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While having all your devices connected directly to a data plan is convenient, it’s not always feasible or cost effective. Our days revolve around computers, tablets, wearables, MP3 players and more. If you want to keep all of your gadgets connected while on-the-go, you will need a WiFi hotspot.
Which one should you buy, though? We will show you our favorite models in this article, but first let’s give you the basic rundown.
What is a WiFi hotspot?
It’s actually a very simple idea. WiFi hotspots can connect to wireless carriers just like smartphones. These units will then create a WiFi signal that will allow any gadget to connect to it, giving it access to carrier data. It pretty much does the same as your smartphone when you tether, but it is made to do only that. This affords it a number of advantages, with the biggest being that Wi-Fi hotspots have much better battery life than a tethered phone would.
Best WiFi hotspots for USA users
Not planning to use your hotspot out of the country? Here in the USA we have plenty of great options for good prices, as well as affordable plans. Let’s take a look at them.
Verizon MiFi Jetpack 4620L
Verizon has one of the strongest networks in the USA, as well as insanely good 4G LTE coverage (check it out here). If you want reliable data, Big Red is unbeatable. We picked the Verizon MiFi Jetpack 4620L because it gets the job done, is backed by a strong carrier and is super affordable.
This hotspot may not have fancy features or glorious touch screens, but it will keep up to 10 devices connected. It also has a 5-hour battery life, which is not too bad. The best part is you can get it for as low as $50.81 on Amazon; off contract and ready to use.
Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot—AC791L
Now, if you do want something a little fancier, we have another decent looking Verizon hotspot for you. The Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot (AC791L) will have you covered no matter what. It has a 24-hour battery life, so you could even take it on your weekend trips to stay connected.
Because it’s also a world device, it can keep 15 gadgets connected in over 200 countries. And data is not the only thing this hotspot will provide, it will also keep your devices charged, as it can operate as a portable battery.
It only holds 4,340 mAh of juice, though, so don’t expect it to charge your devices too much. That may be enough to keep your WiFi hotspot on for a full day, but it’s not much for smartphones and tablets.
What’s the damage? This bad boy is priced at $199.99, but you can get it for $49.99 if you sign a 2-year contract.
Freedom Spot 803s 3g/4g
It’s not always about what WiFi hotspot you get. Sometimes you want a good deal, and if you live within good Sprint coverage, there is a service that offers great bang for your buck. In fact, you could use it for free, if you go light on your data usage.
FreedomPop gives you 500 MB of data for free, each month. You can earn more by completing special offers or referring friends. There’s also data plan options available, but they happen to be pretty affordable when compared to the competition.
The Freedom Spot 803s costs $129.99, but that is a very worthy investment if you consider it will grant you free data each month. It can keep up to 8 devices connected and is estimated to stay alive for over 6 hour on a single charge.
ZTE Falcon Z-917
We know a number of our readers love T-Mobile. After all, their Uncarrier moves are a bit hard to ignore. If you have a Simple Choice plan, you can even take advantage of Data Stash (rollover), so you might want to look into a good WiFi hotspot from Magenta.
We happen to like the ZTE Falcon Z-917. It is simple and works well. T-Mobile is not very specific about battery life, but the 2,000 mAh unit should help it last a while. Standby time is estimated to be about 7 days.
It’s also pretty affordable at $79.99, and you can even get it on installment payments of $3.34 per month.
AT&T Unite Explore
AT&T is another carrier with great coverage in the USA, so after featuring Verizon and T-Mobile it was only obvious where we would get the next WiFi hotspot device from. But networks aside, the AT&T Unite Explore is actually one of my favorite hotspot units.
It has a 22-hour battery life and a rugged body that will ensure the elements don’t destroy it. This one is IP65-certified and backed by MIL-STD-810G protection. Not good enough? AT&T’s hotspot can also work as portable charger and keeps up to 15 devices connected.
Not the cheapest at $199.99, but you can get it for $49.99 with a 2-year contract.
Best WiFi hotspots for international travelers
The WiFi hotspots listed above are great, but they are linked to a carrier, which is likely no good for those of you who travel often. We have some special options for the travelers, so let’s go through them.
There’s plenty of good, unlocked WiFi hotspots going for good prices, and the Huawei E5330Bs-6 is one of them. It is small, portable and unlocked. Supported bands include UMTS bands 850/1900/2100, which means it can take advantage of AT&T’s 3G speeds, but only 2G on T-Mobile.
This Huawei unit is only $65.95 from Amazon, though, which is a good deal for a completely unlocked device. We do wish it had 4G LTE, but it’s still a good product if you don’t need too much speed. Its 1,500 mAh battery can keep it alive for over 6 hours, and it connects with up to 10 devices simultaneously.
This one is also very affordable at only $59.99 from Amazon, yet it does support 21 Mbps 3G speeds through bands HSDPA/HSUPAUMTS 850/1900/2100 MHz and GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 MHz.
ZTE’s little hotspot device even takes microSD cards of up to 32 GB. You can connect up to 8 devices.
The MiFi moniker is almost synonymous with hotspots, as it was one of the first brands to go big in this market. The MiFi 2 is a bit older by now, but it is still one hell of a WiFi hotspot, especially considering it is currently priced at $68.95.
With a 2,900 mAh battery, one can pull about 16 hours of battery life. It can also connect with up to 10 devices, but you may find that little screen more interesting. You can use touch to control everything, as well as share media. By the way, it does take 32 GB microSD cards.
Now, here is something a little nicer, but it will cost you $181.95. Is it worth it? It just might be if you are in need of 4G LTE, 20 hours of battery life (5200 mAh) and a portable charger (yes, it can charge your devices via USB). It also supports up to 10 device connections, simultaneously.
We are not sure how many of you have the need and money to get this one, but if you really want a connection wherever you go, nothing gets better than this. The MCD-4800 is not your average WiFi hotspot, and the $12,995 price point will tell you that right off the bat.
Any sailor, pilot or adventurer will love it, as it is not limited to regular cellphone networks. Instead, this unit can tap into satellite internet and offer a connection anywhere in the world, as long as you are not in one of the poles.
The unit has a WiFi range of up to 100 meters and supports 464 Kbps speeds. That is a bit slow… but hey, it works from anywhere! Other sacrifices are that it weighs 25 pounds and is pretty huge, but it’s easy to use and can last about 5 hours on a single charge.
It’s a large investment, but it’s an option at least some of you may find convenient.
Are any of you guys looking for a good WiFi hotspot? Which of these are you liking? Also let us know if you have had any experience with these. I have used the MiFi 2 and it treated me pretty well. Hit the comments to share your own experiences!