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Summary:

A few days ago, Engadget reported that the recessed USB port on the Macbook Air made it virtually impossible to use a 3G modem (USB version) with the skinny machine. It was one of the machine’s shortcomings that felt like a real deal breaker. Nevertheless, I […]

A few days ago, Engadget reported that the recessed USB port on the Macbook Air made it virtually impossible to use a 3G modem (USB version) with the skinny machine. It was one of the machine’s shortcomings that felt like a real deal breaker.

evdo_modem_macbook_air.jpg

Nevertheless, I had already purchased the Macbook Air, so it was a little late for recriminations and remorse. And since I happened to have Novatel Wireless’ U727 USB modem for Sprint’s EVDO network lying around, I decided to plug it in and see for myself whether or not it worked. I’m not sure if Engadget used this modem, but for me the device plugged in without problems, showed up on the desktop, and after some minor tinkering, got me online at decidedly 3G speeds.

Setting up the device wasn’t that easy, as some “genius” at Apple decided to hide the Internet Connect option in the Macbook Air version of Leopard. I had to download the drivers from Sprint’s support web site, install them and restart the machine.

I activated the modem using the Sprint software, and soon thereafter found the modem in the network preferences panel. Following the instructions Sprint offers, it didn’t take very long to get going, though every time I need to get online, I need to do so by going to network preferences panel. I think this is yet another example of Apple’s narcissistic approach to usability — as well as a more clear-cut example of just not thinking things through.

After half an hour, I was busy using the Macbook Air on Sprint’s EVDO network. I was able to get around 900 Kbps downstream — not bad, given that we’re currently sharing a T-1 line in our office. And I have to say, the EVDO connection came in quite handy while hanging around the doctor’s waiting room.

My recommendation: Buy this modem to get the most out of your Macbook Air — $279 for a new one, $79 with a 2-year contract from Sprint.

Photo by Photo Matt

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By Om Malik

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  1. Just got my Air this morning. A thing of beauty. The fan is a bit loud?

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  2. not sure andy – for me there is no fan noise whatsoever thus far.

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  3. .. how fast is the wake-up boot once you muddy up the machine a bit by launching a few dozen apps, and sleep repeatedly ?

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  4. Does the SSD option also have a fan? I suppose yes, but that would be the last moving part in the thing.

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  5. Thanks for the response. I’ve only used my Air for about 30 minutes. 1.8 C2D with the 80g hard drive and the fan was surprisingly noisy. I’ll have to keep an eye on it. Thanks for the 3g usb modem tip!

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  6. It looks like it will also work with the Sprint 595u (Sierra Wireless). I got some hands on time with one in an Apple store, and my biggest concern would be the small trackpad button, and the poor tactile feedback from it. Compared to my current MacBook Pro, it feels like it’s poorly connected on the back; button pushes aren’t as smooth or even.

    I know, I’m really nitpicking here.

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  7. @ Mike and @ DumDum Bullet

    I will let you know about my experiences with it in a couple of days once i have had time to play around with it enough.

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  8. [...] for the MacBook Air By Stephen Antonucci According to Om Malik, the USB727 USB modem I reviewed recently works with the MacBook Air. I use this with Macs and [...]

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  9. Sadly, while they pretend to sell the “Ovation U727 by Novatel Wireless” as part of the Sprint SERO program, they’re really lying and don’t allow you to select any plans for it. The next best is the ” AirCard® 595U by Sierra Wireless”, which, while cheaper, is probably too large to fit in the Macbook Air’s USB port. :(

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  10. Nice find Om. Too bad it looks like crap sticking-out from the frickin’ machine. Silly Mac Fanboys…

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