Router vs Hotspot

Updated: Feb 14, 2024 4:27 PM
router vs hotspot guide

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If you’re shopping for a router, you may have come across a mobile hotspot and wondered whether a router vs hotspot is better. In addition to multiple ports for network cables, the best router will provide a robust wireless connection. Ultimately, the choice between a router and a mobile hotspot largely depends on how portable you need your private network to be.

Key Takeaways_

  • While connected to a modem, a router connects with devices over Wi-Fi or Ethernet, thus linking users to the internet or local network.
  • A hotspot connects devices to the internet using a cellular network, typically in a mobile data plan.
  • For portability or travel, go with a hotspot. That said, if you need stability and speed, go with a traditional router.

Comparing Routers and Hotspots

It is probably best to start with explaining what exactly each of these devices are and how they work.

  • Router – A router is a device that allows you to connect to the internet with your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
  • Hotspot – A hotspot is a device that uses a cellular signal to allow devices to connect to the internet via Wi-FI.

The most significant difference between routers and a Wi-Fi hotspot is whom you pay for internet service. Hotspot usage relies on cellular signals; users can add hotspots to their cell phone plans.

Your router connects to the modem and passes the internet to your connected devices. In addition, wireless internet service providers sell a specific internet plan based on your data needs.

insider tip

Connect to your router via Ethernet for the fastest internet speeds if you are on a home network.

If you just need a bit more range for your wireless devices around the house, consider checking out our guide to Wi-Fi routers vs. extenders.

Speed

A wireless router

For the best download speed, a cellular connection cannot compete with a travel router’s wired connection.

Some routers support up to 1Gbps speed over an Ethernet cable, and even Verizon 5G cannot come close. That said, mobile rates keep getting better, and mobile data is good enough for most tasks.

warning

If you use your hotspot during high-traffic hours, you may notice severely decreased download speeds.

If you want the possible top speed for your router, learn the differences between AC vs. N wireless routers or dongles vs WiFi routers.

Stability

A router offers more stable connection speeds due to its ability to form a physical connection via an Ethernet port.

That said, with a mobile hotspot, you won’t have to worry about ISP outages. While connection over a cellular network is unlikely to fail, slower speed due to network congestion is possible.

Portability

A portable hotspot device

If you’re looking for portability, a hotspot is unquestionably the best pick. While home routers provide Wi-Fi signals, they won’t help if you want to take your connected device on the go.

A mobile hotspot lets you work or enjoy the internet from anywhere with a cellular network. That said, with a hotspot, you have to keep battery life in mind.

Cost

If you’re looking for the lowest price, you want to consider a standard Wi-Fi router.

While a mobile router is convenient and portable, cellular service is more costly than a typical internet service provider.

STAT: As of 2019, households worldwide own more than 10 billion devices capable of connecting to a home router. (source)

That said, if you want the best speed for a private network, you’ll need to invest quite a bit for a premium router.

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