Best Mobile Hotspots of 2018

Laptop on wooden desk

Netgear Unite Explore

Netgear Unite Express

Netgear Unite Mobile

Novatel MiFi 2

Netgear Unite Pro LTE

ZTE Velocity

Unite explore hotspot front turned on Netgear Unite Express Black Front Image White NetGear Hotspot 770S Front Image Novatel Wireless Mifi 2 view 1 Netgear Unite Pro Mobile Hotspot Front ImageVelocity LTE Mobile Wifi Hotspot Front Image
Price*
$129$59$99$49$99$59
Carrier Branded
AT&TAT&TAT&TAT&TAT&T

AT&T

Unlocked to
GSM NetworksGSM NetworksGSM NetworksGSM NetworksGSM NetworksGSM Networks
4G
YesYesYesYesYes

Yes

Connected Devices
151010101510
Battery Life (hrs)
2010101116

10

MicroSD Slot
NoNoNoYesNoYes
More Information
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*Prices are subject to change at any time.

About Hotspots

Man laying on his stomach working at a laptop while frustratedIn the world we live in, we constantly connect to our digital life. If time were to pass without us receiving a text, email or tweet, we get overly worried. Either we were unfriended or the internet connection crashed. While the first worry may leave us something to work on, the second is a true nightmare. That is true both for those vacationing on a trip as well as the businessman who is awaiting important correspondence about a business deal.

That is where a mobile hotspot steps in. It is the savior as well as the must have for anyone who needs a reliable internet connection at a moments notice, regardless where they can be situated.

What Exactly is a Mobile Hotspot?

mobile hotspot, which is also known as Mifi device, is a portable version of your home internet. It comes in a small, often rectangular shaped device, that quite easily fits into a purse or backpack. With a simple set-up of a mobile data plan, the device will give Wi-Fi service to an average of 10-15 devices simultaneously.

The beauty of these devices is that they work under your own set of rules and are very reliable regardless the need. They are also much safer then public Wi-Fi’s due to the safety features that are built in to each device.

When to Use a Hotspot

A smartphone lying near a laptopSome choose to use a hotspot as their choice of Wi-Fi signal for home or office use. Others use it during their many travels in the life of both the explorer or as the business consultant overseas.

Smartphones as Hotspots – Yay or Nay?

One may ask why the need to buy a specific hotspot device when they can simply use the average smartphone as a hotspot. The answer is that is depends. If it were for short term use and there is plenty data on the smartphone, then using it as a hotspot is a great idea. However, the hotspot system uses up the battery life of the device quite quickly. It is kind of like putting it on a marathon run. So if you were to be low on battery or data, it would not be the way to go.

Hotspots, on the other hand, are built to last up to an average of 10 hours on a single charge. That refers to it being used, not just on standby. So up to 10-15 devices can use it constantly for 10 hours before its battery runs dry, is a great deal indeed.

An Office with two desks, chairs and lampsThe Office Life

Setting up an office hotspot is a incredible idea. While routers can do the job as well, they don’t have the flexibility that hotspots do.

Internet routers often come with lots of internet for a good price and can connect to many devices as well. While they don’t officially have a device limit, the service will tremendously slow down if it is overused. Yet especially in an office, there is safety to take into account. Sharing the routers Wi-Fi username and password with all the workers and guests, makes the Wi-Fi like that of Starbucks. That is not a very secure place to handle sensitive work related information.

With a hotspot system in place, there is the possibility of setting up guest Wi-Fi which sets limitations on it. It decides who shall have access to it and for how long as well. Many hotspots can change the password each time for a new guest, so that it lets them log on for a one time use. This in reality sets their internet apart from yours and doesn’t let Tom, Dick and Harry have enough time or resources to get information from your server.

The Traveller

Having a hotspot with you when you travel is like taking your pillow with you on a long trip. It makes the journey all the more comfortable and lets you get what you need done. Unlike a pillow though, a hotspot is built to get you to work or to simply connect with those you love.

Travelling with a laptop in its case walking through airportThe practicality of always being able to contact your best buds or business partners, is unbelievable. No more searching airports for internet connect, which you anyways need to avoid with regards to sensitive data or information. Hiking up a mountain no longer means being cut off from your closest friends. Of course, that is as long as there is signal up there for the hotspot to get its service from.

Going away from the world is necessary at times, but being forced to stay away when you want to be connected is as frustrating as can be. Thankfully, all our hotspots here at Mr Aberthon are unlocked to all GSM networks worldwide. That means connectivity is as simple as 1-2-3 when travelling to a city or country with GSM network service. Simply pop in a local SIM card with the correct data plan for you, and you will be on your way.

Hotspot vs Home Internet Router

Another great question is whether it is worth it to pay for a home router system or a hotspot plan. As with everything, there are pros and cons to each side of the story.

Home internet plans are generally for a much larger amount of data. Therefore, if one were to want to stream movies or use a tremendous amount of data some other way, then home internet would be the ideal plan. In addition, hotspot plans are generally more expensive. They cost a similar price to home internet, for a fraction of the GB.

Netgear Unite Pro Hotspot 16x9

Netgear Unite Pro

So why buy a hotspot? Well, hotspots have great advantages over home internet. The greatest of all is that they are portable. You won’t see anyone unplugging their home internet to use it elsewhere, as the service just won’t work. Hotspots, on the other hand, are made to work via a battery so they don’t need to be plugged in. They are small, practical and will work anywhere that there is data service. So travel no longer means being separated from your internet plan.

Tethering a Hotspot

There are two ways to use a hotspot device. One, namely, is to use the wireless technology and to sign on devices as they word any other Wi-Fi network. The second is to use a tethering cable to connect the hotspot directly to a device.

Tethering a hotspot is a great workaround for devices that don’t have the capability to connect while wireless. An example of that would be a home computer, which needs to be tethered to connect. A laptop or smartphone on the other hand, work great while wireless.

Buying a Hotspot

Hotspots, like cell phones, are sold in many locations. Most carriers have their hotspots locked to their network, especially as is seen with AT&T. The majority of the Netgear hotspots are AT&T branded and work solely with their service. The downside to this is that it limits where you can get your service plan from.

AT&T store prototype of the futureWhether you buy it online or in a brick and mortar store, we strongly suggest going the unlocked route. Why? The reason is simple. We are firm believers of giving the customer the ability to choose where they buy the device. In addition, it is up to them which device they will buy. On top of that, the service they go with should be their choice as well.

An unlocked device is a device in which the seller (or even buyer) gets hold of an unlock code, often for a small fee. They then use it to unlock the device and it will work on multiple networks, no longer being locked in to one. At Mr Aberthon, we have unlocked all of our hotspots, unless marked otherwise, to all GSM networks worldwide. That means they will work for AT&T, T-Mobile, Metro PCS and any other network that uses the GSM system. To learn more about GSM vs CDMA, see this blog post.

All About Hotspot Plans

Hotspots work with the SIM card system, like most cell phones these days. While buying the device is the first step, the next very important step is setting up a monthly data service for the hotspot. There are many options regarding which companies to go with and what to keep in mind when looking into data plans.

Networks and Sub-Networks

Chart of GSM vs CDMA companiesThere are 4 main service networks, which are AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint. The first two work on the GSM system and the last two work on CDMA networks. While these 4 are the networks that you will hear of most often, they are likely also the most expensive. There are plenty of sub networks that use their cables and service. Such companies pay the main companies a commission and find their own clients. The results is that the main 4 are gaining of the deal and are happy to let them use their wires. Find out which networks the sub-networks are using. They may be a much better choice as they often offer better deals, both in price and package.

Limited or Unlimited

Plans come in many packages, shapes and sizes. Some may be limited to a certain amount of GB of data and others may be unlimited. Even the unlimited will usually slow down the internet past a certain point, but that level is quite high and it will still work afterwards, so no worries.

The advantages to the unlimited plans are that there is no need to weigh and measure how much data you are using. The service will be reliable, steady and always there, regardless whether you are at home or on a trip.

The biggest tip we can give regarding finding a plan, is to look into many options and compare them. Since plans work monthly, and the device is already paid for, you won’t be locked into a yearly plan. Therefore, if a deal were to come up in a month or two on another network, feel free to switch over. In addition, if you were to need your hotspot in service for a month, then only need it again in a few months, you only need to pay for the months you actually need. The greatness of such a system gets us every time.

Let’s Talk Security

The number one worry regarding internet in general, is that it isn’t secure enough. There are constantly new stories of hacking going on, as well as new safety features being thought up for each device that exists. However, there is plenty to do to keep safe. Just as with banking, you would hide the PIN you are typing in, the same is with using the internet. There are things to look out for when surfing the web, and basic logical activities to avoid.

Netgear Unite Explore on round shaped wooden chips

Netgear Unite Explore

Stay Safe

Creators of the hotspots were well aware of this issue and put in place plenty safety features to keep us safe. They built a device that is secure as internet can be. It has a username and password that you alone, as the owner, can change as needed. In that way it functions the same as a home internet. However, the manufacturers added more to the hotspot then is available elsewhere. While the hotspot’s main screen shows the username and password, it is easy to hide it via the device’s settings.

Create a Proper Password and Username

As with setting up emails or online banking, hotspots too should be programmed with complicated usernames and passwords. By using a mix of numbers, letters and symbols, you are making it extremely hard for someone who does not deserve access, to get in. If that were to be the case, the worse scenario is that they find your personal data over your internet connection. The best is that they use your hotspot as a free internet source, racking up your service bills. Either way, its not too pretty. Taking simple steps towards safety is always a smart thing to do.

Guest Wi-Fi

Velocity Hotspot on wood surface

Velocity

With the majority of these devices, there is the ability to set up a guest Wi-Fi. It works as such, there is an independent password created each time a new guest wants to log on. The owner of the device shares the password with them, while making rules to their log in. It can be set up as a one time use only Wi-Fi as well as it being limited to a certain length of time. The last thing an owner needs is a guest using up their entire GB data or sharing the password with people you don’t want connected.

Hotspots are Private Wi-Fis, Keep it That Way

Remember, there is a reason why you bought a private hotspot and are not using public Wi-Fi that is available at coffee shops or subway stations. That is to be secure with the internet you are using, and to know exactly who else is logged on. Accessing sensitive data over a public Wi-Fi system would just be irresponsible. There may be predators who are also logged on, waiting for someone to use their online banking so they can get hold of their information. Yet with your own private hotspot, you don’t need to worry about that as you know who you gave the password to. Again, if it were to be shared with too many people, feel free to change it and only inform those that belong there. This is the best way to avoid unnecessary headache over a large bill that seemingly came from nowhere.



Top Mobile Hotspots

Unite explore hotspot front turned on

Netgear Unite Explore

Netgear Unite Express Black Front Image

Netgear Unite Express

White NetGear Hotspot 770S Front Image

Netgear Hotspot 770S

Novatel Wireless Mifi 2 view 1

Novatel Wireless Mifi 2

Netgear Unite Pro Mobile Hotspot Front Image

Netgear Unite Pro

Velocity LTE Mobile Wifi Hotspot Front Image

ZTE Velocity


Netgear Unite Explore

The Netgear Unite Explore is just about the best mobile hotspot available. Boasting amazing battery life of up to 20 hours and able to connect up to 15 devices, the Unite Explore goes further to keep you and your family or friends connected. 4G also means you get the fastest possible data transfer speeds available. The Unite Explore is also one of the few rugged hotspots on the market meaning it’s designed to take the hits with ease. Dustproof and water resistant to a depth of 3 feet for 30 minutes, you can be sure that, whatever the weather, the Unite Explore will be with you every step.


Netgear Unite Express

Despite having many of the features of the other hotspots here, the Unite Express costs a lot less than most. Yes, there’s a slight compromise on the number of connected devices (10) and the battery life (10 hours), but that’s it. If your hotspot needs are reasonably modest, the Netgear Unite Express is a terrific choice. Setup takes just a couple of minutes through your browser, and the display on the Unite Express keeps you informed on your connection details. It weighs about the same as a pack of cards, and is about the sam size, so there’s no weighty lump in you pocket or purse. All in all, pound for pound you will struggle to find a better hotspot than the Netgear Unite Express.


Netgear Unite Mobile

The Netgear Unite Mobile takes mobile hotspots to new levels. Behind the full color touch screen beats a sturdy heart which allows up to 10 devices to be connected. Unlike some models, though, you don’t need to be within touching distance to be able to use the connection. Indoors, the signal will reach up to 160 feet, and outdoors it can reach an incredible 520 feet. Take your cellphone almost 2 football fields away from your broadband router and see if you can still get a signal. Our money will be on you not being able to. 2×2 MIMO antennas built in makes this possible, and means you don’t have to be on top of each other wherever you are.


Novatel Mifi 2

The Novatel MiFi 2 is a little bit different than most mobile hotspots. Hotspots tend to be design for functionality, not beauty, but the MiFi 2 delivers on both counts. Sleek and good looking, with a wonderfully clear full color display, it demands attention. Beauty isn’t just skin-deep with the MiFi 2 though. As well as 4G connectivity, there’s excellent battery life and a MicroSD card slot for carrying and sharing files. Now all the family can watch a movie on their own device from the SD card in the MiFi2. Like all the devices here,the MiFi 2 has several security features to keep your connection secure and your network safe.


Netgear Unite Pro

A definite step up from the norm, the Unite Pro provides enough battery power to keep you going all day. Assuming you have 15 friends and family with you, go ahead and connect them all to the Unite Pro on 4G. Go ahead, stream your life away! If you are somewhere that 4G hasn’t reached yet, the Unite Pro provides 3G fallback so you can still get online. If you have a 3G device, not 4G, you can still harness the 4G power of the Unite Pro. This allows you to use the much greater bandwidth of a wi-fi connection to get the maximum 4G speeds. You can also revive an ailing smartphone by transferring power from the Unite Pro battery to the phone. Packed with features and power, the Unite Pro is an excellent choice.


Zte Velocity Hotspot

Despite being towards the budget end of the mobile hotspot range, the Velocity is superbly well equipped. So well equipped, in fact, that it compares very well against hotspots 2 or 3 times the price. From a touch screen display to a MicroSD card slot, the feature list is incredible for a hotspot at this price point. Despite what it can do, it’s incredibly easy to set up. You can be up and running in a few minutes. 10 devices can be connected and there’s 10 hours running power from the 2800mAh battery.



Honorable Mentions

Although not strictly mobile hotspots, if connectivity on the go is important, there are a few things which will help enormously.

Zte Velocity USB Modem Opened

Zte Velocity USB Modem

Netgear Beam 340u open

Netgear Beam 340u

Nighthawk Hotspot Tilted image

Nighthawk


Zte Velocity USB Modem

As a complimentary partner to the Velocity hotspot, this USB modem brings full data connectivity to a laptop or other device with a USB port. Simply pop in a SIM card, and you can be online immediately, wherever you are.


Netgear Mobile 340u

Similar to the Velocity USB Modem above, the

Netgear 340u adds the ability to be used as a MicroSD card reader thanks to the included slot. The device also  enters a self-initiated setup routine the first time it is plugged in, so you don’t need to worry about any complex startup process.


Netgear Nighthawk Mobile Router

The latest development in mobile data connection, the Nighthawk brings Category 16 4G to your pocket. Category 16 is theoretically capable of 1gbps download speeds, which is 10 times that of “ordinary” 4G that we’re all used to. Therefore, network carriers are investing heavily in Cat 16 technology which is bringing true, super fast mobile broadband to consumers. 20 devices can be connected on dual-band WiFi, there’s a MicroSD card slot, and you can get 24 hours of continuous use from one charge. That’s assuming you don’t use the Nighthawk to charge your smartphone, which you can also do. The Nighthawk truly is the future of mobile data.

Rachel C.
Rachel C.
Rachel is the researcher and blog writer for the Mr Aberthon website. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York and eventually made her way to Connecticut in order to become a part of the Mr Aberthon Team. She is passionate about technology and electronics, and nothing gives her more pleasure than discovering insights into the latest gadgets to hit the electronics market.