C100 Up Close and Personal
The C100 HSDPA 3.5G data modem from BandRich is quite a simple device in how-to functions. Natively it is a 34mm widthwise ExpressCard modem enabling you to hook it directly into most notebooks. However, it also comes with a handy USB adapter in case you do not have access to an ExpressCard slot.
Included are USB cables that provide power and data to the C100 - it is mini USB to two normal sized USB ports. For best performance, BandRich recommends that both USB plugs are plugged into two separate USB ports. This, of course, will take up two precious USB ports on your system but one of the USB ports (the power plug) is a double adapter type which allows another USB device to be plugged into it - smart thinking by BandRich.
The device itself measures 119.6 x 42 x 11.25 (which includes the antenna) meaning it is small enough to sit in the palm of your hand (if you have a big hand like me!). It weighs in at around 60 grams total which includes the USB adapter and cables, so it is very easy to carry around in your notebook bag.
The antenna is rotatable from its flat position of 180 degrees all the way to roughly 45 degrees, which may or may not assist in attaining a better signal strength. Throughout our testing, it did not seem to make any difference but we tested in a city area with strong mobile reception. It may make more of a difference in remote areas with not so good mobile tower reception. The C100 will work up to speeds of around 110KM/h and possibly faster but that was untested. This means if you often travel on the highway or on train, you won't have any connection issues - unless of course it is a fast train then you might have some issues. We didn't have a chance to test it on Taiwan's new fast train network, which speeds up to and even over 300KM/h at full speed.
What is interesting is that the C100 includes an external antenna jack which allows you to use other more powerful and bigger antennas. If you are in an isolated country area and the nearest mobile tower is miles away (usual occurrence in big countries like Australia), it could mean the difference between having high-speed internet access or none at all - on the move or in your house. We did not bother testing with an external antenna as during testing we had quite good signal strength in Taipei County, but you can imagine if you invested some money in an antenna, you could really get close to the maximum download speed your phone company offers.
The package includes a little adapter which clips nicely onto the C100 and allows you to mount the device on your notebook LCD screen or other suitable places. It works fairly well but considering the adapter is designed to work with a wide range of notebooks with different LCD size widths, it did sit on our ASUS 13" LCD notebook alright but it did move around a little and felt a little unsteady.
The C100 has two different types of what we could call "power states". When there is no download or upload activity, the connection automatically switches down to GPRS, but the instant there is connection activity, it switches up to the best connection available - in our case HSDPA / 3.5G. When in low power state, the C100 is lit up green and when in high power state, it is lit up blue - this makes it very simple to determine which type of connection it is using at any given time (and if there is a SIM or connection error, the C100 will light up red).
The easy assumption for BandRich doing this would be that most of the time the C100 will be used on portable devices where battery life is important and 3.5G chews up battery life real quickly, hence the reason for auto switching down. If the C100 had an AC power source, it would not matter as much but since all power is drawn from your computer or mobile device, this design implementation is fabulous.
The package also includes a Quick Start Guide and CD with driver and software however we used the latest version from the BandRich at the time which was version 1.01.024.
Let's move onto installation and using the device now!
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