Best Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot
Would it not be nice if you had access to the internet at virtually all times? While even the best Wi-Fi hotspotswill not provide internet at all times as they still need to tap into cellular networks and must have a strong enough signal from them, these devices can provide you with much-needed internet access on-the-go.
However, we know what some of you are thinking about. “I can just tether to my phone and gain internet access so why would I need a dedicated device for it?” Well, it depends on your usage, quite frankly. Admittedly, not all of you will require this type of device but for those of you who really do not want to tether to your smartphone, it can do wonders for you. But, you need to learn how to buy one and that is exactly what you will learn to do today.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 9 hrs of research
The performance is great
It is business and travel ready
Designed with enhanced security
OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE BEST PORTABLE WI-FI HOTSPOTS
1. NETGEAR NIGHTHAWK M1
The performance is great
It is business and travel ready
Designed with enhanced security
A few have claimed the battery life is not the best
If you are not looking to mess around and want the model with the best performance possible then you may want to consider the Nighthawk M1. It is costly but can be worth it for the right users.Read more
This is notable for being advertised as the very first commercial LTE portable router to actually achieve maximum download speeds of one gigabit per second.
There is no reason to worry about the security of your connection as this device provides Wi-Fi that is password protected. Of course, you can also allow guest access if you wanted to.
The Nighthawk M1 is a device that requires a SIM card for functionality. With any carrier that offers “bring your own device” plans, this is going to be compatible.
To save on your mobile data, this is equipped with an Ethernet port when you have access to a physical modem. Additionally, up to 20 devices can be connected at the same time and this can also be utilized as a power bank.
Now, even though the integrated battery is far from small (5040 mAh is its capacity), there have been a few users who have criticized the long-lasting capabilities of the battery.
Not everyone out there is going to require the performance of a device such as this. However, if you do, then you may not find a more compelling option on the market.
2. KUWFI 4G
Sports a private connection
Up to 10 wireless devices can be connected
It is unlocked
The battery capacity is pretty limited
This portable wi-fi is actually pretty standard stuff but from an overall perspective, it is about as good as it gets. The battery capacity is not massive, admittedly, but this can access 4G networks.Read more
As the title of this device suggests, this can tap into 4G cellular networks. When doing so, you will then be provided with high-speed internet access.
No matter where you are in the world, this is going to provide you with a secure and private connection to the internet.
Due to the fact that this is an unlocked device, it can be used all over the world. But, it will require the use of a compatible SIM card.
At any given time, you can connect up to 10 gadgets simultaneously with this model. Yet, be aware that the more of these you have connected, the slower the internet speed will be as more bandwidth will be used.
As alluded to, the integrated battery is not the largest. It sports a capacity of 2300 mAh and it can last for right around six to nine hours on a single charge.
You know, this is probably not going to blow you away as it is not the flashiest model on the market. Then again, it excels in its performance and that really is the most important factor.
3. GLOCALME U2
It can also work as a traditional unlocked model
You do not have to pay for a contract
Sports great security
Not the best for use in the United States for LTE networks
GlocalMe has designed some very unique portable wi-fi hotspot and their U2 is one of them. It is powered by Cloud Sim technology and, in short, it means that SIM cards are not going to be required.Read more
Based on the specifications, the U2 will have no issues delivering you high-speed internet. Of course, this all depends on if it can gain access to 4G networks (if so, download speeds of up to 150 megabits per second can be achieved).
As with most of these gadgets on the market, the U2 is designed with excellent security to ensure that your connection to the internet is private.
Indeed, this is SIM free and powered by Cloud Sim technology. Instead of being on a contract or paying for roaming fees, you merely pay for the exact data that you use. Oh, and one gigabyte of data is provided to you for free. Of course, with its SIM card slots, this can also be used as a traditional unlocked device.
This is a bit limited in the fact it can only allow up to five devices to be connected at once.
On a single charge (assuming the battery is fully charged, of course), this can last up to 13 hours before needing to be charged again.
It is important to note that one specific buyer reported that this is not compatible with AT&T LTE networks. This could be a game changer because as for everything else, this is rock solid.
4. NETGEAR UNITE 770S
Designed with a USB 3.0 charging port
It is unlocked
Sports a touchscreen interface
It will not work on Verizon or Sprint
Some users have complained about the performance
This is one of many models on the market that is unlocked. Basically, this is going to be compatible with GSM carriers. Of course, it is noted that this is not compatible with Verizon or Sprint.Read more
In spite of the fact that some previous users have complained about the overall performance of the Unite 770S, it can access 4G networks to achieve fast internet speeds.
To enhance your security if you wanted to access online banking accounts and other private information, you could always use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). But, the security here is good.
Indeed, this is an unlocked device that requires the use of a SIM card. It is worth noting, also, that it is specifically mentioned that this will not work with Verizon or Sprint.
One of the best features of the Unite is that it sports a touchscreen interface which displays vital information for you. Of course, the touchscreen itself could have improved sensitivity.
Besides the 4300 mAh battery that is rated to last up to 22 hours, this is also equipped with a USB 3.0 charging port (a major step up from a 2.0 port).
Without question, this is one of the best portable Wi-Fi you can get your hands on, period. It will not work with Verizon or Sprint, however, so do keep that in mind.
5. HUAWEI E5885
The 6400 mAh battery is massive
Up to 32 devices can be connected
Small enough to fit in pockets
An onscreen interface would have been nice
Not ideal for use in the United States
For those of you who are looking for a model that is optimized for use outside of the United States, this could be your ticket. It can still work in the United States but LTE networks are not available.Read more
The reason this is optimized for other countries is that LTE networks can be accessed in them (for Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East). But, in other countries, only 3G networks will be accessed. Oh, and this will switch to Wi-Fi in areas with a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Again, you could always use a VPN for enhanced security but the security of the E5885 is still competent.
Yes, this requires a SIM card but it is noted in the product description that Verizon and Sprint are not compatible. Also, as mentioned, this is not compatible with 4G LTE in the United States.
This truly is a multifunctional device as it is equipped with protected and hidden ports (such as an Ethernet port), can allow up to 32 devices to be connected at the same time, and can function as a power bank.
Yeah, the 6400 mAh battery is quite massive. All in all, it can last for up to 25 hours. Oh, and this skyrockets to 1600 hours when in standby mode.
If you are in an appropriate area of the world, this gadget can work wonders for you. It is limited in its performance in the United States, though, which could be a problem for some of you.
6. GLOCALME G3
Features a 5350 mAh battery
It can also function as an unlocked device
It can also be used as a power bank
Some sort of battery life indicator should have been implemented
One user noted their coverage was quite spotty outside of major European cities
The G3 is another wi-fi hotspot portable from GlocalMe and it also is designed with Cloud SIM technology. Though some extra features would have been nice, the G3 is impressive overall.Read more
This is another model that can access 4G networks and, when doing so, can provide download speeds of up to 150 megabits per second. Then again, one reviewer mentioned that the G3 did not have the best coverage outside of major European cities.
To your connection safe, the G3 utilizes an advanced security protocol. This ensures that your connection is private.
Much like their U2, the G3 is also powered by Cloud SIM technology. GlocalMe offers different types of data plans so be sure to check them out. Oh, this can also work as an unlocked model with its SIM card slots.
As with so many others, this can be used as a power bank and can allow up to five devices to be connected simultaneously. Of course, some additional features (such as a battery life indicator) would have been nice.
With the equipped 5350 mAh battery, you will be able to utilize this for up to 15 hours on a single, full charge.
As opposed to the U2, this is actually designed with an onscreen interface which some of you will appreciate. And, while it is limited in some areas, it is a nice SIM-free option.
7. SKYROAM SOLIS
Designed with a long-lasting battery
Your connection is encrypted
It can also be used as a power bank
Unlimited LTE is not offered
No screen is equipped
To say this is a bit different is an understatement as it utilizes unique virtual SIM technology. The data packages are offered straight from the manufacturer so do be aware of that.Read more
Even though this does use LTE networks, the data plan offered is not for unlimited LTE. After you use 500 megabytes of data within 24 hours, though, the speed will plummet to 2G.
For all your devices, the connection will be encrypted to ease your mind.
Yep, Skyroam provides you with their own data plans as their tethering is powered with their virtual SIM technology. They have different plans available so you do not have to settle on just one.
This lacks a built-in interface which is a bit of an annoyance. However, it can function as a power bank and does allow up to five devices to be connected.
Arguably the most impressive feature of this device is its battery life. With a 6000 mAh built-in battery, it can last over 16 hours on a full charge.
If you know for a fact that you are a data hog, you will want to steer clear of this option as 2G speeds are literally awful. This option is better suited for those who enjoy accessing the internet casually.
8. NOVATEL JETPACK 7730L
Sports an onscreen interface
You can manage your passwords and settings
This comes with a SIM card installed
The battery has been known to swell up
In spite of the fact that some previous users have noticed their battery swell up on their Jetpack 7730L, this model is all about speed and performance for the pickiest of users.Read more
For the record, this will access 4G networks when they are in range (which will provide high-speed internet). However, it will switch to 3G networks when the single strength is not potent enough.
Directly from the device and the built-in interface, you can manage the Wi-Fi settings and passwords to enhance the security.
Some users have noted that their device did not come with a pre-installed SIM card and that is probably because only certain sellers provide you with one. Still, no matter, a compatible SIM card is required.
In addition to the built-in interface that was already alluded to, this also has the capability of charging some of your external devices.
The battery life is great (rated to last up to 24 hours). However, it has been known to swell up and, clearly, this then turns into quite the issue.
If not for the various claims about the battery swelling up, the Jetpack 7730L could have topped this list. The good news, however, is this issue has not happened to every single buyer.
9. ZTE VELOCITY 2
It can roam on LTE networks in many foreign countries
Provides 10 hours of streaming off its battery
Delivers secure connectivity
Several buyers have noted that this is not unlocked
For whatever reason, this is advertised as an unlocked model yet several buyers have noted this is not unlocked. If it works for you, though, you will surely enjoy the speed and performance of the Velocity.Read more
The Velocity can tap into 4G cellular networks and that means it can provide suitable internet speeds for you.
In addition to the fact that this is password protected, it offers a PIN screen lock for additional security. Oh, and you can even set up a guest network which is really nice.
Here is where the controversy is at. Several previous buyers have claimed that their Velocity is not unlocked and that it will only work with AT&T because of it. But, you see, it is claimed in the product description that this can work with any GSM network.
Thanks to the single-core Qualcomm processor, this can allow up to 10 devices to be connected at the same time.
When streaming at LTE speeds, you should expect this to last right around 10 hours if the battery is fully charged.
In spite of the massive controversy, the Velocity really is a well-designed portable Wi-Fi device. You should just ensure that you are an AT&T user to use this, though.
10. KUWFI 3G
Can function as a power bank
It does work with SIM cards
It is very easy to travel with
The speed is slow
As you will notice right away, this does not access 4G cellular networks. For this reason, most of you will not be appealed to this. However, if you want a more affordable option and do not mind sacrificing speed then this option may be for you.Read more
Let’s just say that the speed of this model is limited. As mentioned, it can only access 3G speeds so that is why.
Just to be safe, when you are accessing online banking information or anything like that, download a VPN to your smartphone or laptop with this model.
This is technically classified as a smart router but it is noted that it will function with SIM cards (they need to be compatible, though).
The built-in battery can also be used to provide juice to some of your other devices. Additionally, up to five devices can connect to this at any given time.
With a rated battery life of eight hours, you may find yourself charging this more often than not.
Some of you may question why this wifi is even on this list. Look, some of you may only need a very basic and simple option. And, this is it right here.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
This is all about the speed ladies and gentlemen. Some of you will not want slow internet speeds, period.
It was alluded to at the beginning of this guide but portable Wi-Fi are devices that tap into cellular networks across the world. As of this writing, the most popular network is 4G but, for the record, 5G networks do exist (but we will talk about that a bit later). Anyway, if you want suitable internet speeds to perform any sort of web surfing, video watching, or online gaming then you will probably want and need 4G speeds. When compared to 3G speeds, they are 20 times faster as 4G networks can produce real-world download speeds of up to 60 megabits per second (which is what you will get from most high-end broadband connections).
Then again, even with wifi devices that tap into these networks, 4G speeds may not always be available as it does depend on the area that you are currently in. Remember, these products need to communicate with cellular networks and if the strength is not potent enough, they will not deliver optimal speeds for you. Now, back to 5G, this technology is really still quite new so you will not see too many (if any) wifi hotspot implement it. But, for the record, 5G speeds are vastly superior to 4G speeds (which is saying something).
Thankfully, most units out there will come with solid security. But, there are still some factors to keep in mind.
This section is a bit complicated if you know nothing about internet security. But, we will try to break it down so it makes sense to everyone. Okay, so, the good news is most modern hotspot devices will come with solid security.
However, there are several features that you need to look for (most of them will have them, for the record) to enable you to enhance the security of your device. For starters, you will want to ensure that the most secure encryption strength is selected. This is going to be WPA2, for the record, as you will want to avoid others such as WEP (as this is not very secure). Secondly, ensure that the device you pick will allow you to change the default SSID and password (again, most of them will).
The default SSID refers to the name of the network. You can change this to anything (such as “Your Name’s Network”) but try to avoid common words. As for the password, the longer and more complicated the better. Now, another feature you may want to look for (and not all of them will allow you to do this) is to enable port filtering. Basically, this allows you to disable certain services that you have no need for.
Basically, you can get models with or without SIM cards. There is more too it but this is the basis.
The previous two sections are vital; there is no question about that. Yet, you could argue that this is the most important section in this entire guide. The reality is, no matter how you slice it, gaining access to the internet is not free and will never involve one fixed price. This means that not only will you need to pay the base price for your hotspot but also the data plan that you end up choosing. Now, portable Wi-Fi are either going to require a SIM card or they will be designed with some sort of built-in SIM technology. If you choose one that needs a SIM card, you need to keep a few factors in mind.
Firstly, there are both unlocked and locked models. Unless you want to be stuck using the carrier that sells the hotspot (which is what locked models are limited to) you will want to opt for unlocked models. You see, those that are unlocked are not limited to what carriers you use. However, not all SIM cards will be compatible with them, either, so keep that in mind. Or, you can just go with those that use SIM technology. With these, you are at the mercy of the manufacturer’s pricing (unless they also come with SIM card slots). Then again, these will typically not include contracts or roaming fees, which is a bonus.
There are actually quite a few features to keep your eye out on.
There are actually quite a few features to cover here so let’s not waste any time. For starters, though this is not mandatory, some wifi hotspots portable on the market will be equipped with an Ethernet port. If you ever have access to a physical modem then you could, in theory, use an Ethernet cable to connect your device to the modem and utilize it as a router. This could save your mobile data a little bit. But, a more prominent feature that more of you may be interested in is assessing how many devices a particular model can allow connectivity too simultaneously. Some models on the market will only allow five while others will allow upward of 20 devices to be connected at once. But, you need to be careful here as you need to take the bandwidth into consideration.
The more devices there are transferring data, the slower the internet speed is going to be. With 20 users on your wifi portable at once, the speed is going to drastically plummet. Moving on, what about the interface? Not all models out there will sport built-in touchscreen interfaces but those that do will make certain things such as troubleshooting, adjusting network settings, and viewing data usage easier. Oh, and some units will even be able to function as power banks to power your external devices.
The last thing you want is for the battery to run out on the road, right?
When you are traveling, you will not always possess the means to charge your Wi-Fi portable. This means that an important factor to take into the fold is battery life. Now, with any battery out there, it will be measured in either Ah (ampere-hours) or mAh (milliamp hours). For these devices specifically, you will see them typically measured in the latter. Anyway, these units of measurement are used to describe how much energy a battery can store at any given time.
The more energy a battery can store, the more capable it will be. Most models on the market will equip batteries anywhere from 2000 mAh to 7000 mAh in capacity. But, you still need to glance at the rated times they can last on a full charge as outside factors will come into play. Some will only last six hours while others can last upward of 24 hours.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Depending on your patience level and what you need the internet for, you may settle for nothing less than a model that provides you with high-speed internet access. This is important now because you can’t just automatically assume that the model you pick will be able to tap into 4G networks. And, if you want consistently high speeds then you better settle for nothing less than 4G.
You just do not want to mess around with internet security. Part of the reason why accessing public Wi-Fi networks (without the use of a VPN) can be dangerous is because your connection is not private. That is, thankfully, not going to be an issue with mobile hotspots. Yet, the model you go with should still come with a strong amount of customization so you can enhance the security even more so.
Do not end up putting yourself into a predicament because you can if you ignore this section. The reality is you can buy models that require SIM cards or those that are designed with implemented SIM technology. No matter which way you go, though, some sort of fees will need to be paid. After all, there is no way to get around the fact that you will need to pay additional costs with this type of device.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What is the difference between 4G and LTE?
To clear the air, 4G and LTE are not the same things but they are quite similar. You will often see LTE described as 4G LTE but this is actually not the same as straight up 4G. However, the difference is somewhat irrelevant as the average consumer is probably not going to tell any difference with the download speeds. They both are good so just know that.
q: Is it the same with a router?
This device is actually very different from a traditional wireless router. As opposed to a router which connects to a modem to deliver wireless internet to nearby devices, portable Wi-Fi taps into cellular networks to provide you internet access on-the-go. About the only similarity between the two devices is the fact that they both provide wireless internet access.
q: Why would I use portable wi-fi hotspot when I have a smartphone?
We have mentioned this at the beginning and it certainly is one of the most compelling questions out there. So, let’s break down some of the reasons why you would not want to use your smartphone for tethering. For starters, using your smartphone as such can extensively drain your phone’s battery fast. Secondly, it limits the versatility and range you have. And, lastly, it can become a data hog.
q: So, how is it different from ExpressCards and PC Cards?
For the record, ExpressCards and PC Cards are basically interfaces that can be used to connect peripheral devices to a computer. They also will require a physical connection and can only be used for one computer at a time. Boy, that pretty much answers the question right there, does it not?
q: Can you get a plan with unlimited data?
Yes, there should be carriers out there who offer unlimited data plans with their SIM cards. However, you will just have to perform some research to find out. The reality is some carriers will provide plans that place a data cap on you. If you plan to eat through data, clearly, you can’t have this. Again, though, it all depends on the carrier you are dealing with and the plans that they offer.
q: How can you check your current monthly usage?
Well, if you buy a model that sports a built-in interface then, chances are, you will be able to clearly see how much data you have left and how much you have used for the current month. This is a bit trickier for other models, though. Most likely, you will simply need to access your billing page of the carrier you are using. For the record, this will typically not be a complex process.