Anyone who has a mobile component to their workday has experienced two things while working with their laptop. First is a desire to have something a little more convenient to use than the touchpad, and second, the ability to take a fast Internet connection with them wherever they go.
Hewlett-Packard has a great line of accessories that are often overlooked. This is probably due to their prominence in printers and computers. However, along with the big tools that we use everyday they also make a great line of little ones. One such product line is their wireless portable mice. We took three of them for a spin.
First up was the baby of the group, the WE789AA Wireless Optical Mobile Mouse (a mouthfull), or as we refer to it in a more accurate technical parlance, 'the little blue one'. It's a compact but very comfortable 3 button optical mouse that operates on the 27 MHz frequency. It's by far the simplest out of the box solution you can get. It is literally plug and play. No fuss, no extra drivers, no re-boots. Just plug in the USB receiver, press the mating button and go. The receiver is a very thin, about the thickness of a quarter. It slides into a 'dock slot' on the underside of the mouse for storage and travel. It's small but comfortable in your hand, has rubberized sides for grip and control, a scroll wheel and dual sensitivity settings (1250 cpi & 1750 cpi) for the optical sensor. It works perfectly on all surfaces we tried. Power is supplied by 1 AA battery, included!
This little guy is a real bargain on line at Amazon for about 20 bucks!
The middle child, the WE791AA, is also a wireless optical mouse, however this model operates on the 2.4 GHz frequency. The purpose here is to operate on frequency with less interference and greater range. This model sports the same optical sensor capabilities, including dual sensitivity settings, on a 4 button platform. It also incorporates the illuminated scroll wheel and operated flawlessly in all our testing. Power again is supplied by one AA battery, also included!
We found this mouse on Amazon.com for under $30.
The big brother of the group is the VK482AA 2.4 GHz wireless laser mobile mouse . This is a five button device, also symmetrical in design with rubberized sides. This makes it easy to handle for both right and left-handed users. It also sports the illuminated scroll wheel with four-way tilt and click. The laser sensor is as accurate as any of the larger desktop models we have used. The feel and heft of this model is a bit more substantial probably due to the fact that this mouse requires two AA batteries, also included! In any case it acquitted itself as well as any desktop model during our tests. We found this one at Amazon.com for under $45.
Both 2.4 GHz models use a micro receiver that is small enough to be left in a laptop's USB port without real fear of damage or loss. They also store very nicely under the removable top cover of the mouse which we are told comes in a number of colors and styles.
We've all seen those annoying map commercials from Verizon and AT&T touting their 3G coverage of the country. These ads are focused primarily on 3G bandwidth available for smart phones and similar devices. The folks at Clear ™ were kind enough to send us out one of their USB WiMAX adapters to test. It is a combination 3G and 4G capable USB dongle for your computer.
Simplicity and Speed
Every once in a while a manufacturer gets it right... that thing we call the OOBE, or 'out of the box experience'. It is almost as important to the end-user as the product's actual performance. It's the technological equivalent of a first impression. It very often sets the tone for our acceptance and comfort level with new technology. Clear™ went the extra yard to make this experience as simple and efficient as possible.
The WiMAX adapter came packaged in a small logo emblazened white box with everything you needed to get started. Included was a WiMAX adapter, a velour carry case to protect it, a USB thumb drive, a USB splitter cable and a handy clip/base to allow you to position the adapter conveniently when attached to the cable. Along with these items are packaged a few fold over "get started guides" with simple to follow directions.
Installation was simplicity itself. With your laptop or net book powered on, you insert the supplied thumb drive into an available USB port and let it do its thing. It automatically installs all necessary software and with a click of the mouse you're in 4G land. To complete the process you follow the directions to set up your account for the 3G access and you now have Internet access and surprising speed just about everywhere.
Lightning in a Dongle
The speed is what surprised us the most. When we ran speed tests on our 4G connection we were getting download speeds that were about a third as fast as our cable broadband. Honestly, I didn't expect anything better than dial-up speeds. I was pleasantly surprised.
Operating in the 4G world is just about as good as your average WiFi connection. We found that in day-to-day computer tasks such as Web searches or browsing, e-mail and text or audio chats , bandwidth was more than adequate. We also tried making video phone calls on Skype. We expected the audio to work without a problem and it did. What was even more impressive was that the video worked as well. It wasn't moving a full 30 frames per second mind you, but 12 to 15 FPS was not out of the question. When I informed the colleague on the other end of the video call that I was on a Clear 4G connection he questioned my veracity. I thought it was pretty cool too.
According to the folks at Clear and Sprint (they both use Clear's 4G network), 4G service offers download speeds between 3 – 6 Mbps with bursts of up to 10 Mbps. That falls in line with the results we mentioned above.
The separate 3G service offered by Sprint offers average download speeds of 600 Kbps – 1.4 Mbps. Our tests verified that with download speeds of 1.2 Mbps.
4G networks are just rolling out. Clear and Sprint, as mentioned, share the same network, so anyone in either of these providers markets will get the benefits of 4G as it develops. All in all, I would strongly recommend this is as another asset for the road warrior's toolbelt.