What to Look For in a Mobile Hotspot in 2023
Pretty much every smartphone can act as a mobile hotspot these days, sharing your phone’s data connection with nearby devices. It’s good enough for occasional use, but if you travel a lot and need reliable connectivity, dedicated mobile hotspots, also known as MiFi devices, are a better option.
Fortunately, there are quite a few mobile hotspot options in the market. However, you need to keep a few things in mind if you want the best mobile hotspot.
You will primarily find 4G and 5G mobile hotspots in the market. While 5G hotspots will undoubtedly provide faster internet access, they are considerably more expensive. Also, it’s no secret that carriers are still building their 5G networks. As a result, you won’t get 5G coverage everywhere.
On the other hand, 4G MiFi devices are cheaper, but they don’t offer high-speed connectivity. You’ll need to decide if coverage or speed is more important for your needs.
Another critical feature to keep an eye out for is the battery life. You’ll likely want a MiFi device that can at least last through a workday, so one that runs out of juice in a few hours is not the best. In addition, fast charging support and the hotspot’s ability to act as a power bank are good to have.
Wi-Fi flexibility is also important. The best mobile hotspots support Wi-Fi 6 to provide better performance and longer battery life. If the MiFi device that you are picking doesn’t have Wi-Fi 6, ensure that it at least supports Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and dual-band Wi-Fi.
Apart from all this, a touchscreen display will provide easier access to connection details and device settings. Lastly, if you plan to use the MiFi device abroad, ensure it supports the necessary bands to function in the country that you are visiting.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are mobile hotspots?
A mobile hotspot is a portable wireless access point that uses a cellular data connection to deliver wireless internet to nearby devices. It can be a dedicated piece of hardware or software on your smartphone.
Can I use a mobile hotspot as a replacement for home internet?
It’s possible to use a mobile hotspot to replace wired home internet. However, hotspot plans are typically more expensive than home broadband plans and have lower data caps.
Can I use a mobile hotspot without using data?
While it’s technically possible to use a mobile hotspot without a data connection, you won’t be able to do much as there won’t be internet connectivity. If you’re thinking of connecting to a wireless network instead of your carrier’s cellular data connection, you can connect your device directly to the Wi-Fi network.
How do I connect a mobile hotspot to my computer?
You can connect to a mobile hotspot like you would connect to any Wi-Fi network. All you have to do is switch on the hotspot and look for its SSID in your computer’s Wi-Fi settings. And then, select that SSID and enter the network password.
How do I connect a mobile hotspot to my smart TV?
Once your mobile hotspot is switched on, it’ll appear as a Wi-Fi network in your smart TV’s network settings. Select your hotspot’s wireless SSID and enter the password, and your smart TV will be connected to the wireless hotspot.
Best Unlocked Mobile Hotspot: Netgear Nighthawk M6 MR6150
- ✓ Sub-6GHz and C-band 5G support
- ✓ Up to 13-hour battery life and supports battery-less operation
- ✓ Wi-Fi 6 support
- ✓ Touchscreen display
- ✗ No mmWave 5G
- ✗ Expensive
The Netgear Nighthawk M6, the successor to our previous pick for this category, is the best unlocked mobile hotspot for most people. Although Netgear says it works best with AT&T and T-Mobile in the US, this multi-carrier hotspot has the necessary frequency bands support to operate with most carriers in and out of the country.
One of the biggest reasons to consider the M6 is the 5G support. The Netgear mobile hotspot is compatible with sub-6GHz 5G, including the newer C-band frequencies. So you not only get faster internet speeds at 5G locations, but you are also future-proof.
mmWave 5G support is missing, but it’s not a significant omission, as mmWave 5G is only available in very few urban locations. In addition, the Mi-Fi device can use 4G LTE networks as a fallback where 5G is not present.
Among other features, the hotspot supports Wi-Fi 6, making it better at dealing with multiple connected devices and offering a faster data transfer rate than Wi-Fi 5 hotspots. In addition, you can connect up to 32 devices with it, which is more than enough for regular consumers and even small businesses.
You also get a Gigabit Ethernet port for wired connectivity, a 2.4-inch touchscreen display to interact with the device, and two TS-9 ports for external antennae.
Additionally, the 5040mAh removable battery of the Netgear Nighthawk M6 is big enough to last for up to 13 hours on a single charge, depending on your usage. If you need to use it for longer, you can directly plug in the power adapter and remove the battery. The company also sells add-on batteries for M6 that you can buy for under $40.
But all these features come at a cost, and you will have to shell out almost $800 for the M6. If that is too much and you can do without 5G, Netgear offers a solid 4G mobile hotspot in Nighthawk M1. However, it only supports Wi-Fi 5 and up to 20 devices.
Best Unlocked Mobile Hotspot
Netgear Nighthawk M6 MR6150
The Netgear Nighthawk M6 is an impressive mobile hotspot. It offers sub-6GHz 5G connectivity, up to 13 hours of battery life, and Wi-Fi 6 support.
Best Mobile Hotspot for International Travel: Solis Lite
- ✓ Solid battery life
- ✓ Connectivity in over 130 countries
- ✓ Small form factor
- ✗ No display
- ✗ No 5G support
- ✗ Unlimited plans have a FUP limit
The Solis Lite is a no-frills mobile hotspot that can connect you to the internet in over 130 countries worldwide. If you are planning a vacation or going on a work trip to another country and don’t want to be dependent on your phone for tethering, the Solis Lite is a great choice.
It supports 4G and 3G mobile networks and has Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) connectivity. In addition, the device packs a 4,700mAh battery that can last up to 16 hours on a single charge and act as a power bank when needed.
This mobile hotspot uses a virtual SIM that connects to the company’s partner cellular providers wherever you are. All you need is a data plan that you can purchase from the company. There are pay-per GB and unlimited data plans.
However, the unlimited plans come with a fair usage policy (FUP) limit, after which the internet speed drops to just 512kbps, which is barely functional. This makes the Solis Lite perfect for short-term, occasional use. However, if you need something with a better data limit, you might be better served with an alternate arrangement in the country you’re traveling to.
Best Mobile Hotspot for International Travel
The Solis Lite works in over 130 countries, and you don't have to worry about getting a local SIM, thanks to the company's 200 carrier partners.
Best Verizon Mobile Hotspot: Orbic Speed 5G UW
- ✓ 5G support, including mmWave and C-band
- ✓ Built-in touchscreen display and Ethernet port
- ✗ Battery life can be better
If you need a mobile hotspot that works great on Verizon, there is no better option than the Orbic Speed 5G UW. It not only supports Verizon’s mmWave 5G network, but it can also work with the newer C-band deployment, meaning you’ll get faster 5G connectivity in more places. Support for 5G nationwide, low-band 5G, and 4G LTE is also present.
You can connect up to 30 devices to the Orbic Speed 5G, and it supports Wi-Fi 6 for better wireless performance if you have compatible devices. In addition, there is a 4,400mAh battery that lasts about nine hours on a single charge. Orbic has also included Quick Charge fast charging support, so you’ll be able to top it up quickly when the device finally runs out of juice.
In other features, there is a 2.4-inch touchscreen display on the mobile hotspot to access basic functions or to glance at the connection status.
However, if you don’t necessarily care for 5G or plan to use the wi-fi hotspot at a location where 5G coverage is spotty or missing, Verizon’s Jetpack MiFi 8800L is an excellent alternative. It supports 4G LTE Advanced and provides fast performance and good battery life.
Best Verizon Mobile Hotspot
Orbic Speed 5G UW
From C-band to Ultra Wideband, the Orbic Speed 5G UW supports Verizon’s entire fifth-generation network deployment.
Best T-Mobile Mobile Hotspot: Inseego MiFi X Pro 5G
- ✓ Gigabit Ethernet port
- ✓ Solid battery life
- ✓ Touchscreen display
- ✓ Wi-Fi 6 support
- ✗ No external antenna ports
If you want a mobile hotspot to capitalize on T-Mobile’s excellent 5G and 4G coverage, there is no better option than the Inseego MiFi X Pro 5G. It packs everything you need for super-fast connectivity on the go. For example, you get access to the carrier’s impressive mid-band 5G coverage, and there is 4G LTE and 3G support when there is no 5G.
The Mi-Fi device also comes with Wi-Fi 6 support, and you can connect up to 32 devices. Plus, Wi-Fi 6 and 5G make the MiFi X Pro future-proof. So you won’t need to upgrade for a while.
The onboard 5,050mAh battery is good enough to last a workday, and you can also use the hotspot as a power bank for your phone in a crunch situation. In other highlights, the 2.4-inch LCD allows you to access the basic device settings quickly. But if you need a more granular control, there is a web interface.
Lastly, there is a single Gigabit Ethernet port for wired connectivity to your computer or another device that needs low-latency internet.
Best T-Mobile Mobile Hotspot
Inseego MiFi X Pro 5G
Get super-fast connectivity via T-Mobile’s 5G and 4G networks using the Inseego MiFi X Pro 5G. It’s also portable and supports Wi-Fi 6.
Best AT&T Mobile Hotspot: Netgear Nighthawk M6 MR6110
- ✓ C-band 5G support
- ✓ Good battery life and supports battery-less operation
- ✓ Wi-Fi 6 support
- ✓ Built-in Gigabit Ethernet port
- ✓ Touchscreen display
- ✗ No mmWave 5G support
Apart from the unlocked version of the Nighthawk M6, Netgear offers an AT&T variant with model number MR6110 that is perfect if you want something to use specifically on the carrier’s network.
The MR6110 has the same feature set as the MR6150. So you get sub-6GHz 5G support, including AT&T’s C-band frequencies. The mmWave 5G support is missing, but that’s not a big deal, as you’ll be hard-pressed to find the mmWave network outside of select locations in big cities. However, the C-band inclusion will undoubtedly come in handy as AT&T rolls out 5G on these frequencies.
Wi-Fi 6 support is also present, meaning you’ll enjoy a better wireless performance if you have compatible phones, laptops, tablets, or other devices. This Wi-Fi generation is also helpful while dealing with multiple simultaneous connections.
Battery life is another highlight of the Nighthawk M6, as the hotspot can last up to 13 hours on a single charge. Moreover, you can also directly power it via the USB Type-C port by removing the battery.
In other features, the Gigabit Ethernet port is excellent for low-latency wired connectivity, and the touchscreen display helps access basic hotspot settings.
You’ll also be happy to know that, unlike the unlocked version, the AT&T variant of the Nighthawk M6 costs just over $300, even if you pay the full price.
Best AT&T Mobile Hotspot
Netgear Nighthawk M6 MR6110
The Nighthawk M6 brings access to AT&T’s sub-6GHz 5G, including C-band, and is great for remaining connected on the go.