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Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go Review

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Getting connected on the go is pretty easy these days, but unfortunately in most cases it is also expensive and requires a contract. Virgin Mobile is one of the few providers to offer an affordable contract free easy to use mobile broadband solution. The $79.99 BroadBand2Go USB adapter and service which we have been reviewing over the past month has performed well on numerous notebooks and in a variety of locations.

This review will look at the BroadBand2Go USB adapter as well as the service based on ease of use, speed and value.

Who should consider a no-contract mobile broadband plan like the one offered by Virgin Mobile?

This type of service, which allows you to turn the data one and off as needed, is perfect for anyone who needs a small amount of mobile data each month or travels just enough that they want a dedicated mobile broadband service, but not often enough to justify a contract. Pre-paid mobile broadband should be a consideration for small business owners, traveling college students and anyone else who wants an affordable mobile broadband solution that they can control.

Speed and Coverage:

Perhaps the two most important factors in mobile broadband are speed and coverage. In this case Virgin Mobile excels, but isn’t the top of the line. Virgin Mobile does offer Nationwide 3G wireless access, but it’s network is powered by Sprint which means in some areas including Northwest Ohio where we tested it we saw slower download speeds than using a tethered Verizon Wireless phone. Still, the national network covers many areas and for the use that we wanted; checking email, blogging and downloading the occasional word document the speed was alright.

During the iPhone 4 launch coverage at Notebooks.com the BroadBand2Go adapter allowed me to keep numerous websites up to date, text chat on Skype with the rest of our virtual team and write a blog post while traveling down I-75 at 70 MPH.

As I mentioned, I was able to achieve a slightly faster download speed using WirelessTether for my Rooted Motorola Droid, but the speeds were comparable and the speed on the BroadBand2GO adapter was more consistent. All testing used the SpeakEasy.com Speedtest.

Connection Up (Mbps) Down(Mbps)
BB2Go 1 bar 35 mph 1.03 0.55
BB2Go 3 bars 35 mph 1.15 0.4
BB2Go 3 bars 65 mph 1.35 0.53
BB2Go 4 bars 65 mph 1.2 0.55
BB2Go indoors 4 bars 0.52 0.31
BB2Go indoors 4 bars 0.62 0.47
wifi tether droid 65 mph 0.75 0.33
wifi tether droid 65 mph 2.85 0.38
wifi tether droid 65 mph 1.28 0.26
wifi tether droid 65 mph 1.47 0.29
wifi tether droid indoors 2.3 0.49
wifi tether droid indoors 1.95 0.4

Ease of Use:

How easy a gadget or service is to use is right there behind coverage and speed. If a service is blazing fast but needs a support call to work every time then it’s worthless. If a product achieves OK speeds but is dead simple to use on the other hand it can rise from average to very good.

That’s the case with the BroadBand2Go USB adapter. All of the data needed is built right into the USB modem so that when you plug it into a computer you can install the software and be connected in 3-5 minutes. Over the course of our review I tried the adapter in 3 notebooks and 2 netbooks and found that setting up and using the device was so simple that you could hand this device to anyone who can plug in a USB drive and they would be online in a matter of minutes.

When you compare this to the many tethering solutions, like WirelessTether for Root users that we used in the speed comparison the difference is huge. While testing this out I was in the passenger seat trying to hit a deadline and after spending 20 minutes trying to diagnose a tethering issue I gave up, removed the BroadBand2GO adapter from my backpack, installed it in a few minutes and met my deadline. This experience reflects the overall experience I have had with my current tethering solution. If you are using an official USB tethering service from your cell phone provider you may experience an easier level of use.

One problem I ran into that was particularly frustrating was that one netbook I used with the device failed to detect that it was plugged in when I tried to use the device at a later time. I was able to fix this problem by uninstalling the software and reinstalling it but it was an inconvenience. After reinstalling the problem did not return and I tried to recreate this issue on 4 other notebooks but was not able to do so. This shouldn’t stop you from considering the BroadBand2Go USB adapter, but just serve as guide for what to do if this problem affects you.

Price:

You can purchase service from Virgin Mobile from as low as $10 for 10 days access all the way up to $60 for 5GB worth of service over the period of a month. The lower priced plans offer much more value than the pay-as-you-go data plans at major cellular companies like Verizon and the high end plan, which is priced the same as you pay on contract at Verizon, offers the ability to downgrade or stop using the service for a month without any fees or hassles.

Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go Plans:

Conclusion:

If you want a pre-paid no contract mobile broadband solution that is simple to use, offers OK speeds and has coverage in many areas Virgin Mobile and the BroadBand2Go adapter is the right fit. If you want to share the connection or use it with a device like the WiFi iPad then you should look at the $150 Virgin Mobile MiFi unit.

Josh Smith is a longtime mobile tech user, currently using a Droid as his primary smartphone. Josh is also an editor at Notebooks.com where he reviews notebooks and other mobile tech. Follow Josh on Twitter @Josh_Smith or email him Josh@Notebooks.com.

16 Comments

  1. Redwolf28386

    September 23, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    They don’t work. I’ve tried 4 from Best Buy (and tried each one with different pc’s with win xp, vista and win 7) and they wouldn’t work. Three friends bought one also and couldn’t get them to work… and we all tried getting help from VM’s tech support. The guy working the VM kiosk at Best Buy told me that over 80% of the usb 2 go’sthat they had sold had been returned because they didn’t work.

  2. Taxi

    November 2, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Lancaster Private Hire offer the best money can buy transport in London,not even close to others in the market!

  3. Beefmaster

    November 10, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    You should try testing with the USB adapter with a USB extension cord to get it away from the laptop body. In my experience with other 3G USB sticks this has had a substantial impact on signal quality. Not sure why, but it has.

  4. Playstation 3 info

    November 20, 2010 at 8:58 am

    VRy interesting to read it :P

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  5. Tom Johnson

    January 11, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Will the broadband2go unit function on a desktop computer as well as a laptop?

    • Kevin

      January 13, 2011 at 6:27 am

      Tom, the answer to your question is Yes. I’ve been using the broadband2go unit on my PC for about a week. It’s a mite slower than what I’m used to, but adequate for e-mail and general browsing. Hulu and youtube videos load very slowly during the day but play fine between midnight and morning.

  6. pick356

    February 5, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    virgin broadband internet is totally damn. it does not work well. download speed is only .45 mbps. this is the average speed in everywhere…

  7. jide

    February 5, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Utterly useless product!!!

    A great source of angst and frustration to me.

    A very sour experience.

    Could not get it to start.

    Tech was helpless.

    Download and upload speeds are terrible (too slow)

    Will never touch Virgin’s products with a 10 foot pole again!!

    Will return and get my money back!!!

  8. Jody

    February 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    @JIDE

    - Maybe it’s not the product – maybe it’s the operator.

    @Everyone Else

    I live in an area where the only connection speed you can get is a dial-up or a slow DSL connection for about $40.00 DSL (stand alone) and Dial Up ( phone line + dial up )

    When I first got my USB Wireless card – it didn’t work. But it wasn’t Virgin Mobiles fault. I had VBSCRIBT disabled which I enabled and installed easily, and with out worry.

    Speed wise – it isn’t the best – but it isn’t the worse. I can take it almost every where and have some sort of internet connection – especially while traveling I would recommend getting the product, I currently have the $40.00 unlimited ( no longer offer – I’m grandfathered in ) plan that is great. It works very well every where I have taken it. Support has been great and its very affordable.

    3 stars out of 5

  9. desire

    March 10, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    it doesnot work n MAC PRO ………..some1 help me

  10. Bill J

    August 23, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    I’ve spent an hour today trying to get human help for my Virgin Broadband2Go USB, which recently stopped working. No luck. I get the runaround back to the menu for new calls.

  11. Cheap Genuine Windows 7

    November 15, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    Helpful info. Fortunate me I discovered your website by chance, and I’m shocked why this accident didn’t came about earlier! I bookmarked it.

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