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Dynalink USB GPRS Mobile Modem Review

Posted on 7-Apr-2003 21:25 by M Freitas | Filed under: Reviews

Geekzone has had the opportunity to test drive another wireless device: the Dynalink USB GPRS Mobile Modem (model WM1080A). Thanks to Dynalink New Zealand for sending this demo unit for our review.

This device will appeal to anyone who needs internet access while on the road. As a bonus it gives the user access to other functions related to the GSM network: placing and receiving voice calls, sending and receiving SMS (Short Messages) and connect to networks via circuit-switched data (CSD). Corporate users will be happy to use it to create a tunnel VPN into their networks (although some VPN configurations may not work with your telco provider because of� NAT and port forward issues).

The modem is a dual band (900/1800MHz) GSM device. It will work on networks around the world, except some GSM operators in U.S.A, where the 1900MHz band is used. I'm not aware of other versions yet. I've tested it on the Vodafone New Zealand GSM network, 900MHz.

The modem is a USB 1.1 device, and will work with any Windows OS supporting USB (Windows 98 and up). At this time there's no support for Mac OS or Linux. The box contents are the modem itself, an installation CD, one USB cable, one headset with mini jack plug, the Quick Setup Guide (the full manual is available as .html files on the installation CD) and double-sided adhesive to attach the modem to your computer (or you can just sit it on the table).

The modem is really small, making it easy to carry inside a laptop bag or handbag if needed. The picture below shows its size in comparison with my Ericsson T39m:

Installation is very simple: the user inserts the SIM card under the push in cover (darker blue in the picture above), plugs the modem into any USB port and inserts the CD into the CD drive. When asked for drivers, just let the Windows New Hardware Wizard look for the files on the CD. That's it, you're ready to use the modem. There is no power supply, because the modem uses the energy supplied from the USB adapter.

The Quick Setup Guide is very well done.The instructions are easy to follow, the troubleshooting section is quite comprehensive. So much so that it covers things like "I can not download e-mail from my ISP" and lets local users know that Xtra (Telecom New Zealand) blocked the POP access from external networks (in this case competitor Vodafone New Zealand).

You can manually configure a network connection, using the modem as any other one. For a GPRS connection, use either *99# (local GPRS using default SIM configuration) or *99***1# for roaming profile. If you have changed your SIM configuration or the network instructed you to use a different configuration, change your number here.

The modem performed very well, even in poor signal conditions. It's a GPRS Class 2, coding schema CS1 to CS4, with maximum speed of 43.2kbps, depending on the network configuration, of course. If using circuit-switched data (CSD) over GSM, the max speed is 14.4kbps, which is standard.

To fully use all of this device's capabilities, the user needs to install the Mobile Office Suite 2.0 from the installation CD. The user interface is not very impressive, but works well. I've found the Mobile Office Suite 3.0 is available for download from iTegno, O&M maker of this modem.

This software shows a menu for Contacts, Messages (SMS), Phone, Settings and more. The Contacts screen allows the user to maintain two phonebooks: a local one and the one in the SIM card.

The Messages screen is used to send and receive SMS. The user can select an entry from the phonebook, or manually enter a destination number. If the software is running when a new SMS arrives, it'll popup a notification dialog and sound an alarm (the user can choose any midi or wave file in the computer for sound notifications).

Mobile Office Suite 2.0

Mobile Office Suite 3.0

A great thing about this modem is the fact that it's voice enabled: you can actually place and receive phone calls with this device. To do this, just plug the headset into the modem, and you're ready to talk. Again, just select an entry from the phonebook or manually enter a number and use the mouse to click the call button.

As with SMS, if the software is running when a call comes in, you'll be notified with a message indicating the caller number (CLI). Answering a call is as easy as clicking the green button when a call notification comes in.

The software will show the call status, including talk time. The user will have access to a complete log of incoming, outgoing and missed calls. Very like a normal handset. The version 3.0 of this software has a different "faceplate" for the phone. It would be really nice to be able to apply skins and change the phone models.

The phone screen (2.0)

The phone screen (3.0)

Writing a SMS on Mobile Office Suite 2.0

I'm very impressed with this modem. I've used a GPRS PCMCIA card before, and the fact that you can actually place and receive calls with this modem is a plus. On top of that, this is a USB modem so it can be attached to almost any modern computer, different from the PCMCIA card which is basically restricted to laptops.

The first thing I would add to this modem is a GPRS Monitor software to allow the user better control of bandwidth usage, since some data plans have allowances and the user pays per megabyte after their limit. There are several types of this software available though. The second is a higher integration with MS Outlook Contacts. This way people could use the information from their Exchange server, Palm or Pocket PC to dial out, send SMS, faxes, etc.

I recommend this modem to anyone who needs access to internet services (e-mail, web, some VPN servers) while on the road. Also, GPRS roaming is a reality, and allows the user to roam freely through a big number of countries. Some extra charges may apply if you're roaming!

This modem is available now in New Zealand, and costs around NZ$ 695 (US$ 380). From the Dynalink website you can browse their US, UK and World distribution network.

Read our article What is GPRS? to find out more.

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