by Jon-Michael Noe
The Verizon Wireless V740 Express Card is just one of a few aircards (WWAN, or Wireless Wide Area Network) offered by Verizon, both integrated and external (the V740 is external only, mind you), that have become increasingly popular over the last several months. As more users begin investing in this technology, we take a close look at this card to help out those users who may still be searching for more information on this relatively new (to the spotlight) technology.
- CDMA 1xEV–DO (Rev.A/0), 1xRTT (800/1900 MHz)
- ExpressCard 34 based
- VZAccess Manager software
- Two–way Text Messaging
- Flip–up Antenna
- LED Service Status Indicator
- VPN Compatible
- External Antenna Connector
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This card currently sells for $129 with a two-year contract from Verizon’s website, retail store, or authorized vendor. At the time I purchased my card from a Verizon kiosk at Circuit City, there was a $50 mail-in-rebate, bringing the total price down to $79. The monthly price for the subscription is $59.99. The Verizon rep I spoke to said in general it’s considered "unlimited usage" unless you hit 5GB in a month.
Generally the idea for this service is that it serves as a way to browse the web, download a few songs (legally, mind you), and check your email as much as you’d like. In other words, people who download very large files would want to do so on their home connection.
Operating on Verizon’s BroadbandAccess and NationalAccess, the V740 allows users to enjoy the internet anyplace within Verizon’s EV-DO and digital network coverage, which I have found to be nearly everywhere I have traveled with the card so far.
The V740 currently competes against similar cards and networks such as AT&T’s Option GT Max 3.6 ExpressCard and Sprint’s ExpressCard EX720, both of which offer service in my area. However, I choose to go with Verizon because they provide the best service in the area, and having been a satisfied customer with them since 2000, it was an overall simple decision.
Internal vs External
First off, the reason I decided to go with the V740 instead of the internal option that was offered when I purchased my ThinkPad T61 in July was two reasons:
- I can use it on multiple notebooks, instead of being tied down to just one. It also makes it easier to upgrade to the latest card and revision of the network.
- If the card was to break, it’d be easy to fix/replace. It’s not internal, so you don’t need to send the notebook off for repair to take care of it.
Design and Build
The design of the card is fairly basic; it consist of the ExpressCard base, antenna base, and the flip-up antenna. There is also jack that provides as a connector to two separate antennas that can be purchased from Verizon. The card only weighs 1.4oz, so it won’t add any noticeable weight to your bag or notebook.
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Overall dimensions are 4.41” x 1.34” x 0.19.” Once inserted into the notebook, it only sticks out by a little more than an inch, and is about an inch and a half vertical, with the antenna up.
The card seems sturdy over all, but since it will only be in my computer’s Express Card slot or my bag, I’m not too worried if the card itself isn’t ruggedized. I wouldn’t suggest a user to be overly rough with it, however, but it would be unlikely a user would purposely put unneeded strain on any of its components.
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The flip-up antenna is my only real concern, as it sticks up right next to where the user’s left hand will be, as shown in the picture. It may be easy to hit and possibly damage the card or the notebook’s Express Card slot from this angle if one was to bump into the card accidentally.
The V740 is both Rev. A and Rev. 0 capable. This means it can connect to Verizon’s BroadbandAccess network (Rev. A), which tops out at an advertised speed of about 1.4mbps, so it’s quite speedy for general internet tasks. It can also connect to Verizon’s older and slower NationalAccess network (Rev. 0), which is generally about 3 times faster than dial-up. While not painfully slow, it’s a speed that most people would consider slow compared to BroadbandAccess or a comparable WiFi network.
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The card does feature an LED-status light that displays whether or not there is a connection is present. Green means yes, red means no, as anyone would most likely guess.
One feature that did surprise me of this card is that it comes with its own phone number and can send text messages to mobile phones. Whether or not most people will actually use that feature is up to them, but it’s a nice addition, if one would ever want to send text messages from it. You get 200 text messages a month included with the subscription plan.
First off, to be able to use the V740 and connect to BroadbandAccess or NationalAccess, you need to install Verzion’s VZAccess Manager. The software was easy and fast to install, and once completed it requested I insert the card into the Express Card slot. Overall it’s a fairly simple program, and doesn’t require a full manual reading or Verizon specialist to help learn how to use it.
I have encountered a few quirks with the software, mostly being “VZAccess Manager has stopped working,” however these errors are rare and you can actually continue surfing the web with the program in this state.
Features of the Connection Manager
With VZAccess Manager, you can view networks, view the amount of data you’ve sent over any network you’ve been connected to, launch the program you use to surf the net and email, view the signal strength in bars, percentages, and RSSI strength. It also offers a connection manager for Bluetooth, if your notebook has it, making it a fairly nice program. It allows users to easily control all wireless devices, but doesn’t require you to disable your other wireless programs.
VZAccess Manager is also operating system friendly. It’s compatible with Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Mac OS X (version 10.3.9 or higher). I’ve run it on Windows XP Home, Windows XP Pro, Windows Vista Home Basic, and Windows Vista Home Premium, and I’ve experienced no compatibility problems on all 4 systems.
Above is a screenshot to show the layout of the program and the features it includes.
From the top down, you can see the file, edit, view, etc, menus; the 7 tabs for the network, usage, text messages, etc; connect/disconnect WWAN button, start Virtual Private Network button, Get Access button, list of WWAN and WiFi networks, and towards the bottom you see listed the type of WWAN connected (in this case, BroadbandAccess (Rev-A) or NationalAccess), remaining battery life of the notebook, the amount of connection bars, and the time connected to the network during that session.
Verizon boasts that their BroadbandAccess is fast; basically at DSL speeds, with typical download speeds averaging 600 to 1400kbps. Personally I was a bit skeptical about achieving nearly 1.5mbps over Verizon’s network, but I kept an open mind since I hadn’t dealt with this type of service before.
I preformed three general speed tests with three bars of service, and a received signal strength indication of -78 dBm (VZAccess Manager lists this information in the bottom left hand of the program).
Here’s the examples of the general surf and download speeds encountered during the test:
- The Google.com homepage appeared instantly when launching FireFox
- The homepage of NBR loaded in 2 seconds after entering the link into the URL bar of FireFox
- I purchased a song from the iTunes Music store, with a file size of 2.4mb, which downloaded in exactly 15 seconds
So general surf and download speeds are pretty descent for three bars of service. You’re not going to get extremely high speeds such as broadband or FIOS, but it’s generally about as fast as 1.5mbps DSL, when connected to the EV-DO network.
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I also ran three tests through Speakeasy’s San Francisco server, and this was the result that fell between the high and low (all within 1500mbps for download). So it’s a bit faster in my area then what Verizon advertises it as. Always nice to get better than advertised speeds, I’m sure all would agree.
I’ve found that the coverage with the V740 is very good. So far, I’ve only been to a single place where there was no signal, but this was when I was near the summit of the local mountains. Overall, I get good connection/signal (two or more bars) nearly anywhere I am; from my college campus, my house, to most all other places that I frequent with my notebook and V740.
Unlike my cell phone, which has dropped calls (rarely, mind you) in areas of good coverage, I’ve yet to receive a dropped connection on my V740 in almost two months of using this card.
An interactive map of Verizon’s Wireless Network can be found here. To search for the coverage in your area, enter your city/state or zipcode, select “BroadbandAccess & V CAST,” and click “Display Map.” It will display both BroadbandAccess and NationalAccess coverage area. Simple as that!
Power Usage and Battery Life
Considering that this card was made for the sake of mobility, it’s clear that people using it will most likely be on battery power. I wanted to see how it compares to the power usage of my ThinkPad’s Intel 4965 AGN card.
Now, this isn’t the most scientific test, but it measures real life usage by simply listing the battery percentage consumed. I ran on battery for one hour for both segments of the test. I do wish I could have run a longer test for each segment, but my time is limited. While on WiFi, my notebook dropped from 100% battery level to 89% in the hour of testing. While on WWAN via the V740, my notebook dropped from 100% battery level to 87% within the hour of testing.
So while the card does draw more power than its WiFi counterpart, it’s not an extreme amount. While I do feel that a longer test would probably yield slightly different and possibly more accurate results, it doesn’t look like the v740 is going to drain your battery at an unacceptable rate.
Reviewer’s Note: During my WiFi test, the WWAN card was not inserted in the notebook. Likewise, during my WWAN test, my WiFi card was disabled via my ThinkPad’s wireless switch. The screen was at its lowest level, the audio was off, and all other non-essential hardware was either in low power or powered-off states.
I’m very happy with the V740 ExpressCard from Verizon. The ease of use, durability, and overall cost has pleased me, and has allowed me to easily connect to the internet and my school’s network from almost anywhere, increasing productivity and mobility.
- Lightweight and durable design
- Easy to install
- Easy to use software
- Boosts productivity and mobility
- Generally inexpensive for the service offered
- May be easily bumped by user’s left hand
- Profile could be reversed to lower vertical height
- No carry case included
Pricing and Availability
The Verizon Wireless V740 ExpressCard can be purchased from the Verizon Wireless website or a Verizon Retail Store, and from authorized vendors such as Circuit City, which offer Verizon kiosks at most stores.