In one way or another, all of us rely on the internet for a great number of things – business, entertainment, research and many more. We want it with us anywhere we go but, as you know, this isn’t always easy. If you’re traveling abroad or to a remote area, you will often find yourself without a stable internet connection.
It is in these situations that a device like a mobile hotspot can make things infinitely easier. It’s a clever solution that not only makes the cellular signal more stable but also significantly reduces your expenses both in the country and worldwide. As you’ll see, most of these hotspots use a regular SIM card and work as a Wi-Fi router sharing internet with everyone.
However, choosing the best mobile hotspot can be tricky. Some of the things you need to consider are the speed, coverage, battery life, and whether the device is locked or not. We created our buying guide to discuss all of this (and more), so you have an easier time finding the right one. But before we jump into it, take a look at the selection of mobile hotspots we picked out for you.
Mobile Hotspot Reviews
How To Choose A Mobile Hotspot – Buying Guide
With devices like these, you really have numerous options to choose from. Unfortunately, not all of them will perform at the same level. While some work only locally, others can be used with different SIM cards around the world. There’s also a question of compatibility with different networks, among many other things. Take a look.
Connection and Coverage
Every model you’ll come across has information about the carriers, types of networks, and bands they support. While most modern mobile hotspots will support 4G networks, always make sure to check that they’re not limited to 3G since there is a significant difference in speed. On the other hand, some models even work with 4G+ for even better speed.
All mobile hotspots require network coverage to work. While most are pretty good at picking up a cellular signal (better than an average smartphone), there are still significant differences between them. It’s these differences that will determine whether or not you’ll have internet access on a remote trail when hiking. To further improve the signal, the best WiFi hotspots have ports for external TS-9 antennas.
If you have an older hotspot model, it may limit the potential speed that you could get from the carrier network. For example, if the network allows you download speeds of 300Mbps but the hotspot has a limit at 50Mbps, it’s obvious how you’re not using the network’s full potential.
This is why you should pay attention to this information when buying, and get a device that can keep up and follow new technology. In addition, some devices offer dual WiFi bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz), allowing you to get an even higher speed.
A big advantage of mobile hotspots is that they are compatible with any device that picks up a Wi-Fi signal. Basically, it works as your standard router at home, so anything can connect to it – your smartphone, PC, tablet, console, or anything else. This is a great thing for all “Wi-Fi only” devices since you can get internet on them outside your home – in the car, the woods, or on the beach.
In addition to Wi-Fi, many devices offer some other connections too. Some high-end products have an ethernet port, so you can link them to a laptop directly with an ethernet cable for a more stable connection. In addition, many of these have USB ports too, which have multiple functions like charging, data transfer, and others.
Since these are designed to be used on the go, it makes sense that you want a long-lasting battery that will have enough power for the day. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. As you can see in the product specs above, there are big differences in battery capacities. Keep in mind that hotspots won’t drain the battery at the same pace as your phone, but you still can’t expect a 2000mAh battery to last very long. This is why battery type and life is an important consideration.
If you’re going to a remote area where you won’t have a charger at hand, you definitely want a high-capacity battery that can give you internet access throughout the day. However, it’s not just about the active battery time. It’s also a big plus if the battery can stay charged in standby mode too. Some can last for a few weeks, giving you the option to turn them on when you like.
Size and Portability
As their name says, portable hotspots are devices you want to take with you on your trip to the nature or abroad, so they must be easy to pack. The best mobile hotspots are very compact, so they easily fit into the pocket of your jacket or pants. You generally want to avoid a device sized as your home router, as it will be a problem to pack and carry. Always take a look at product dimensions and see if it suits you.
If you want instant information about the signal strength, speed, number of devices, and many other things, then you need a mobile hotspot with a display. Even though these tend to cost a bit more, it’s really neat to have instant feedback about device performance. In addition, some displays have touchscreen compatibility with a user-friendly interface that allows you to set up the device performance and security any way you like.
As an alternative to large displays (NETGEAR Nighthawk M1 for example), you have devices that only have LED indicators to show you whether they are on or off, signal strength, battery levels, and other useful things. While this may not seem significant, it makes using the hotspot much easier.
Many of the best mobile hotspots come with additional features that make them truly versatile and multi-functional. One of the things we particularly like is if the hotspot can double as a power bank. Since many of them come with pretty large batteries, the manufacturers have made it possible to plug your phone in and charge it on the go. It works the same way as any other external power bank and uses the devices own USB charging cord.
Some of the top devices listed here can also work as media hubs, where all the users connected to its Wi-Fi network can access the data (usually an external drive). In addition to the drive compatibility, some models come with card readers too. While this isn’t exactly necessary to have on a mobile hotspot, it’s definitely neat to directly plug the microSD card from your hiking camera so everyone can download the photos.
Of course, you want a convenient way to control the device too. Besides the on-screen user interface we mentioned, many manufacturers also design apps (either for smartphones or web-based), allowing you to set passwords, change network settings, set parental controls and time limits, control data usage and many more.
Locked vs Unlocked
This is where you need to pay special attention if you want to get the most out of your device. What do these two terms mean? A locked mobile hotspot is usually sold through carriers and their affiliates and will work on their network exclusively. For example, if you buy it from AT&T and it’s locked, you can only use AT&T’s SIM cards in it. On the other hand, if you get an unlocked device, you can use it with pretty much any carrier, locally or globally.
If you plan to use the mobile hotspot only within the country, then getting a locked one won’t be a problem and you may even get a better deal from the carrier. However, if you travel often, you won’t be able to use the device in the destination country with a local SIM card. In this case, you might be better off with an unlocked device.
Most of the products we listed are pretty universal, so you can use them anywhere you want. However, make sure that they are compatible with specific network bands that the carriers use. As you had the chance to see, some of the product we listed (GlocalMe, Skyroam) operate completely SIM-free and can be used both domestically and abroad. However, these systems work only in select countries worldwide. While this number is pretty large, always check that your destination country is included in the list before you go and buy the product.
Q: Do Mobile Hotspots Work In Remote Areas?
As long as there is a signal, your mobile wifi hotspot will work in the remote area you’re in. The device relies on the same signal as your mobile phone, so if you’re in an area without coverage, the device won’t work and you won’t have internet. On the other hand, if the signal at your camping site is weak but still exists, a mobile hotspot will often do a better job at picking it up, especially newer models equipped with TS-9 antennas.
Q: Will The Hotspot Work In Any Country?
This depends on the model you buy, as there are great differences between them. We have to go back to the story of whether the device is locked or not. If you get an unlocked device, you can put any SIM card with a data plan in it and you’ll have internet. This means that you can buy a local SIM card and use it for your hotspot, which greatly reduces the cost. On the other hand, a locked device won’t recognize the foreign SIM card and will practically be useless.
The SIM-free models we reviewed have a list of 100+ countries where they will work. While you get some free data when you buy them, you need to get a data plan from the manufacturer so you can use it abroad. Even though this is cheaper than using a roaming data plan on your mobile, it’s still significantly more expensive than devices that can use local SIMs. Of course, don’t forget to check the local rates and get the best deal.
Q: How Does A Portable Wi-Fi Work?
A portable WiFi hotspot is a device that works as a router and emits a Wi-Fi signal just like the one you have at home. However, mobile hotspots use SIM cards and data from a carrier (cellular signal), meaning they don’t need any ground connections. In this case, you need a card with a good data plan.
As for the device itself, it’s usually pretty compact and battery-operated. This allows you to take it anywhere with you, especially if you’re going to areas without any groud lines but with good cell phone coverage. Depending on the internet hotspot device you buy, it can support up to 20 different devices to connect to it, making it great for larger groups too.
Q: Why Shouldn’t I Just Use My Phone?
We all know that every smartphone can work as a hotspot, and you can share your internet with your buddy or use it to put your laptop online. For a short period of time, this is perfectly fine, and you won’t need a dedicated hotspot to do this. However, if you need it for a longer period or need more data, a mobile hotspot is the way to go.
By using your phone as a hotspot, you put a significant strain on its battery, so you can expect to run out of power quickly, and you probably want to save some power to take a photo or make a phone call. Hotspots have dedicated batteries that last much longer. In addition, they are better at picking up signals, support a larger number of devices, and usually have a much wider Wi-Fi range compared to a phone.
Globo Surf Overview
If you have multiple devices and want to have Wi-Fi internet available almost anywhere, a mobile hotspot is the thing you need. Whether you need them for work or entertainment, in the country or abroad, these neat little devices will keep you connected. Also, it’s often cheaper to get portable internet for one device and share it than to pay for every smartphone separately. We hope that you have all the information you need to make your choice, and we’re sure you’ll enjoy your new hotspot.
- 5 Reasons Why You Need A Portable Wifi Router In Your Life, huffpost.com
- What is a Pocket WiFi & How to Use It?, my-webspot.com
Globo Surf Mobile Hotspots Reviews