The best mobile hotspot allows you to connect your laptop, tablet or other device to the internet, wherever you are. So if there's no public Wi-Fi, or it's just not very good, you can still get online without having to worry.
Of course, these days the best smartphones can also be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot. But there are lot of reasons why you might not want to do so. For instance, you might not have unlimited data as part of your smartphone plan. Or you might be low on phone battery, and expecting an important call.
Plus, even if you are happy using your phone as a hotspot, it generally won't do as good a job as a dedicated mobile hotspot device. That's because your smartphone is so busy doing other things, such as scanning for texts, emails and social media updates, that it can't always keep up. In particular, making a call on your phone will often stop your hotspot working efficiently... yet there are many reasons you may want to still use the internet while chatting.
As with a smartphone, you'll need to buy data to operate a mobile hotspot, which might be a rolling contract, or on a pay-as-you-go basis. You'll normally need to buy a dedicated SIM, although number 4 on our list (the Glocalme U3x Mobile Wi-fi Hotspot) allows you to simply buy data through its app.
In the article below, we've gathered together the best mobile hotspots available today, to suit a range of budgets. They're all unlocked, which means you can buy data from a variety of carriers, rather than just one. And they all work well in allowing you to access the web, without having to depend on either public Wi-Fi or your phone's mobile connection.
On the one hand, Netgear's Nighthawk M2 MR2100 is the best 4G mobile hotspot on the market today. On the other, it's one of the most expensive. So what are you getting for your money?
Well for starters, this device offers a top download speed of 2Gbps. It boasts a massive 5,040mAh battery, which the makers claim will keep things running for up to 24 hours. You can even use this battery to top up your phone, making the M2 double as a handy power bank in an emergency.
This mobile hotspot comes with a lovely 2.4 inch LCD touchscreen, with a meter for data usage. You can also view your data usage, along with connection status and other settings, using the mobile app. There's an Ethernet port on the side for attaching wired devices too, as well as a USB-A slot, and a USB-C port for charging.
This all sounds impressive, and it is, but bear in mind you'll need a strong 4G signal to take advantage of the top speeds. If the mobile internet where you are is weak or, worse still, only 3G, then you won't really benefit.
Want to take advantage of 5G network coverage? Then the Netgear Nighthawk M5 Mobile WiFi is the best mobile hotspot for you. Powered by the Qualcomm SnapdragonTM X55 and incorporating the latest WiFi 6 technology, it's eminently capable of providing speeds of up to 4Gbps. The SIM slot is unlocked for 5G around the world using your provider’s Nano SIM card, and the M5 is backwards compatible for 4G too.
You can connect up to 32 devices simultaneously. The 5040mAh battery provides up to 13 hours on a single charge. Or, if you have access to a socket, you can remove the battery and plug the device into the wall for all-day use. Elsewhere, there's a nice 2.4 inch touchscreen, an Ethernet port, and the accompanying mobile app allows you to track data usage by month and session, manage your guest Wi-Fi, and customize Wi-Fi settings.
In short, if you want to use 5G, welcome to the best mobile hotspot in town. The only drawback is that it's really, really expensive.
If you're reeling in shock from the cost of the two mobile hotspots we've featured so far, don't worry. There are decent alternatives out there for a fraction of the price, and the best of them right now is the D-Link DWR-932.
Despite its affordability, D-Link's DWR-932 4G LTE Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot allows you to connect and share 4G LTE mobile Internet with download speeds of up to 150Mbps. And that's certainly good enough to stream Netflix, play online games, download and upload files, on multiple devices.
Battery life of just five hours isn't the highest on this list, and the DWR-932 supports fewer devices than most, at "only" eight. On the plus side, it's light (95g) and compact (9.7 x 6 x 1.7cm), making it a beautifully portable option for anyone on the go.
Going abroad? Then you'll need a mobile hotspot you can use anywhere. And ideally, you won't want to be messing around in foreign phone shops, where you might not speak the language, trying to work out how to buy a local SIM.
That's why we recommend the Glocalme U3x Mobile Wi-fi Hotspot, because it's pay-as-you-go, and you don't need a SIM at all. You just buy credit when you need via the app, and the company's Cloud SIM technology makes it easy to select the network with the best signal.
When you first purchase the GlocalMe U3X, you get 1GB global data thrown in, along with 8GB European Data, which can be redeemed by providing your IMEI number once your device arrives. Then when you need more, you can buy data by day, by month, by region or by gigabyte.
The GlocalMe U3X comes with a 2.4inch screen that lets you check your data flow and signal status, and works in more than 144 countries across America, Europe, Middle East, Asia, Africa and Oceania. You can share your connection with up to 10 devices at once, you get up to 12 hours battery off a single charge, and at only 125g, it won't weigh you down while traveling.
If you like getting value for money, you'll love TP-Link's M7350. This mobile hotspot is very reasonably priced, but still offers some great specs.
The 2,000mAh battery provides up to height hours on a single charge. Speeds reach up to 300Mbps for downloads and 50Mbps for uploads. Both micro and nano SIM cards are supported, and you can use both 4G and 3G networks. Plus there's a 32GB microSD card slot that lets you share photos, music, videos and other files to your connected gadgets.
Other than that, there's nothing very special about this mobile hotspot. But at this low price, you can't really complain about that.
If the TP-Link M7350 (number 5 on our list) isn't available, the Huawei E5577 is a great alternative for anyone looking for good value at a reasonable price.
Its battery is slightly less powerful and hence promises only six hours of life on a single charge. But on the plus side, the pocket-sized dimensions (5.8 x 9.68 x 1.35cm) and the lowest weight on this list (82g) make it an excellent option for anyone wishing to travel light.
If you're willing to spend a little more, Netgear's AC797 offers a powerful and capable device for keeping you connected on the move.
It's easy to set up. Depending on your connection, you can benefit from download speeds of up to 400Mbps. The generous 2,930mAh battery promises to keep going for 11 hours on a single charge. And the 1.8-inch LCD screen provides data usage monitoring, mobile signal strength and network management information.