Need to stay connected on the go? Mi-Fi dongles are a convenient alternative to using your phone’s data plan. These small routers act as mobile hotspots for your different devices.
After comparing different dongles, I narrowed down my recommendations to the best five dongles money can buy. Read on to find out more about these products and available deals.
Best Dongle Deals
The following dongles were the best devices I tested. They impressed me with their fast connection speeds and other features.
O2 Huawei Dongle
This 4G dongle gives you access to the O2 network. In most areas, you can expect download speeds of up to 42Mbps and upload speeds of up to 5.76Mbps.
I liked this small dongle because it doesn’t use a battery. Instead, it plugs directly into a USB port and turns into a portable Wi-Fi hotspot.
While other UBS-powered dongles can only provide connectivity for the computer you plug them in, this dongle will turn into a Wi-Fi hotspot for any nearby device with the right credentials.
I found this Mi-Fi dongle to be convenient because of the internal storage feature. It comes with 128GB of storage, and you can upgrade the storage by adding a microSD card.
The O2 4G network is reasonably fast. It has a coverage of 99% indoors, which means you might find some spots with poor connectivity in rural areas.
There are three base plans to choose from, ranging from £14 to £25 a month. You can subscribe and pay monthly or decide to pay as you go. There are no upfront costs for these plans, and you’ll get 15 to 150GB of data.
One of the benefits of going with O2 is that you can customize your plan. You can decide to pay a fee upfront to lower your monthly cost or create a personalized plan with a data cap that works for you.
While you won’t save on the plans offered, you can get up to six months of Apple Music for free as part of a special deal.
- Creating a customized plan is a great way to avoid paying for something you don’t need.
- The dongle is easy to use and provides you with plenty of internal storage.
- It’s a portable Wi-Fi hotspot for several devices and not just one computer.
- You can get up to six months of Apple Music for free.
- The coverage might not be great in isolated areas.
- You can’t save by committing to a longer plan.
EE 4GEE Home Router 2
EE advertises this home router as an alternative for those with slow broadband connections at home. I was curious to see how this device would compare to a traditional broadband connection.
I’m glad to report that this home router holds its own. EE has one of the fastest 4G networks with 85% coverage and is actively expanding it, especially in rural areas.
I really liked that EE advertises the average speed you can get with this device instead of giving you the maximum speed. The average speed of 31Mbps is close to what most people will get.
This device uses a power adapter and is bulkier than the other dongles on this list. It’s a small router you can use at home or possibly set up at the office or in a hotel room, but it doesn’t have the portability of the smaller dongles I tested.
However, the experience is a lot closer to an actual broadband connection. There is a range of 30 meters, and you can connect up to 64 devices. There is also a LAN port if you need a faster connection.
If you live in an isolated area with limited coverage, you can set up an external antenna to boost the signal.
EE offers different plans for this home router but doesn’t have the same flexibility as the other providers. If you’re ready to commit for 18 months, the monthly cost will range from £35 to £55 for the unlimited plan with no upfront costs.
EE also offers monthly plans. You’ll have to spend £100 upfront and pay between £35 to £50 a month, depending on how much data you want.
There are no deals on these plans, but EE will give you an extra 5GB a month for free on your mobile plan if you get this router device.
- It’s a Mi-Fi solution designed for at-home use.
- You can connect up to 64 devices via Wi-Fi and use the LAN port for a faster connection.
- The network coverage and speed are good.
- You can get more data on your mobile plan.
- It’s more expensive than the other dongles on this list.
- It’s not a device designed for portability.
- You won’t save on your plan by committing longer.
Three Huawei 4G Plus Mobile Wi-Fi
Three was the first network to offer 80% 3G coverage in the UK. The mobile provider now has a coverage of 97%, which made its Mi-Fi dongle an obvious choice for me.
This convenient Huawei dongle connects to the 4G network from Three. You’ll get download speeds of up to 300Mbps.
For those who travel, Three offers roaming in 138 countries. There are 71 Go Roam destinations where you won’t pay any additional roaming charges.
This dongle is a small rectangular device that fits into the palm of your hand and only weighs 95g. I was able to carry it in my pocket.
You can connect up to 10 devices at once. It’s a convenient option for families or professionals who meet with colleagues or clients on the go.
The battery is one of the features that impressed me. It’s a 1,500Mah battery that delivers up to six hours of use. A charge will last 350 hours with the dongle on standby.
Three stands out by offering no less than nine different plans for this Mi-Fi device. I found it easy to select a plan that was a good match for my needs and budget.
You can opt for a one-month contract to test the device if you don’t mind paying an upfront cost. You can subscribe for £14 a month with an upfront cost of £39 to get 10GB of data.
An unlimited monthly plan will cost you £27 a month with an upfront fee of £29. Don’t worry if you run out of data on one of the other plans since you can add a top-up easily.
The best way to save is to subscribe to a one or two-year plan. You can forego the upfront costs, and Three will give you the first six months at £11 a month if you subscribe to a two-year plan. This plan will cost £22 a month after the first six months.
- The design is compact, sturdy, and convenient.
- The plans are affordable with some ways of saving money.
- You can connect up to 10 devices.
- The Go Roam destinations are great for those who travel a lot.
- Three delivers average network speeds compared to its competitors.
- Not all plans have unlimited data.
- You need to commit to the longer plans to save money.
Vodafone K5161 Dongle
I was excited about trying this dongle from Vodafone. I instantly loved the modern design and sleek lines, and at only 35g, it’s a highly lightweight and portable device.
Even though it’s a 5G-ready dongle, Vodafone currently offers 5G connectivity in a total of 123 towns around the UK. Unless you’re in one of these locations, you’ll connect to a 4G network with an impressive 99% coverage.
The dongle supports download speeds of up to 150Mbps and upload speeds of up to 50Mbps. However, speed can vary depending on your location and the plan you choose.
There is free roaming in a total of 51 countries, but there is a 25GB cap.
I liked how easy it is to get started with his device. All you have to do is plug it in via USB to your PC or Mac, and it will provide you with a fast and reliable Internet connection.
Connecting this device to your laptop or desktop means the dongle doesn’t need a battery. However, the drawback is that you can only connect one device at a time.
This dongle from Vodafone comes with a unique feature. You’ll find a microSD slot for a memory card to turn the dongle into a portable storage device.
Vodafone offers a mix of monthly and pay-as-you-go plans.
If you opt for a pay-as-you-go plan, you can purchase the dongle for £45 and get 15GB of data that will remain valid for 90 days. After that, you’ll have to renew your bundle or use a top-up.
The monthly plans start at £10 a month for 4GB with no upfront cost. The cheapest unlimited plan with no speed cap will set you back £30 a month if you commit for two years.
Vodafone offers a total of 15 plans, and you can save a few pounds if you don’t mind settling for a plan with a cap on your download speed.
- There is a large selection of plans and pay-as-you-go options.
- The dongle is 5G-ready.
- The connection process is very easy.
- You won’t have to worry about keeping the battery charged.
- The built-in storage feature is a nice addition.
- You can only connect one device at a time.
- The only way to save money is to opt for a plan with a cap on your download speed.
- There is a data cap on roaming.
Virgin Media Huawei Mobile Wi-Fi
Virgin Media offers the same Huawei dongle as Three. The devices are the same, but you’ll connect to the Virgin Media network.
I like this Huawei dongle because of its modern and discreet design. It has a battery life of up to six hours during active use and 350 hours on standby. You can connect up to 16 devices.
You’ll be using the 3G and 4G Virgin Media networks with this dongle. This 4G network covers 99% of the population. You can expect fast download speeds of up to 150Mbps and upload speeds of up to 50Mbps.
Plus, you’ll be able to roam with no extra fees in 43 different destinations. Virgin Media also stands out by offering parental control features.
You can connect to your account to disconnect any devices from your dongle or set some limitations.
There is a £39.99 upfront cost for the device if you opt for a monthly plan. You’ll pay £8 a month for 3Gb, £12 for 6Gb, and £20 for 15GB.
You can save by committing for twelve months. The monthly cost will remain the same, but you won’t have to pay an upfront fee for the dongle.
- Huawei makes a reliable and durable Mi-Fi dongle with excellent battery life.
- You can connect up to 16 devices at once and access parental controls.
- You can use Virgin Media’s 3G and 4G networks.
- There are no plans with unlimited data.
- There are no special offers other than no upfront fees if you commit longer.
What Is a Mobile Dongle?
A mobile dongle is a small device that keeps you connected on the go. Some dongles act as Wi-Fi hotspots, while others provide a wired connection to a single device.
Unlike traditional routers, mobile dongles connect to a mobile network.
How Does It Work?
Mobile providers keep you connected thanks to a network of antennas and cell towers. When you browse the web or use an app, your smartphone connects to the nearest antenna.
On the other hand, devices like desktops, laptops, or gaming consoles use a Wi-Fi card to connect to a Wi-Fi router or a port to establish a wired connection.
These devices need a router to transmit the signal from a broadband connection since they don’t have a chip that allows them to connect to a network directly.
Between outdated infrastructures and throttled speed, mobile internet can sometimes be faster than your broadband connection.
A dongle acts as a bridge between a mobile network and devices that lack 3G or 4G connectivity. Your Mi-Fi device will connect to a nearby cell tower and turn this signal into a wired or Wi-Fi connection that any authorized device can use.
Your dongle will create an ad-hoc network to allow more devices to connect. An ad-hoc network is a temporary network that you can expand as needed.
Pros and Cons of Using a Dongle
Dongles are a popular way of accessing the internet on the go. Here’s why you should consider using one:
- You can connect to a 3G or 4G network almost anywhere.
- Dongles typically provide a fast and reliable connection, which is sometimes better than a broadband connection.
- It’s possible to find affordable plans with the amount of data you need.
- Most dongles let you connect several devices at once.
However, there are a few drawbacks to consider:
- Dongles don’t come with the same advanced configuration features you would find on a traditional router.
- You can install products like antiviruses, firewalls, and VPNs at the router level to make your connection safer. Dongles don’t support these products.
- Some Mi-FI devices have a battery that you have to keep charged.
Can I Get Unlimited Wi-Fi With a Dongle?
The answer is yes. Some mobile providers offer plans with no cap on how much data you get. Keep in mind that these plans usually cost more.
However, there is a limit to how many devices you can connect at once. Some dongles have a high limit, but you might notice that your connection is slow if you have too many devices using the internet at once.
What Happens if I Hit My Data Cap?
You have different options available if you hit your data cap:
- You can wait until the end of the current billing period for your dongle to automatically get more data.
- You can purchase a top-up if your provider offers this option.
- You can purchase a different bundle to get more data.
A data cap is one of the limitations you might run into when using a Mi-Fi device. Some providers also implement bandwidth caps to limit your speed.
The best way to avoid these limitations is to subscribe to a plan that won’t throttle your bandwidth and speed.
Alternatives to Dongles
Dongles are a convenient way of staying connected on the go. However, there are different alternatives to consider.
Use Your Phone
Your mobile device can connect to your provider’s 3G or 4G network.
You can use your phone to check your emails, browse social media, and perform other simple tasks. Some phones even come with advanced features for professionals, such as sharing documents.
Most smartphones have mobile hotspot capabilities. You can enable this feature in your connectivity settings.
Turning your mobile hotspot on will create a Wi-Fi connection for your laptop and other devices, but keep in mind that you might quickly go through your mobile data.
Look for a Wi-Fi Hotspot
Wi-Fi hotspots are another alternative to consider. O2 is one of the mobile providers with a network of mobile hotspots that you can access for free if you have a mobile plan.
Coffee shops, restaurants, airport lounges, and other businesses often have their own Wi-Fi hotspot that you can connect to if you make a purchase.
Some places offer public Wi-Fi networks. However, you should know that these networks won’t protect your privacy and that hackers often target these networks to infect the devices that connect to them.
Internet cafés are not as popular as they used to be, but you can still find them in some areas.
A dongle will end up being cheaper and more convenient, but an internet café can be a good option if you need to get online for a short while.
Talk to your neighbours and nearby small business owners! You would be surprised at the number of people who don’t mind sharing their Wi-Fi password if you need to get online in a pinch.
Can I Use My Dongle Overseas?
It depends on the device you have as well as your destination. Frequencies for mobile networks can vary from one country to another, which means that your dongle might not be compatible with the band of the country you’re travelling to.
You’ll also have to take roaming fees into consideration. Roaming fees apply when you exit the area your mobile provider covers.
Your device will connect to another provider’s network, and you’ll pay additional fees. If you use the internet, you’ll pay a per megabyte per second fee that can add up quickly on your next bill.
The good news is that there are regulations that put a cap on roaming fees in European countries, and most mobile operators have deals with each other to lower these roaming fees.
Before you travel, you should reach out to your mobile provider to determine how much the roaming fees will be. Some providers waive these fees for some destinations. You might also need to activate roaming on your current plan.
Note that if you plan on staying overseas for any extended periods of time, purchasing a dongle offered by one of the local providers might be a good way to save money.
A Mi-Fi dongle is a convenient and reliable way to stay connected wherever you go. However, it’s an additional monthly expense you’ll have to pay.
One of the best dongle deals I found was the Three Huawei 4G Plus Mobile Wi-Fi. Three will give you the first six months at half price if you subscribe for two years, which means you can save a total of £66.
For those who aren’t ready to commit to a long-term plan, the Vodafone K5161 Dongle is a great alternative. You can get the device and 15GB of data that remain good for 90 days for only £45.
I also liked the O2 Huawei Dongle. Even though O2 doesn’t offer any deals or discounts on its plans, you have the possibility of creating a customized plan with the amount of data you want.