Netgear Unite Express 2 top view on wood railing

Netgear Unite Express 2 Review

If you’re always on the move, whether traveling for work or going abroad, having access to a steady wireless connection can be challenging. It gets even more complicated if you need to connect your phone, tablet, and laptop to Wi-Fi simultaneously. However, mobile hotspots are the answer, and in particular, Netgear Unite Express 2 might be right for you. If you’re always on the move, this is the perfect mobile hotspot. In this Unite Express 2 review, we’ll tell you what you can expect regarding the range, battery life, and overall performance of this device. We’ll also give a talk about several different options available on the market.

A Quick Look at Unite Express 2

Unite Express 2 Bottom  Up view on wood railing

Unite Express 2 was created in collaboration with Netgear and AT&T. That will likely become obvious as soon as you pick it up, as the AT&T logo is right at the top-center of the device. It’s also quite evident that this mobile hotspot was designed to be an entry-level option and “no fuss” approach to mobile hotspot hardware.

Compared to Netgear Unite Express, it doesn’t even have a power button. All these simplifications are intentional, as the goal of the carrier and the manufacturer is to deliver easy to use mobile hotspot which will impress you with its battery life and built-in features.

It’s super lightweight, too, so you can pop it into your pocket or purse without noticing it. Compared to many devices in the same category, Unite Express 2 is all about sharing. You can connect up to 15 devices to the hotspot effortlessly.

That alone makes it ideal for smaller workplaces, smaller classrooms, and even road trips. Unite Express 2 doesn’t aim to impress you with flashy features and multiple ports you’ll never use. Its only mission is to provide strong and steady Wi-Fi wherever you go.

Overall score: 4.7/5

Pros and Cons of Unite Express 2

unite express 2 front view

Finding the perfect mobile hotspot is probably impossible, as all devices come with specific advantages and disadvantages. In this Unite Express 2 review, we want to break down the features and specs into simple pros and cons list and start from there.

Pros:

  • More than solid battery life
  • Practical touch screen
  • Excellent LTE speeds
  • Connects to 15 devices
  • Ultra-portable
  • Fast charging
  • Lightweight
  • Great price to value ratio

Cons:

  • Not the best Wi-Fi range
  • No external antenna port

General Specifications

Netgear Unite Express 2 on wood railing

We’ve listed the features where Unite Express 2 shines and mentioned a couple of those where it lacks. However, none of those paints a complete picture of what you’re getting should you choose to purchase this mobile hotspot.

In the following sections, we’ll elaborate on several specific device elements and tell you everything you need to know about them. But first, let’s go over technical specifications:

  • Dimensions: 4.5 x 3 x 0.5 inches
  • Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Release date: November 2018
  • Battery: removable 2930mAh Li-Ion
  • Bands: 4G/LTE Bands: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 14, 29, 30, 66
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n/a/ac – Simultaneous dual-band 2.4GHz & 5GHz.
  • Display: 1.77” LCD
  • Ports: Micro-USB 2.0
  • SIM card: Micro

Netgear Unite Express 2 Range

unite express 2 tilted front view

Understandably, when you’re thinking about getting a mobile hotspot device, you want to know about the Wi-Fi rage. Here’s the thing; regardless of what kind of mobile hotspot you have, the range will vary depending on specific factors.

The proximity of 3G and 4G towers will have a notable impact. If you have thick walls, the range will also diminish. The same applies if you live in an area with many trees or buildings. It’s essential to have reasonable expectations.

Wi-Fi range of any device in outdoor areas without obstacles will exponentially greater than what you get indoors. You can expect anywhere from 100-125 feet indoor and close to 400 feet outdoors.

If you consider it highly unlikely that you’ll purchase Unite Express 2 as a home router, these specs are more than sufficient for any other occasion. However, for some people, this might not be enough, regardless.

External Antennas and Signal Boosters

In case the range Unite Express 2 offers simply isn’t enough, external antennas and signal boosters are the go-to solutions. Unfortunately, that’s not an option with Unite Express 2.

Express 2 has zero ports that would support enhancing your Wi-Fi range compared to several Netgear Unite devices. In fact, the only existing port is the Micro-USB 2.0 for charging.

Some people buy mobile hotspots because they offer freedom and versatility. With a suitable external antenna, you can transform the hotspot hardware into a home Wi-Fi solution. Using a signal booster, you get to have a premium Wi-Fi connection while you’re commuting to work.

The Unite Express 2 doesn’t offer these options. However, we have to remind ourselves that omitting these ports was intentional, as Netgear and AT&T aimed to design a lightweight and minimalistic mobile hotspot.

How to Boost the Wi-Fi Range

Just because antennas and signal boosters are out of the picture, it doesn’t mean you’re out of options. You can still improve the range of Unite Express 2 if you download the Netgear mobile app on your iOS or Android device.

There, you’ll find Wi-Fi settings, and under “Setup>Wireless>Wi-Fi Range,” choose the highest signal option. If that doesn’t work, you can always minimize any interference by placing your hotspot in the optimal location. Also, keep in mind that not every carrier will have the same range in every area.

Battery Life

One of the crucial qualities of any mobile hotspot is that the battery won’t die on you in the worst possible moment. If you’re planning a longer trip, you want to make sure that you’ll have internet access the entire time.

With a 2930mAh removable Li-Ion battery, Unite Express 2 will give you that peace of mind. You can expect up to 12 hours of active time and close to two days in standby mode. However, exactly how long the battery life will last depends on a few other factors.

It can connect to 15 devices simultaneously, which is fantastic. But that’s going to drain the battery faster than only a couple of connected devices would. Also, if the mobile hotspot isn’t too close to a cell tower, it will drain more battery to establish a stronger connection.

The good news is that if you plan to be away from home longer, the device has fast charging capabilities. Therefore, you extend the battery life if you find yourself close to an outlet while you’re out.

Speed

You can expect between 400-600Mbps in data transmission speed. This is more than enough for nearly any online activity you have in mind, especially if you’ll mainly be using your smartphone.

This includes SD and HD streaming as well as online gaming. For some users, though, it might not be enough, which is understandable. On the other hand, for people who need fast internet for everyday online activities, Unite Express 2 is an excellent option.

Display

One of the truly unique things about Unite Express 2 is the easy-to-use display. It features a touchscreen and offers a wide array of information.

You can read the signal strength, type of established connection, and, of course, the battery life. The display also shows the Wi-Fi network’s name and a status bar showing how much cellular data has been used.

Security

Netgear is a company that takes the security of their devices seriously. What does that mean for Unite Express 2 users? The device is equipped with Wi-Fi security encryption, VPN pass-through, NAT firewall, and Wi-Fi protected setup.

Since you’d likely want to share your mobile hotspot with others, you also have access to the Guest Wi-Fi feature. You can access it via Netgear mobile app and even use an optional timer setting to limit the time others are using your hotspot.

On top of that, you can set up content filtering and other parental control settings with the Netgear app too. Although, this is a subscription-based service, therefore optional.

Locked or Unlocked Mobile Hotspots – Which One Is Better?

Unite Express 2 in hand outside

When you set out on a search for the best mobile hotspot for your needs, you might notice that some devices are locked and others unlocked.

If a mobile hotspot is locked, that means you can only insert a SIM card of the carrier who issued the device. In the case of Unite Express 2, we’re talking about AT&T, as the company launched the device in collaboration with Netgear.

You can choose to purchase this device directly from AT&T, which means it will be locked. Or you can find it from a certified distributor unlocked. Here are a few pros and cons for each type for your consideration:

Locked Hotspot

Pros

  • Less expensive initially
  • It can’t be resold (fewer chances for theft)
  • More data plan options

Cons:

  • Expensive roaming
  • Monthly payments
  • Infrequent software updates

Unlocked Hotspot

Pros:

  • Choosing a different carrier
  • No monthly payments
  • More spending control
  • Manual device updates
  • Cheaper for international travel
  • More flexibility

Cons:

  • No customer support
  • Costs more upfront

Unlocked devices in general, including phones, tablets, and hotspots, provide users more freedom. In the case of Unite Express 2 hotspot, a locked device only gives you the option of choosing AT&T as your carrier.

An unlocked device allows you to choose the carrier you prefer. Sure, you don’t get the benefit of AT&T subsidizing the cost of the device, so you pay less upfront, but in the long run, you’ll likely save more with an unlocked hotspot.

A Few Other Options

woman sitting on couch using laptop

In this Unite Express 2 review, we have nothing but respect and appreciation for this amazing, albeit minimalistic mobile hotspot device.

If you find yourself wondering what else is available on the market, though, allow us to give you three excellent alternatives.

1. Netgear Nighthawk MR1100

Netgear nighthawk Front view

If Unite Express 2 is an entry-level hotspot, this is the flagship device with all the bells and whistles. The Nighthawk can achieve a download speed of 1Gbps, which is impressive. When you consider that it’s the one and only device that delivers such performance, you get why it’s one of the best-selling products by Netgear.

It supports up to 20 devices at the same time and can run nearly 20 hours straight due to exceptional battery quality. The Nighthawk is slightly bulky, especially when compared to the lightweight Unite Express 2, but it’s also sturdy and well-made.

If you’re not happy with the Wi-Fi range, which is unlikely, two external antenna ports can help. You also get an input-only Ethernet port that supports Offloading feature. If you’re traveling a lot, this is something that will significantly lower your cellular data expenditure.

It’s nearly impossible to find flaws on the Nighthawk. However, some users won’t like it that it doesn’t have a touchscreen. The display also seems like a downgrade compared to other Netgear devices.

2. ZTE Velocity Hotspot

zte velocity front view

This is an inexpensive yet high-performing mobile hotspot. Like Unite Express 2, it’s an AT&T issue, so you’ll spot the company’s logo on the device. The Velocity is lightweight and easy to use.

It also contains a Micro-SD slot if you choose to expand the existing 512MB of internal memory. You can connect up to 10 devices to ZTE Velocity and expect the battery to run smoothly over 10 hours of active time.

3. Alcatel Link Zone Mobile Hotspot

alcatel link zone front view

If you need a hotspot that can connect to more than 10 devices simultaneously, Alcatel Link Zone is a fantastic option. It supports up to 15 devices, but the battery drains faster than you like.

Regardless, the lack of an LCD screen implies that the manufacturer found a way to preserve the battery life. This device is easy to use, will fit into your pant pocket without any issues, and will overall get the job done without a hitch.

Final Thoughts

Netgear Unite Express 2 on table with open laptop

Unite Express 2 is the kind of mobile hotspot that will work for most people. If you need a device that will perform well while you’re on the road or at work, you can rely on Unite Express 2.

There are no overwhelming features that can often be confusing. The battery life is excellent, and the lack of antenna ports is not an obvious flaw.

Netgear makes exceptional hotspot devices, and it has certainly done that with this model. Don’t forget the security features and access to content filtering and parental controls. Using this device can be a game-changer in many ways.

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