Home LTE News Verizon Pantech UML290 3G/4G USB Review

Verizon Pantech UML290 3G/4G USB Review

Along with the LG VL600, the Pantech UML290 is one of the first modems available for use on Verizon's brand new 4G LTE network, which just launched in 38 U.S. cities this week. While Verizon's 4G network isn't available in nearly as many locations as their 3G network yet (although they do have aggressive expansions plans), the new 3G/4G modems allow users to "future proof" themselves - they can use it for 3G now, and when 4G does become available to them, they won't have to worry about needing new equipment! As an added bonus, the service plans available for the 3G/4G devices are actually better than what's available for 3G-only USB modems, making a 3G/4G device like the UML290 a great choice for a variety of customers.

The UML290 is similar to the other 4G-capable Verizon device, the VL600, in almost every way - they are both 3G and 4G capable, aren't officially compatible with Macs yet, and are similar sizes/designs. However, the UML290 has something the VL600 does not: usable antenna ports for improving cellular signal! The UML290 actually features two antenna ports: one for a 3G antenna, and one for a 4G antenna. This one crucial difference makes the UML290 the clear winner for anyone trying to decide between the two Verizon 4G devices in our opinion!

Design: At 3.5" (H) x 1.4" (W) x 0.6" (D) and 1.8oz, the UML290 is slightly larger than some of Verizon's 3G-only devices (like the USB760), but it's certainly not bulky. The UML290 features an interesting design - the USB connector folds up underneath a revolving "intenna", which you slide/revolve out of the way to flip out the USB connector and also serves as the device's built-in antenna. The USB connector also revolves 180 degrees, making it easy to maneuver.

uml290 views
Left: the UML290 in its "folded up" position; center: with the USB connector out and the "intenna" in the down position; right: the "intenna" can be rotated to improve reception

As mentioned above, the UML290 features two antenna ports. Both ports are located on the back of the modem under flip-up rubber plugs, but luckily it's very easy to determine which one is the 3G port - the 3G antenna port is on the left side, and the rubber plug that covers it has a little symbol of a satellite on it (the plug that covers the 4G port doesn't have any symbols on it).

uml290 antenna ports
uml290 and booser antenna
3G antennas like the Booster Antenna work great with the UML290!

Finally, like most newer mobile broadband devices, the UML290 features an LED indicator light. The UML290's light, which is located on the front of the device, is refreshingly simple: a blue light appears when the device is connected to your computer and Verizon service is available, and a red light appears when service is not available.

Compatibility: Unfortunately, the UML290 is only compatible with Windows computers at launch (XP/Vista/7) - no official Mac support yet! However, many users have successfully used the UML290 with Apple's built-in WWAN drivers - click here to read more. This solution is not officially supported and you will still need a Windows computer to do the initial activation.

UPDATE: The Nexaira BC2 router is now compatible with the UML290! Additionally, Cradlepoint has confirmed that they will be supporting the new LTE devices in the first quarter of 2011. If you'd like to be notified when Cradlepoint router support for the UML290 is available, fill out our VZ4G Router Notification Form.

Setup & Performance: The UML290 is easy to use - setup literally takes just a couple minutes. Unlike Verizon's 3G devices, the 4G devices utilize SIM cards, so the first step to getting set up is inserting the included SIM card into the slot on the UML290. Then just install VZAccess Manager from the included CD, connect the device, and you're ready to go!

The device will automatically connect to the fastest network available (so if you're in the 4G area it will automatically use 4G LTE; if you are in a 3G area it will connect to EVDO Rev A), and performance is identical to comparable Verizon devices used in the same location. In our tests in Los Angeles, where Verizon just launched 4G service, we saw very impressive speeds:

uml290 speedtest

For comparison's sake, the download speeds we saw from Verizon's 4G LTE network were nearly as fast as our tester's home cable internet connection, and the upload speeds were actually better than the cable connection! 

Service Plans: Verizon is offering 2 service plan options for their 3G/4G devices: a 5GB plan for $50/month, or 10GB for $80/month. Both plans are subject to overage charges of $10/GB once the monthly allowance is used. The allowance is cumulative for usage on both the 3G and 4G network - in other words, if you have the 5GB plan, you can use a TOTAL of 5GB of data regardless of what network you're on (as opposed to 5GB of 3G and 5GB of 4G). While many users are disappointed that Verizon isn't offering any unlimited options, it should be noted that their 3G/4G plans are more affordable than the plan they offer for their 3G-only devices (which is $59.99/mo for 5GB and significantly higher overage charges).

Not sure how much 5GB or 10GB really is? Check out these articles: What Does 5GB Get Me? and What Does 10GB Get Me?

What's Included: The UML290 comes with the SIM card (necessary for use - the device won't operate without it), VZAccess Manager installation CD, user guide, and a USB extension cable (which allows you to position the device in a spot with better signal - particularly helpful for desktop computers whose USB ports are hidden in the back!).

uml290 contents

The bottom line on the Pantech UML290: Anyone considering signing up for Verizon, Sprint or AT&T mobile broadband with a 2-year contact should consider getting a data card that has built-in 4G support, even if you do not need it now - especially since the UML290 has an antenna port that allows you to improve your 3G signal just like you can with a typical 3G-only aircard and the monthly plans are better than what Verizon offers for their 3G-only USB devices! The lack of Mac support is disappointing, but hopefully Verizon will solve that soon - and if not, as soon as router support is available Mac users will have a solution too.

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 16 December 2010 00:44 )