Mobile broadband USB sticks used to be staples of the business traveler’s gear bag. But these days you’re more likely to see a mobile hotspot on your local carrier’s shelves. Mobile Wi-Fi hotspots offer one big advantage over USB or ExpressCard solutions: Users can tether the Wi-Fi with more than one device. Here are some other features you should look for when choosing the best mobile hotspot device for your needs.
Speed: Thanks to the proliferation of 4G networks across the country, a good hotspot should transfer data fast enough that you won’t miss traditional Wi-Fi. If you look for models that offer wired tethering as a bonus, you’ll see even better performance.
Top Pick: Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot SCH-LC11 The 4G LTE network on Verizon Wireless can deliver downloads of up to 12 MB/sec and uploads of up to 5 MB/sec. You can download a 150 MB file in around two minutes. (Retail: $269.99; with a two-year contract: $99.99)
Battery Life: A good hotspot should last you three hours or more and just sip power when it’s idle. Look for models that will work while charging over a USB from a laptop, so you won’t be tied to an outlet.
Top Pick: The T-Mobile 4G Mobile Hotspot It has a lithium ion battery that supports four hours of continuous use and 100 hours of standby time. (Retail: $124.99; with a two-year contract: $79.99)
Storage: Some hotspots on the market include a microSD card slot. A few models also offer an extra bonus: allowing users to share the files over Wi-Fi with anyone connected to the device. This is of particular use to groups traveling together on business.
Top Pick: MiFi 3G/4G 4082 Mobile Hotspot by Novatel Wireless Sprint offers this hotspot, which has a microSD memory card slot that can take cards up to 32GB.
Users can share access to both the Wi-Fi and the card’s files with up to five devices. (Retail: $279.99; with a two-year contract: $79.99)
Extras: Beyond these major requirements, different hotspot models offer different perks: GPS/location services, text messaging, international access, etc. Before you make your selection, be sure to ask the carrier representative whether these extras come with a higher price tag or use up the device’s data allotment.