Wow. The first ExpressCard/34 for HSDPA, the Novatel Wirelesss XU870, is a petite powerhouse of a card that makes the most of high-speed cellular networks. You cant buy it yet, but I hope you will be able to do so soon.
Owners of newer laptops from Apple, HP, Lenovo, and other firms using the ExpressCard/34 slot have been frustrated by the lack of high-speed Internet cards for their machines. The first card for Verizons EV-DO network, the Wireless 5700 Mobile Broadband ExpressCard, came out earlier this month from Dell (but you can use it with non-Dell laptops as well). Theres still no card for Sprints EV-DO system or Cingulars HSDPA network.
Novatels XU870 would, in theory, work with HSDPA networks like the one Cingular has launched (under the BroadbandConnect name) and the one that T-Mobile is said to be planning. I got an unbranded version of the card straight from Novatel and tried it out on Cingulars network in New York City.
The XU870 positively blazes. In tests in four different locations using an HP Pavilion dv5000t laptop with both ExpressCard and PC Card slots, the XU870 beat Novatels own U730 PC Card on 15 out of 16 downloads. It averaged 736 Kbps and peaked at 1.06 Mbps. Three different transfers all came in over 1 Mbps, showing that the high speed wasnt a fluke.
The XU870 also got better reception than the U730, holding on to HSDPA signals in two tests when the U730 and an LG CU500 phone both dropped to the slower EDGE network. The XU870 and U730 didnt vary much on upload speeds, as Cingular caps its uplink at 128 Kbps, something both cards can easily handle.
The card is a beguiling little thing, too. Its long and thin, with a simple fold-up antenna and an LED light that turns different colors depending on whether you have a UMTS/HSDPA signal, an EDGE signal, or no signal. A tiny port on the side lets you add an external antenna for even better reception. The SIM card is easy to remove, so you can swap it between the XU870 and a phone. Novatel provided me with their own connection manager software, but thats not even worth talking about—when you buy the card (if you ever can), it will work with Cingulars or T-Mobiles software.