Someone putting the Netgear Nighthawk into a small pocket in camping backpack

Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 Review

Cellular hotspots have been around for years, but they often come with insufficient configuration options. But, if you travel a lot, you probably need a device that bridges a gap between a mobile hotspot and a travel router.

So, in this Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 review, we’ll explain why this device might be the answer to your needs. It’s no ordinary hotspot – it’s bulkier, more powerful, and doesn’t mess around when it comes to performance.

We’ll tell you everything you need to know about key specifications and talk about the pros and cons of Netgear Nighthawk. Also, we’ll compare locked and unlocked mobile hotspots to give you a better idea regarding your options.

A Quick Look at Netgear Nighthawk MR1100

netgear nighthawk front view blue background

Netgear has been producing computer networking devices for 25 years, and without a doubt, Nighthawk MR1100 is one of their best products. It’s one of the fastest hotspot devices with a 4G LTE connection on the market.

In fact, Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 is the first commercial hotspot of its kind able to achieve a download speed of 1GBps.

While users appreciate the speed, it’s not Nighthawk’s only asset. It’s a sleek, albeit bulky, device with a plethora of excellent features, such as exceptional battery life and excellent access controls.

If you’re wondering why you shouldn’t just use your smartphone with hotspot capabilities, try connecting 20 devices at the same time!.

Nighthawk can replace your home Wi-Fi setup without any issues. However, it quickly transforms into a travel router and can make a road trip with the family more enjoyable.

Overall score: 4.9/5

Pros and Cons of Netgear Nighthawk MR1100

netgear nighthawk on tree stump

We will go deeper into the Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 review and all the most significant features in the following sections. But let’s go over the pros and cons list of said features and give you the cold hard facts first.

Pros:

  • One of the fastest 4G LTE hotspots
  • Connects to 20 devices
  • Excellent battery life
  • Several external ports
  • Parental control feature
  • Arlo support
  • Convenient
  • Stylish design

Cons:

  • A bit heavy
  • No touchscreen

Keep in mind that even though the device is heavier than some of the similar ones on the market, it isn’t necessarily a disadvantage. It speaks to the sturdiness of the device and its durability.

Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 – General Specifications

Let’s examine the Nighthawk MR1100 a little closer and see what we’re dealing with exactly.

  • Dimensions: 4.15 x 4.15 x 0.8 inches
  • Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Voltage: 220 volts
  • Screen size: 2.4 inches
  • Connectivity: LTE CAT 16, 4-band CA, and 4×4 MIMO
  • Speed: Max 1 Gbps download speeds and 150 Mbps upload speeds
  • Processor: Qualcomm MDM9x50
  • Wi-Fi: Full Dual-Band/Dual-Concurrent WiFi; WiFi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4 GHz; WiFi 802.11 a/n/ac 5 GHz
  • Warranty: One-year limited hardware warranty

The Most Important Feature – Range

family camping outside

We want to start with the number one questions most folks reading this Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 review will probably have. What is the range of this mobile hotspot?

Given the fact that this device supports a dual-band 802.11ac connection, the Wi-Fi range is more than excellent. Even if you place the hotspot 100 feet away, you’ll still likely have a strong connection to your laptop or smartphone.

However, the range will also depend on countless other factors, such as the object you’re surrounded with and the proximity of 4G towers. The good news is that you can improve the Wi-Fi range of the Nighthawk in a couple of different ways.

The first is entirely free of charge. All you have to do is access the Netgear web interface or app, access your account and do the following.

  1. Go to “Setup.”
  2. Select “Wireless.”
  3. From the “Wi-Fi Range” drop-down menu, select the highest signal straight option.

In most cases, the default range setting for the Nighthawk is “medium,” which is more than enough in smaller spaces.

Add-On Antennas

While it’s possible to improve the Wi-Fi range of the Nighthawk slightly with the internal settings, there are other, more effective options.

The add-on antennas are the popular choice, as there’s plenty of variety in terms of performance and price. The Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 has two antenna ports, so if one doesn’t prove to be enough, there’s still room for improvement.

Attaching an external antenna to your hotspot will boost the Wi-Fi signal and, as a result, make it more consistent. For maximum effect, ensure that the hotspot is mounted where the cellular signal is the strongest. Usually, the outside wall or a window are the optimal locations.

If an external antenna isn’t enough, you can try a portable Wi-Fi signal booster, especially if you spend a lot of time in vehicles.

Battery Life

If the range is the top concern with cellular hotspots, certainly, battery life comes very close. What good does it do to have a hotspot with an excellent range that dies on you after half a day? To avoid such frustrations, it’s essential to check the battery specifications of this type of hardware.

Fortunately, Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 delivers, and then some. The device features a removable 5040mAh Li-Ion battery, and you can even purchase a replacement battery from us at a fair price, which is great.

How long the battery will last depend on how many devices are connected to it, first and foremost. If the Nighthawk is on standby, it will last for about two weeks. If you connect your laptop and smartphone to this hotspot, the battery will last anywhere between 16-19 hours.

Keep in mind that what you do online will also impact battery use. Consequently, if you stream Netflix, expect the battery life to be shortened.

Overall, if you only have several devices connected to Nighthawk during the day, it’s unlikely you’ll need to charge it until the day’s end. Also, it will take around 2.5 hours to charge the Nighthawk hotspot fully.

External Ports

The Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 has five external ports. There are two designated antenna ports; primary and secondary. You also have two different USB ports, Type-A and Type-C. Perhaps the most surprising is the Ethernet port.

It’s an input-only port designed for travel router mode. In addition, Nighthawk has a built-in feature called Offloading to reduce cellular data usage.

Essentially, all you have to do is connect your hotspot device to an existing wired connection and never drop a signal. This works really well in hotels and other places where you can get access to wired internet.

Display

Of all the Nighthawk’s features, the display is probably the most underwhelming. You have the power button, but you need to access the web interface or the Netgear mobile app for everything else.

The device doesn’t have a touchscreen, which would have been a nice touch. The display shows information such as the number of currently connected devices as well as time and date.

There are also two status bars on the display’s sides, informing you about battery level and consumed data volume.

The Setup

If you’re worried about the complexity of the Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 setup, there’s no reason to be. Inserting the Micro SIM card is a straightforward process and takes no more than a minute.

Then, you need to download the Netgear mobile app, available on the App Store and Google Play, and configure your device. This is where you’ll find all the settings related to the Wi-Fi range and other details regarding the network configuration.

Parental Controls

Cellular hotspots are handy and versatile, and they can be a real gift when you’re going on a vacation with your family.

However, if you’re worried about screen time or kids being exposed to inappropriate content, Nighthawk has built-in parental controls which alleviate that concern.

The parental control feature allows you to pause the internet whenever you see fit and create separate profiles for each child.

You can also monitor the device usage with the Netgear mobile app and check out the website history. Content filter and time limits are among the features too.

Keep in mind that with Nighthawk hotspot, you do get access to this service. You still have to pay the subscription fee of $7.99 per month.

Unlocked vs. Locked Hotspots

woman on tablet using netgear nighthawk

You’ve probably heard about locked and unlocked phones before. Well, the same principle applies to mobile hotspots.

If you purchase a mobile hotspot from a carrier such as Verizon or AT&T, the hotspot will only work with the carrier’s SIM card and will remain locked should you try to use a different carrier. As long as customers meet specific criteria, carriers are obligated to unlock their phones at no cost.

However, there is an abundance of unlocked mobile hotspots on the market, and you might be wondering if that the right choice for you. To get a clear idea of your options, let’s go over the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Locked Mobile Hotspots

Pros:

  • Usually sold at a discount price
  • It can’t be sold illegally
  • The versatility of data plans

Cons:

  • Roaming charges
  • Monthly payments
  • Less frequent updates

Unlocked Mobile Hotspots

Pros:

  • Carrier freedom
  • No monthly payments
  • Better spending control
  • Quicker updates
  • Resale value
  • International savings
  • More flexibility overall

Cons:

  • No support from carriers
  • More costly upfront

Ultimately, whether you’ll prefer a locked or unlocked mobile hotspot will be entirely up to your preference. However, unlocked devices undoubtedly allow more options in how you use them.

Perhaps you only need a mobile hotspot from time to time, and you don’t want to pay a monthly payment. That’s a strong argument against locked devices.

The same applies when it comes to the choice of carriers. You don’t want to buy a new device every time you’re not happy with the service you’re receiving.

A Few Other Options

young boy on tablet connect to hotspot

The Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 is without a question one of the best 4G LTE mobile hotspots on the market for several years in a row.

However, should the price seem too steep or other features don’t agree with you, we want to introduce three similar devices for your consideration.

1. ZTE Velocity 2

zte velocity 2 front view

If you want a simple, inexpensive, but very effective mobile hotspot, ZTE Velocity 2 is an excellent option. It features a super-fast 4G speed and more than decent battery life.

You can take this hotspot with you and expect 10 hours of active use without a hitch. You also receive a USB-C charger which will power up the device relatively quickly.

The 2.4-inch LCD screen gives you all the information about the device’s status, including how much data has been consumed.

2. Netgear Unite

netgear unite front view

The leader in the field is Netgear, and if your heart is set on one of their devices, the Unite mobile hotpot might do the trick. It’s less expensive than Nighthawk, but it brings an impressive Wi-Fi range – up to 160 feet indoors.

Like Nighthawk, you also get two external antenna ports should you choose to boost the range even more. The screen size is great too, as well as the LCD.

It can connect to up to 10 devices, but compared to Nighthawk’s 20 might be disappointing. Still, compared to other hotspots in this category, Netgear Unite is a powerful contender. The battery life is more than decent. You can expect 10 hours of active time, including streaming.

3. Sierra Wireless U305 USB Modem

sierra wireless tilted front view

If you’re looking for a portable modem for your laptop only, the Sierra Wireless USB modem is a fantastic option. Maybe you don’t want to rely on a mobile hotspot device or drain your smartphone’s battery tethering Wi-Fi.

This is a 3G USB modem you can connect your laptop or even desktop when necessary and give it an instant internet connection. In addition, this particular device is a foldable model, which makes for easier transport.

Naturally, you can only connect one device at a time to the Sierra Wireless USB modem. If you only need internet for your laptop when you’re away from home, this is probably a better solution than a mobile hotspot.

Final Thoughts

netgear nighthawk front view bright blue background

Hopefully, this Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 review has successfully portrayed the many impressive features of this mobile hotspot. It’s a popular and well-known mobile hotpot made by a company known for their excellent products.

The two main qualities – range, and battery life, are more than satisfactory. When we add the ability to connect to 20 devices at once to the mix, you could easily see why many people choose Nighthawk as their primary internet connection at home.

It’s outdoors where Nighthawk excels the most, so if you choose to carry it with you on trips and vacations, you’ll get to see how well it performs.

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