Do you do dongles?

June 10th, 2010 in .How To Guides .News & Events
Bobby O’Reilly
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Well, do you dongle or don’t you? When it comes to mobile internet that is.

Being able to get online anytime is a vital part of living in the modern world, and a key part of ASUS’ cloud strategy for the future. But which way of getting your laptop online do you prefer – a built-in 3G modem or a USB dongle provided by your mobile network operator?

There are pros and cons to both, but ultimately – as with most things – the answer is likely to come down to cost.

A built-in modem

Loads of laptops and netbooks come with a built in 3G modem these days, and getting them online is easy. You’ll need a SIM card from a mobile network, of course, but in many countries competition is so fierce that these are given away free with both pay monthly and pay as you go tariffs. Once you have the magic piece of plastic, there should be a SIM card slot behind the battery to put it into, run the modem set-up software and you’ll always be online.

ASUS' netbooks often have an optional 3G modem upgrade

The advantages of a built-in modem are two fold. First of all, it’s a lot neater, since there’s no USB stick permenantly hanging out of the side of your laptop and threatening to knock your coffee over. For the same reason, there’s less chance of damaging the modem if it’s itself the laptop chassis too.

The second big reason to get a laptop with 3G on board is that the signal is generally better. The aerial is usually embedded in the lid aroundthe screen, just like the WiFi antenna, so it’s large and can get reception where a tiny dongle can’t.

The downside, of course, is cost. You’ll pay a premium for the laptop itself, and 3G versions of laptops or, if it’s given to you buy the mobile provider for ‘free’, you’ll be locked into to a long and expensive contract.

USB dongles

Dongles, on the other hand, require an extra outlay, but it’s usually not a lot and the contract terms tend to be more flexible. Plus you don’t have to spend all your money in one go, and if you want to upgrade later to 4G – if you’re luck enough to live in a country where it’s becoming available – you won’t have to buy a whole new PC.

The ASUS RTN13U router has a USB port for attaching a dongle.

While they do mean you have to carry round and extra piece of equipment with you, they also aren’t restricted to one machine – you can plug it into another laptop or a mobile router if a friends wants to borrow or share your connection. There’s also more chance that a USB dongle will support the fastest 7.2Mbps speeds where available.

There are other options, of course. Many people looking for mobile broadband forget that they’re carrying around a perfectly servicable modem in their pocket already. If your network provider allows network tethering on your mobile phone, and most do, there may well be a much cheaper way of getting access by using that as a Bluetooth modem instead.

Or you could just look for a WiFi hotspot to drink your coffee next to, of course. 

Which is your preferred way of getting online when you’re out and about and why?

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