Hotspots are getting considerable attention nowadays. They provide convenience to those who have a mobile lifestyle while being connected to the internet. Your smartphone has also a hotspot function, but it does not match the data speed of dedicated hotspots. Hence, this is a necessary addition to your gadgets, if you are always on the go.
Most entries featured in this list are purchased through postpaid plans. This means you shell out a down payment, then you resort to paying monthly installments for internet connection. Ask your network provider in regards to mode of payment and data cap of your hotspot. The pros and cons of using these gizmos are also presented, for you to discern what to buy. Most of these hotspots are 4G LTE enabled and all of their basic settings can also be changed via Web. Without further ado, here are the best portable WiFi routers you can find today.
7. Huawei E5330
This is the most affordable hotspot in this list, at around $50. If you are short on cash to buy 4G LTE enabled hotspots, then Huawei E5330 is the best one you can have right now. This pocket Wi-Fi only weighs 3.5 ounces and measures 3.5 by 2.4 by 0.6 inches. These dimensions make it the smallest and the lightest hotspot in the list. The simplistic design screams elegance and practical usage, while showcasing a competent and stylish body. There is no touchscreen in Huawei E5330, but you can manipulate basic settings through the Web. The battery measures at 1,500 mAh, which translates into 5 hours of usage.
It has a 3G HSPA+ that gives speed up to 21 mbps. Again, this is the fastest data speed you can have, as far as 3G is concerned. The E5330 also connects up to 10 devices at a time. Ultimately, Huawei E5330 is the unit to go with, if you want a contract-free hotspot for an affordable price. Just remember, you get what you pay for in using Huawei E5330. Everything about it is average, but that’s the best 3G can offer so far.
6. Sprint Pocket WiFi
ZTE’s first entry in the list features a capable hotspot, which supports 802.11ac on 5GHz band and lets you connect 2.4GHz and 5GHz enabled devices with ease. For a price of $180, or $49.99 with a contract, you will enjoy the solid network performance of Sprint Pocket WiFi.
The ‘pocket’ in its brand name is not just for show. It only weighs just above 4.2 ounces, which makes it perfectly pocketable. Sprint’s dimensions are 4.6 by 2.4 by 0.55 inches, which complement its light weight. The build is made from soft plastic that gives it a premium feel. Its 2.4-inch screen allows users to add or change passwords and to manage devices connected to it.
In terms of internet connection, Spring Pocket WiFi delivers a solid performance, but disables global roaming. You got a nice management of 2.4GHz and 5GHz in simultaneous connection in exchange. You can connect up to 10 devices to it, which can be a bit frustrating. Internet speed is also comparable with other hotspots. The battery life is at almost 6 hours, quite the average for these hotspots. The same can be said of its range, that can reach up to 40 feet with no compromise on connection speed.
For such an expensive gadget, Sprint Pocket WiFi does not have a microSD slot, nor an external antenna. Lacking the latter poses problems if you are in an area with weak reception. Screen’s brightness is also dim, making it unfit to use under direct sunlight. Ultimately, this is a competent 4G LTE hotspot that does what it is programmed to do.
5. ZTE Falcon 917
ZTE Falcon fits most with users who pursue bare basics of mobile hotspots for an affordable price. It serves as a good gateway for more complex mobile broadbands, for only $79.99. Aesthetically, this looks like your typical dedicated hotspot, as it is made from plastic. Its dimensions are 4.1 by 2.4 by 0.6 inches and weighs about 4.23 ounces. ZTE Falcon is the cheapest 4G enabled device on this list, because it has no front panel display. That was replaced by LED lights, which indicate your signal strength and your battery status. ZTE Falcon has a removable 2,000 mAh battery, a micro SIM card slot and a micro USB port. The port is used both for charging the gadget and connecting it to a PC. The absence of antenna might frustrate you if want to gather more signal in rural places. Its chipset (Qualcomm MDM9225) might be outdated, but it is still capable of delivering data as fast as 150mbps.
If you live in the United States, T-Mobile offers a good bang for your buck in terms of postpaid plans. Users can choose contracts from 6GB data for $35 to 22GB data for $95. By comparison, the prices of all other networks render T-Mobile’s offer as the best deal you can get. It’s true, some might provide reasonably cheaper plans, but these either have a data cap or limits on the maximum number of devices that can connect to it.
However, you should not expect anything more, given its price. The area coverage of ZTE Falcon remains the weakest among 4G hotspots in this list. Its LTE band also only works on T-Mobile Networks. While it supports 802.11n, it is not capable of supporting 802.11ac or a 5GHz band. The battery life is just over 6 hours, which is good but nothing extraordinary. Ultimately, this is a basic hotspot which delivers what it promised to.
4. ZTE Spro 2 Mini Projector
Perhaps Spro 2’s innovative features catapulted it in this list. This gadget walks a fine line between a mini-projector and a mobile hotspot, which is a perfect choice for tech lovers. It has a small LED projector that runs on Android 4.4 and a mobile hotspot that can connect up to 10 devices at a time. Its design is more akin to a projector than a portable router, though. The dimensions are 1.2 by 5.3 by 5.2 inches, which is too big to be slipped in your pocket. Spro 2 sports a 5-inch screen and below is located a physical On/Off button. The left side comprises the volume buttons, while its back side has the connectors. Several useful features are also there, particularly an HDMI connector and a 3.5 mm earphone jack. The bottom part has a stand to support the mini projector. Fortunately, Spro 2 has a 10.57 GB internal memory for storage. The battery can last up to a monstrous 10 hours, despite its dual function, thanks to its 6,300 mAh battery. The projector plays 720p videos, which is normal for palmtop projectors.
However, this is certainly expensive, at $400. The audio can be too quiet and the brightness is just average for projectors of this kind. Spro 2 also lacks a remote control, so you have to manipulate the options manually. The download speed is also the slowest among the entries in the list, at 6 mbps, but it is considered passable for an LTE device. As a product for gizmo aficionados, Spro 2 is not simply a projector, nor a hotspot. It is an innovative gadget that captures decent functions of both devices.
3. Huawei Mobile WiFi Pro E5770
Huawei is basically China’s romantic equivalent of capable hotspots. This gadget is the first entry from the firm that features 4G LTE connection. If you are well-versed with Huawei products, then you will find this one really easy to use. Design-wise, it looks like the ZTE Falcon, only with a screen which shows your signal strength and battery status digitally. Above the screen is the USB input and output. The latter serves as a charger to your smartphone. The size is small enough to fit in a pocket and its design feels premium enough, with a leather texture.
If you are connected to a 4G LTE network, the internet speed can reach up to 150mbps. That alone makes it a perfect companion if you are a sort of a “nomadic” person. What’s even more amazing is the battery life. It has a whopping 5,200 mAh, which translates into 20 hours of continuous use of WiFi, or 200 hours of standby. In that regard, it also works as a powerbank to your phone.
Huawei E5770 can connect up to 10 devices at a time for internet surfing. It has also a microSD slot which supports up to 32GB to store data. This makes an easier sharing of photos to your friends on the internet. The only flipside is the availability of network providers which provide postpaid plans for uninterrupted connection. If taken in a different perspective, you also have the freedom to choose the network provider to surf the net. This is also tad expensive, at $179.99, despite lacking a capacitive screen display.
2. AT&T Velocity
The Velocity is an all around hotspot that offers a solid performance and practical usage. This gadget is actually one of two AT&T offers, and it is the cheaper one. Velocity is pocket-friendly, measuring at 4.5 by 2.5 by 0.7 inches. However, its weight (4.6 ounces) makes it more advisable to be carried inside a bag than in your pocket. Located at top most part is a microSD slot and power buttons. The bottom part contains the SIM card slot and a reset hole. Its LCD screen allows you to select options, similar to your smartphone. From there you can change your password and monitor devices connected in the hotspot. However, do not expect for the touchscreen to be always responsive. You might also incur some erroneous choices in menu, due to the small size of icons. Meanwhile, advanced settings are manipulated via Web.
Fortunately, you will not have to worry in setting it up for internet surfing. Just turn the Velocity on, and it automatically connects to AT&T’s network. The default frequency is at 2.4 GHz, but can be raised up to 5 GHz as well. The Velocity can connect up to 10 devices with ease. As expected, AT&T delivers fast download speed and has no issue in maintaining strong internet connection, for as far as 50 feet.
However, there are two major disadvantages of using Velocity. The first one pertains to the data options AT&T offers in its postpaid plans. You will have to pay $50 for a measly 5GB per month, with additional 1GB for $10. A casual user might be satisfied in exploring the social media with that amount of data, but regular video streamers will find it disappointing. The battery life is just above average at 6 hours and 43 minutes. Moreover, Velocity cannot provide connection with devices having different broadband widths at the same time. This is not an issue, if you use phones with the same frequency, though.
In the end, it is a solid entry in the list. Velocity could have been our top choice, if not for crippling data cap and mediocre battery life.
1. Verizon’s JetPack AC791L
If Huawei WiFi Pro E5770’s absence of postpaid data plan does not suit your taste, then Verizon’s JetPack AC791L provides the same speedy internet connection, together with its power bank function. It is available as a standalone purchase at $199.99, or $49.99 with a contract. Verizon AC791L weighs about 5.8 ounce and has a dimension of 4.3 by 2.7 by 0.8 inches. Its small size allows you to slip it in your pocket, but it’s more recommended to be placed inside your bags.
The device has a touch of black in it, with a 1.7 TFT LCD screen located at the center. The power button is located at the top portion, and a micro USB button at the bottom. There are also connecting pins, which allow you to connect an external antenna to amplify the signal. The back panel is removable and it houses the 4,300 mAh battery and the SIM Card Slot. The AC791L can connect up to 15 smartphones at a time and has an excellent internet coverage. It can last up to 21 hours of run time in hotspot mode, which makes it the longest in this list.
The AC791L is available for contract at 5GB of data for $50 a month and 10GB of data for $80 per month. While the data allocation is small, it is assumed that you are only going to send mails, photos and explore the social media with this hotspot. Either way, Verizon is the fastest mobile network provider in the United States, so data connection is not much of a worry in this case. The only flaw this unit has is the responsiveness of its capacitive buttons, because they’re too sluggish at times. You may opt for the superior Unit Pro, but there’s not much difference in these two in terms of performance. In the end, you get a powerful hotspot for a more affordable deal.
What is your favorite mobile hotspot? Voice your opinion in the comment box.