Review: Novatel Wireless Ovation U720 USB Modem: Part 3

Part 1 of 3 | Part 2 of 3 | Part 3 of 3

Another Day, Another Try

The next day, Friday, I decide to use the Sprint connection for work. It fires up fine, and the VPN connects with no issues. I do my usual work thing all day long, and don't see a lot of problems. 90% of the time I'm in Outlook. If I'm downloading something it's a large Excel file. If I'm uploading something, it's a large attachment to an email being sent out of Outlook. I'm not sitting there with a timer, but I don't really notice any issues, either. It seems to work fine. The fact that I have a USB modem hanging out of a USB port is a bit of a concern; I wonder how many people are going to accidentally break off the USB connector. I connect it with the included cable, instead. Later that day I get knocked off a couple times as the cable comes loose. Work's a big frenetic and I don't have time to play with it now, so I switch back over to wifi and my cable modem.

On Saturday, I try another round of tests. In the living room of my apartment, here on Chicago's north side, I plug the Novatel modem into my older laptop. It's an Averatec 3200 series, with 512mb RAM, running an AMD Athlon XP-M processor at 1.53 GHz. Not very fast, but it should do fine for this.

I head over to to fire up some download tests. I repeat the same series of tests on both the Sprint USB modem and the Verizon Wireless card. The Sprint connection is fairly even throughout the testing; approximately 550kpbs down, around 120kpbs up. Testing the Verizon Card turns problematic. The connection first puts me online with “NationalAccess” instead of “BroadbandAccess.” This means it couldn't lock on to the faster connection, and so it's put me online via a dialup-comparable connection. Yuck. The testing confirms that. I know from fighting with the Verizon connection before, sometimes it's going to be fussy and nonresponsive. So, I reboot the computer. This makes it clear up and I'm able to connect and do the same tests via the Verizon connection. At first, the upload side of the test keeps timing out. I wait about a half hour and try it again from my home office. This time the download speeds measured are quite a bit faster than what I was seeing with Sprint. At least 1000kpbs, with upload speeds around 100kbps.

Back to the Sprint connection. Trying different sites on, I get quite a bit of variance in connection speed. For some of the sites, it does actually note transfer speeds in the high 900s – pretty close to the Verizon speed.

I think I've still got a few days to decide whether or not to keep the Sprint Novatel USB modem, or send it back. Right now, I'm leaning torward sending it back.


  • USB Connection. Works on macs, desktops, ultraportables, anything with a USB port and driver support.

  • Easy to configure. Stable connection.

  • If you're in a “Rev. A” EVDO market, it's probably faster than Verizon Wireless.


  • Unless you're in a “Rev. A” EVDO market, it's slower than Verizon Wireless.

  • USB connector feels cheap; I worry about it breaking off.

  • When in use, you've got a two inch device hanging off the side of your laptop.

If you've got a mac and desire a wireless broadband connection, this is the way to go. If not, and you don't live in a market served by Sprint's upgraded network, I wouldn't bother. You'll probably be happier with Verizon.

Part 1 of 3 | Part 2 of 3 | Part 3 of 3

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