As great as smartphone experiences have become, they’re still not quite the same as surfing the Internet on a proper computer. At the same time, you may not always be in the presence of an available Wi-Fi hotspot. That’s why products like the Nokia CS-18 are so useful.
Available through Rogers Wireless, this is an HSPA+ Rocket Mobile Internet Stick. What this means is that it uses the HSPA+ cellular network to connect your computer to the Internet, rifling through a mobile data plan not unlike what you’d do on a BlackBerry or iPhone. This concept is not new, but it’s good to see an HSPA+ option.
The specs and features are nothing out of the ordinary. You get a red stick that looks an awful lot like a USB flash drive, and this connects to your computer to become a mobile modem. The SIM card fits in a slot near the USB connector and there is an additional microSD slot in the side; with the latter, this device doubles as a card reader. If you have a Windows machine, you can also send text messages through the included utility.
The user experience is seamless and simple. This mobile Internet stick, which is larger in size than most flash drives, will automatically launch the installation utility when it first connects to your computer, assuming that you have autorun enabled. The software is easy: just click on the “connect to Internet” button and you’re good to go.
In terms of transfer speeds, Roger promises up to 21Mbps downloads, but you’re very unlikely to reach this range under normal circumstances. In my real world tests (using Speedtest.net), I was getting anywhere from 0.79Mbps down in Salmon Arm to 4.65Mbps down in Vancouver. Your mileage, of course, will vary.
For business users on the go who absolutely must have Internet access even when they don’t have a Wi-Fi access point within range, the Nokia CS-18 is a solid choice with its HSPA+ connectivity and microSD card reader slot. I do like the little rubber “string” that prevents you from losing the cap and included (Windows) software is simple and to the point. At the same time, I’m much more inclined to get a slightly beefier wireless data plan on my smartphone and simply tether to my heart’s delight rather than use a separate Rocket Mobile Internet Stick. Paying for a separate data plan adds up very quickly and, if you take the smallest 500MB plan, you could easily burn through that in a day or two.
The Nokia CS-18 HSPA+ Rocket Mobile Internet Stick is available from Rogers for $0.00 with a qualifying three-year contract or $174.99 outright.
Nokia CS-18 Specifications
GSM Bands: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
HSPA Bands: 850/1900/2100 MHz
Network Speed (HSPA): Up to 21.6 Mbps
Internal Memory: No
Expandable Memory: Up to 32 GB
Platform / Operating System: Windows® 7, Vista®, or XP (32 and 64bit), Mac OS® 10.4, 10.5 or 10.6, Linux
Dimensions: 86 x 24.4 x 13.5 mm with cap
Form Factor: USB stick