So today, after dropping by the Colorado Mills Which Wich, I picked up a T-Mobile webConnect Rocket 3.0 (or ZTE MF683, if you’re going by device manufacturer and model number) , currently the only 42Mbps HSPA+ device available in the US. I’ll be writing a full review of the device, along with a head-to-head comparison versus T-Mobile’s original webConnect Rocket, here.

First off, I’ll state my conditions: 3-4 bars of HSPA+ signal, from a tower which got its backhaul upgraded a few weeks ago from 1.5M down and 600K to 5-8x that. My primary testing location is in Golden, CO, right next to Colorado School of Mines. T-Mobile’s service may be better or worse depending on your location, so take that into account when deciding whether to get T-Mobile service for your own use. Other standard disclaimers apply.

For what it’s worth, the folks at the T-Mobile store swapped my old SIM (a few months old) for a new, identical-looking one when I bought the Rocket. Something about SIM swaps solving issues that other people had when coming into the store with their smartphones. Also for what it’s worth, I’m running my tests from T-Mobile’s first no-overages plan: 5GB of data at top speed for $40 per month, throttled speeds thereafter.

I’ll be uploading pics of the Rocket, including what’s in the box and size comparisons with the older Rocket, shortly. But for now I’m laying off any uploads, since roommates are playing Call of Duty on my primary connection, a 20Mbit down, 2Mbit up Comcast residential connection.

Speaking of Call of Duty (specifically Black Ops on a PlayStation 3 slim), said roommate humored me when I asked him to switch from using my Comcast to my T-Mobile connection, routed from the Rocket 3.0 to Ethernet by my last-generation MacBook Pro (2GHz Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM, nVidia 9400M GPU) running Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard). He said that the connection was in the middle of the pack; he could tell that there was more latency than on the hard line, however the game was still very playable (knife kills included), a shining endorsement given the fact that Call of Duty is a first person shooter, and given the fact that I wasn’t using a dedicated mobile router to connect him to the web.

As far as raw latency goes, 1000 pings to (the host of this site, based out of Denver in a well-connected data center) yielded the following details:

Minimum: 20.158 ms
Mean: 35.795 ms (many oings were in the 26-30ms range)
Max: 159.438 ms (only a couple of pings went this high)
Standard Deviation (Jitter): 14.855 ms (without outliers, this would’ve been a few ms lower)
Packet loss: 0% (that’s right, zero)

In comparison, the typical Qwest DSL connection around here runs between 24 and 46 ms to the same location, with a few milliseconds of jitter. Comcast bottoms out at around 10 ms, but averages 15-20 (jitter is 5-10 ms). Those are wireline connections. This is wireless service…based off of a cell tower. Pretty darned impressive, though in all fairness I started pinging shortly after 1:30 am…not exactly peak hours for traffic. Ping tests were done on my MacBook, which appears to perform better with the Rocket than either my IdeaPad U330 on Windows 7 or my friend’s nine-year-old ThinkPad T23 running Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal).

Next up, photos…

P.S. Comment with what paces you’d like me to put this device through. I don’t have enough data left on my plan to watch a full Netflix movie on it (in addition to other testing), but most everything short of that is doable.