EVDO routers) and ExpressCard (common on all newer laptops). When you start off with Sprint service, you are signing a 2 year contract. If you upgrade computers during those 2 years, you may have an imcompatible form factor with PCMCIA, however USB is on every laptop and desktop. Now that the size of the USB is so much smaller, it may be an attractive option for you.


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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 09 September 2009 )
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