There’s a small handful of tech which are essential to me, in order for me to run my business, which in no particular order include my PixelBook, VOIP enabled phone and my trusty TP-Link M5 Mobile Hotspot, which is basically a standalone Internet connection which you connect to via Wifi.
Immediate disclaimer! The specific version I’m reviewing is an old version, which I’ve had for a number of years, and I know it has been replaced by newer versions of this product. It’s more the principle of the device I’m reviewing here, rather than the specific hardware itself.
In this ever connected world, you may ask why you need a mobile hotspot to connect to the Internet when you’re never far from public Wifi or using your mobile phone as a hotspot itself? Personally, I try to only use public Wifi as a last resort, due to the potential security issues around it (and when I do, I use CyberGhost VPN) and as the people who know me, I’m one of the minority of the population that isn’t glued to my phone, and it doesn’t come everywhere with me, so I can’t reply on it for an Internet connection on the go.
This is where the TP-Link mobile hotspot steps up. It’s always in my bag of trusty tech gear which does come everywhere with me, it has its own battery which lasts much longer than a phone and doesn’t ring/ding/harass me when I’m using it.
It’s a really small device, about 6-7cm in length, and simply has a slot of installing a SIM card into it (which provides you with the Internet itself via a data connection) and a simple button to turn it on/off. You need to SIM card for the same reasons you need a SIM card in your mobile – to give it a connection to the outside world. As I don’t actually consume much data, I have a data-only SIM in mine from GiffGaff which costs around £7.50 per month. When I first got it, I had to go through a very quick and easy setup wizard for the device, to tell it which mobile network provider I was using so it could set itself up accordingly and away I went.
Once it’s set up, it just broadcasts a small wireless network like any other wireless network which you connect to with a password (this has been pre-set, but you can change it if you wish) and away you go like any other connection.
The main two benefits for me from a productivity perspective are:
I’m able to work from pretty much anywhere, as long as there’s a decent mobile signal: I can be in the car, in the woods, or at a Cafe – as long there’s a signal, then I can work. I don’t have to glance at my mobile (and then get distracted) to get online, I just power it up and off I go.
It’s great for diagnosing Internet/Network/Wifi issues: When I’ve got my tech hat on (as opposed to my usual top hat) it’s useful in allowing me to troubleshoot where problems might be, or for jumping online to look something up, when resolving an Internet outage for a customer at their site. In an emergency, for our own team at Lucid Towers, we’ve used this device to get everyone online when our own Internet was down. It was slower than our usual speeds, but in the context of an emergency, it was perfect.
When I bought this device many moons ago, it was around the £60 mark, which I feel is good value, particularly for my own useage of it. I know the subsequent newer versions of this device are a little more, but you will get further bells and whistles like 4G and possibly 5G support for example, so still a worthwhile investment in my opinion.
Gavin Moorhouse is the owner of Lucid Computer Solutions, a Worcestershire based IT Services, and IT Support provider. He produced this article using his trusty TP-Link mobile hotspot.