We live in a world where, for most people, having access to the internet is no longer a privilege, but a right that is vital for connecting in this day and age. In fact, some countries take their internet access so seriously that it’s contemplated in their constitution as a right that every citizen should enjoy. Case in point, in 2010, Finland ordained internet access as a legal right, and all their citizens would, from that point on, have free access to a 1Mbps broadband connection. The idea was that, by 2015, everyone would have free access to 100Mbps, which we’re not actually sure if it ever happened, but it still sounds like a wonderful project nonetheless. This just goes to show you the commitment that some people have towards having internet access.
But what happens if you’re a traveler? What happens if you decide to live the backpacker life, but still need internet access to get in touch with your sedentary peers? Well, you could consider visiting a spot with free WiFi now and then. However, those that don’t have WiFi nearby, and that absolutely require internet access at any time and any place, might benefit from investing in a portable WiFi router. These nifty palm-sized devices allow anyone to swiftly and easily setup a WiFi network anywhere. Creating a wireless network with one of these gadgets is as easy as inserting a SIM card, switching the product on, and enjoying your newfound internet connection.
Compared to standard home wireless routers, the main appeal of portable WiFi routers is in their name; portability. These devices are much smaller than their domestic counterparts and can easily fit anywhere, from your backpack or travel bag to your jeans or shirt pockets. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, portability doesn’t necessarily translate into weakness; some of the products that we will mention in this list are strong enough to create a strong wireless network for as long as they have battery life and, when plugged into a power outlet, can even completely replace domestic routers as household WiFi providers.
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Let’s start off this list with a product from Huawei, one of the world’s leading companies in telecommunication devices. This organization creates some of the most powerful smartphones on the market, as well as accessories for them, and products to connect users from around the globe. The E5786s-32 is a powerful portable router which supports 4G LTE connections,up to a maximum speed of 300Mbps for downloads and 50Mbps for uploads. This product is compatible with all wireless standards (b, g, n, ac) and can allow up to 10 simultaneous connections. The 3000mAh provides up to 500 hours of life on standby and 10 continuous hours of use, as well as, with the appropriate cable (not included), it can be used as a power bank to charge phones and other devices.
Before making your purchase, keep in mind that this device is not compatible with Verizon and Sprint’s 3G CDMA/EVDO networks, and also with 700MHz 4G LTE in the US.
This oddly-named portable router was designed and manufactured by KuWFi, a Chinese organization that focuses on the development of wireless products such as wireless audio devices, wireless portable routers, Bluetooth music receivers, and much more. This portable router allows high speed 4G wireless connections across a wide number of bands, which make it reliable for use around the globe. As long as the bands available in your area are compatible with this device, you will have access to fast and reliable internet. The 5200mAh battery installed in this router allows up to 16 hours of continuous use, as well as permitting the device to double as a powerbank to recharge your electronics on the go.
This portable router is a bit more affordable but considerably less powerful than our previous entries. It uses a 3G connection to create portable wireless networks with up to 7.2Mbps download speed and 5.76Mbps upload speed. Though it can’t be used as a power bank, this device’s portability and elegant design allow it to be carried and used anywhere without drawing too much attention to itself. Furthermore its decent 1500mAh battery allows up to 5 hours of use on a single charge, or 280 hours on standby.
This portable router is unlocked, so it can be used with literally any service provider around the world. As long as there are compatible bands available in the area then this router can be used to create portable wireless networks wherever you go.
This product manufactured by Novatel is an inexpensive alternative for those that require stable internet on the go. The MiFi is compatible with 4G LTE and can be used to create fast networks with up to 12Mbps of download speed for up to 5 simultaneous devices at a time. Where this router falls short in terms of speed or other features, it makes up in portability and affordability. For a pretty affordable price, you can have unlimited internet access in areas where Verizon offers coverage. Furthermore, this device’s compatibility with VPNs also helps to keep your data private from those websites that gather data on their users, or from other users with malicious intent.
If you’re looking for a cheap product that allows you to enjoy prepaid internet provided by Verizon, then this router is for you. However, if you need a portable router for international travel, then you might need to look elsewhere.
This device doubles as a wireless router while at home with an ethernet connection, and as a travel router with a 2000mAh battery and capacity to operate with both 3G and 4G technologies and provide up to 150Mbps on the go. Similar to the MiFi above, this device is also very affordable and is the go-to alternative for those that require an inexpensive portable router to take on those international trips.
The biggest flaw in this router is that it only offers about 3 hours of use before the battery starts to run low, which means that, in order to reliably enjoy this product, you would have to do it from the airport or other places where there is a power outlet nearby.
Unlike our previous lists of domestic routers, portable WiFi devices come only in one type, which is more than enough for the purpose they’re supposed to fulfill. After all, it’s not like you should be using a portable WiFi router to provide a secure and encrypted wireless network to your workplace. Portable routers were designed so that people that are always on the go have a device via which they can enjoy stable wireless internet at all times and keep connected to their loved ones during their travels.
Similar to other types of routers, portable routers still require a decent amount of know-how in order to pick the very best products for your needs. It certainly doesn’t help that there are many varieties of these products to choose from, so making a choice can seem like an uphill battle especially if you don’t actually know what to look for in a router to begin with.
So the next time you’re in the market for a portable router, or any router in general, keep in mind the following specifications:
Most wireless routers that have ever existed since they were invented have made use of a wireless standard in order to create a wireless network. These standards can be identified by a string of characters on the box of the product. The very first generation of wireless routers belonged to the “802.11b” standard; “b” being the letter which identified the generation. The next generation was “g”, followed by “n” routers. The most recent generation is the “ac” and marks some of the most powerful wireless routers currently available on the market.
Besides identifying the generation, the wireless standard can also shed some light on the device’s speed, stability, features, and quality in general. After all, a higher generation usually means that the router is more up-to-date with today’s standards, and thus has more features that are on par with modern devices.
This word is used to identify the frequencies in which the router creates wireless networks. The 2.4GHz frequency is by far the most common band in which routers operate, and most b, g, and some n routers adhere to this fact. However, some n and some ac routers are able to operate in dual or tri-band capacity, which allows them to create several networks in tandem, operating in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz band.
This fact is especially important in those environments where there are many devices in a small place, which can interrupt the stability of the wireless network. Contrary to popular belief, our phones and computers are not the only devices that operate on the 2.4GHz frequency; our printers, faxes and even microwave ovens can also operate on this band, and if there are too many devices in the same band connecting to the wireless network can become a real challenge. This issue can be circumvented entirely by investing in a router that can operate on both frequencies so that the user can enjoy a stable and uninterrupted internet connection.
Once again, the generation of your wireless router can help determine the max speed in which the device can operate. The older b routers were usually capped at 11 megabytes per second, while the g routers featured a significantly improved 54 megabytes per second. Meanwhile, the more modern n routers feature a speed cap of 300 megabytes per second, which is more than enough for most users. However, users that are looking for the fastest routers available in the market might want to turn their gaze towards those devices that operate with ac standards. These routers can reach exorbitantly high connection speeds of thousands of megabytes per second. The speed of these routers varies wildly between models, but they are without a doubt the fastest devices on the market.
Most wireless routers offer alternative ways to connect to them, other than wireless. For this purpose some products might feature a number of ethernet ports, for those devices that can benefit more from a physical connection to the router. Similarly, some routers also feature USB ports that can be used to share printers across a network or, when a flash drive or external storage device is plugged in, can be used to share media over the whole network.
Another aspect you need to keep in mind when purchasing a portable router is the maximum amount of devices that can be simultaneously connected. Some portable routers allow up to 10 simultaneous connections, though this number varies from model to model.
Virtually every wireless router -portables included- offer some sort of encryption protocols to protect the flow of information within a wireless network. Most routers make use of the WEP or WPA and WPA2 security protocols to safeguard the files that are shared across the network. But this encryption is to protect the network from outsiders; most routers also offer internal security measures via which the network admin can easily configure the access each user can has, whether by limiting their bandwidth, blocking certain websites, or creating multiple SSIDs to better distribute your networks across a wide area.
Granted these features are not as relevant for portable routers since they’re not supposed to host permanent networks, but they’re still a nice addition.
Some portable routers gain their wireless capabilities from the data plan allotted by the internet service provider. When a device is “locked” it means that only SIM cards from that service provider can be used with that router, which can make traveling a bit of a hassle, since your destination might be outside the area of coverage. For this reason, it’s best to invest in an unlocked portable router, which can operate with any SIM card from any service provider across the globe.
Similar to our previous entry, data card support is an important factor in choosing a good portable router. The difference in network speed between a 3G data card and a 4G data card is huge. So if you need your router to perform at its top speed, be sure to get a 4G portable router.
Some routers can be a hassle to configure especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. Fortunately, there are some products that can be easily configured via your smartphone or simply require no setup at all. These products are by far the best type of routers for the uninitiated, or for those that can’t be bothered to navigate across a bunch of menus just to get the network up and running every time.
Furthermore, one important thing to keep in mind when browsing for portable routers is their startup time. Some of these routers can take a few minutes to boot up, while others can be up and running in a matter of seconds. If you like speed and don’t want to wait for your router to boot up every time, then you’ll want a fast router.
One last aspect to keep in mind when shopping for a portable router are the features that were created to improve your experience while browsing the internet. Like we mentioned above, some routers offer the possibility to completely customize and setup your wireless network via a smartphone app so that you don’t have to tediously connect via your laptop every time you need to tweak a network setting.
Other portable routers include batteries with high capacity so that they can double as power banks. That’s right, besides providing a stable wireless network at any place, some portable routers also allow you to charge your phone on the go so that you won’t ever run out of juice.
Over the past few years internet access has slowly become a quintessential element of our existence in the modern world. It's normal that our most used devices are constantly connected to the internet, downloading and uploading data that is crucial to their proper functioning. However, reliable internet is not always available, especially if you’re a frequent traveler. If you find yourself traveling constantly, and have the need for stable internet wherever you go, then investing in a portable router is a very good idea. This guide was developed for that very purpose: so that you can get an idea of what to look for in a portable router, and to provide our personal picks of best travel routers on the market.
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