AccessoriesFeatures

Quick look: AT&T USBConnect Mercury 3G modem

Usbconnect_mercury

The USBConnect Mercuryir?t=pocketables 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B001F51LNE - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here is AT&T’s newest and smallest broadband USB modem. In addition to its size, what makes the Mercury unique are its integrated microSD card slot and plug-and-play software installation.

Released in September and often available for free with a two-year $60/month DataConnect contract, the modem has recently begun to show up new or used (but always contract-free) on eBay. That’s where I picked mine up in brand new, still sealed-in-box condition a few days ago.

If you’re looking for something portable, versatile, and HSPA-flavored to accessorize your UMPC, netbook, and/or the Aigo MID you could win (and hack), then the USBConnect Mercury could be the end of your search. Have a look below.

The reason I bought the Mercury when I already have the Option GT Max 3.6 Express is an obvious one: more devices have USB ports than ExpressCard slots. Simply put, I wanted a single accessory that would provide 3G connectivity to more than just my Vaio TZ and Kohjinsha SC3 (the HP 2133 has an ExpressCard slot, too, but it doesn’t get along with the modem).

And the Mercury is it.

There isn’t much to say that isn’t conveyed below, so I’ll let the following photos speak for themselves.

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Usbconnect_mercury_contents

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Usbconnect_mercury_ant

Usbconnect_mercury_cap

Usbconnect_mercury_usb

Usbconnect_mercury_slot1

Usbconnect_mercury_slot2

Usbconnect_mercury_sim

One thing I should mention here is that the Mercury will only self-install the required AT&T Communication Manager (ACM) software if you don’t already have it installed. If you do, make sure you uninstall it before plugging in the modem for the first time. Otherwise, you’ll get a series of "cannot find driver software" messages that will turn the Mercury into an overprized microSD card reader. Having an existing copy of ACM installed will also make the modem unable to switch between its two modes (software installation and modem).

Provided that your computer is ACM-free, the drivers will be installed in seconds and the software wizard will follow shortly after.

Usbconnect_mercury_comp

Usbconnect_mercury_ec1

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Usbconnect_mercury_ec3

AT&T’s 3G network typically tops out at 1.7Mbps down/1.2Mbps up and shouldn’t be slower than 700kbps down/500kbps up, but actual speeds tend to vary by location and other factors.

Usbconnect_mercury_shift

Even though the Mercury sticks out about 2.5 inches from whatever it’s plugged into, which is farther than the ExpressCard (as shown above), it’s still one of the best accessory purchases I’ve ever made.

Now if only I could get it working with the CradlePoint CTR500 travel router. Orbital?

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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18 thoughts on “Quick look: AT&T USBConnect Mercury 3G modem

  • Avatar of citivolus

    Jenn, have you tried this with your Archos dock? I guess they need to release the 3G drivers first.

    Reply
  • Avatar of orbitalcomp

    Jenn, it’s still not working? I better watch my back, I hear you coming after me…if anyone needs me, I’ll be hiding…somewhere…

    Are you using a GoPhone SIM or the iPhone SIM? Maybe it has something to do with the data plan, that’s the only thing I can think of right now.

    On another note – you can get one of those 360-degree swivel USB adapters and have the Mercury parallel down the side of whatever device you are using, instead of sticking straight out the side. But it really doesn’t look like it sticks out much more than the Ex/34 card, since they usually don’t go in all the way anyways.

    Reply
  • Nice that you finally got one! I cant stand stuff that stick out that much myself, I prefer using a cable. I dont get why people dont make angled USB stick – imagine how useful ex a pendrive would be if it was angled to go along the side of a notebook so you could actually leave it in there.

    Reply
  • @ citivolus: Yeah, even though the 3G plug-in isn’t out yet, I tried plugging it in anyway. The Archos recognized that a USB device was attached but didn’t do anything with/about it. I didn’t have a microSD card inserted at the time, but I suppose it would just see it as a card reader if I did.

    I’m wondering how the plug-in (whenever it becomes available) is going to work because AT&T’s modems require software.

    @ orbital: I’m charging my heat-seeking device now and will be programming your vital stats into it before heading your way. ;-)

    Kidding aside, I’m getting the “attached WAN device could not be found” error message with both the GoPhone and iPhone SIMs. How can the router work when the Mercury needs software to run correctly?

    I had no idea those adapters even existed. Thank! I’ll turn my heat-seeker down a notch now. :-)

    Reply
  • @ Cptn: You can make something better-looking than this! [Link]

    Reply
  • Avatar of orbitalcomp

    @Jenn – This has me baffled now…I’ll try and get by an AT&T store in the next few days and see if they have an activated Mercury that I can plug in to my PHS300, to see what happens. Surely the router doesn’t only work with cards that have a $60+ data plan?

    And yes, that is the USB adapter I was talking about…

    Reply
  • Jenn, did the drivers for the modem install? If they did then setup a dail up connection to see if its something with the software or the modem driver. In Vista I just go to connect to a network which is the small icon by the clock. Then I choose set up a connection or network> Set up a dial-up connection> then you should see the Mercury modem in the list and just choose that.

    Reply
  • @ HG: Did you do that to get a USB modem working with this particular router?

    I’m not having any trouble getting the modem to work on a computer (after I deleted ACM from two of my machines, driver/software installation was a breeze). It’s basically plug-and-play on those after the initial setup.

    It’s the router that doesn’t recognize or know what to do with the Mercury. A part of me doesn’t understand how it would, though, because the necessary drivers/software can’t be installed on the router itself (the computers connect to the router over WiFi). Very puzzling.

    Reply
  • does the mercury work with desktop computers. I just ordered one and I did not think about this until after I placed the order. I have laptop also.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Devon

    Can this be used for a PS3?

    Reply
  • what is the difference between the Mercury and the Quicksilver????

    Reply
  • Avatar of NotesDOGG

    Jen,
    I have a question for you about buying a AT&T USB card via E-Bay so taht you aren’t under a contract. Am I so assume that you are saying that AT&T allows you to go month to month? I would think that AT&T would still require you to sign a 2 year commitment even if you brought your own USB modem to them.

    Can you give me more details on your billing and how that works

    Thanks

    NotesDOGG

    Reply
  • I didn’t buy it directly from ATT, so it didn’t come with a contract or an activated SIM. All I do is put an already activated SIM with a data plan into the modem when I want to use it.

    Reply
  • how the hell do these things work? do i need to subscribe to a plan like a i would a cell phone?

    Reply
  • Avatar of Lillian

    I installed this into my Toshiba laptop, but alas it won’t connect to “GSM” as it is said to be in the AT&T Communication Manager. Any help? It hasn’t connected yet, and I have had it for three weeks!

    Reply

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