Choosing a mobile hotspot 

Mobile internet can be relatively expensive, and with apps and services requiring more data, it’s easy to use it all in only a few days. You could look for public Wi-Fi, but there are many security risks to connecting to them.

But if you need to connect your laptop or any other device to the internet that doesn’t have a SIM card slot, a mobile hotspot lets you do that.

Essentially, a mobile hotspot is a personal, pocket-sized Wi-Fi router that connects to a mobile carrier’s data signal through a SIM card. Your device then connects to the hotspot for internet access.

But how do you choose which mobile hotspot is correct for you? It comes down to a few factors — mainly your connection speed and how many devices you need to connect.

Connection speed

The most common mobile data connection is 4G or LTE. All mobile networks have 4G coverage nationwide, and you can get between 5 and 12 megabits per second (Mbps) — enough for general online work and streaming. 

While 5G is the latest mobile data connection, plenty of areas in the U.S. still don’t have coverage. However, 5G is significantly faster than 4G, and you can get speeds between 50 Mbps and 1 gigabit per second. It is on par with a household fiber connection. 

Your network carrier can also limit your connection speed, so it’s best to check what is available in your area. Also, consider that certain hotspots are only compatible with particular carriers. So, when you see an “unlocked” hotspot, you can use any carrier’s SIM card.

Number of connected devices

Depending on where you are, you might want to connect your laptop, mobile phone and tablet to the hotspot. A mobile hotspot device is limited in this capacity and determined by internal Wi-Fi technology.

Typically, a hotspot can handle 10 simultaneous devices, whereas a hotspot with the latest Wi-Fi 6 technology can accommodate up to 30 devices.

Best mobile hotspots

Top 5G mobile hotspots

Netgear Nighthawk M5 5G Mobile Hotspot

Netgear Nighthawk M5 5G Mobile Hotspot

For the blisteringly fast 5G mobile network, this hotpot lets you connect up to 32 devices simultaneously. It has a maximum data throughput of 1.8 Gbps speed and is backward compatible with 4G networks. The hotspot is unlocked, meaning you aren’t limited to a mobile provider. It has a 2-inch display to keep track of your connection and data usage, and the rechargeable battery can last up to 13 hours on a single charge.

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Inseego M2000 5G MIFI Wi-Fi 6

Inseego M2000 5G MIFI Wi-Fi 6

This mobile hotspot uses the latest Wi-Fi 6 technology, letting you connect up to 30 devices. While its primary function is the 5G connection, it can also use the 4G network as a backup. It has a 2.4-inch color touchscreen on the front to manage your data usage. The battery can last for several hours, and you recharge it through a standard USB cable. The device’s management options include hacker prevention, password protection and a VPN passthrough for discreet browsing.

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Top 4G mobile hotspots

Netgear Nighthawk M1 Mobile Hotspot

Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 Mobile Hotspot

Even though it doesn’t use Wi-Fi 6 technology, you can still connect up to 20 devices on this mobile hotspot. It is AT&T GSM unlocked. Through 4G, you’ll reach download speeds of up to 1 Gbps, although it might vary depending on coverage. It has two USB ports to share data with any connected devices, and there’s an Ethernet connection to use the hotspot as a Wi-Fi router. It’s easy to manage data usage on its 4-inch screen, and the built-in battery can last all day.

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TP-Link AC750 Wireless Portable Nano Travel Router

TP-Link AC750 Wireless Portable Nano Travel Router

If you have a mobile data dongle but want to share the connection with a few devices, this travel router is an excellent choice. It lets you plug in a 3G or 4G dongle through the USB port and then serves as a mobile router. Drawing power from your laptop, power bank or a wall adapter, it features dual-band technology so that devices can connect through 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz frequencies. A switch on the side allows you to select different modes for sharing the mobile data connection or the Ethernet data.

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Huawei E5576-320 Unlocked Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot

Huawei E5576-320 Unlocked Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot

This mobile hotspot is relatively simple to use, as it only has a slot on the side for a 4G SIM card. While there is no display on the front, it has a large power button for easy operation. There is an indicator light to show the battery status, another for the mobile signal strength and one for any text messages from your network provider. You can connect up to 16 different devices to it, which should be enough for the average user. It’s easy to charge the built-in battery through a USB cable, and it comes unlocked, meaning that it will work on any network worldwide.

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Alcatel LINKZONE Mobile 4G

Alcatel LINKZONE Mobile 4G

This mobile hotspot is compatible with 4G and LTE networks with a built-in battery that lasts around six hours. You can connect up to 15 devices simultaneously, and there are several indicator lights to check your connection speed, Wi-Fi status and battery level. In addition, you can download the dedicated mobile app for managing your data usage and connections.

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Top mobile hotspots for 10 devices

Verizon MiFi 6620L Jetpack

Verizon MiFi 6620L Jetpack

Compatible with the Verizon network, this mobile hotspot allows 10 simultaneous connections. Providing around 20 hours of operating time, the built-in battery can be charged through a USB cable. It has a color display to manage data usage, connection speed and passwords, and selections through three buttons on the front. The hotspot can fall back to a 3G connection if you don’t have 4G coverage.

Sold by Amazon

ZTE Velocity Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot

ZTE Velocity Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot

The unlocked mobile hotspot is compatible with any 4G network as long as the connection is through a micro SIM card. It has dual-band technology, so up to 10 devices can connect through 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz frequencies. The built-in battery lets you stay connected for up to 10 hours. In standby mode, it can last up to 250 hours. It has a large color screen where you can manage your connections and easily see how much data you have used.

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Macaroon Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot

Macaroon Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot

If you need mobile data in a hurry, this Wi-Fi hotspot comes with 5GB of data for use in the U.S. You can buy more through the hotspot’s mobile app when it’s finished. Even though there is no SIM card inside, it lets you connect to 4G networks globally. The built-in battery can last for around 10 hours. A maximum of 10 devices can connect to the hotspot simultaneously. A simple display on the front keeps track of your connection and data usage.

Sold by Amazon

 

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

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