Review Just under a year ago I reviewed the original 3G Orange Mobile Office Card and was decidedly unimpressed. Sub-standard hardware and poorly considered software added up to a package that, quite simply, wasn't up to the job at hand. This situation was made worse for Orange by the fact that only a few weeks earlier I had reviewed the Vodafone Mobile Connect 3G data card, and it had performed flawlessly, writes Riyad Emeran.
It comes as no surprise to me that the new Mobile Office Card is manufactured by Option. Option is the company that manufactured the original Vodafone Mobile Connect card, which pretty much kicked the original Orange card's butt ' the original Orange Mobile Office Card was manufactured by Merlin. I imagine that Vodafone had an exclusive contract with Option for a while, which is why Orange had to look elsewhere, but now it seems that the exclusive period has expired. Of course, that's only guess work on my part.
What I received from Orange looked very much like the pack that Vodafone sent me last year. There was a thick DVD size box, but inside the card itself was housed in a much smaller box for easy transport. I also received a booster aerial that's pretty much identical to the one I got from Vodafone. One plus point for Orange is that that aerial can clip onto your notebook lid, whereas the Vodafone one attaches via stick-on Velcro patches ' the Orange method makes it far easier to use the aerial with different laptops.
Where this new Orange card does differ from Vodafone's is the inclusion of Wi-Fi into the bundle. So, as well as 3G and GPRS connectivity, you're also getting 802.11g thrown in. If you bought your notebook in the last couple of years, the chances are that it will already have Wi-Fi built-in, so this feature is somewhat limited. However, it's worth remembering that the original Centrino standard was 802.11b, so there will be a large number of notebook users out there who will welcome an upgrade to the faster standard.
The software has also been updated significantly since I reviewed the last Mobile Office Card. The new interface is clean and simple to navigate and it's now possible to send text messages while you're connected to the Internet ' a feat that was beyond the original hardware/software setup. Another major issue that I had with the original software was the fact that the signal strength indicator wasn't real time ' basically it showed you the signal strength at the time of connection and stayed that way. This was probably the most bizarre feature I'd ever seen on cellular device, but thankfully this problem has been resolved.