Sunday, April 01, 2007

Laptops with Embedded EVDO - Good or Bad?

Some of the newer Sony, Dells, HPs and others are now including embedded EVDO as an option. On the surface, this sounds like a good idea.

But, what are the Pros & Cons of having EVDO embedded (built-in) or as an addon via PCMCIA, ExpressCard or USB?

  • No need to insert a card, mobile broadband always available
  • Nothing to lose or damage, it is built-in
  • Horrible Support (read below)
  • No option for external antennas
  • No options for external amplifiers
  • Hard / impossible to upgrade
  • If you upgrade the laptop to one without embedded EVDO, you have to pay retail for new EVDO card
  • Adds to cost of initial laptop purchase (no they are not free)
  • Firmware updates / Connection Manager updates from Manufacturer NOT carrier
More on Support:

I purchased a Sony TX model with embedded EVDO Rev A when it first came out (first laptop that had embedded Rev A EVDO). After we received the first one, it was working for a few days and then we started having connection problems with our Sony TX10. I decided to recover and reformat the hard drive and that DIDN'T help, the once working internal EVDO modem stopped working. I returned the unit and got a second unit.

I got the second unit working quickly and all was well. When I started having connection problems, I decided to do what is called a ##RTN which is a trick to reset the modem back to factory settings (I did this on the first unit too). Once again, we reformatted and recovered back to factory and still, we couldn' t use the embedded EVDO device. The device would show signal strength, BUT wouldn't connect. I knew the account was OK, because it was previously working. I just got a
"Unable to update device" .

Now, here is where the "fun" begins.

Embedded EVDO modems are a lot like illegitimate children. When I called Sprint, they told me that they didn't provide support for embedded devices, we would have to call the manufacturer. When we call Sony, do you think they have a lot of people on staff that know the internal workings of the embedded EVDO devices? Nope! So, now we get into a finger pointing contest. Bottom line, the embedded EVDO device is not working, so I reverted to using my trusty EVDO cards from Sprint and Verizon, those always work.

Now, since we are a Sprint Master Agent, and we have a lot of contacts at Sprint, I decided to see what we can find out. According to contacts within Sprint Tech Support, they confirm that if you do the ##RTN trick to reset the modem, you can actually damage the modem and you are unable to use it any more. OUCH! Here is what we found out:

"Novatel had an issue with their pre-production 720's that caused IOTA to consistently fail after the module is refurbed using ##RTN, which sounds like what is happening here. The fix was to send the modules back to Novatel..."

I wonder how many people of embedded laptops will have the same fate? Was this a problem only with the first batch of units or is this still a problem with the current shipping units?

If you are considering getting a laptop with embedded EVDO, you might want to consider an EVDO PCMCIA, ExpressCard or USB mobile broadband device.

So... Sony, Sprint or Novatel, how can I get a replacement for my embedded EVDO modem?