Cutting the Cord

Novatel's new wireless modem is the cheapest on the market. But how well does it work?

I fell in love with the Merlin wireless modem the first time I saw a picture of one in an ad. It is so adorable. The modem is built into one of those PCMCIA cards that fit into a credit-card-size slot on a laptop computer; a teeny, 2-in. antenna--so cute!--pops up to send and receive data at 19.2 kbps. That's a fairly pedestrian speed, but if it meant I could do e-mail and even browse the Web while riding the Long Island Rail Road, I'd happily put up with it. Imagine all the cool things I could do, unbound from the...

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