This dongle was bought for my MacBook Pro, I take it pretty much everywhere and it is simply Internet in a plastic tube. It comes in a blue box with lots of O2 logo's on it and a small instruction manual. The box is recyclable but the dongle itself has electronics in so check with your local recycling. This has been a reliable dongle for me though so I can't see why it would need to be binned anyway.
Signal quality is usually excellent in my area, but on the train when you're moving fast it's hit and miss, sometimes it gets signal, then drops out. I'd say this is about 50% of the time, so half the journey I can load stuff and then can't. The signal lasts for a few minutes each time. Apart from that it's relatively easy to get signal just moving around like driving, or walking. It's best if yo stay still to be honest, but as a passenger in a car you can use this for most of the journey, especially if it's not fast motorway driving where you're getting lots of different transmitters every few miles.
Speed is good for 3G, where signal is near maximum you can download web pages in a couple seconds. Loading the BBC News page takes less than a second and loading YouTube videos won't be a strain. It buffers them a few minutes ahead when running some longer clips, about 10 minutes and those short documentaries, like VICE doco's and similar long running videos. At 1080p it does struggle to buffer properly on anything less than full signal and this means the video pauses unexpectedly.
To set it all up, you just need to unclip the back, insert a sim card for your plan, and buy some 3G that suits you. I personally bought the non-contract version, because then you can just use it on and off when you need it, plus you can top up extra megabytes as and when you need them. You can also extend your monthly package in advance, so you don't need to pay hideous fees if you over use your dongle. On your computer you just need to drag the connection manager off the pen drive and connect it up through that, rather than in the network settings on your computer. The drive will enter its own username and password for you, so don't be surprised if you don't know how to get in, the dongle knows for you.
This is quite a reliable dongle too, I've had mine for 6 months and it's been a pleasure, it's never broken down, glitched, and while it has sometimes lost signal, the dongle itself has found them again and done it's best to find the transmitters again.
The dongle is made from thick plastic and it's a pain to get the damn thing open but this also means it won't split or smash when you drop it, so look on the bright side, it's well built. I've never had it break or smash, but my one complaint is that it does get a little warm to touch when it's been on for more than 30 minutes. It's like a mini radiator.
Overall a great dongle, highly recommended.