The 3 best mobile hotspots

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by Anne Loreto Cruz

Working from home allows you to switch up your routine and set yourself up outside when the weather is nice, but it can be hard to nab a Wi-Fi signal in a park or at the beach. The best mobile hotspots are LTE-compatible for fast connection speeds, and have at least an eight-hour battery life to keep you online throughout the workday.

Hotspots work by converting cellular signals into Wi-Fi that your laptop and other devices can use, providing a more stable (and faster) internet connection than tethering a device to your smartphone. Hotspots will need their own cellular plan and SIM card to work, so you’ll want to ensure that the one you choose is compatible with your wireless provider, or purchase an unlocked model that isn’t restricted to a single network.

When shopping for a mobile hotspot, you’ll also want to pick one that supports your preferred internet speeds. Many mobile hotspots will also give you the option to choose between 400 Mbps and 1 Gbps to determine the maximum internet speed. If you plan on taking video meetings and sending emails from a single laptop, 400 Mbps should be plenty, but if you have multiple people with their own devices sharing the same hotspot, you’ll want the additional speed capability of a 1 Gbps hotspot.

Another feature to consider is battery life. In order to keep your devices connected all day long, you’ll want a hotspot that can last at least eight hours without needing to be recharged. Other features like an intuitive touchscreen display and a built-in VPN will also make working remotely from your hotspot more convenient and secure.

With all that in mind, these are the best hotspots that’ll help you stay connected, no matter where you go.

1. The best overall

  • Connection type: 4G LTE
  • Carrier: unlocked
  • Top speed: 1 Gbps
  • Battery life: 19 hours

This lightning-fast mobile hotspot from Netgear can support up to 20 devices at once and has an easy-to-read display that monitors your speed and data usage. This mobile hotspot is unlocked, so you can connect to a data plan from any carrier with a corresponding SIM card. There’s an ethernet cable port if you want to directly wire into the hotspot, and the strong dual-band Wi-Fi gives you the best of both 2.5 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies in terms of speed and wireless reach.

Reviewers wrote that Netgear’s Nighthawk’s 1 Gbps internet speeds are reliable and strong enough to replace their home internet in rural areas without reliable broadband, so it’s definitely fast enough to use for remote working in a park. The display also makes it easy to see how many devices are currently connected to your hotspot network and how much data you’ve used, which is helpful since many carriers will throttle your wireless internet speeds after you’ve hit a data cap.

One reviewer wrote: “Works great. Streams TV, accommodates desktop and cellphone internet simultaneously with no slowdown or drops in service. Consistent connectivity and smooth service. Easy to set up. Instructions are clear even for a novice. [...] Great solution for rural areas.”

2. The best budget pick

  • Connection type: 4G LTE
  • Carrier: unlocked
  • Top speed: 400 Mbps
  • Battery life: 11 hours

Netgear’s 4G LTE mobile hotspot is great for those who are looking for a fast internet connection without breaking the bank. The mobile hotspot’s speed tops out at about 400 Mbps, which is plenty fast enough for your phone, laptop, or tablet. The hotspot comes unlocked, so you can use a SIM card with the mobile wireless carrier of your choice. The 11-hour battery life is more than enough to get through a workday, and the clear display makes it easy to read your network’s login details to connect your devices. Reviewers noted that this hotspot is super easy to set up.

One reviewer wrote: “Worked like a dream. We recently took a 12 hour trip from Montana to Western Washington and it was excellent. The wife watched her stories all the way over, except in the mountains where no one gets a signal. It allowed me to drive in peace and listen to some YouTube videos I wanted to catch up on.”

3. The best SIM card-free option

  • Connection type: 4G LTE
  • Carrier: Skyroam
  • Top speed: not listed
  • Battery life: 18 hours

This portable mobile hotspot from Skyroam is a dependable, all-in-one portable Wi-Fi solution. It weighs just 5.5 ounces and is pocket-sized, so you can take it literally anywhere. Rather than dealing with the hassle of securing a SIM card and data plan from a cellular provider, this mobile hotspot connects to the Skyroam network, so you can simply pay as you go with Skyroam’s flexible data plans. Another great perk is that this hotspot works internationally, so you don’t need to set up an expensive international plan whenever you travel to a new country or region.

One reviewer wrote: “What a cool little device. The little attractive orange circle is a power house. It keeps you connected with the world by providing Wi-Fi. It works as a hotspot. If you need to get it. The service plans from Solis are reasonable. Customer service is amazing. I reached for more information. They are great at responding. I had no issue with the device. Get it.”

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