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Verizon's KPC680 EVDO ExpressCard - First Impressions

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Thursday, 13 December 2007
Way back in April of 2005, Verizon and Kyocera announced the availability of the KPC650, a PCMCIA card with unique dual-diversity antenna designed "to enhance performance by maximizing data throughput". The KPC650 became a bestseller and was even rated by PCMag as their 'Editor's Choice', turning in best download speeds because of its ability to capture signal better than other cards they had tested. The KPC650 was a 'Rev-0' EVDO card capable of a maximum download of 2.4mb/sec and with uploads capped at 150kb/sec. As next generation 'Rev-A' networks and sleeker 'ExpressCard' form factor devices started to become more prevalent, many people wondered when Kyocera was going to follow up their successful KPC650 PCMCIA card with a Rev-A ExpressCard.

That day has arrived and the new Kyocera KPC680 Rev-A ExpressCard is now available from Verizon Wireless, and the EVDO Experts at 3GStore.com

Verizon KPC680 ExpressCard from 3GStore.com


The KPC680 isn't the first Rev-A ExpressCard to market and this 'first impressions' article will primarily compare it to Novatel's V740 Rev-A ExpressCard, which has been available from Verizon since March 2007.

Verizon KPC680 Antenna Jacks - 3GStore.comWe're going to jump right to the most unique feature of the KPC680 since it is what will distinquish this ExpressCard from all other Rev-A devices that have come before it. The KPC680 not only has a flip-up antenna and external antenna jack like other devices do, the KPC680 takes it a step further and provides TWO antenna jacks: one to allow for improved signal and throughput on upload and downloads at the same time, and one jack that provides improvement on upload speeds only. This 'diversity' is similar to what the older KPC650 card had available, and it made the KPC650 a favorite among full-time RVers and truckers who found themselves constantly battling weak signal. Time will tell if the dual diversity antenna jacks on the new KPC680 make it a favorite among those same roadwarriors, but Kyocera's history with the KPC650 will certainly encourage them to favor the new KPC680 over other ExpressCard or even other Rev-A USB and PCMCIA devices.

Does this difference in antenna jacks make the KPC680 faster than the V740? and faster than the USB and PCMCIA modems?

EVDO speeds through any device are very signal dependent -- especially Rev-A top speeds. If signal in your area were weak or challenging, it could mean frustratingly low speeds and even worse, totally unstable connections. Under weak signal conditions, the KPC680's ability to improve upon signal two different ways gives it a distinct advantage over every other device that can only improve signal one way. That means the KPC680 has the capability of going faster than other devices, under weak signal conditions. However, we've always maintained that when devices are tested under identical, good signal conditions... they will all move data at the same speeds. Its important to note that, for most users who experience weak signal conditions where they use their KPC680, it will NOT be necessary for you to operate the KPC680 with antennas plugged in to both jacks. The outer-most antenna jack provides benefit to both download and upload speeds, and using an antenna just on that jack, is what we will recommend for all customers interested in improving signal capture to their KPC680's.

For the record, we need to remind folks that speed testing is not 100% accurate and then repeated testing on any test site will show wide variations in speeds even during short test cycles. These variations are the result of load on cellular towers and the internet servers themselves, and should not be attributed to the data devices themselves. All currently available devices all meet the same "Rev-A Specs" which means they are all capable of a maximum 3.1mb/sec download and 1.8mb/sec upload. Most would never approach those kinds of numbers.

The KPC680 works with with Windows XP and Vista including 64bit, and is very Mac-friendly as well -- it works with Mac OSX 10.3.9 up through and including 10.5 Leopard. Unlike the V740, there are no native OSX WWAN drivers, so it will be absolutely necessary to install and use Verizon's VZAccess Manager software in order to control/manage the connection to the carrier. The KPC680 can be activated on either platform using VZAM.

The KPC680 works great with the CradlePoint CTR350 and PHS300 EVDO Routers, via USB-to-expresscard adapter. The KPC680 pictured below is shown operating with the new PHS300 Portable Hot Spot, and a new, smaller 'MicroUSB' adapter that 3Gstore.com started selling just this week. With that same adapter, the KPC680 works with any computer that has a USB2 port, even desktop units that do not have ExpressCard slots.

Verizon KPC680 with MicroUSB and PHS300 from 3GStore.com


A similar KPC680 has been available on the Alltel network for several months, and members of EVDOforums.com had discovered that the Alltel version worked in the Kyocera KR1 with the Novatel XCA-3 PCMCIA-to-ExpressCard adapter that 3GStore sells. Because of the success of that combination, we fully expected the Verizon KPC680 would also work with the KR1, and are amazed to discover that the Verizon KPC680 DOES NOT work with the KR1, no matter what pcmcia or USB adapter we tried. Kyocera has said in the past that the KR1 would work with the KPC680 starting with KR1 firmware RK1010, but that their "special USB adapter" would be needed. That adapter is still forthcoming and we will re-test the KR1/KPC680 combo, once we get our hands on the adapter. 3GStore maintains a complete list of 3G Router Compatibility, where we list other routers that the KPC680 will work with.

UPDATE: 02/07/08 -- The KPC680 also works with the Cradlepoint MBR1000, the first EVDO router to feature a NATIVE EXPRESSCARD SLOT. (Full MBR1000 Review available here)

Check out the photo below, showing MBR1000 with KPC680 and a Franklin CDU680 connected to router at same time. (the router can auto-failover between multiple devices!)

 

KPC680 with Cradlepoint MBR1000 EVDO Router


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Last Updated ( Thursday, 07 June 2012 )
 
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