Verizon 4G LTE: Two Datacards and a WiFi Hotspot Massively Reviewedby Brian Klug on April 27, 2011 12:11 AM EST
Pantech UML 290
So enough about that, how about the devices we’ve talked about? First up are the two data cards I’ve already mentioned, the Pantech UML290 and Verizon/Novatel USB551L. There’s a third card as well, the LG VL600, but we haven’t had any time to get hands on with it.
The Pantech UML290 has a flip out design to preserve its compact size when being transported, and allow an orthogonal antenna. Swing the black portion 90 degrees clockwise and it’ll flip open, revealing the USB connector which pops out. There’s a sticker inside which mentions that the device should be left flipped open for best reception. There’s an entertaining typo on the sticker as well that gave me a moment’s pause after a friend pointed it out.
This swivel-out black area does conceal an orthogonal antenna which I’ll show later. The whole data card can rotate and swivel about the USB connector as well.
Flipped open, at the top of the UML290 is the chiclet-shaped LED status indicator. It blinks a fast blue when attached to the cellular network, and red when connected to the computer but with no network attach. In all honesty, because the status LED doesn’t blink on data activity it isn’t entirely useful. It’s more of a binary connected yes/no status indicator than a real activity indicator.
On the bottom of the device are two black removable covers that hide optional external GPS and cellular antenna connectors. There’s a test junction above the one for cellular connectivity. The other is clearly marked for GPS and you can hook an antenna up to it. While we’re talking about GPS, the UML290 as it originally shipped does not have GPS support.
The official feature status last I checked was “not at launch,” and although the latest firmware update did enable a COM port, I still have never successfully gotten GPS working. In windows, this COM port is even labled NMEA for GPS, so I assume this is coming very soon but at a later date.
On the side of the device is the SIM card slot. Verizon uses full size USIMs that come in a big card just like you’d expect them to. Punch them out from the larger card, and you’re good to go. Each LTE device we’ve tested has come with the exact same Verizon 4G SIM card with some literature and the punch card. Other contents in the UML290 box include an extension USB cable with laptop clip, and all the requisite paperwork which you can check out in the gallery.
This wouldn’t be AnandTech without me disassembling something. After I performed all my required testing on the UML290, I decided to bust it open.
Inside you can clearly see just how many antennas are involved in making LTE work. There are two clearly visible on the front and back side of the PCB (though this is likely for GPS), along with two U.FL connectors and pigtails which snake through a port leading to the black swivel antenna. There’s a small black thermal pad that makes contact with the back side of one EFI can.
Further disassembly proved too challenging, and I was unable to get the EMI cans off the PCB. That said, were we to remove them, we’d likely see the MDM9600 and some adjacent NAND, as well as a bunch of power management ICs. Impressive however that something as simple as a data card has 4 antennas inside.
Build quality on the Pantech UML290 is surprisingly good. Short of the connector swivel being a bit loose, there’s nothing really noteworthy about the device’s physical construction. It’s certainly a bit larger than other 3G data cards from the previous generation, but again this is a first generation 4G modem.