You might remember that I use a Lenovo X60 tablet powered by Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit as my primary workhorse, however one of the things that I do miss is an embedded HSDPA-modem.
The Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA PCMCIA modem card is provides a solution that comes very close to an embedded HSDPA modem card and in this article I will share my thoughts and first hand experiences.
1. Specifications and contents of the retail package
The picture above shows the contents of the retail package which I received from the local distributer in the Netherlands: Capestone - Brings it together.
The retail box consists of the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA PCMCIA modem card itself and a quick start guide, which describes the installation procedure. Why isn’t there a CD included with software and drivers on it?
Arne Hess, Windows Mobile MVP & Editor in Chief of the::unwired has summarized an excellent answer to this question:
“[...] the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA uses Option’s Zero-CD technology which means that all required applications, manuals and drivers are distributed and installed automatically when the GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA is inserted for the first time. There is no need for CD installation, which makes the GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA a truly Plug’n Play solution.”
I must admit this is an excellent solution, which I have seen before on my Huawei E160 HSDPA dongle for my HP Mini 1000 as well.
Specifications Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA
On the Option website you can read the following specification overview of the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA:
- HSUPA/HSDPA/UMTS Air Interface:
- WCDMA 850/1900/2100 MHz
- 3GPP FDD compliant, up to 7.2 Mbps Peak Rate
- UE Power Class 3
- HSUPA Category 5
- High Speed packet-switched data:
- Support for UMTS QoS traffic classes
- Support for PPP, IP transparent and non-transparent modes
- Circuit-switched data Single-RAB streaming: 64, 57.6, 28.8 and 14.4 kbps
- Dual antenna Receiver Diversity
- GE 301: EMEA variant supporting diversity on 2100 MHz
- GE 302: World variant supporting diversity on 850 and 1900 MHz
- Receiver Equalization
- EDGE/GSM Air Interface:
- 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
- EDGE Power Class E2, GSM Power Class 1 at 1800/1900 MHz and Power Class 4 at 850/900 MHz; coding scheme UL & DL – CS 1-4, MCS 1-9
- Packet-switched data:
- Multislot (E)GPRS Class 12, (E)GPRS Class B Type 1 MT
- Streaming, Background and Interactive QoS Classes Supported
- Circuit-switched data: 14.4, 12.2 and 9.6kbps
You might noticed that I highlighted some of the bullets in the specification overview above. First it is excellent to see that the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA supports data transferspeeds up to 7.2 Mbps. This is more than most cellular networks can provide (at least in the Netherlands).
Furthermore you can see that the version I use from the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA is the GE301 for Europe Middle East and Africa, supporting diversity on 2100 MHz. If you want your questions answered about the different frequencies globally, the article of Johan van Mierlo, Windows Mobile MVP, is highly recommended.
2. Installation of the Option Globetrotter GT MAX
In one of the previous paragraphs I already mentioned Option’s Zero-CD technology, resulting in a plug and play experience when you first insert the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA card. In this section I will cover the installation of the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA card from the moment of first inserting the PCMCIA card into my Windows 7 Ultimate powered Lenovo X60 Tablet.
However before you do, please insert your SIM card according to the Quick Start Guide, which is included in the retail box.
When you insert the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA card for the first time, a window pops-up and shows the progress of the Driver Software Installation. As you may see a mass storage device is recognized, and this is exactly the location where the setup installer is located. If a message pops-up to run the according GlobeTrotter Connect exe-file, please confirm to start the installation.
If you want to be 110% sure you have the latetst version of the GlobeTrotter Connect software, than please download the latest version from the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA support website.
The picture above shows the “welcome-screen” when you have double clicked on the installer, and with next you start the installation wizard. In the picture below you can see that you need to read the license agreement in the next step, check the “I agree” box and click next to continue.
The next step in the installation wizard is selecting, and if you want changing, the destination folder of the Option GlobeTrotter Connect software. For me the default location, as shown in the picture above, is just fine.
Now that all neccesary information is gathered, you are ready to install the Option GlobeTrotter Connect software. Start the installation with clicking on next.
You can see that the Option GlobeTrotter Connect software is being installed, and you see the progess in the bar on the updating system screen, as shown in the picture above. If the installationof the Option GlobeTrotter Connect software is finished you receive the message of succesfull installation as shown in the picture below.
When you have hit the finish-button after the successful installation you might think that you are ready to go. However the Driver Software Installation screen pops-up again and installs the Network Interface, Application Interface and Diagnostics interface for the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA on my Lenovo X60 tablet running Windows 7 Ultimate.
After the installation of this last pack of drivers, you hit close and you are ready to go.
As you have seen the Option Zero-CD technology, works remarkably well. The setup-wizard guides you in a few steps through the setup-process, and the combination with Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit is great. The Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA is directly recognized by Windows 7 and the drivers are automatically installed without a single problem.
3. Option Globetrotter GT MAX in practice
However the most important question of this article is “How will the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA modem card hold in practice?”. In this section I will share my experiences with the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA PCMCIA modem card so far.
As a benchmark I will use the review of the “Asus EEE 904HG – Netbook with embedded 3G“, which had an inernal Huawei – EM770 HSUPA modem.
3.1 Option GlobeTrotter Connect Software
At first you deploy the butterfly antennas of the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA PCMCIA modem card, and launch the Option GlobeTrotter Connect software after it.
What you first notice is the “simplicity” of the user interface of the Option Globetrotter Connect software, like you can see in the picture below.
In the top of the window you see a “Connect” and and “SMS Centre” button, and just below the SMS Center button you can see a clickable link to “Hide Settings“. This command is used to fold in the connection settings, which results in a windows withe just two buttons.
In the connection settings block you can see a first row with “Technology Preference” and “Pin Code“. In the technology preference block you can select the prefered type of connection.
For example when you are in an area with just EDGE/GPRS coverage, you don’t want to waste batterylife on the constant band switch, so in this case you simply click on the EDGE/GPRS Only option.
Furthermore you can enable or disable the pincode on your sim-card, with one click. In my case I have my Vodafone sim-card secured with a pincode, which I would advise to everyone.
The final part of the settings block are the connection details, where I can enter User Name, Password and most important the APN (accesspoint name). This is really helpful if you switch a data sim-card when you are abroad.
Despite there is a kind of automatic connection configuration I always check if the right APN is configured in order to avoid roaming and the resulting high telephone bills.
In the screenshot above you see the that I have my Lenovo X60 tablet connected with the Vodafone NL network enjoying HSDPA coverage. Furthermore you notice that all the connection settings and details are grey, which means not able to change when connected.
In the scenario when you hide the settings, these simply fold in with a very very simple two-button user interface. You just have the two buttons and the settings-link, as well as the network status.
A small point of feedback would be the automatic hiding of the settings when you hit the connect button, and in the case when you open the GlobeTrotter Connect software you want the settings to be shown automatically in order to check the right APN and other connection details.
When you click on the SMS Centre button you open up the SMS Center, which again has a very simple but very intuitive user interface. You can see in the screenshot above that it is very simple to sent (and receive) sms messages from the Option GlobeTrotter Connect software, comperable with the e-mail experience in Microsoft Outlook 2007.
In the screenshot above you can see that the Option GlobeTrotter Connect software can be accessed from either (1) the program window or (2) the tray icon.
With a rightclick on the tray icon I can open up a quick menu with the following commands: connect to the Vodafone NL network, open the Option GlobeTrotter Connect, SMS Centre. These are all things you can do from the Option GlobeTrotter Connect program windows as well.
However there are two actions that you can do only exclusively via the tray icon. At first you can check the about screen of the Option GlobeTrotter Connect software, and second you can run a diagnostics “scan”.
As you can see in the screenshot above the diagnostics provide you a somewhat more advanced view on the current status of the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA PCMCIA modem card. In some situations this can be helpful, but this is not a primary command you run every time you use the modem card.
Despite the simplicity of GUI of the Option GlobeTrotter Connect software it simply does everything you need in practical use, and even more important it does the job very well. My experiences that last weeks are that this is a very robust and stable piece of software.
3.2 Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA in my Lenovo X60 Tablet
In this paragraph I would like to have a quick look at how well the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA card fits into the PCMCIA slot of the Lenovo X60 tablet.
In the picture above you can see the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA card, with its butterfly antennas deployed. In the middle you can futhermore see a connector to attach an external antenna to get an even better reception in case you are in an area with a minimum cellular coverage.
What you can see even better in the picture above is the small portion of the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA card that sticks out on the side of the Lenovo X60 tablet.
It varies between 5 and 8 mm. which is almost nothing compared to an attached Huawei E-160 HSDPA dongle or the previous versions of PCMCIA modem cards, resulting in huge antennas on the side of your notebook.
Actually I don’t remove the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA card from the PCMCIA slot, and just leave it in there permanently. It even fits without any problems in the “Waterfield Sleevecase for Lenovo X60 Tablet (8-cell battery)“
Concluding thoughts and wrap up
There are still a lot of notebooks out there (especially in corporate environments) without a build-in HSDPA modem, but which feature a PCMCIA card slot. Therefore I do think that there still is a good market for the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA modem card.
Furthermore the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA modem card, is very easy to install and it works without a single problem on Microsoft Windows 7, even it is the 64bit version of Microsoft’s latest Operating System.
The Option GlobeTrotter Connect software is very well balanced. The simplicity of the userinterface combined with the robustness and stability during practical use make it a very reliable solution. If I compare the GlobeTrotter Connect software with the included software on the Asus EEE 904HG, the Option GlobeTrotter Connect software is simpler to use, and has a less extensive menu structure.
The functional hardware design is one of the main drivers for buying the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA modem card. The butterfly antennas provide excellent reception, but if not used these can be stored easily within the PCMCIA card. The mechnism feels pretty solid.
Furthermore there is just a minor part of the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA modem card that sticks out on the side of my Lenovo X60 tablet. I just leave the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA modem card in the PCMCIA cardslot permanently.
If you combine the excellent functional hardware design with the include very rich but easy to use GlobeTrotter Connect software, the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA modem card is the next best option if you have a notebook which doesn’t feature a build-in modem. You simply can’t go wrong with the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA modem card!!
Arne Hess, Windows Mobile MVP and Editor in Chief of the::unwired, has published a video review on the Option GlobeTrotter GT MAX HSUPA PCMCIA modem card, which is highly recommended to check out.
Finally special thanks to the people from Capestone, who provided me with outstanding- and knowledgable pre-sales advice, and answered my (sometimes tricky) questions very well. You might want to check out their renewed website, on which you can find more good mobile solutions !