Now, we've looked at a couple of Orange 3G products in the past and the biggest stumbling block has always been the network coverage. We've found it almost impossible to find 3G coverage, making the device we've been testing close to useless. However, I have had no problems at all getting a 3G connection with this new card. I've used the card at home in West London, in Central London and up North in Bolton ' in every location the card connected at full speed over 3G without ever dropping down to GPRS. Even in our office, which is a notoriously hostile environment for anything wireless, the Mobile Office Card managed to lock onto a 3G signal, and although it sporadically dropped down to GPRS, it renegotiated a 3G connection whenever possible.
In use the Mobile Office Card feels very fast, just like a 3G data card should. Performance was at least on a par with my Vodafone card, a feat that the previous product had no chance of achieving. I had no problem browsing the web, using POP3 email and sending the odd SMS concurrently. Quite simply, the Mobile Office Card does exactly what it's supposed to and it does it very well.
So, Orange has turned an 'avoid at all costs' product into a first rate mobile data solution, but how much is it going to cost you? Surprisingly, it's not going to cost you any more than the original. Taking a medium-usage tariff, you're going to be paying £130 for the card and then £23.50 a month for up to 65MB of data, with additional data costing £1 per megabyte. Although that's not bad value, the Vodafone Mobile Connect card is priced identically, except you get 75MB of data each month instead of 65MB. Of course, you're not getting integrated Wi-Fi with the Vodafone card, but you have to weigh up how important that is to you - if you already have 802.11g integrated into your notebook then you don't really need this feature.
Ultimately, splitting hairs over an extra 10MB a month and integrated Wi-Fi doesn't seem important to me. What is important is that the pricing of 3G data cards hasn't dropped since I reviewed the first one a year ago. I would have hoped that at least the initial hardware cost might have come down by now - after all, that's what happens with mobile phones. That said, you either need a 3G data card or you don't. For me it's an invaluable tool that really helps me do my job. If you're in a similar position to me, the initial and rolling costs will be money well spent.
The original Mobile Office Card was a disappointment in more ways than I can list, but Orange has atoned for its earlier sins by producing the new version. This latest 3G data card is a pleasure to use, and if Orange would just pull their finger out and match Vodafone's tariffs it would be the solution of choice. As it stands, Orange has a product that performs equally as well as Vodafone's, and if you only have 802.11b in your notebook you'll even get a Wi-Fi performance boost.
|Orange Mobile Office Card|
|Price||£130 plus connection tariff|
|More info||The Orange Mobile Office Card site|