With a lot of us staying at home at the moment, internet access is more important than ever to help us stay in contact with each other. These neat devices allow you to set up an internet connection wherever there is a mobile signal allowing you to stay connected wherever you are. From festivals to long car journeys to the home, a mobile hotspot is perfect for everyone - it may even be able to replace your home broadband!
As life begins to return to a new normal, these devices are also extremely useful for accessing the web on the go as well with many giving hours of battery life. Not too long ago, I stayed in an apartment in Denmark which had one of these mobile routers (Huawei E5577), and I was blown away by its performance considering its small form factor - I knew that I would have to buy one for myself.
The beauty of hotspots is not only their versatility but also their incredibly easy set-up. All you need is an active SIM and then you are ready to go.
The rankings below are mostly based on my own research, but they also follow the reviews and opinions from the likes of Tech Advisor, techradar and broadband-buyer. I have tried to be as unbiased as possible by providing different use cases as everyone’s lives are different.
By the way, if some terminology seems a bit confusing then scroll to the bottom of this article where you will find definitions of all the technical stuff and how it will benefit you.
Personal best - Huawei E5577
For me, this one is the perfect balance between performance and cost. With speeds of up to 150 Mbps, a light and portable design and a decently sized battery offering up to 6 hours of use, this neatly sized device is perfect for most people.
|- Decently sized battery (1500 mAh)||- No wireless 802.11ac (super-fast 5 GHz WiFi)|
|- Well priced||- No touchscreen|
|- Good speeds|
|- Compact size and lightweight|
|- 1.45” LCD|
Best money can buy - NETGEAR R7100LG-100EUS Nighthawk
This one is probably a bit excessive for most, but it really will knock your socks off. Not only is it dual band meaning a faster and more reliable connection for all of your devices, but it also boasts 4G speeds of up to 1.9 Gbps. Blimey! But with the average 4G download speed in the UK being only 20Mbps, I am not sure how well it would meet this claim.
|- Dual band||- No wireless 802.11ac (super-fast 5 GHz WiFi)|
|- Speeds of up to 1.9 Gbps (wired) and 300 Mbps (wireless)||- No touchscreen|
|- Four Ethernet ports|
Best for on the go - Huawei E5885
Sorry, another Huawei - they are good though! This one might seem small but it is an absolute beast with a battery so big that it also doubles up as a power bank so that you can get that winning feeling all night long. You also get a fabric loop that makes it a doddle to carry. This is great for avid travellers and festival-goers, yippee!
|- Cat6 Ethernet support||- £125 price tag|
|- HUGE 6400mAh Battery (25 hours)||- Small screen (0.96”), it is OLED though!|
|- Ethernet port|
|- Parental controls + guest network|
|- Supports up to 32 devices connected at one time|
Best on a budget - Huawei E3372
This is the only one out of them all that is a dongle (instead of a router like the rest). This is top-notch for people that want to set up a data connection to their laptop simply by plugging it into a USB port. Whilst it may look smaller, it still performs well with solid speeds. The small size means that it has a whole host of uses, some have even plugged it into their car to link it up to their sat nav!
|- Under £50||- No internal battery|
|- Comes with a handy app that makes set up super easy||- Vertical design means that is sometimes awkward to plug in|
|- Compact design, easy to carry around when not using||- Doesn’t support multiple devices at once|
Best at home - TP-Link Archer MR600 AC1200
Like the Nighthawk, this router is dual-band but at a much cheaper price (and a more aesthetically pleasant design) with download speeds of up to 300 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 50 Mbps. Furthermore, it has a Qualcomm CPU inside meaning that it has the power to allow up to 64 devices to connect at once so you can throw a proper party!
|- 4 Ethernet ports||- Always had to be plugged into the mains|
|- Support for guest network||- No display|
|- Dual band, Cat6|
HTC 5G Hub and HUAWEI 5G Mobile WiFi Pro
These two are one of the very few that have support for the novelty that is 5G connectivity. Whilst giffgaff is yet to introduce support for the new technology, I can see devices like these leading the way in terms of internet connectivity. But this won’t just be for on the go either. With speeds of up to 2 Gbit/s, why would anyone want to use to their “slow” home broadband. I think cable Wi-Fi will start to become a thing of the past as 5G becomes the standard. So if you want to invest in a device that is future-proof then buying 5G would make a lot of sense.
- If you are having issues with setting up your device then the most common solution is checking your APN settings.
- Make sure that you buy unlocked so that it will work on any network that you wish to use it on.
- Heavy data users will find that these devices work best with unlimited, unrestricted internet which is not something that giffgaff currently offers. However, you can still get 80GB with Always On data which should hopefully be more than enough.
- Check which SIM size it uses (standard, micro or nano) before you buy so you know what size to pop-out your giffgaff triple SIM into.
For all those fancy, and often confusing words…
Ethernet port - allows you to use a cable to connect your device (i.e. laptop) directly to the router for a more reliable connection.
Dual band - two separate wavelengths are sent out by the router: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. To summarise, 5GHz is faster (so better for gaming and streaming) but doesn’t reach as far whereas 2.4GHz is the complete opposite. Obviously, there is more to it but that is the general gist of it. If you want to read more into it then take a look at Which’s helpful article.
5G - a new technology that is currently supported by only a limited amount of devices but promises to bring lightning-fast speeds, changing the internet forever.
Cat6 - a technology that allows for Ethernet speeds of over 1 gigabits per second (where available).
OLED or LCD - OLED is a fairly new, relatively expensive, type of screen that you generally see in phones…so why put it in a router, you may ask. Well OLED actually makes a lot of sense as it is fairly cheap as the displays are so small and it means improved battery life as only certain parts of the display have to be illuminated at any point, unlike LCD where there is just one massive backlight which is permanently switched on.
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