Though many travelers dream of being completely off the grid for days – or weeks – at a time, the reality is that most of us have to work. Even though more companies are adopting flexible vacation and paid time off policies, checking email while OOO is often expected. Or, if your current gig requires frequent travel for client meetings and presentations – reliable and accessible Wi-Fi is not only appreciated, but required. Many remote workers and business travelers rely on a hotspot to keep them connected, no matter where the job – or their wanderlust – takes them.
As a way to fire up a wireless internet signal across countless countries, these small devices solve a lot of woes. But hotspots aren't exactly intuitive – especially if you don't have experience with changing sim cards abroad. Much like a phone, when you land in a new place, you'll need to purchase a SIM card and activate the data to use the internet. While some brands do offer an easier pay-as-you-go option, the majority rely on location. This internet won't always have the same speed you'd find at a co-working space, at home, or at work – but most of the time, it's 4G.
As location-independent software developer and founder of DevelopHER Designs Jessica Tatham explains, portable hotspots can be used throughout the world, but the level of connectivity differs greatly depending on your GPS location. "They're not foolproof," she said. "Obviously they're going to work much better in a city than they will on safari in the African bush or floating on a boat in the middle of the Adriatic Sea."
And if you are tempted to browse through Netflix or Hulu to wind down from a day of meetings or sightseeing, you will easily burn through data fast. Some providers – from Verizon to AT&T – may offer an unlimited data option, but it won't come cheap. If you have an international phone plan, you can use your phone as a hotspot, giving you near-instant access to the net on your laptop (or tablet or camera). This is the choice for Tatham, who uses this method for updating social media, but then purchases a local sim to make sure she can reliably meet her deadlines.
Her biggest advice is to read the details and reviews: "You want something that you can reload inexpensively. There are a lot of companies out there that charge outrageously for the refills and that can empty your wallet. A better option can be hotspots that either allow you to just refill at whatever the local internet provider is, or use one of the hotspots that gives you unlimited internet."
Below you'll see our picks for the top mobile Wi-Fi devices. It's important to note that you'll need to research an internet plan or subscription (or source a SIM card) – to make these usable. You will also be limited to the coverage area of the provider you choose, so research which countries they offer internet service in before signing up.
The 8 Best Portable Wi-Fi Hotspots of 2021
- Best Overall: Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L
- Best Budget: Alcatel LinkZone 4G Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot
- Fastest Speed: GL.iNet GL-AR750S-Ext Gigabit Travel Router
- Easiest to Use: GlocalMe G4 Pro 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot
- Best Battery Life: RoamWiFi R10 4G Portable WiFi Device
- Best Multitasker: Netgear Nighthawk M1 Mobile Hotspot
- Most Travel-Friendly: TP-Link N300 Wireless Portable Nano Travel Router
- Best for Gaming: Nommi Mobile Hotspot
Best Overall: Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L
Considered the crème de la crème of hotspots, the Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L is one of the top rated mobile hotspots on the market today. It’s compact and the ratings on internet dependability are high in major cities. You can connect up to 15 devices with a single signal – but it will cost you a pretty penny. The Jetpack itself costs $200 (or $8.33 per month if you sign a two-year contract), and then you pay for data every month. It also has up to 24 hours of battery life, which is good news if you’re away from your hotel all day. Reviewers also shared that it’s one of the best mobile hotspots to bring on camping and RV trips.
To buy: verizonwireless.com, $200
Best Budget: Alcatel LinkZone 4G Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot
Priced just above $50, the Alcatel LinkZone 4G Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot is one of the more budget-friendly hotspots available. This SIM card-operated pick is best matched with AT&T, T-Mobile, and other GSM carriers that use SIM cards for service. It offers up to six hours battery life when fully charged and a 150 megabits per second (Mbps) download speed for quick and continuous streaming. Plus, it’s unlocked, meaning you can easily pop out its included SIM card and utilize your own. According to Amazon shoppers, the hotspot can connect up to eight devices with “no slow down or issues at all” and is “truly reliable and fast.”
To buy: amazon.com, $51
Fastest Speed: GL.iNet GL-AR750S-Ext Gigabit Travel Router
With quick speeds of 433 Mbps, the GL.iNet GL-AR750S-Ext Gigabit Travel Router gives you the power to stream, search, download, and more with fast internet. It also has WAN, USB, and ethernet ports so you can connect faster and easier on multiple devices. Additionally, the device can act as both a virtual private network (VPN) client and server for added convenience and increased cyber security. Reviewers agree that this pick is best suited for tech-savvy travelers, and that its dual-band capacity is a “huge advantage.”
To buy: amazon.com, $70
Easiest to Use: GlocalMe G4 Pro 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot
What we like about the GlocalMe G4 Pro 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot is its flexibility and streamlined design – plus, it’s the ticket it provides to travelers who are hopping across continents. They have their own Cloud SIM technology, allowing you to connect to the net in 100 countries across Asia, South America, North America, Europe and Oceania. Also nice: you can use their G4 Wi-Fi, or you can replace the SIM card with a local provider if the standard connection isn’t fast enough for your needs. You can also connect up to five devices – and it’ll stay powered for 15 hours before you need to recharge. Not to mention, it’s ranked number one on Amazon’s best-selling Mobile Broadband Devices list.
To buy: amazon.com, $170
Best Battery Life: RoamWiFi R10 4G Portable WiFi Device
The RoamWiFi R10 4G Portable WiFi Device outperforms its hotspot counterparts in the battery life department by offering up to 18 hours of continuous internet surfing. Its RoamWiFi R10 Wi-Fi can be shared between five devices, and its 1G of global data is supported in 160 countries and regions. In terms of speed, the hotspot has an upload speed of 50 Mbps and a download speed of 433 Mbps, ensuring that all of your needs are covered. While the Wi-Fi frequency band default setting is 2.4 GHz, it can be amped up to five GHz for a faster connection speed. One reviewer said that it delivered a strong signal during a storm, while another shared that its Wi-Fi connection “passed with flying colors” and hasn’t posed any “aggravating performance problems.”
To buy: amazon.com, from $160
Best Multitasker: Netgear Nighthawk M1 Mobile Hotspot
Able to connect and share data with 20 devices at once, the Netgear Nighthawk M1 Mobile Hotspot can handle multiple tasks at once without sacrificing power or speed. The Amazon’s Choice router is an unlocked device that will connect with all SIM cards, powered by a rechargeable battery that delivers 24 hours of continuous use. It’s equipped with fast 4G LTE broadband and offers up to one gigabyte per second (Gbps) of download speed. Worried about how much data you’ve used? Its LCD screen clearly displays how much storage is remaining, calculates when it will run out, and keeps count of the devices connected. “Works great,” one Amazon shopper shared. “Streams TV, accommodates desktop and cellphone Internet simultaneously with no slowdown or drops in service. Consistent connectivity and smooth service. Easy to set up.” Many noted that it’s a great portable Wi-Fi hotspot to have when traveling to rural areas.
To buy: amazon.com, $259 (originally $350)
Most Travel-Friendly: TP-Link N300 Wireless Portable Nano Travel Router
Bite-sized and affordable, the TP-Link N300 Wireless Portable Nano Travel Router easily fits in a carry-on bag (or your pocket!) and is ready to connect from the moment you turn it on. Thanks to its 2.4 GHz band, the USB-operated device has a moderate external power supply of 5V/1A and delivers 300 Mbps of fast internet without any lagging, making it perfect for streaming, gaming, making phone calls, and more. Another bonus is that it’s compatible with the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Google Chromecast. Reviewers reported that the travel router offers a strong signal and a wireless radius of “about 18 feet” and loved how fast, reliable, and easy it was to set up. “This works flawlessly,” one wrote. “The size is tremendously handy. I travel a lot for work and it allows me to stick it anywhere.”
To buy: amazon.com, $30
Best for Gaming: Nommi Mobile Hotspot
With the Nommi Mobile Hotspot, gamers have access to fast, reliable, and lag-free 4G LTE Wi-Fi in more than 150 countries, allowing them to download, stream, and play wherever their travels take them. Designed as a Wi-Fi extender, the unlocked, pay-as-you-go router can be paired with 10 devices and is compatible with U.S. Verizon, T-Mobile and Mint SIM cards. Thanks to its powerful 5600 mAh USB power bank capacity, the battery lasts up to 24 hours when fully charged and the device can be used to charge your phone and other gadgets when you’re on the go. It offers safe internet connection via its private VPN network, and you can control the router, track your storage, purchase more data, and unlock hotspots through the Nommi mobile app. “It has a great signal,” said one Amazon reviewer. “Always dependable everywhere you go. This device solved all my connection issues and it’s portable.”
To buy: amazon.com, $170
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