Which mobile hotspot is best?

Adventure is out there, but Wi-Fi often isn’t. If you want to explore the great outdoors while still maintaining your blog or keeping up with new episode releases, a mobile hotspot may be the right fit for you. Unlike the standard data connection provided by your smartphone, hotspots provide a WiFi connection for multiple devices. The hotspot option on your smartphone does this too, but dedicated hotspot devices produce internet for your household even when your phone is dead or you’re away from home. Both cell phone hotspots and mobile hotspot devices run off of data from your cell phone carrier. 

What to know before you buy a mobile hotspot 

Wireless carrier

Before you purchase a hotspot, consider what wireless carrier you already use. Most mobile hotspots utilize GSM networks, like AT&T and T-Mobile. Verizon and Sprint use CDMA networks, so if those are your carriers, be sure your hotspot device is compatible.

Users and devices

Most hotspots support around five devices at a time. If you have a big family or many devices that need to access the internet simultaneously, you can find models that can support up to 15 devices, but you’ll pay more for it. Consider how many devices you expect to use with your hotspot and buy one that can keep up. 

What to look for in a quality hotspot

Pay as you go

Nearly all carriers have month-to-month data plans that don’t require a contract. If you’re not sure how often you will need your hotspot or for how long, these plans may be a good option for you. If you do choose to go this route, make sure both your device and carrier support it. 

USB 3.0

Some mobile hotspots have USB ports, which allow you to plug your laptop or another device into the hotspot directly instead of connecting over wifi. Another benefit to USB 3.0 is it ensures high-speed charging for your hotspot device.  

LTE speeds

Most quality networks run off of LTE speeds, which are the fastest commonly available. But some old devices run off of 3G, which would be painfully slow for your internet needs. Double-check that your device runs off LTE before making a purchase. 

How much you can expect to spend on a hotspot

Mobile hotspots range from $50-$200, depending on the carrier and coverage. You can get what you need for a simple hotspot from AT&T or T-Mobile for $50-$100. Verizon and Sprint hotspots, which have a few more bells and whistles, are usually $100-$150. You’ll be spending $200 or more if you need a global hotspot device, meaning it works in any country. Now, you will still need to ensure that the data plan you’re using works internationally as well, but a global hotspot is worth the money for world travelers. 

Mobile hotspot FAQ

Q. Can I use a mobile hotspot as my home’s primary internet connection?

A. In short, sort of. If you only plan to connect a few devices, then a mobile hotspot is a great option, but these devices can’t run a whole home-worth of the internet. It works well as a primary internet source for full-time travelers, who probably don’t have quite as many devices that need internet anyway.

Q. Will I need to buy a new SIM card for my mobile hotspot?

A. More than likely. Subscriber Identity Module cards used to be used only for some carriers and devices, but now they’re necessary for any mobile device reliant on a carrier data plan. Though you will need to purchase a SIM card for your hotspot directly from your wireless provider to ensure connection, that buy will only cost you $20 or so. 

Q. Will a mobile hotspot get better reception than my smartphone?

A. Probably not. Mobile hotspot devices draw from the same towers as your cell phone, so your reception will typically be the same on both. If a superior connection is vital for your needs, you can purchase a booster to increase your reception. 

What’s the best mobile hotspot to buy?

Top mobile hotspot

Netgear Nighthawk M1 4G LTE

Netgear Nighthawk M1 4G LTE

What you need to know: This high-quality hotspot is reliable, versatile and fast. 

What you’ll love: Equipped with high-speed 4G LTE, connects up to 20 devices, colorful LCD, 20 hours of battery life, USB ports and Ethernet ports, this hotspot device optimized for AT&T and T-Mobile has all the bells and whistles. 

What you should consider: It is not the cheapest option, and the display isn’t a touch screen. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top mobile hotspot for the money

GlocalMe G4 Pro 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

GlocalMe G4 Pro 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

What you need to know: For travelers, this mobile hotspot will provide the fastest and most reliable connection in more than 140 countries.

What you’ll love: Utilizes 4G LTE connection to supply internet for up to 10 smart devices at once, a convenient large touchscreen and 1.1 GB global data.

What you should consider: Some users reported that the battery life could be improved.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

RoamWiFi R10 Portable 4G Mobile Hotspot

RoamWiFi R10 Portable 4G Mobile Hotspot

What you need to know: Great for travel, this global mobile hotspot offers both 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi bands.

What you’ll love: Working in more than 160 countries, this device uses a GSM network and has a push-button setup. It comes with several US data plans and 1 GB of global data and uses up to five simultaneous connections. 

What you should consider: Somewhat limited, it cannot get better than 4G/LTE and 150Mbps. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Collette Bliss writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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