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Huawei E176

Huawei E176 Micro SDHC-ready HSUPA 3G modem

A fast USB dongle with worldwide connectivity

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Review Huawei is the big cheese in the world of USB HSPDA 3G modems, though you might not know it. It makes the modems the likes of Vodafone, BT, 3, T-Mobile and others stamp their own names on before selling them on.

Among Huawei's latest offerings is the E176. It builds on last year's E170, upping the radio specification and adding a memory card slot.

Huawei E176

Huawei's E176: top spec HSDPA AND HSUPA

Like the E170, the E176 offers quad-band (850, 900, 1800 and 1900MHz) GSM/GPRS/Edge connectivity, but where the older unit could connect to HSDPA and HSUPA 3G networks on the 2100MHz band, the E176 adds support for the 850MHz and 1900MHz bands for better round-the-world coverage.

It's faster too, though most users probably won't notice it. Once again, the unit's HSDPA download speed maxes out at 7.2Mb/s - not that you'll experience that kind of speed in the real world, where atmospherics and base-stations with more than one connected user are commonplace - but this time the HSUPA upload speed runs to 5.76Mb/s.

Not that there are any commercial networks that support this speed - all the HSUPA networks currently available don't yet go beyond 2Mb/s and many are set lower than that. But at least the E176 has room for growth as the networks take HSUPA to the next level.

Like the older model, the E176 uses a small metal tray to hold your SIM card, with the slot located alongside and parallel to the USB connector. HSDPA modems we've looked at in the past, including the Novatel Wireless MC950D and the Sierra Wireless Compass 885, provide a simple slot into which you slide the SIM.

Now, there's no question that Huawei's tray appears a more 'quality' approach, but beyond that we can't see why it's necessary. It may secure the SIM better than a simple slot does, but we've never had any cause to worry about SIMs falling out of trayless modems. And the tray does make swapping SIMs a more fiddly process.

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