Virgin Mobile Broadband USB Modem
Virgin's mobile broadband service offers good value, but its performance is erratic
- Competitive price, plug and play, microSD card slot for file storage, simple software
- Erratic performance, below average speed
The Virgin Broadband service offers decent value, but performance is a notch below many of the competitors. Pricing is flexible and the prepaid deals are a good option, but if you're after speed then there are plenty of alternatives.
Price$ 129.00 (AUD)
Best Deals (Selling at 1 store)
As mobile broadband prices fall and data allowances rise, it has become a cost-effective option for many travellers, or even those who aren't able to get fixed line services at home. Virgin Mobile is one of the cheapest telcos in Australia, and its mobile broadband packages offer similar value to its mobile phone plans — just don't expect great speeds.
The Virgin Broadband service has theoretical maximum speeds of 7.2 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads, but just 384 kilobits per second (Kbps) for uploads. Of course, these speeds are never seen in real life. The actual speed will vary depending on a number of factors such as the device capabilities, your location and equipment, as well as network usage at the time. Virgin uses the Optus 3G network for reception, so speeds and coverage should be similar to Optus devices. Virgin claims that typical download speeds should range from 600Kbps to 1.5Mbps.
The Virgin Broadband service supports connectivity in HSDPA, 3G (UMTS) and GPRS coverage areas. If the HSDPA signal isn't strong enough, the service falls back to standard 3G (a maximum speed of 384Kbps). If no HSDPA or 3G signal can be received, then the modem will revert to standard GSM (60Kbps maximum).
Virgin's USB modem is manufactured by Huawei and is simular to many other USB modems on the market. The software required to use the service is installed on the USB device itself. This means much more flexibility in terms of using the unit on multiple computers, as you don't need to carry a software CD around with you. The matte black finish with the Virgin logo is a nice touch, as is the small LED that denotes network status. When plugged in the USB key wiggles around in its port and feels unsteady. A microSD memory card slot means the unit can be used as a regular USB key for file storage.
During testing, the Virgin Broadband service performed erratically. When we received a HSDPA signal, the speed was fair, and we managed to achieve download speeds of up to 1.3Mbps, using our Broadband Speed Test. However, the coverage often jumped from HSDPA to 3G and even GPRS — despite our test notebook remaining in the same position. 3G download speeds hovered around 850Kbps, but, predictably, the service is barely useable when it drops to GPRS, struggling to download at speeds faster than 100Kbps. When the modem maintained an HSDPA signal, we had no problems with basic Web browsing, watching YouTube videos and downloading files.
The Virgin Broadband software included on the USB key is basic but easy to use. It is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS X, and only took a couple of minutes to install. The statistics tab allows you to keep track of your connection, including its duration, the volume of data sent and received, and total downloaded and uploaded data.
Virgin Broadband plans are some of the most competitive on the market, starting at just $19 per month for 1GB of data and ranging up to $29 (2GB) and $39 (5GB) plans over 24 months. On top of this, the $19 and $29 plans have a device repayment of $5 per month, with the $39 plan having no repayments. The plans don't have any cost penalty for additional usage; instead Virgin caps your speed at 354Kbps for the remainder of the month. A prepaid plan is also available, which costs $129 outright. Virgin also offers a prepaid "BYO" deal for people who already one a mobile broadband modem. For more information on plans and pricing, see Virgin's Web site.
Join the PC World newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Sony Xperia Z5 Premium review: Is the world ready for a 4K phone?
- 2 D-Link Taipan AC3200 Ultra tri-band modem-router review
- 3 Dell XPS 13 (2016) review: Making the very best Ultrabook
- 4 Microsoft Surface Book review: The verdict on Microsoft's first notebook
- 5 Telstra Wi-Fi 4GX Advanced III review: Testing the world's first 600Mbps wireless hotspot
Best Deals on PC World
Latest News Articles
- Why TPG left Optus for Vodafone
- Sky Muster takes the nbn into space (+27 photos)
- Foxtel more than doubles broadband data allowances
- Optus discounts unlimited Internet bundles, available from $95 a month
- Cisco releases VNI for 2014-2019
GGG Evaluation Team
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.
The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.
The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.
My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.
- CCSenior Project Manager, Technology Upgrade & RefreshNSW
- CCSenior Agile Business AnalystVIC
- CCBusiness Analyst, Loyalty projectsNSW
- CCSolution Architect / Data ArchitectNSW
- FTSenior Technical ConsultantVIC
- CCSenior DevOps ConsultantVIC
- FTIT Support Engineer - Managed Service Provider - No two days are the sameNSW
- CCWebOps EngineerVIC
- FTService Coordinator/Scheduler | IT Managed Service ProviderVIC
- FTNetwork ConsultantNSW
- CCInfra Project Manager-Data Center, Cloud, Storage, NetworkNSW
- CCTechnical WriterACT
- CCTransition Program ManagerNSW
- FTAGILE Training Manager/CoachNSW
- CCSenior Project ManagerNSW
- CCBusiness Analyst - Digital/Financial ServicesNSW
- CCBusiness AnalystSA
- CCSystems TrainerVIC
- CCOnline Shop Operations Consultant (eCommerce)VIC
- FTSenior Project Manager, SoftwareNSW
- CCContract Contract Junior Programmer (JUD-16493-4)Asia
- CCSenior ICT Project OfficerACT
- FTTechnical/Solutions ArchitectNSW
- FTSystem EngineerACT
- CCNV2 - System Administration / Application SupportACT