If you do a lot of travelling and don’t want to put your data or information at risk by relying on other people’s Wi-Fi connections, then you’ll want a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot device, which are commonly known as Mi-Fi.
These Mi-Fi hubs allow for several devices to connect to one or more data SIMs – usually 4G ones – to surf privately and safely. Much like a smartphone’s SIM card, these data-only deals allow you access to the internet in complete security. You can use a monthly contract, or use a pay-as-you-go SIM, so you know exactly how much data you are paying for. The best thing about 4G data is that it is incredibly fast, so you’ll be able to browse the internet as if you were connected to a broadband connection. It means it will also often be faster than free or shared Wi-Fi spots, which usually have data limits and a lot of traffic to deal with.
Mi-Fi hubs range from a simple one SIM solution with a battery to models that can accommodate 10 different SIM cards, or others that even sport a complete Android operating system.
Below are the best mobile Wi-Fi routers you can buy in the UK, catering to all tastes, from frugal surfers to power users and everything in between.
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1. Lenovo Vibe B
A versatile solution to a simple problem
The Vibe B is not actually a hotspot but a smartphone. We’ve included it in this feature because it kills two birds with one stone. Firstly, it acts as an emergency phone should you need one and secondly, Android supports mobile hotspot functionality which means that you will be able to connect devices seamlessly to it.
With a lengthy standby window (389 hours according to the manufacturer) thanks to a 2,000mAh battery, and a full Android OS to tinker with, the Vibe is an interesting alternative to a traditional hotspot. Bear in mind as well that you will have access to Google Play, which will allow you to add extra functionality via paid or free apps.
2. Uros Goodspeed
Great for data-hungry globetrotters
Goodspeed allows users to plug in up to 10 SIM cards – yes, 10. This means it’s ideal for international travellers who want the flexibility of using Goodspeed’s own service on a pay-as-you-go basis (in 250MB slices in up to 85 countries and counting), and who wish to use their own SIM cards as and when they need to.
A business solution is available on a pay monthly basis with a minimum of five devices on call. The hotspot supports Cat-4 LTE and you can connect up to 15 devices to it. The 3200mAh battery powers the device for up to 12 hours (or 168 hours on standby).
3. ZTE MF65
Perfect for those on a budget
If you’re looking for an affordable way of sharing data, the ZTE MF65 could prove to be a boon if you can live with its shortcomings. For a start, it is 3G-only with no 4G support, plus there’s the fact that it doesn’t have any data management tools baked in. Finally, it takes only large SIM cards rather than nano or micro-SIMs.
The flipside is that it’s great for areas where coverage is patchy or for countries where 4G has yet to be rolled out. Up to 10 devices can be connected simultaneously, although we’d probably suggest limiting that to a few at a time. Its 1500mAh battery should allow for up to six hours’ worth of browsing.
4. Huawei E5770
Stylish model with a massive battery life
The Mobile Wi-Fi Pro from Huawei, otherwise known as the E5770, ticks a lot of boxes for power users. This 4G/LTE model (Cat-4, so only 150Mbps) has one of the biggest batteries we’ve seen on any Mi-Fi device at 5,200mAh. It can even charge another device thanks to a bundled cable that doubles as a stylish strap. Up to 10 devices can be connected with a quoted working time of up to 20 hours.
If that wasn’t good enough, it’s also the only hotspot that we’re aware of that comes with a microSD card slot (sadly taking FAT-formatted cards only) and an Ethernet port. That makes it perfect for small businesses and even, dare we say, a perfect cord-cutting device if paired with the right SIM card.
5. Netgear Nighthawk R7100LG
Ideal for large groups of users
This is the antithesis of your traditional pocket-sized hotspot and we’re bending the rules to include it in this article. Behold the Netgear Nighthawk R7100LG, a router with a SIM card slot. Technically, it is not portable as the device requires a mains power supply, but there are potential workarounds if you really want to make this happen.
The Nighthawk is a great solution should you want to offer internet access to a massive amount of users, and indeed storage access as well. It offers Cat 6/LTE (300Mbps), AC1900 Wi-Fi, two USB ports, a free app to manage the router (Genie), four Gigabit Ethernet ports plus open source support and a wealth of security features.