Person using Solis Lite while traveling
Solis

What to Look For in a Mobile Hotspot in 2022

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.

Now, let’s jump into our recommendations for the best mobile hotspots.

Best Unlocked Mobile Hotspot: Netgear Nighthawk M5

Netgear Nighthawk M5 on blue and purple background
Netgear

Pros

  • Supports most sub-6GHz 5G bands in the US
  • Ethernet port present
  • Built-in touchscreen display
  • Wi-Fi 6 support

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No mmWave 5G support

The Netgear Nighthawk M5 is the best unlocked mobile hotspot for almost everyone due of its state-of-the-art connectivity options. The MiFi device supports sub-6GHz, 4G LTE, and 3G networks for wide coverage in the US and worldwide.

Although Netgear says it works best with AT&T and T-Mobile, you can use a Verizon SIM card as the device supports many of the carrier’s 5G and 4G network bands. Unfortunately, there is no support for Verizon’s millimeter-wave (mmWave) 5G network, but these ultra-fast 5G networks are rare and only found in select locations in major cities.

Another highlight of the Netgear mobile hotspot is Wi-Fi 6 connectivity. If you have a Wi-Fi 6 compatible laptop or smartphone, you will get better performance.

As mobile hotspots are mostly used on the go, battery life is critical, and the Nighthawk M5 offers up to 13 hours of battery life on a single charge. If you plan to operate it as a static device in your home or office, you can pop the battery out and power it directly using a USB Type-C cable and supplied power adapter.

Netgear has also included a full-sized Ethernet port for directly connecting a device. In addition, you can use the built-in touchscreen display for basic setup or checking the signal strength, rather than wondering how much data you have left.

But, all of these features come at a hefty cost. If the Nighthawk M5 is simply out of your budget, Netgear also sells the less expensive Unite Explore Mobile Hotspot. It’s unlocked and works with all GSM networks, though you won’t be able to get 5G speeds, if that’s a concern.

Best Unlocked Mobile Hotspot

Netgear Nighthawk M5

The Netgear Nighthawk M5 is a solid unlocked mobile hotspot. It supports most sub-6GHz 5G bands and can last over 13 hours on a single charge.

Best Mobile Hotspot for International Travel: Solis Lite

Solis Lite on pink background
Solis

Pros

  • Solid battery life
  • Connectivity in over 130 countries
  • Small form factor

Cons

  • 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

Solis Lite

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

orbic hotspot on green and blue background
Orbic

Pros

  • 5G support, including mmWave and C-band
  • Built-in touchscreen display and Ethernet port

Cons

  • 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 M2000 5G

Inseego hotspot on yellow background
Inseego

Pros

  • Fast charging support
  • Wi-Fi 6 support
  • Can work as a power bank

Cons

  • No external antenna ports

T-Mobile is widely regarded as the leader in 5G availability in the country right now. If you need a mobile hotspot that can effectively use that 5G coverage, the Inseego M2000 5G is your best bet.

Although it doesn’t support the mmWave 5G, the hotspot connects to both low and mid-band 5G bands of the carrier and the 4G LTE network. In addition, the M2000 comes with Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, and you can connect as many as 30 devices.

Among other features, the onboard 5,050mAh battery is respectable and lasts almost 10 hours on a single charge. Inseego has also included Quick Charge (QC) 3.0 support, and you get a 14.4W fast charger in the box. If you have a faster QC-compatible charger lying around, you can even use that to top up the hotspot. Moreover, you can use the M2000 as a power bank.

While the Inseego M2000 is a fantastic 5G MiFi device, you can also consider the carrier’s new Franklin T10 LTE hotspot if you want something more affordable. The T10 lacks 5G support, but otherwise, it’s a solid hotspot with dual-band Wi-Fi support and access to T-Mobile’s fast 4G network.

Best T-Mobile Mobile Hotspot

Inseego M2000 5G

The Inseego M2000 5G is the best mobile hotspot to enjoy T-Mobile's widely available 5G network. And it supports Wi-Fi 6 for better wireless performance.

Best AT&T Mobile Hotspot: Netgear Nighthawk M5

Netgear Nighthawk M5 being used in living room
Netgear

Pros

  • Built-in Ethernet port
  • Supports battery-less operation
  • Touchscreen display

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No support for mmWave 5G

The Netgear Nighthawk M5, our unlocked mobile hotspot pick, is also the best MiFi device you can use on AT&T. It’s powerful and comes with pretty much everything you might want in a mobile hotspot. In addition, it supports 5G (low and mid bands), 4G, and 3G networks.

Millimeter-wave 5G support is missing, but AT&T’s mmWave 5G is hard to find anyway, so you aren’t losing out on much.

In addition, you get Wi-Fi 6 support, and the device allows you to connect up to 32 devices wirelessly. The M5 even packs an Ethernet port for when you need quick and fast connectivity.

Other highlights of the hotspot include a 5,040mAh battery and a 2.4-inch touchscreen LCD.

Unfortunately, the Nighthawk M5 is pretty expensive. So if you have no problem using a 4G LTE mobile hotspot, you can get the Nighthawk LTE hotspot for cheap. It has good battery life and provides decent performance. But there is no built-in display, so you will depend on the web interface to access the device settings and other options.

Best AT&T Mobile Hotspot

Netgear Nighthawk M5

The Netgear Nighthawk M5 is a state-of-the-art 5G mobile hotspot that can connect with up to 32 devices, offers good battery life, and has an Ethernet port.

Profile Photo for Gaurav Shukla Gaurav Shukla
Gaurav Shukla is a technology journalist with over a decade’s experience reporting and writing about consumer technology. His work has appeared in Android Police, XDA Developers, and NDTV Gadgets 360.
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