Three-G laptops are essentially smartphones. You can can use a 3G laptop for personal computing needs, such as word processing, as well as for browsing the Internet. Most smartphone users know that their handheld device is locked and they can only activate service with a single carrier, such as AT&T Wireless, Verizon Wireless or Sprint. Unfortunately, this same restriction applies to the cellular-based technology in a 3G laptop. Before you purchase a 3G laptop, you should take the aforementioned facts, as well as other factors into consideration. You can save time, money and, most importantly, your sanity.
Review the manufacturer's specifications of the 3G laptop. If you are at a local electronics or cell phone retailer, ask the clerk for an instruction manual or sales brochure for the 3G laptop(s). Use the table of contents to find the "Specifications" section. Remember or write down the specs that are most important to you, based on how you need to use the 3G laptop.You can also download instruction manuals from 3G laptop manufacturer's support websites.
For example, 3G laptop technology is relatively new, as of the year 2012. Many laptop manufacturers use the latest Microsoft Windows operating system on 3G laptops, such as Windows 7, released in 2009. If you are accustomed to using an older version of Windows on another laptop that you already own, such as Windows XP or Windows Vista, your migration of files to a later operating system on a 3G laptop might face hurdles. Your third-party programs that have compatibility with Windows XP may not work well on a 3G laptop with Windows 7.
Prior to purchase, consider spending an extra day or two going over the specifications, confirming that your software programs and hardware devices will have compatibility with the operating system in the 3G laptop(s).
Check the cellular service provider's coverage map. The 3G laptop is an integrated device with Internet service, but there are two separate entities that make this technology possible. Laptop manufacturers, such as HP, Dell and Toshiba, construct the PC to include a modem that transmits your Internet data to and from local towers. Cell providers, such as T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, handle your service and support after the sale.
Based on your reading of the specifications in prior steps, determine the name of the company that is providing the cell service to the 3G laptop. Navigate to the company's website, such as T-Mobile.com or VerizonWireless.com. Click on the "Coverage Map" section. Select the map that shows "Data" or "Internet" coverage, separate and apart from "Voice" coverage. Input your zip code or full address. Confirm that you are within your provider's coverage area.
Make your final decision to purchase the 3G laptop based on the general criteria:
- Within your coverage area for cellular service.
- Quoted connection speeds for download are at least 2.0 megabits per second and about 500 kilobits per second for upload.
- Unlimited usage, which is actually rare across cell service providers. A reasonable limited plan should include about 10 gigabytes, or GB, monthly usage. Note that megabytes, MB, is less than gigabytes.
- Monthly price of around $50, more or less.
- No contract. In many cases, you have already paid full price for the basic cellular technology after your have purchased the 3G laptop at retail price. A contract should not be necessary, but be prepared to have to sign one.
- If you already have a cell phone account, consider buying a 3G laptop that also goes through that same provider. For example, if you have a cell phone through AT&T Wireless, buy a 3G laptop that uses the AT&T Wireless network. Long-time customers may receive a discount on 3G laptop Internet service.
- Activation is usually as simple as calling technical support after you set up your account.
Sources and Citations
- Toshiba: 3G Mobile Broadband; http://us.toshiba.com/computers/research-center/technology-guides/3g-mobile-broadband/
- CNET News: HP, Dell offer 3G in laptops, so why not Apple?; http://news.cnet.com/8301-13924_3-10432133-64.html