A few weeks ago I was given a WINDspeed data stick E1691 by Huawei to test out and get a feel for with the mobile internet on my laptop and WIND’s network. For the past few weeks I have been using it continually in coffee shops that lack Wi-Fi (yes, they DO still exist!), at events where I need an internet connection and all I can find is locked Wi-Fi networks, general on-the-go use, and when my home internet went down for a bit I quickly hopped onto my WINDspeed data stick and I was back up and running in minutes while my home internet provider fixed the issue. I even used it in my car in a parking lot once when I needed to check something and a mobile browser just wasn’t going to cut it – good as they are, I don’t care what any company tells you – they do NOT give you the full internet. I also threw my own 1 GB MicroSD card which I had lying around and further increased the usability of the device because it meant that I didn’t really need to carry around any of my other USB memory sticks more often than not. I was unable to find out how big of a MicroSD card it can take so I am going to assume it can take as big of a MicroSD card as you can find.
Sizing and Portability
As you can see in the picture directly above this paragraph the WINDspeed data stick E1691 by Huawei is a comparable size to USB Flash Drives on the market which only provide memory storage.
Beyond the comparison of size to a regular USB stick the other thing to go on is the information from WIND’s site themselves, they put the size at 8 mm x 27 mm x 13 mm. The size of the device makes it easy to carry around with you in your pocket or the laptop bag you are probably going to be carrying your laptop in and coming with the device weighing in at 27.5 grams – that is with a MicroSD card and a SIM card inside – it barely adds any weight to your bag and is barely noticeable. Note: According to the WIND website which shows the information about the WINDspeed data stick E1691 by Huawei the device should weigh in at 31 grams but I did not find this to be the case with my unit. For the value it provides of giving you constant and unlimited internet access (within the bounds of WIND’s Data Fair Usage Policy) wherever you go within any WIND Zone (WIND’s coverage area). You can, of course, still get coverage outside of the WIND Zones area but it will cost you $0.10 for every 25 kilobytes you use.
For all other pictures in this review aside from the one with the USB Flash Drives I have included a Canadian $2 coin, a Toonie, for size reference purposes. If you are outside of Canada and/or have never seen or held a Toonie its diameter is 28 mm according to the Royal Canadian Mint. As a further reference, both the American Presidential $1 Coin and the American Sacagawea $1 Coin are 26.5 mm in diameter.
Setup & Use
The WINDspeed stick was very easy to set up. It came in a small box with a SIM card, a Quick Start Guide, some Safety Information, and Warranty Information. All I had to do in order to set it up (the SIM was already activated when I got it) was pop the SIM out of its credit card sized holder and pop it into the little, easy to open compartment on the bottom of the stick. There is even a groove underneath where you insert the SIM card to indicate the cut corner of the rectangle so you know exactly how to insert the SIM card. The SIM is easy to insert and remove. On the side of the device is a little rubber? plastic door which opens easily and has a slot for you to stick in your MicroSD card. I found it a little difficult getting it in at first and getting it out is sort of annoying but with a coin or something to push against the SD card and release the spring it was easy remove.
In order to actually use the stick and connect it to your computer it has a male USB plug which is on a hinge to help minimize its profile. In the photograph above, you can see it partially opened. The hinge itself allows for 6 spots/directions for the USB plug to be facing allowing you to easily fit it into USB slots on all types of computers, laptops, and netbooks where ever on the device the outlets are placed. The little metal circle next to the MicroSD card slot is an RF output power port which allows you to connect an RF cable to the USB Stick for RF tests. I didn’t do this because I don’t have an RF cable and don’t know how to perform an RF test even if I did have one.
Once you plug the stick into your computer it will install a small program from WIND/Huawei which gives you a connect/disconnect screen, access to the SIM card’s phonebook (I didn’t use this), a text messages screen which is to receive messages from WIND about your account, and a statistics screen which gives you information about your connection. In order to be able to install the program your computer must be running Windows 2000, XP, Vista, or Windows 7 if it is a PC and for Mac OS 10.4 and later. Below, I have included some speed test results done with the WINDspeed stick in the North York area of Toronto. You can click both of them to full screen them and see all the results. They were done at different times on different days and from locations 2 KM apart (driving and not as the crow flies).
The stick works great and while it isn’t as fast as my home connection is I wasn’t expecting it to be (no one should). It is, in my opinion, a great device to have with you if you are often mobile and going to different events and functions like I am. Basically, anywhere in Toronto I was covered with internet as long as I had battery power for my laptop or a power outlet to plug into. If you get one today from WIND the WINDspeed stick itself won’t cost you a dime as long as you pay for 2 months of service outright. “OK, so how much is this service?,” you are probably asking. Well, as I mentioned in a previous post for a limited time WIND is offering their Infinite Laptop plan (which this stick uses) for $29/month for the first 12 months after which you will be charged the regular rate of $45/month. I should mention that popular file hosting sites like MegaUpload, FileServe, and FileSonic didn’t seem to work when I was using the WINDspeed stick. Maybe they blocked it because those sites are often used to host pirated files? I don’t know.
Seeing as they are giving you the data stick for free, the $30/month for an unlimited internet connection (within the bounds of the Fair Usage Policy linked below) almost anywhere you bring your laptop in the Greater Toronto Area, as well as in Hamilton, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, and Whistler sounds worth it to me. Even if you don’t want to continue using the service once it goes up to $45/month one year after you start the service you’ve only paid for the service and never for the actual WINDspeed stick itself so you aren’t really losing anything. Maybe you’ll even be able to sell the stick to someone afterward so they could use the service at the $45/month price – I have no idea if WIND allows someone else to use the USB stick after you’re done with it and disconnected your service by the way, I am just spitballing so check with them first.
For More Info:
WINDspeed data stick E1691 by Huawei on WIND’s website here
WIND’s Data Fair Usage Policy (as of May 1st, 2011) PDF LINK here