The Verizon Wireless USB727 Modem offers a good combination of reliability and speed. While it wasn't always the fastest of broadband cards that we've tested recently, it was reliable during our entire testing period. Business travelers looking for a value priced device that need to stay connected in low coverage areas, like Penn Station, should consider the free (with two-year contract and online discount) Verizon Wireless USB727.
Design and Setup
The USB727 has a sleek, piano black exterior, which features both a pop-up antenna and microSD slot for adding up to 4GB of storage. With a microSD Card inserted, the device doubles as a USB key. There's also an external antenna port for adding antennas, but those are sold separately and we didn't test with one. Unlike recent USB solutions we've tested from AT&T and Sprint, the drivers for this device don't install off the modem itself; you'll need to run the installation CD.
On the 21st floor of an office building with a full EV-DO Rev. A 3G connection, the Verizon Wireless USB727 fell to the bottom half of the pack in our 25MB upload and download tests. Its 370-Kbps download speed was less than half that of theVerizon Wireless KPC680, and its 312-Kbps upload speed was even further behind that of theAT&T USBConnect Mercury(1.1 Mbps). In this location, the USB727 loaded CNN.com, NYTimes.com, and ESPN.com in 19, 23, and 23 seconds, respectively, on a par with other cards.
However, in the bowels of Penn Station--where the Sprint Compass 597 andSprint Merlin EX720didn't have a 3G signal at all--the USB727 excelled. It downloaded the 25MB file at a speed of 1.6 Mbps and uploaded it at a still-decent 557 Kbps. When it came to Web pages, this card averaged better speeds than the others, and was able to load CNN.com in 12 seconds, NYT.com in 12, and ESPN.com in 13.
Outside of Manhattan, in Long Beach, Long Island, was a different story. With two bars of Rev. A service we pulled in the 25MB file at 628 Kbps and uploaded it at 320 Kbps; these speeds aren't bad, but every other card we've tested recently offered better download and upload speeds. The top performer, the AT&T GT Ultra Express card, was able to download and upload the same file at 1 Mbps and 1.3 Mbps, respectively.
Above all else, the Verizon Wireless USB727 Modem was extremely dependable. We rarely lost 3G connectivity roaming around New York City and on our train rides to Long Beach. While this was generally true for all of the cards, the Verizon Wireless products were the only ones that maintained a connection during our trek under the East River, too. It may not be the fastest card available, but the USB727 holds its own against costlier units. For the price (free), it's a steal.