MiFi or mobile Wi-Fi is an awesome invention, allowing you to connect multiple Wi-Fi devices to a single 4G data SIM and get online wherever you go. We explain how to get the best MiFi deal. Also see: Best data-SIM deals.
Also see: Best Gadgets Deals
Best MiFi 2017 UK: What is MiFi?
You might have heard of MiFi before, but perhaps it was referred to as a mobile Wi-Fi router or a mobile hotspot device. It’s a small device to which you add a data SIM, and it then turns that cellular connection into an ad hoc wireless hotspot. This allows you to connect your phones, tablets and other Wi-Fi devices to it as you would any wireless router. The difference is you’re connecting over a cellular connection rather than a broadband network, but 4G can be just as fast as many home Wi-Fi networks. Also see: Best tech to take on holiday 2017.
Best MiFi 2017 UK: Why buy MiFi? The benefits of a mobile hotspot
You can connect multiple devices: Some MiFi devices let you connect 10 or more devices to a single hotspot, which will work out a lot cheaper than paying for a mobile data plan for each of those devices.
You can connect Wi-Fi-only devices to a mobile data connection: Tablets are great to use at home, but what about on the train, on the beach or by the pool? For wherever you can get a phone signal, you can use MiFi to create a wireless network.
You can save money on your next tablet: Buying a tablet with a 4G data connection adds around £100 to the price of the tablet, and that’s before you consider the monthly fee for your data. Use some of that money to buy a MiFi instead and you’ll never need to buy a 4G tablet again, nor base your purchasing decision on whether a cellular option is available.
You can reduce roaming charges: Most mobile operators offer fixed-fee roaming when you’re abroad, allowing you to take your home tariff with you. Rather than paying this extra charge on all your devices, turn off data roaming on them and connect them all to a mobile hotspot. You’ll pay this charge only once, but get all your devices online.
You can avoid using slow hotel Wi-Fi: In a similar vein, for those hotels that still charge for Wi-Fi, you can get the kids online all day and at a lower cost than what they are requesting. Better still, you can avoid using the same network as all the other guests, which is usually slow and often has poor signal in your hotel room.
You can add 4G connectivity to a 3G device: If you’re still using a phone that doesn’t support 4G networks, MiFi allows you to speed up your mobile internet connection.
You can get faster download speeds: Even if your device already supports 4G, you could potentially get faster download and upload speeds by switching to a MiFi that supports a faster connection.
You can share storage across your own mobile network: If your MiFi supports a microSD card, you can share that storage across all your devices, which is especially handy if they don’t support expandable storage themselves.
Also see: UK’s best mobile network 2017.
Best MiFi 2017: Which mobile router should I buy?
When it comes to choosing a MiFi device, you have two options:
1. You can get a free or low-price MiFi from a mobile operator in return for a fixed monthly subscription
2. You can buy a network-unlocked MiFi to which you add a data-only SIM of your choice, with much lower monthly payments
Many people will automatically go to their mobile operator for a MiFi device, since it’s an easy solution and you don’t need to pay anything up front. But this isn’t always the best idea.
If you buy MiFi from a mobile operator it will be locked to that network, preventing you from shopping around for the best data deal. You will also most likely pay over the odds if you choose to pay nothing up front but tie yourself into a two-year contract.
For example, EE’s Osprey Mini 2 with 15GB of data is available for free on a £22-per-month two-year plan. Over the two years you’ll pay £528. By comparison, if you buy the mobile router yourself (most are between £50 and £100), you can get a data-only SIM with the same 15GB of data from as little as £18 per month (Three). Over the two years you’ll pay only £432 for your data – but potentially a lot less if you don’t need that much data. Better still, you can subscribe to a rolling monthly contract, allowing you to move on at any time with only 30 days’ notice.
All UK mobile operators supply MiFi devices, but remember that not all MiFi devices are created equal and the one supplied by your mobile operator may not be the best MiFi. Also see: Cheapest 4G phones 2017.
7. Best MiFi 2017: Three Huawei E5330
Three sells two mobile Wi-Fi routers, both made by Huawei. The E5330 is a basic MiFi that supports only a 3G network, but if you can’t access 4G where you live it might appeal. At its lowest price the E5330 starts at £8 per month with 2GB of data on a two-year contract, but you can get as much as 20GB for £21 per month on a two-year contract. Opting for pay as you go or reducing the contract term increases the price.
6. Best MiFi 2017: Vodafone Huawei R216 4G Mobile Wi-Fi
Vodafone’s offering is just as fast but not quite as good as those from Three or EE, allowing you to connect only up to five devices at once. The R216 4G Mobile Wi-Fi is great value if you use a lot of data, though, with as much as 20GB of data available for just £20 per month – and that’s with no upfront fee on a 12-month plan. If you don’t use a lot of data then the £10 a month you’ll pay for just 1GB sounds a little steep.
5. Best MiFi 2017: EE Osprey Mini 2
EE’s Osprey Mini 2 is a good-looking MiFi that comes with three interchangeable colour bands and a cloth pouch. It lets you connect up to 10 devices at once, and has a 1500mAh battery inside for up to 50 hours battery life on standby. A benefit of buying from EE is the decent-value data allowances and ‘double-speed 4GEE’ fast network. However, don’t be fooled by the 100MB of free EU data per month – you’ll quickly whizz through that when using the Osprey Mini 2 abroad.
Several plans are available for the Osprey Mini 2, and EE recommends the £22-per-month 15GB plan for which you pay nothing up front. Alternatively, you can pay £39.99 upfront, then £20 per month for that same 15GB of data on a rolling 30-day contract. Right now it comes with a three-month Now TV entertainment pass.
4. Best MiFi 2017: Three Huawei E5573
If you need 4G, look instead to the Huawei E5573 from Three. It supports up to 150Mbps download speeds and 50Mbps uploads. As with the 3G MiFi you can connect it to 10 devices. Prices start from £9 per month with 2GB of data on a two-year plan, or you can get up to 20GB for £22 per month on a two-year plan.
A huge benefit of buying from Three is that if you’re going abroad Three’s Feel At Home policy lets you connect to the web with no roaming charges in several foreign destinations.
3. Best MiFi 2017 UK: O2 Huawei 4G Pocket Hotspot Plus
O2’s Huawei 4G Pocket Hotspot Plus offers staggering battery life with up to 500 hours on standby, or you can use it to charge up your phone when you’re running out of juice using the built in carry cable-cum-Micro-USB cable. It also supports a microSD card, allowing you to share storage between connected devices. A built-in LCD shows useful stats, such as signal strength and battery life.
The down side of the O2 MiFi is the more expensive data charges: for 10GB of data you’ll pay £18 per month, and that’s with an upfront charge of £19.99 on a two-year plan. You can also buy the O2 MiFi for £80 on a PAYG basis.
2. Best MiFi 2017: TP-Link M7350
TP-Link’s M7350 sits at the top of our best MiFi chart as the only device here that is network-unlocked. That means although you’ll pay in full upfront, you can choose any data deal from any UK network operator, and you aren’t tied to a contract. It’s excellent value, and right now is on offer at Amazon for just £69.16 (RRP £105.99).
The TP-Link supports all three UK 4G LTE bands, with up to 150Mbps download speeds and 50Mbps uploads. It can create a wireless network for up to 10 devices, and like the O2 MiFi supports a microSD card for shared storage and has an LCD that tells you the signal strength, how many devices are connected, how much data you have used of your total limit, plus the remaining battery capacity. You can also use the LCD to cycle through a menu that caters to such options as toggling on or off data roaming, switching between 2.4- and 5GHz output, and choosing between 4G, 3G or a mixture of both.
A final option displays a QR code that takes you directly to Google Play or the App Store to download the tpMiFi app, which lets you manage users, alter the range, share files and read text messages.
The TP-Link’s 2550mAh battery should be good for up to 10 hours of 4G connectivity, but lasts days on standby.
1. Best MiFi 2017: GlocalMe U2
The GlocalMe U2 is an Indiegogo-funded project that offers a mobile Wi-Fi router quite unlike others on the market. It’s best suited to frequent travellers who want to quickly and cheaply get online anywhere in the world, but it’s a useful device for back home too, especially for business users who are tired of dealing with flaky internet connections while commuting and even in the various boardrooms they visit. With embedded encryption the U2 also presents a safer method of getting online than connecting to potentially vulnerable public Wi-Fi hotspots.
It’s able to work as a standard Mi-Fi device, sharing the data connection of a mobile SIM (the network-unlocked Glocal U2 accepts both full-size and Micro-SIMs) with up to five devices, but what’s more interesting about the GlocalMe U2 is its cloud-SIM functionality. You don’t need to insert a local SIM in this mobile router in order to get online in over 100 countries – you simply put some PAYG credit on it or buy a data pack and away you go.
GlocalMe works with multiple network operators including AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, Orange, China Mobile, Vodafone, T-Mobile, O2, China Telecom and China Unicom, and supports a wide range of connectivity bands. Because it will automatically connect to the best network wherever you are, you’ll often find – as we did – that getting online via the U2 is faster than with your current SIM.
Most data packages last 30 days, and the U2 itself can keep going for up to 12 hours on a single charge, which should easily power you through any working day. When the 3,500mAh battery runs down charging is fast (around 3.5 hours) over a 3A Micro-USB connection.
Originally an Indiegogo project, the GlocalMe U2 is now available via Amazon in the US, where it costs $129.99. If you want to buy one in the UK you can still do so through the Indiegogo page, where your $129 purchase will also get you a bundled €20 top-up. This converts to around £104 in Sterling, plus shipping.
Read our full GlocalMe U2 review
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