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.

More about LTE and Implementation Details Datacard 2: Novatel Wireless USB551L


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  • Lord 666 - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    The attention to detail is appreciated along with the scope of products tested.

    Completely agreed about the speed and performance numbers as I have all three; the SCH-LC11 was the best balance, followed by Thunderbolt, and then the Pantec 290 (fastest but limited to USB connection).
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    I live in an LTE market and would be happy to accept some LTE devices if you don't want to be driving to Phoenix ;)

    For that matter I also have a Droid X with the stock 2.2 build.

    Playing with a Thunderbolt at a Verizon store the data speeds are really quick. Will be interesting to see how much they drop off though with more users.
  • Penti - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    They use 20MHz in 2.6GHz here in Sweden (few cities so far) so you can actually see speeds up to about 80 Mbits here, LTE-Adv on 800MHz is in the works of being deployed here now, but they will be using 10MHz spectrum. I'm guessing people in major cities will see 20-80Mbits and people in areas only covered by 800MHz will see 10-40Mbits. Latency is where it clearly matters though. Though 50 Mbits on 2x10MHz 700MHz is clearly at the top. It's not often you will see much of high speeds any way.

    To bad they pretty much price themselves out of the market though. A 16Mbit Turbo3G connection is less then half of what 4G costs here. For limitless traffic at least.
  • xp3nd4bl3 - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    Love the graphing. Reply
  • mars2k - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    Not good, I need USB tethering. This is a deal breaker for me. I need outside access in several places where wi fi is not allowed. Reply
  • Lord 666 - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link


    Currently have an open ticket with VZW about the lack of public addresses. Have several LTE cards used with cradlepoints that are used for DMVPN backup connections and need public addresses. In testing, would randomly get nat'd address bring up a complete tunnel, but it was very rare. All of the IPs issued were in NYC.

    Was told static public IPs will be available around May.
  • nerdydesi - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    I'm curious on what you meant by this.

    "Note that the Thunderbolt is a 2x1 device while the others are 2x2, which explains some of the upstream throughput distribution difference"

    Do you mean that the other devices have more antennas than the Thunderbolt and thus why their speeds seemed to be faster than the Thunderbolt? Regarding the phone and its "unlimited data", I used 30gb in my last billing cycle and so far 70gb now with no peep from Verizon. It could also be that I'm currently a VZW employee. I hope that because I bought the phone, I can be grandfathered into the plan.

    Also as a note, if you take the sim card from the Thunderbolt with its full voice and data plan and put that into a mifi or USB modem, you get the unlimited data as well. Just keep in mind you pay more per month due to having the voice along with it (which is useless on the modem devices), but still better than the current 5gb and 10gb caps. If you do vice versa, take the card from a modem to an LTE phone, you are charged for each minute of voice and each text unless you change your plan.
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    " AT&T on the other hand has a sprinkling of lower block B and C licenses that are both 12MHz. AT&T also purchased Qualcomm's licenses to blocks D and E, which are both 6MHz unpaired, though it's not entirely clear how AT&T will integrate both blocks of unpaired spectrum. All total that gives AT&T between 24 and 36MHz of 700MHz spectrum, again depending on market."

    Since the only blocks that they own nationwide are the 6mhz D and E blocks shouldn't it be 12 to 36mhz of spectrum. Looking at auction maps it appears there're fairly large areas where ATT didn't win the A or the B blocks.
  • Brian Klug - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    That's a good point. If they can manage to either TDD or FDD both of those it should be 12 to 36. Just don't forget about the lower C block which was involved prior to this latest auction, that's the 24 that I'm thinking of.

    With 12 MHz of spectrum they can run 5 MHz FDD channels which really won't be much faster than current WCDMA systems. I guess that's why I mentally discounted it.

  • Lothsahn - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    I notice that with my Sprint aircard, I maintain the 3G connection even during extended trips across the nation. However, the 4G connection on the same aircard appears to be unable to handoff and loses its connection while traveling constantly. I find that my connection disconnects every 2-3 minutes when actually moving. However, if I'm stationary in a building, it'll maintain the connection for hours.

    What results did you have with LTE for these sorts of usage scenarios?

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