One 3G USB Modem That Works With Macbook Air

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 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. [digg=]

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