The Franklin Wireless U301 is the successor to the U300 broadband card on Sprint’s 4G network which now supports Macs.
With tested speeds of 3.53 Mbps downloading and up to 0.90 Mbps uploading, it falls within Sprint’s advertised speeds.
Like most Sprint 4G devices, it can receive both 3G and 4G signals allowing you access to two networks for the price of one.
By far, the biggest advantage the U301 has is unlimited mobile broadband on Sprint’s 4G network.
Stuff You Should Know (Good & Bad)
Design & Aesthetics
While stylistically different from the U300, the U301 is of a similar size (3.5" x 1.27" x 0.92" and 1.25 oz.). When standing horizontally (USB port exposed), its circumference is about the size of a quarter.
When flat however, it’s shorter than my Blackberry Curve 8900 but still taller than my Sprint 4G Overdrive.
When it comes to thickness, it’s actually slimmer than both my Blackberry and 4G Overdrive. However, if you factor in the very top with the antenna modification, it gets markedly thicker.
Considering that you’ll plug the U301 in and have it point vertically, the antenna extension should be much of a hindrance if any.
The Sprint 4G U301′s biggest features are 3G/4G dual compatibility and a 180 degree rotating (swivel) USB port.
While there is a USB extension cord, it’s not much to write home about.
While the extension cord is handy for angling the U301 away from your laptop or 3G/4G router to minimize signal and physical interference., the benefits mostly stop there.
As always, I’ve included some techy details just in case you need them. If not, skip past to see the unboxing and speed test videos below:
U301 Technical Specs:
- Sprint 4G (WiMAX) Capable
- Rev. A Capable
- Rotating/Swivel USB connector
- Compatible with all devices supporting the Type A USB interface including desktops, notebooks, tablet PCs and PDAs
- Built-in antenna
- Easy Installation and Activation: Simply insert the SmartView CD to install the software and the device will be activated automatically as part of the installation process.
- GPS Capable: Autonomous and simultaneous GPS using Sprint Navigation for turn by turn directions, and points of interest searches.
- Security: Employs CDMA wireless technology authentication and identification system for top-notch security. The Mobile Identification Number (MIN) and Electronic Serial Number (ESN), together with CDMA spread spectrum technology, make it virtually impossible for unauthorized users to capture and decipher messages and other sensitive information.
For drivers, downloads, updates and the whole kitchen sink, check out Sprint’s support page for the Franklin U301.
What’s In The Box?
The usual suspects:
- U301 3G/4G USB Modem
- USB Extension Cable & Cradle
- Tips, Hints & Tricks Guide
- Product Safety & Warranty Guide
What’s Speed & Coverage Like?
The U301 runs on both Sprint’s 4G and 3G networks.
The speed and coverage you get will depend on whether you’re in a 3G or 4G coverage area as well as the quality of the reception of either network in that spot.
With that mini-disclaimer out there, I took the Sprint 4G U301 on a test run. While the 4G speed doesn’t beat cable internet or Verizon’s 4G network, they certainly do beat 3G speeds. Plus, with unlimited mobile broadband, it’s not a bad deal at all:
The Sprint 4G speed tests were conducted in Atlanta, GA with download speeds up to 3.53 Mbps and upload speeds up to 0.90 Mbps.
Both speeds fall within the range of what Sprint advertises (3-6 Mbps average downloading and up to 1 Mbps uploading).
While the 4G speed isn’t nearly as impressive as the Verizon 4G UML290, the difference maker is that with Sprint 4G you get unlimited mobile broadband.
As far as 4G coverage is concerned, Sprint’s repertoire is constantly growing. 3G coverage is pretty much nationwide (but is lacking in particular fringe areas).
Be sure to plug in your address before getting it.
I’ve found the 4G coverage map to be pretty accurate when purchasing my own Sprint 4G Overdrive.
Should You Get It?
As someone who’s only connection to the internet is mobile broadband, it’s extremely convenient for me to have access to multiple networks especially in bad weather.
If one unfortunately gets knocked out of commission, you’ve still got a backup connection to the internet of sorts to get working, watching Hulu or chatting on Skype.
You can do that with the U301 thanks to access to both Sprint’s 3G and 4G networks.
Finally, unlike it’s predecessor the U300, the U301 supports Macs.
While it’s the successor to the U300, there aren’t any incredibly apparent increases in utility.
It’s kinda like a car company releasing a 2012 model after the 2011 with the only difference being in the name and how it looks. Nothing much under the hood changed.
It would’ve been nice to see a microSD slot.
The Sprint U301 by Franklin Wireless is an okay card.
While its no longer available from Sprint, you can rent it for short periods of time from RovAir.
Otherwise, I’d recommend going with the Sprint 4G Overdrive.
Not only do you have access to both networks, it’s a portable mobile hotspot that lets you connect up to 5 devices and share a microSD card via WiFi if you wanted to (which works with every computer regardless of operating system).
It’s got everything the U301 has and more.
To see how the U301 matches up to other broadband cards, check out the Broadband Card Comparison.