Sprint Compass 597 USB EVDO modem review

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Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Sprint Compass 597 USB EVDO modem review

Sprint Compass 597U

UPDATE: Sprint Compass 597 USB EVDO modem is now $29.99 with 2year contract

The Sierra Wireless Compass 597 USB Modem is now available for use on the Sprint MobileBroadBand EVDO network. The Compass 597 is much smaller than the Sierra Wireless 595U as you can see in this next photo:

Sprint Compass 597U

The Compass 597 is built well and feels sturdy in your hands. It comes with a slot for a microSD cards allowing it to serve double duty -- a storage 'thumb drive' for music, videos, presentations and other files you want to keep handy; as well as an easy way to help ensure you have an internet connection no matter where you are or what computer you have access to.

Sprint Compass 597U

Aside from its small size and microSD slot, the Compass 597 has some other cool 'hardware' features worth mentioning. It has two LEDs that blink or stay lit in blue or amber colors to indicate different connection states, and it has a yellow light that glows when plugged into a USB port a la "Sprint LightSpeed". Of course, the Compass 597 has a built-in antenna that does a decent job of receiving signal, but for those weak signal situations the Compass 597 also has an RF port allowing for externally attached high-gain antennas like the selection available at


Compass 597 with Booster antenna and PHS300


The Compass 597 ships with a pair of nice accessories: a travel bag and a very unique USB cable that is bendable and holds its shape, allowing a user to position the Compass 597 out of harms way, and into best position for signal capture. Here's our short video review of the Compass 597 showing the cable in use as well as other aspects of the Compass 597. (requires flash)

Unlike all previous EVDO devices sold by Sprint, you won't need to keep track of a software CD because the Compass 597 incorporates Sierra Wireless' TRU-Install technology to store versions of Sprint's SmartView connection manager software for Windows XP and Vista, as well as Mac OSX Tiger and Leopard -- that's right, this is the FIRST device that Sprint has ever shipped with a true Mac OS connection manager! (its worth noting that the Compass 597 software does NOT work with Windows 2000 or Mac OSX before Tiger)

Once the Compass 597 is attached to any computer that does not already have the SmartView software present, the installation process automatically guides the user until they are connected to the internet. Once installed, Sprint's SmartView is really a polished application with a lot of functionality including Sprint's GPS "Location based services" that allow you to easily find the nearest bank, coffee shop, restaurant or gas station. Its worth noting again that all the same SmartView features are available on both the Windows and Mac OSX version of the software including GPS. Mac users are finally 'equal' to windows users in this respect. We've got a whole article about the coolness of SmartView that you can read online, if you want to know more about it. Speaking of Macs... the Compass 597 fits and works great with the MacBook Air. check out the picture below, and for more - check out our MacBook Air article.

Compass 597 and MacBook Air

With the release of every new EVDO device comes hundreds of customer phone calls that ask: "How fast is it?" or "Is it faster than this or that device?" The Compass 597 is an EVDO Rev-A capable device, and will achieve the maximum possible speeds available from whatever tower you encounter, given adequate signal strength. This can be said for all other Rev-A devices ever sold. Our testing of all EVDO devices concludes that no device stands out as being consistently faster than any other. You can read more about our opinion on device speeds at this article. Having said all that, here is proof that the Compass can indeed "go fast": (note that other sprint devices I had with me at the time saw similar speeds. it was a "well fed" tower that made these speeds possible, not specifically the Compass 597)

Compass 597 speed test results

Like all other 3G or EVDO device, the Compass 597 is designed to provide internet connectivity to the single computer it is attached to... but what if you want to share that single connection with more than one computer? or perhaps with WiFi-enabled devices that are not computers such as the iPod Touch or iPhone? What about PS3, Wii or xBox game consoles or VOIP phones? Can the Compass 597 somehow be set up to provide internet connectivity for these devices as well?

The answer is a resounding Yes! and the easiest way is by attaching the Compass 597 to a cellular router like the Cradlepoint CTR350, PHS300 or MBR1000. In fact, because Sierra Wireless recently bought Cradlepoint Technologies, their routers were already supporting the Compass 597 even before it launched! The Cradlepoint routers use WiPipe hardware optimization to provide higher priority to certain types of connections, which results in better performance to the multiple computers and devices that share the connection provided by the Compass 597.

Compass 597 with Cradlepoint PHS300

As Sprint's EVDO coverage expands further into areas that have long been considered "the boonies", many rural customers who can't get 'common' cable or DSL service that is readily available to 'city folks', find the combination of a Cradlepoint router and Sprint EVDO using a Compass 597 to be a dream come true. No longer do these folks desperate for broadband have to suffer with expensive satellite options and the high-latency that comes with it, or worse... dial up on antiquated POTS lines that can only sustain 10-20 kbps at best.

Is there anything wrong with the Compass 597? Not really. Some folks have complained its actually too small, and would be easy to lose. Some have noticed that under heavy use in weak signal areas, it can get warm to the touch and even a little hot. We've already had one customer call to ask if we have replacement caps because they lost theirs. There was a major issue on Sprint's network when the Compass 597 was first launched that resulted in a major headache activating the devices for the first time, but that really wasn't the fault of the Compass 597 as much as it was Sprint not being as prepared as they could have been ... all in all, there isn't much about the Compass to complain about.

In conclusion, the new Sierra Wireless Compass 597 on Sprint's MobileBroadBand EVDO network is an excellent Rev-A USB modem that is available right now for just $19.99, after a $50 mail in rebate, on a new 2-year unlimited data plan for $59.99/mo. It is a great replacement for the bulkier 595U it replaces and has already become the most popular Sprint EVDO device that we sell.

When its time to set yourself up with high speed mobile broadband internet access, remember to deal with a company that has helped thousands of people set themselves up right the first time... a company that actually uses the products they sell... and more importantly a company that provides superior customer and technical support backed by years of experience... get your Compass 597 with Sprint service from the EVDO Experts at and we'll pre-activate your Compass 597 before it leaves our warehouse, ensuring that you never receive a device that is "dead-on-arrival". Every Compass 597 that ships from our warehouse is tested to make sure it will work with a Cradlepoint router, right out of the box. If ever the Sprint network acts up again, you'll never be faced with activation issues because we'll have worked it all out, long before you ever receive your order. For more information about why you should buy your next EVDO device from 3Gstore, check out "Why Buy From 3Gstore".

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 09 September 2009 )
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