Mifis, Mifi dongles, or mobile hotspots, are portable compact wireless devices designed to enable several different users or devices to share one internet connection. In this mifi comparison, I take a look at some of the most popular models.
Mifi is a brand name used to describe a wireless router that acts as mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. These allow you to create a travelling bubble of internet; – a mobile hotspot, generally with a radius of around 10m. The Mi fi trademark is owned by ‘Three’ in the UK, and Novatel Wireless in the US.
There are generally two options when buying a Mifi. Just like mobile phones these are essentially Pay as You Go or contract. You can either:
- Receive one as part of subscription to a mobile operator. These are often locked to that particular operator. Check out my comparison of International Mifi Rental Plans here.
- Buy your own unlocked mifi to use with any data only sim – which is generally a cheaper option
On this page I look at the latter option; comparing the best free standing Mifis in terms of function and quality. If you are on an international trip – you will need to use these in conjunction with a data sim.
When are Mifis useful?
You might also consider using a dongle, or simply tethering other devices using your smartphone, but mifis are advantageous over dongles in that they:
- Allow multiple users to connect simultaneously.
- Can be placed in an optimal position to get good signal
Mifis are advantageous over tethering your phone in that:
- You can keep your phone accessible and available to use: If your phone rings, you won’t lose connection. If you receive a text – it won’t disrupt your internet.
- You can use a different and cheaper sim, which provides data only. You could then change this sim according to the best plan you can get for wherever you happen to be.
- Large battery packs on mifis mean you can stay connected for longer, and spare your phones battery.
- Enjoy higher wifi strength than tethering
What to look for in a Mifi?
- Consider if you will need 3G or 4G, which likely depends on the countries that you are visiting. 3G is adequate for most purposes, but 4G is 5-7 times faster.
- if portability is a factor, all of the hotspots reviewed are pocket-sized, some more than others.
- These hotspots allow for up to 15 connections. A large number of connections might be desirable if you plan on using this in a business setting.
To give you an idea of what kind of speed you might be able to achieve, the average broadband speed in the UK is around 28.9Mbps (according to Ofcom), and the mifis on this page offer download speeds of between 21 and 150Mbps.
If you plan on sharing a connection with many people, or using data heavy services like streaming videos and catch-up TV, then it might be worth shelling out for a higher download capacity. Higher upload speeds can be useful for seamless video calls or sharing media with others.
Our Top picks:
Chinese brand Huawei dominate the mifi market, with several available to suit a range of budgets. All of these are unlocked; allowing you to insert a sim of your choice.
So, Which mifi Should You Buy?
This depends on how you are likely to use it.
- If you are providing a data connection for a family, perhaps with children who might use data heavy applications or watch movies, I would suggest the E5770s-320 or the TP-LINK M7350.
- If portability is key – then take the Huawei E5331
- For those with a very low budget – The Huawei E5330 would be a good fit.
SIM Tourist Top Pick – Huawei E5770s-320 ‘A good all-rounder’
This wallet-sized mifi has a nice build quality, a great reputation, and a range of features.Finished with a leather texture, and wallet-sized to easily slip into the pocket, it allows you to:
|Comes with a few different sized eartip adapters|
Decent call quality
|So small that you might lose it, so maybe put some brightly coloured tape on it!|
No ambient noise reduction
- Call Quality: 8
- Noise cancellation: 4
- Battery life: 8
- Comfort: 9.5
- Range: 7
- Value: 9.5
- Size: 10