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Novatel Wireless Ovation MC950D USB HSUPA modem

Mobile broadband in stick form

Review Novatel Wireless pitches the Ovation MC950D as the world's smallest USB modem capable not only of making 7.2Mb/s HSDPA connections but also that 3G speed-boost technology's upload equivalent, HSUPA.

The unit itself is a shiny black USB dongle a little larger than a USB Flash drive. Remove the obligatory end-cap and you not only expose the USB connector but you also reveal the SIM slot. You can slip the Ovation straight into a free USB port if there's room - Novatel Wireless includes a USB extension cable in case there isn't. It also bundles a wee holder to allow you to clip the modem to the top of your laptop's screen.

Novatel Wireless Ovation MC950D

Novatel Wireless' Ovation MC950D: easy HSDPA connectivity

The presence of the screen clip suggests you may need to move the Ovation around to get the best reception. And, we'd add, to help with cooling - the Ovation gets darned hot. Incidentally, the USB cable is double-headed, to draw all the power the Ovation needs when it's connected to a USB 1.1-only machine.

The MC950D can connect on three HDSPA bands: 850MHz, 1900MHz and 2100MHz. If it needs to drop back to Edge or GPRS, it supports the quad-band frequencies of 850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz and 1900MHz. So it's got all your cellular connectivity options taped, unless you really feel the need to dial up over a GSM voice connection.

We tried the Ovation out first on a MacBook Pro running Mac OS X 10.4.11 and then on a Windows XP SP2 machine - an Eee PC, to be precise. Novatel Wireless supplies drivers for the Mac on an accompanying CD, but the PC-oriented software auto-runs off the modem itself. So far the Mac drivers only go up to Tiger, though they apparently will run under Leopard, albeit with some issues (PDF).

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