2018 Best Mobile Hotspot Reviews - Top Rated Mobile Hotspot
 

Best Mobile Hotspot

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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.

Most Popular Mobile Hotspot

NETGEAR

5/5 Product Rating

This hotspot from AT&T is completely wireless and offers mobile Wi-Fi for up to 15 devices. Not that anyone will be carrying around that many, but family members can all hop on the same network. This is an incredibly fast 4G broadband network, and the battery will carry-on for almost 18 hours. The hotspot is managed with a 2.4″ clear touchscreen that is user-friendly. The cost of the Unite is surprisingly affordable, and its compact size makes it great for traveling. The only downside to this device is that the service can be a little choppy, according to other costumer reviews. If you have a great local connection, then this hotspot works perfectly, but when the connection is weak, this can be a tad in and out. All in all, it’s easy to use, as there is no software installation required, and you don’t have to sign a contract.

  • Mobile internet for up to 15 devices
  • Fast 4G service
  • 18 hour battery life
  • Easy-to-read 2.4″ touchscreen
  • Intuitive controls and user-friendly software

Best Overall Mobile Hotspot

Verizon

4.9/5Product Rating

This prepaid hotspot device from Novatel is very lightweight and easy to take on the go. The service is provided by Virgin Mobile, and allows for up to 15 devices to connect to 3G wireless at a time. You’re saving a little money when you get the Novatel MiFi 2200, but you’re unfortunately not gaining access to the faster 4G network. There’s a modest 24-hour battery life, which can be alright for some, and not quite enough for others. What’s great about the Novatel is that it’s really straight-forward and easy to use. Unless you’re doing some serious business with multiple devices using the hotspot, you most likely don’t require the heftier 4G connection. Virgin Mobile is a pretty reliable company, and the network they provide is quite secure and efficient. There’s instant access to the web once you turn the device on, and reviewers note that the connection on the Novatel is smooth and consistent.

  • Pairs with Virgin Mobile 3G Connection Plan
  • Web user interface has access to Weather and Points of Interest
  • Comes with AC charger, USB cable, battery, and carrying pouch
  • No software installation
  • Download speeds of 600 kbps – 1.4 Mbps

Best Budget Mobile Hotspot

Virgin Mobile

4.7/5 Product Rating

With all the mobile hotspots coming out on the market, the Overdrive Pro stands out for connecting to both 3G and 4G networks, dependent upon which is the best available. This is done through Sprint’s Mobile Broadband networks, and Sprint has proven to be a very reliable provider for most. Up to 5 devices can connect at a time to Overdrive’s WiFi network. It’s possible to store and carry files using the microSD slot, which can hold up to 32 GB of data. The clear LCD display allows users to see what the status of their connection is, and read any service alerts that might be flagged on the device. The Overdrive also has a great memory bank of 1 GB RAM and 2 GB Rom. This hotspot is incredibly light and travel-friendly, weighing in at 3.37 ounces. When on standby, the Overdrive will stay alive for a solid 36 hours.

  • Comes with hotspot, battery, modem, charger, USB cable, and handbook
  • Access to Sprint’s 3G and 4G networks
  • 1.7″ LCD view
  • Access for up to 5 devices
  • Shared network storage with MicroSD

Mobile Hotspot Buying Guide

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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.

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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.

Data Plan

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!

Power Source

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.

Rechargeable

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.

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