Mobile Hotspot Reviews
Mobile hotspots are a huge draw because they allow users to bring their internet connection with them wherever they go, keeping them connected on multiple devices at the same time. However, not all mobile hotspots are created equal, and in fact, most services in the past were quite expensive. But thanks to the proliferation of 4G devices on the market, hotspots are not just for businessmen and the wealthy anymore. More plans are coming out of the woodwork that are affordable to the average Joe. But there certainly are a lot of options to choose from, dependent upon how many devices you want to have connected and how much data you need on the go. Service providers are beginning to realizes that one size doesn’t fit all, and they’re doing their best to custom-design hotspots to fit the needs of different people.
Mobile Hotspot Buying Guide
A pocket Wifi hotspot device, or mobile hotspot device as it’s sometimes referred to as, is a small, portable router which provides WiFi hotspot capability for connecting to the internet on the go. When connected to an internet source, the device allows other devices to share its WiFi connection.
Most popular mobile WiFi devices are about the same length and width as a credit card – hence the term “pocket”. Depending on how much you’re willing to spend, you can buy an inexpensive device with few functions, or a more expensive, full-featured type. Many of the inexpensive devices are able to share the internet with at least a couple of devices.
Types of Mobile WiFi Devices
Portable WiFi hotspot devices are usually classified into the following three categories:
- SIM based
- USB datacard/modem
- USB datacard with WiFi hotspot capability
SIM Based Portable WiFi Hotspot Devices
With a SIM based device, a separate SIM card must be purchased from an internet provider and inserted into the mobile WiFi router. Once the SIM has been inserted, the router is connected to a computer using a USB cable. The device is configured to establish a connection to the service provider via the SIM card. When the connection has been set, you can disconnect the device and use it as a wireless router. The portable WiFi router provides both modem and WiFi hotspot capabilities.
USB Datacard/Modem Hotspot Devices
Some portable WiFi hotspot devices require a data card, or dongle, to connect to the internet. The USB datacard plugs into the pocket WiFi hotspot device, which is then turned on to establish a connection with the internet. In order to set up the device, you’ll need to connect the router to your computer and bring up the admin panel in your web browser. USB datacard/modem WiFi hotspot devices don’t have an internal modem. Instead, they rely on the datacard to make a connection with the service provider.
USB Datacard with WiFi Hotspot Devices
There are a few datacards that include a built-in WiFi hotspot option. This eliminates the need to purchase a second device to share your internet connection. A single USB datacard/dongle, can provide both internet and WiFi, saving you money.
Which Type is Best?
While they may vary in appearance and features, all of the mobile WiFi hotspot devices provide the same basic function: to connect to and share an internet connection using a SIM or datacard. In some cases, however, datacards are only able to be used with a particular service provider, limiting your choice of plans. With A SIM based WiFi hotspot device, you can easily replace the SIM and use the device to connect to another service provider. If you travel frequently, A SIM based portable WiFi router provides several advantages:
- Their small, compact size makes them easy to carry in a pocket or bag.
- The SIM can be replaced anytime with a supported SIM from any other service provider. Unlike USB datacards, which are locked to the service of a particular provider
- SIM based devices let you connect to internet services from other providers when traveling overseas
- Unlike USB datacard devices, they don’t need to be connected to a computer. You can plug it into any A/C power source and enjoy a wireless internet connection anywhere you are.
- While they are slightly bigger than USB datacard devices, the rectangular shape of SIM based devices makes them easier to handle.
There are a few advantages to having a USB dongle device, however. Since so many people use them, it’s easy to borrow one if you ever want to connect your device to share their internet connection. Borrowing a SIM card to use with your device may prove a little more difficult.
Features to Consider When Buying a Mobile WiFi hotpot device
Locked vs Unlocked
One of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a portable WiFi hotspot device is whether or not it is locked to a particular service provider. If the device is cheap, chances are it isn’t transferable. A locked device won’t work on any other carrier’s service. If cost-efficiency is a factor for you, consider an unlocked device, which will allow you the freedom to change providers whenever you want.
Number of Devices that Can be Connected at One Time
Check to make sure the device offers a sufficient number of connections by other devices. Most portable WiFi router devices allow up to five connections, which may seem like a lot. If you have a large family, however, or plan on using it at work, you may need a device that allows more connections.
Shop around to make sure you’re getting the best data plan. Does the service provider charge a lot of money for their plans? Do they have prepaid and postpaid plans? Some providers will offer the device cheap but lock you into an expensive service contract to use it. Read the fine print!
Many devices can be connected to multiple power sources, including USB and A/C power. A device that allows both types of connections will give you more options when traveling.
Some portable WiFi hotspot routers have a rechargeable battery. This can be especially handy for travel; you can take the fully-charged device anywhere and access the internet without the need for any other power source. This is great for long car and train rides (so long as you make sure the battery is fully charged beforehand!).
Mobile hotspot devices with WiFi capabilities are an inexpensive, portable option for connecting to and sharing the internet. If you’d like to be able to get online anywhere you go, a portable WiFi hotspot router is the device you need.