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.
1. TP-Link M7350 V4 4G LTE MiFi
A versatile solution to a simple problem
Speed: 4G LTE 150 Mbps | Max number of devices: 10 | Features: 2000mAh battery, dual band WiFi, microSD slot
Bulkier than most hotspots
No wireless 802.11ac
The TP-Link M7350 is an excellent mobile hotspot, supporting both micro and nano SIM cards, which means it’s almost certainly going to be compatible with a SIM card you already own. It has a small display for informing you about your connection, and it supports dual band Wifi on both 2.4 and 5GHz. It can be accessed by up to 10 devices at once, and performance is very good on 4G LTE. Its battery life is also excellent, giving you around 10 hours of 4G connectivity.
2. EE 4GEE WiFi Mini
Great for data-hungry EE customers
Speed: 4G LTE | Max number of devices: 10 | Features: 1500mAh battery, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, various data plans
Locked to EE network
Again, no wireless 802.11ac support
The EE 4GEE WiFi Mini is one of the better looking mobile hotspot devices on this list, and its compact design means it can be easily carried around with you. The 1500mAh offers up to 50 hours on standby, and up to six hours when connected to the internet. It can support up to 10 devices at once, but it doesn’t have an LCD screen, like the TP-Link M7350, which means it’s not quite as user friendly. You also need to use the EE network, which isn’t too much of a hardship due to EE’s coverage and fast 4G speeds, and the network offers a range of data plans to go alongside the EE 4GEE WiFi Mini.
3. ZTE MF65
Perfect for those on a budget
Speed: 3G | Max number of devices: 5 | Features: 1500mAh battery, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, microSD card
Up to 5 simultaneous connections
Takes large SIM cards
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 5 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
Speed: 4G LTE | Max number of devices: 11 | Features: 5200mAh battery, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, microSD card
Biggest battery we’ve seen yet
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
Speed: 4G LTE | Max number of devices: N/A | Features: Dual band, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, 5 Ethernet ports
Bundled app to control router
Needs onerous workaround to be truly portable
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.