Portable wi-fi hotspot: T-Mobile Inseego MiFi X PRO 5G (M3000) Review

Mobile Hotspots: 5G, 4G LTE – Portable WiFi Devices

What is a Mobile WiFi Hotspot?

A mobile WiFi hotspot is a portable device, providing internet access on the go. A WiFi WiFi router or access point, connected to a cellular internet service provider. The hotspot broadcasts a signal which allows people near the device to connect their wireless enabled devices to the internet. A “Mobile Router” is a powerful WiFi Hotspot with an included Ethernet port enabling connections for local wired devices. Mobile WiFi hotspot allows you the comfort of having internet access anywhere, anytime. NETGEAR offers a range of top quality mobile WiFi solutions, including mobile hotspots, such as the Nighthawk M6 5G WiFi 6 Mobile Router which provides you with maximum flexibility and top level performance.


When is a Mobile WiFi Hotspot used?

Mobile WiFi hotspots have become immensely popular due to the comfort, security and flexibility they provide. Whether used by travelers traveling to remote locations, or as an essential security tool for business travelers, internet access is no longer merely a luxury. A mobile WiFi hotspot can eliminate the need for a cellular modem and be used as a portable router, providing fast and secure internet access when no other secure WiFi network is available. For complete peace of mind, always carry a rechargeable and compact backup battery, such as NETGEAR’s Nighthawk M6/M5 Mobile Router Add-On Battery which will ensure you never run out of power.


How to Choose a Mobile WiFi Hotspot?

When choosing a mobile WiFi hotspot, there are several factors to consider. Advanced modern cellular and WiFi capabilities such as 5G and WiFi 6. Additionally – A high quality display, providing easy visual access to important information, will make it easier for you to use your hotspot. Battery life should be considered and matched with your specific needs. Will you need 13 hours of battery life, or will 6 hours be enough? The performance level offered, including the speed and security provided are important factors when making a decision. You should take into account how many Ethernet or WiFi devices can connect to the mobile hotspot or Mobile Router, and choose one that is sufficient for your individual needs. For a better understanding of available features, see the NETGEAR Nighthawk 5G Mobile Router Features and specifications page.


How to choose a carrier for my Mobile WiFi Hotspot?

Getting a data plan suitable for your needs is also very critical. For more details on how to choose a carrier with data plans that are compatible to your Mobile WiFi Hotspot, click here. How do I get started with my unlocked NETGEAR mobile hotspot? | Answer | NETGEAR Support


How to setup my mobile hotspot?

Make sure you have removed all your Nighthawk M6 Mobile Hotspot contents from the package.

The contents you will need for your setup will include:

  • Nighthawk M6 Mobile Hotspot
  • Ethernet cable
  • 1 battery
  • USB cable
  • A power adapter
  • An activated SIM Card

On the back of the hotspot, there is a slot located in the upper left corner for a SIM card.
Slide in an activated SIM card from your 5G internet service provider.
Insert the battery.
Press and hold the power button on the front side of the hotspot to turn it on. You can use the LCD touch screen to rename your WiFi network, create new passwords, and customize your WiFi standby settings.


Which carriers are compatible with my mobile hotspot?

Mobile WiFi and fixed wireless devices that are certified have been tested by that carrier and are guaranteed by the carrier to work on their networks. Compatible devices meet the requirements of that carrier and should work on those networks.

The Nighthawk M6 (MR6150) is certified with AT&T and T-Mobile.
The Nighthawk M5 (MR5200) works best with AT&T and T-Mobile.
The Nighthawk M1 (MR1100) works best with AT&T and T-Mobile.

For more details by product, please click here


How to remove the device back cover?

Your NETGEAR mobile hotspot’s battery, IMEI number, and SIM card slot are all beneath your hotspot’s plastic battery cover. Follow these instructions to remove your hotspot’s battery cover.

To remove the battery cover on your NETGEAR mobile hotspot:

Locate the notched corner of your hotspot’s battery cover.

This can be on either the top left or top right side when looking at the back of your hotspot.

Gently pry at the notched corner of the plastic battery cover with your finger.
This does not require force.

You can now remove the battery, find your IMEI number, or insert a SIM card.


How to insert the SIM card?

The SIM card must be inserted into the SIM card slot, which is beneath your hotspot’s plastic battery cover. Follow these instructions to remove your hotspot’s battery cover.


Where to place my mobile hotspot when indoors?

We recommend placing your NETGEAR mobile hotspot as close to a window as possible, with few obstructions. You may receive a stronger signal in certain parts of the dwelling where you intend to use your mobile hotspot.

We also recommend doing a walk test of the location to find the strongest cellular signal, which will generally result in best performance. Another method is to use your smartphone as a guide – wherever you tend you have the best cellular performance (i.e., voice quality and/or data service), your NETGEAR mobile router will often also work best in those locations.

For more information, please click here


How to activate the In-Home Performance Mode?

To boost your WiFi coverage up to 2,000 sqft using the In-Home Performance Mode, simply plug in your mobile hotspot to AC power. The battery must be removed to switch to “Best Performance and Range” profile.

To activate the In-Home Performance Mode on your M6:

  • Press and hold the Power button on your M6 until Select a Power Option displays.
  • Tap Shut down.
  • Remove the battery cover from your M6.
    For more information, see How do I remove the battery cover on my NETGEAR mobile hotspot?.
  • Remove the battery from your M6.
  • Replace the battery cover.
  • Plug your M6 into the supplied AC adapter.
  • Press and hold the Power button on your M6 until NETGEAR displays M6 will boot up automatically and reboot if the ethernet port had not been manually enabled previously.

The In-Home Performance Mode on your M6 is now activated.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If your mobile hotspot is set to the default Power Mode (Balanced) and you remove the battery. The mobile hotspot will reboot twice. This is normal operation for the mobile hotspot to transition from Balanced to Best Performance and Range. The mobile hotspot will also reboot twice when you install the battery. This is normal operation for the mobile hotspot to transition from Best Performance and Range to Balanced.


How to factory reset my mobile hotspot?

A factory reset deletes all personalized settings including your username, password, WiFi network name (SSID), and security settings. A factory reset is necessary when you cannot recover your password.

To perform a factory reset using the LCD (for models supporting Touch UI):

  • Tap Settings.
  • Tap More.
  • Tap Factory Reset.
  • Tap Reset Now.
  • Tap Continue. Your mobile hotspot router resets.

To perform a factory reset using the reset button:

  • Remove battery cover. Keep the battery installed.
  • Locate the reset button.
    Note: Reset button is very small and is labelled “RESET”
  • Using a paper clip or similar object to press and hold the RESET button.
    Note: Using sharp objects can damage this product and may void your warranty.
  • Release the RESET button. Your mobile hotspot router resets.A factory reset deletes all personalized settings including your username, password, WiFi network name (SSID), and security settings. A factory reset is necessary when you cannot recover your password.

To perform a factory reset using the LCD (for models supporting Touch UI):

  • Tap Settings.
  • Tap More.
  • Tap Factory Reset.
  • Tap Reset Now.
  • Tap Continue. Your mobile hotspot router resets.

To perform a factory reset using the reset button:

  • Remove battery cover. Keep the battery installed.
  • Locate the reset button.
    Note: Reset button is very small and is labelled “RESET”
  • Using a paper clip or similar object to press and hold the RESET button.
    Note: Using sharp objects can damage this product and may void your warranty.
  • Release the RESET button. Your mobile hotspot router resets.

How to setup my mobile hotspot with an existing router?

The Nighthawk M6 can connect with existing home WiFi routers or systems to deliver multi-gig 5G Internet throughout your home. If you have a poor and unstable fixed line connection, or if fixed line is not available at all, 5G could become your primary Internet connection, or as a backup connection.

Simply connect your WiFi router or system to the ethernet port of the Nighthawk M6.


How to setup my mobile hotspot in failover mode?

Keep critical WiFi appliances online using ethernet offloading feature.

Connect the Nighthawk M6 to your existing home router with an ethernet cable and turn on ethernet offloading from the LCD.

If the Nighthawk M6 detects that your home router has gone offline, it will seamlessly switch to the cellular connection ensuring critical health, video monitoring, and smart home devices are always online.


How to setup my mobile hotspot for WiFi offloading?

Preserve your mobile data in hotels, airports, cafes, and on the train with the added benefit of keeping your devices secure and private.

  • Launch a browser from a computer or wireless device that is connected to your mobile hotspot network.
  • Visit http://192.168.1.1.
  • Sign in using your password. The default password is password. The Dashboard page displays.
  • Click Settings.
  • Click General.
  • Click Internet Connection
  • Click WiFi Offloading.
  • Wait for the mobile hotspot to scan for available WiFi networks.
  • Click on the WiFi name of the network you want to connect to.
  • Enter your wireless network password in the popup that appears.
  • Click Continue.
  • A message will display to show “Entry Added”
  • M6’s WiFi will restart and connect to you WiFi network automatically.

When you are no longer in range of the local WiFi network, the Nighthawk M6 will seamlessly switch back to the cellular connection.


Power Modes explained

Balanced

  • Default profile out of the box
  • Best battery life
  • LCD times out after 1 minute
  • WiFi range is standard. Best for close range like inside a backpack.
  • WiFi goes into standby after 5 minutes. Tap power to wake up from standby.
  • Ethernet Port is OFF

Performance

  • Best performance when the battery is installed
  • LCD times out after 1 minute
  • WiFi range is long. Slightly longer range than standard.
  • WiFi goes into standby after 60 minutes. Tap power to wake up from standby.
  • Ethernet Port is ON
  • Ethernet Speed is set to 10Mbps. Increase to 1000Mbps via the WebUI.

Best Performance and Range

  • Default profile when battery is removed.
  • Profile cannot be selected when battery is installed.
  • LCD times out after 1 minute
  • WiFi range is set to Extended. Up to 2000sq ft of coverage.
  • WiFi standby is disabled.
  • Ethernet Port is ON.
  • Ethernet Speed is set 1000Mbps.

The 7 Best Portable Wi-Fi Hotspots of 2023, According to Tech Experts

Our product picks are editor-tested, expert-approved. We may earn a commission through links on our site. Why Trust Us?

Best Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot Overall

GlocalMe G4 Pro 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot Router

Best Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot Overall

GlocalMe G4 Pro 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot Router

Now 20% Off

$136 at Amazon

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer

Pros
  • Bright 5” touchscreen display
  • Unlocked service
  • Works in over 140 countries
  • No contract of SIM card required
  • All-day battery life
  • Low per-GB pricing
  • Decent price
Cons
  • No 5G
  • So-so customer service

GlocalMe has been around for longer than most other portable Wi-Fi hotspot brands, and it shows. Their G4 Pro 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot Router looks more like a smartphone, with a bright, 5-inch touchscreen display and easy-to-use design. Just power it on, and go. You can easily check the stats for your account, including total data usage, connected devices, connection status, and more. It also provides built-in blacklisting and data usage protection to keep your account (and your precious data) locked down.

What really sets this device apart is the pay-as-you-go model. There’s no contract and no SIM card required, making it a snap to get up and running straight out of the box. You can choose to pay per GB of data, per day, or per year, with a number of plans to suit your needs. The G4 Pro also works in more than 140 countries around the world, so it’s perfect for even the most hardcore of travelers. It’s also priced extremely well at $170 with 1 GB of global data and plans as low as $1.59/1GB (USA local package). All of which is why this device is our pick for the best portable Wi-Fi hotspot overall in 2023.

What do buyers say? “This device is amazing. The internet works better than my home Wi-Fi, pages load quicker,” said one Amazon reviewer.

Wireless Communication Standard 802.11a, 802.11n, 802.11ac, 802.11b, 802.11g
Battery Capacity 12 hours of continuous use (3900mAh)
Number of Connected Devices 10

Best Coverage Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot

RoamFi 4G LTE WiFi Mobile Hotspot Router

Best Coverage Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot

RoamFi 4G LTE WiFi Mobile Hotspot Router

Now 15% Off

$136 at Amazon

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer

Pros
  • Works in more than 160 countries
  • Easy to use
  • 10GB US data and 1GB global data included
  • Up to 18 hours of continuous use
  • Compact design
  • Great price
Cons
  • Not 5G-compatible
  • Adding data can be a challenge

If you’re a serious traveler who needs maximum coverage, this portable Wi-Fi hotspot from RoamWi-Fi is your man. It offers coverage in more than 160 countries—more than any other in our roundup, including our best overall pick. So, wherever you’re planning to go, it (probably) has you covered. While it lacks the sleek touchscreen of GlocalMe’s G4 Pro, we appreciate the simplicity of the design. It’s small enough to stash in a front pocket, while the bold orange colorway ensures you’ll never lose it. A small LED screen on the outside shows your essential info, including data used, connection strength, battery life, and the number of devices connected. It’s everything you need and nothing you don’t.

We’re hard-pressed to find much to dislike about this model. Like the G4 Pro above, it’s not 5G compatible, but many countries around the world still aren’t either, so that’s to be expected. Some buyers report that adding data (i.e., “topping up”) their data plan can be confusing and awkward. Still, given its amazing coverage, user-friendly design, all-day battery life, and affordable price, this is our hands-down pick for the best coverage portable Wi-Fi hotspot this year.

What do buyers say? “Great Wi-Fi device for on the go. We used this in Morocco and [were] able to get Wi-Fi even in the middle of the Sahara Desert,” said one Amazon reviewer.

Wireless Communication Standard 802.11 b/g/n/ac
Battery Capacity 18 hours of continuous use (5800mAh)
Number of Connected Devices 5

Best Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot for International Travelers

SIMO Solis Lite 4G LTE Wi-Fi Mobile Hotspot

Best Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot for International Travelers

SIMO Solis Lite 4G LTE Wi-Fi Mobile Hotspot

$140 at Amazon

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer

Pros
  • Coverage in 135 countries
  • 16-hour battery life
  • Good selection of data plans
  • Connect up 10 devices at a time
  • No contract or SIM card required
  • Great price
Cons
  • Bandwidth throttled after 20GB monthly usage

Unlike most of the portable Wi-Fi hotspots we’ve seen, the SIMO Solis Lite features a unique, orange, puck-like design that stands out. It’s hard to miss, and that also makes it hard to lose (in case you’re prone to such things). It works throughout North America and more than 135 countries around the world which should keep you covered just about anywhere you’re likely to go. We like that this device can connect up 10 devices simultaneously—more than enough for even the most tech-hungry family of four. The 4700mAh battery is good for up to 16 hours of continuous use (according to SIMO).

We love SIMO’s flexible data plan structure. You can opt for an all-day pass, for example, starting at just $9 per day. Long-term travelers can score unlimited global data for just $99 per month, which is a solid value. The best part is that there’s no contract, so you can switch plans or top up your data at any time. The device costs around $140 with free delivery and is ready to roll right out of the box without a SIM card. Bandwidth is throttled after 20GB of use each month, though, which may or may not be a dealbreaker for some buyers.

What do buyers say? “As I was preparing for my trip to Spain, I narrowed it down to about 3 travel Wi-Fi devices. I almost didn’t pick Solis but OMG I’m so glad I did! It was so easy and convenient my entire trip to have internet access,” said one Amazon reviewer.

Wireless Communication Standard 802.11n, 802.11b, 802.11g
Battery Capacity 16 hours
Number of Connected Devices 10

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Best Unlocked Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot

Netgear Nighthawk M6 5G WiFi 6 Mobile Hotspot Router (MR6150)

Best Unlocked Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot

Netgear Nighthawk M6 5G WiFi 6 Mobile Hotspot Router (MR6150)

$682 at Amazon

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer

Pros
  • Fast, 5G-compatible service
  • Bright, easy-to-read touchscreen
  • Up to 13-hour battery life
  • Next-gen Wi-Fi 6 technology
  • 1 Gig wired Ethernet port
  • Connect up to 32 devices
Cons
  • Not great for international use
  • Expensive

Many hotspot models—even the best portable Wi-Fi hotspots—are “locked” or tied to a specific mobile carrier (more on that below) like AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon. If you want the freedom of being able to hop between networks, especially without a contract, an unlocked option is the way to go. Netgear’s Nighthawk M6 5G hotspot/router is an unlocked, next-gen Wi-Fi hotspot with the latest tech baked in. That includes 5G-compatible mobile service with lightning-fast download speeds of up to 2.5Gbps—plenty fast for streaming Netflix, YouTube, and more. It’s also capable of connecting up to 32 devices simultaneously, more than any other hotspot in our roundup. Plus, you can easily check your data usage and update the device’s options with the bright, 2.4″ color LCD touchscreen.

For travelers who mostly explore the U.S., this hotspot is almost perfect. But you’ll pay handsomely for all that premium hardware. At roughly $700, it’s the most expensive in this year’s roundup. Because you’ll likely be using AT&T or T-Mobile service, data is typically more expensive on a per-GB rate, as well. Lastly, although this technically works for international use, it’s built more for domestic travel within the United States.

What do buyers say? “It has a sleek, compact design that makes it easy to take on the go, and it provides fast, stable internet connectivity for all of your devices,” said one Amazon reviewer.

Read more: Best Smart Home Devices

Wireless Communication Standard AX3600 dual-band Wi-Fi 6
Battery Capacity Up to 13 hours
Number of Connected Devices 32

Best Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot for Verizon Users

Orbic Speed 5G UW Mobile Hotspot

Best Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot for Verizon Users

Orbic Speed 5G UW Mobile Hotspot

$300 at verizon.com

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer

Pros
  • Clear, easy-to-read screen
  • Simple, intuitive design
  • Only hotspot that works with Verizon 5G
  • Up to 12 hours of battery life
  • Built-in Ethernet port
  • Connect up 30 devices simultaneously
Cons
  • Not really designed for international use
  • Short battery life using 5G

When it comes to finding a portable Wi-Fi hotspot that works with Verizon, your options are limited. It’s arguably the most finicky domestic carrier. The Orbic Speed 5G UW is one of the few models we’ve found that works well with Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband service here in the U.S. Under the hood, it features the latest Wi-Fi 6 spec technology, so it’s blazing fast for all your devices (up to 30 at a time, in fact). We love the dead-simple, no-nonsense design—a jet-black box with a clear, easy-to-read screen with all your device’s features, stats, and mobile plan essentials available at a quick glance. Plus, Verizon reports the 4400mAh battery is good for up 12 hours of continuous use.

At $300, the Orbic Speed 5G UW is square in the midrange of our roundup, not the cheapest nor the most expensive. For Verizon-specific mobile users, we think this strikes a good balance of user-friendliness, performance, and price. This is another model built mainly for domestic use, though, so you may want to look to unlocked hotspot options if you’re a frequent traveler outside the country.

What do buyers say? “I have been using this device to work remotely from my travel trailer when we stay in campgrounds with no Wi-Fi. It works great. I have not missed anything at work,” said one Verizon.com reviewer.

Wireless Communication Standard Dual-band Wi-Fi 6
Battery Capacity Up to 12 hours (4400 mAh)
Number of Connected Devices 30

Best Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot for T-Mobile Users

SIMBROS INSEEGO M2000 5G MIFI WiFi-6 Ultimate Hotspot

Best Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot for T-Mobile Users

SIMBROS INSEEGO M2000 5G MIFI WiFi-6 Ultimate Hotspot

$123 at Amazon

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer

Pros
  • Fast 5G and 4G speeds
  • Latest Wi-Fi 6 spec
  • Touchscreen interface
  • Built-in VPN protects your network
  • Connects up to 30 users at once
  • Google Fi compatible
  • Good price
Cons
  • Some buyers report a challenging setup

If you’re shopping for portable Wi-Fi hotspots that are compatible with T-Mobile, there are a lot more options than for Verizon. INSEEGO’s M2000 5G works with T-Mobile’s latest 5G (and 4G) service here in the U.S., meaning it’s fast enough to stream video and for multiple users to work from home (or on the go). It also boasts the latest Wi-Fi 6 spec and a built-in VPN for keeping your network locked down and secure while traveling. It’s all controllable via a crisp touchscreen interface to check your data and change your network’s options on the fly.

At just $120 for an all-in package—including the hotspot, a battery, and a T-Mobile SIM card—this is one of the better-priced portable Wi-Fi hotspots of the year. It’s doubly attractive when you consider that this model is designed to work globally, and T-Mobile offers competitively priced data plans that are typically cheaper than AT&T or Verizon. The M2000 also works with Google’s Fi mobile service, making it even more useful and versatile for travelers.

What do buyers say? “This kit was perfect — new battery– T Mobile SIM included, and worked out of the box with no … adjustments required. Fully satisfied,” said one Amazon reviewer.

Wireless Communication Standard Wi-Fi 6
Battery Capacity Up to 11 hours (5050mAh)
Number of Connected Devices 30

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Best Budget Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot

ZTE MAX Connect Unlocked Mobile WiFi Hotspot 4G LTE

Best Budget Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot

ZTE MAX Connect Unlocked Mobile WiFi Hotspot 4G LTE

$50 at Amazon

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer

Pros
  • Great price
  • Excellent compatibility with worldwide carriers
  • Unlocked
  • Up to 10 hours of battery life
Cons
  • No display
  • Can be slow to connect

ZTE proves you don’t need to spend several hundred dollars to get a decent portable Wi-Fi hotspot. The Max Connect is a solid option for budget-conscious buyers. Because it’s unlocked, it’s compatible with T-Mobile, Boost, Sprint, Metro by T-Mobile, and a long list of other carriers in the U. S. and abroad. The 4G LTE service isn’t nearly as fast as the latest 5G hotspots, but this model is significantly cheaper and is compatible with more international carriers. It’s still fast enough for speeds up to 150Mbps, with the ability to connect up to 10 users simultaneously.

At just under $50, it’s hard to complain about much with the ZTE Max Connect. It’s ultra-portable, works reasonably well with last-gen mobile technology, and is extremely simple to use. The main thing the unit lacks compared to others on this list is a display screen. You’ll sacrifice that convenience for a series of basic indicator lights on the outside to indicate connectivity, battery life, etc. But, seriously, did we mention it’s less than $50?

What do buyers say? “Great GSM device. I like this little device. It does exactly what I wanted it to do,” said one Amazon reviewer.

Wireless Communication Standard 802.11 b/g/n/ac (2. 4GHz & 5GHz)
Battery Capacity Up to 10 hours (2000mAh)
Number of Connected Devices 10

What to Look for When Shopping Portable Wi-Fi Hotspots

Shopping for a portable Wi-Fi hotspot can be as challenging as shopping for a new smartphone. There’s a lot of technology under the hood. To find the right one for you, you’ll want to consider what you’re using it for and, just as importantly, where you’ll be using it (in the United States, abroad, or both). Here’s what to look for:

Network Compatibility

Some mobile hotspots are only compatible with certain carriers (e.g., Verizon, AT&T, etc.). If you’re planning to add a new hotspot to your existing smartphone plan, be sure that it’ll play nice with your current carrier. If you’re not married to one carrier and are looking for the most flexibility, we recommend going with an unlocked hotspot, as these typically work with AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and many popular international carriers.

Get the Right Plan

Mobile data plans can be confusing, but it’s important to understand what you’re getting and where your data is available to use. It might not be obvious without combing through your contract, but many domestic carriers offer U.S.-only data as part of their standard data plans. International data (even in Canada and Mexico) often costs significantly more. So, if you’re planning to add a hotspot to your existing plan, make sure you understand what your new data plan includes.

Adding data to your existing mobile plan is often fine for shorter trips or if you don’t travel that often. But, if you are a frequent traveler or will be outside of the country for weeks or months at a time, buying an unlocked hotspot (outside of your carrier’s plans) with an unlimited or high data cap is almost always your best bet

Price

Like many high-tech products, portable hotspots can be expensive. But they don’t have to be. You can find decent budget models with last-generation technology for under $100. Midrange options typically run between $200-300, and the best, most premium options cost north of $500. These are often the latest 5G-compatible models with Wi-Fi 6 and built-in VPNs.

For frequent overseas travelers, it’s sometimes more affordable to buy a cheap Android phone with built-in tethering (meaning the phone can act as its own hotspot). Then buy an inexpensive data-only SIM card on your next trip. You can buy them at most international airports as soon as you land. Sometimes, this can save you hundreds, even thousands, in data overage costs per trip.

How We Selected the Best Portable Wi-Fi Hotspots

Our tech- and travel-savvy staffers researched and personally tested dozens of mobile hotspots over the last two years. We compared every feature and spec, including battery life, ease of use, reliability, internet speeds, and price. We also considered top-selling models with at least 200 positive reviews on the retailer sites we trust most. In the end, we decided on the seven models above as our picks for the best portable Wi-Fi hotspots worth buying in 2023.

Mike Richard

Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He’s kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South Africa, and survived a near-miss great white shark attack in Mexico. His travel advice has appeared on the websites for Forbes, Travel + Leisure, CNET, and National Geographic. He loves the great outdoors and good bourbon, and (usually) calls Tulsa, Oklahoma home. Mike also enjoys speaking in the third person. 

What is a Wi-Fi hotspot? What is the difference between a router and an access point?

To be honest, today I’m too lazy to write some kind of regular instruction, therefore, I decided to talk about access points. What is an access point, what are they for, how do they differ from routers, and how to make an access point out of a router. You will not find any specific, step-by-step instructions in this article. Later, in a separate article, I will write about how to use a Wi-Fi router in AP (Access Point) mode.

I think you first need to find out what a router is (aka a router). This is a network device that allows you to organize the connection of many devices to the Internet. The router distributes IP addresses for devices, distributes the Internet between connected devices, combines them into a local network, connects to an Internet provider, and manages all this. I wrote in more detail on this topic in the article: what is a router.

First of all, the access point is a separate device. A router and an access point are not the same thing. Yes, they are similar in many ways. We can say that an access point is a stripped down, simpler version of a router. The fact is that a wireless access point is designed to connect devices to an already created network. Its task is simply to organize a connection to the Internet via Wi-Fi. Also, it can work in different modes: wireless client, bridge, repeater, access point. It all depends on the specific model.

You can see a small overview of the TP-LINK EAP120 access point.

The access point does not distribute IP, does not connect to an ISP, does not have a built-in firewall, etc. It simply receives Internet from a router or modem and distributes it via Wi-Fi. Some commercially available wireless access points can distribute IP, organize a separate network, and even connect to an Internet provider. But, only via Static IP, or DHCP. Most likely, you can’t do without a router or modem. And one more important point, the access point has only one network connector. So, it does not distribute the Internet via cable.

For example, if you need to distribute the Internet via Wi-Fi from an ADSL modem, or expand an existing Wi-Fi network, then in this case an access point is perfect. For this they are created. As I wrote above, many models can work in client mode, or in repeater mode. Many modern routers can also work in all these modes.

In access point mode, we connect it to a router or modem via a network cable, and get access to the Internet via a Wi-Fi network. If you want to connect a wireless access point “over the air”, then you can configure the bridge mode (WDS), or in repeater mode. You need to look at what works best for you in particular.

Router and access point

The router itself also acts as an access point, it allows you to connect to a Wi-Fi network. In addition, almost every router can operate in AP mode. For some manufacturers, for example, ASUS, ZyXEL, this mode is simply enabled in the router settings. Later, I will definitely write detailed instructions for setting up this mode of operation on routers from different manufacturers.

In access point mode, the distribution of IP addresses (DHСP), firewall, and IP address translation (NAT) is necessarily disabled on the router. It just disables a few features of the router, and it turns into an Access Point.

On some routers, there is no AP mode as such. There you just need to manually disable the DHCP server, and perform a few more settings.

Pins

If you do not know what kind of device you need, a router or an access point, then it is better to ask knowledgeable people, or buy a regular router. Buy an access point only if you know for sure that it suits you.

Almost any router can operate in Access Point mode. And the access point itself cannot act as a router. It lacks many of the features that a regular router has.

By the way, an ordinary laptop or a computer with a Wi-Fi adapter can also be turned into a wireless access point. I already wrote how to start an access point in Windows 10. And if you have Windows 7, then see this article.

That’s all. If you have any questions, you can leave them in the comments. Best wishes!

What is a mobile hotspot?

Those who work outside the office and love to travel must have at least once regretted the absence of the Internet in their work device. In such cases, a mobile hotspot comes to the rescue.

Contents

  • 1 What is a mobile hotspot?
  • 2 Types of mobile hotspots
    • 2.1 Smartphone hotspot
    • 2.2 Portable hotspot
    • 2.3 USB hotspot
  • 3 Modern technology allows you to take Wi-Fi on the go 9004 6

What is a mobile hotspot?

A mobile hotspot is a small device that connects to a 4G or 5G cellular network and distributes Wi-Fi internet to a smartphone, laptop or tablet. This is a kind of bridge between personal electronics and the cellular network.

At home, the router is responsible for distributing the Internet to all devices. The broadband cable connected to it serves as a channel for data transmission between the subscriber and the provider. In some ways, a mobile hotspot is similar to a router, only with portability and wireless connectivity.

An access point is more convenient than a home router in that it does not require a physical connection.

Types of mobile hotspots

There are three types of mobile hotspots – smartphone hotspot, portable hotspot and USB device. All of them are designed for different purposes.

Smartphone hotspot

Of all the devices that can access the Internet outside the home, the smartphone comes to mind first. Cellular communication is no longer limited to calls and SMS alone: ​​almost all mobile tariffs today include a package of gigabytes. And in modern Android and iPhone there is a Wi-Fi hotspot mode.

A smartphone can not only consume traffic on its own, but also redirect it to other devices via Wi-Fi, that is, act as a wireless router.

To do this, you must turn on mobile data and activate hotspot mode. In the settings of this mode, a network name, a password to protect against strangers, and, if desired, a limit on the amount of data are set. After these simple manipulations, you can connect to the network from another smartphone or tablet.

Having mobile Internet on your phone, you can distribute it at any time to a tablet, laptop or other smartphone where mobile data transfer is not configured or the tariff is too expensive.

Portable hotspot

If you don’t have a smartphone with hotspot mode, or for some reason you don’t want to use it, a portable hotspot comes to the rescue. This is a small, battery-powered stand-alone device. It connects to the cellular network and allows other devices to connect to it via Wi-Fi.

Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot, Portable Mobile Hotspot, Travel Router, MiFi, Pocket Wi-Fi are all the same device.

Like a smartphone, a pocket hotspot receives a signal from cell towers, so it requires a SIM card with a data plan configured for mobile data to work.

Autonomous power allows you to use it anywhere – outdoors, in the car, put anywhere for the best signal.

The portable hotspot can be replaced with a smartphone without damage. But in some ways, pocket Wi-Fi is more convenient, as the extra load will drain your phone’s battery faster.

USB hotspot

USB hotspot is similar to pocket Wi-Fi, only powered by the USB port of a PC or laptop. In fact, this is the same cellular router that works with mobile data transmission.

USB router with hotspot function – this is the ability to access the Internet directly, bypassing intermediary devices such as home routers.

Note that not all USB routers have access point mode.

It is better to choose a USB access point if Internet access is required only on a laptop. This solution is ideal for travel. At home, it will come in handy if for some reason you do not want your laptop to receive Internet from your home router.

A significant drawback of the USB access point is the inflexibility of the connection. If pocket Wi-Fi can be easily moved in space (for example, put on a windowsill if the signal is better there), then this will not work with a laptop.

If the signal is not very good at the workplace, it may make sense to choose a similar mode on a smartphone or purchase a pocket Wi-Fi instead of a portable USB router.