Is a Portable Router Better Than a Hotspot? [EXPLAINED]

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If you’re looking for a portable router, you might have encountered a mobile hotspot, and you’re now wondering if that might be better for your WiFi needs when on the road.

The best portable routers provide a robust wireless connection, and several network cable ports. Deciding between a portable router and a mobile hotspot will depend on how portable your private network has to be, and the amount you want to spend.

Many of you probably think, “Why don’t I just use my phone as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot?” Well, you can, but there are pros and cons to consider.

What is a Portable Router?

A portable WiFi router is an Internet router that allows you to connect your devices to a network. A mobile router is wireless and typically connects to the Internet via a SIM card, LAN (Local Area Network) connection, or public WiFi.

A portable WiFi router creates a private and secure Internet connection. Smartphones, computers, tablets, and gaming consoles share a single Internet connection. They take data from a source and generate a hotspot. Users can connect their devices to this hotspot and gain Internet access.

What is a Hotspot?

A hotspot is a physical site where users can connect to the Internet, generally via WiFi. Hotspots are physical locations where users can connect their mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and computers, to the Internet wirelessly.

You can use your existing data plan, or buy an add-on from your network. If you’re not looking for the fastest data speeds, or only use small amounts of data, this type of data plan can be helpful. 

A hotspot can be in private or public venues, such as coffee shops, hotels, airports, or even while flying. Most public hotspots provide free wireless connectivity over an open network, while others charge a fee.

A mobile hotspot is a hotspot that is precisely that – mobile! While a typical Wi-Fi hotspot is fixed to a physical location, you create a mobile hotspot when you connect your phone to the Internet using your smartphone’s data connection. The name for this is tethering.

Portable Router vs Mobile Hotspot: Differences

While tethering allows some users to use their smartphone’s 3G/4G connection to establish a personal WiFi hotspot, there are some drawbacks you need to consider.

  • Some networks don’t offer tethering, or you have to pay extra on your contract.
  • Using your phone’s data for tethering can quickly eat up your data allowance.
  • Mobile 3G/4G is secure, but there’s a security risk when connecting to public WiFi.
  • You only can use mobile 3G/4G – there are no ethernet ports for connecting other devices.
  • As well as quickly depleting your data, tethering will also use up your phone’s battery.

A Portable Router offers several advantages that outweigh the majority (if not all) of the disadvantages listed above.

  • Convenience. You can carry a portable router wherever you go. Configuring it, and setting up your private network, is simple. You can use a wide range of smartphones, tablets, and other devices with portable routers.
  • Encrypted Data Transfer. A router’s built-in firewall shields its users against Internet intrusions. In other words, they protect your computer and network from illegal access. Your personal information is at risk if you use public WiFi to access the Internet.
  • Connect Several Devices. You can connect as many as ten portable devices (such as mobile phones, tablets, and laptops) to the Internet simultaneously through a portable router.
  • For people on the go. Portable routers are the perfect solution. Using a mobile router is an option if you don’t have regular access to wired Internet, like when you’re out and about. For example, when you’re on holiday, fishing, camping, etc, or if you enjoy working in your local coffee shop.

Portable Router Pros + Cons

Small and lightweight
Connects several devices
Simple to activate and use 
Secure connection to Free WiFi zones
Prepaid data SIM cards
Contract data SIM’s
Typically utilise ethernet ports
Can also connect to wired WiFi
Provides better internet coverage
ConsMore expensive option
Have to pay for a separate data plan
Have to carry an additional device

Mobile Hotspot Pros + Cons

ProsCan use your smartphone, no need for a different device
Can use an existing data plan
Safe & secure 
ConsRuns down the phone’s battery
Uses the current data quickly
Slower connection speeds
Difficulty picking up a signal in remote areas
Susceptible to data overcharges
The phone doesn’t function as a phone when using it as a hotspot

Is a Portable Wi-Fi Router Worth It?

Depending on your usage requirements, a portable router is usually preferable to a mobile hotspot. While there is some upfront cost, the added flexibility is worth the money. Mobile hotspots using your smartphone can be helpful, but as we’ve discussed, there are downsides.

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