- Review Date: 01/27/11
- Bottom line:
The LG VL600 is a solid modem from a well-respected company, although it's lacking some features its major competitor has.
Good looking. Solid performance. Verizon's LTE network is blazing fast.
No external antenna port or Mac support. Hinge looks a bit breakable.
Verizon's 4G LTE network is the fastest in the land, at least in the 38 cities where it's been turned on, and the LG VL600 modem ($99.99-249.99) is a fine way to tap into those blazing speeds. It's sleek and businesslike, too. But for various reasons we prefer the competing Pantech UML290 ($99.99, 4 stars) a little more, so the VL600 doesn't get our Editor's Choice award for Verizon Wireless cellular modems.
Design, Software and Plans
The VL600 looks more professional than the UML290, but it's still a big honkin' modem. First-generation hardware tends to be large; the VL600 is a very long, thick (3.9 by 1.5 by .6 inches, 1.8 oz) black modem with a flip-up antenna that covers the USB port when it's not in use. I'm a little worried about that hinge, though; with too much abuse, it might snap. In the middle of the modem there's a single, confusing multicolored LED status light. There are no other visible slots and no external antenna port on the modem.
The modem works with Verizon's VZ Access Manager software for Windows only. Right now, there's no way to make this modem work with Macs or other non-Windows computers. VZ Access Manager itself is a relatively light, no-nonsense connection manager that is much more responsive and less crash-prone than Sprint's or T-Mobile's competing products.
Verizon has 4G LTE service in 38 metro areas right now; outside of those zones, the UML290 works on Verizon's 3G EVDO Rev A network. Plans cost $50/month for 5 GB or $80/month for 10 GB, plus $10/GB extra.
As a CDMA modem, the VL600 works in parts of Canada, Mexico, India, China and a few other countries, but not Europe, and roaming rates are intolerable: up to $20.48/MB. I wouldn't buy this modem for use outside the US.
Performance and Conclusions
We tested the VL600 in New York City head-to-head against the competing Pantech UML290 at 11 different locations over the course of a day. We transferred files over FTP, downloaded Web pages using curl, and ran the speed tester at speedtest.net. We didn't have any problems with dropped connections on either modem.
Overall, the two modems had nearly identical average speeds. On speedtest.net, which simulates Internet streaming, we got just around 16Mbps down and about 5.75Mbps up with both modems, with less than a 5% variation between the modems in our Speedtest and FTP tests. That said, when one modem came out slightly ahead, it was the UML290 61% of the time.
We did two tests in 3G mode, and the UML290 came out ahead of the VL600 there, with speeds of 1.5Mbps down compared to the VL600's 1.2Mbps.
Having seen and tested dozens of USB modems by now, I'd consider Verizon's two LTE modems roughly equal on performance. But I'd pick the Pantech UML290 over the LG VL600 because of other factors; the UML290 has a sturdier design and external antenna ports, for instance.
The LG VL600 is a fine choice for a Verizon 4G modem, it just lacks a few of its competitor's features. If you strongly prefer its elegant black look over the UML290's somewhat thrown-together black and red textured case, that's why you should buy it.
If you don't spend much time in Verizon's 4G coverage area, consider other carriers as well, because Verizon's 3G network is slower than AT&T's and T-Mobile's, according to our fastest mobile networks test. Also, if you're patient, you may want to wait for the Verizon LTE MiFi devices, which are coming this Spring and can connect up to five computers and phones to an ad-hoc Wi-Fi hotspot.