Poor wifi might be a first world problem but in the first world, it is a real problem. In fact, recent research found that 84% of people working from home suffered unreliable internet connection and according to This Is Money, online searches for ‘slow broadband’ went up 60% during lockdown. This is why we’re doing a mobile router review of NETGEAR’s Nighthawk M2.
As more of us work from home, demand and pressure on domestic wifi is increasing. If more than one of you is working from home and you have kids playing video games, streaming music or films, a reliable and fast broadband connection is a must.
It’s only when you don’t have it that you realise how important it is. When you need to get on that video call, when you need to send that large attachment, when you’re waiting for a video to play, the spinning wheel of buffering doom is telling you you’re going to be a long time waiting. It’s wasting time, it’s wasting money, it can cause untold frustration. There’s a portion of the workforce losing time and patience because they can’t do their job properly.
So when NETGEAR let me trial their Nighthawk M2 mobile router, I was delighted because I understand how necessary a device like this can be for the work from home generation.
Not only would a super-fast connection save you precious minutes and endless stress and frustration, the portability of a mobile router means you can work from anywhere: any room in the house, the garden, on holiday, while travelling or just because you fancy working from the park today.
Mobile router review: Setting up the Nighthawk M2
With some technology, you can spend hours trying to get it set up and ready to use. The Nighthawk M2 was surprisingly straightforward.
It took me a minute to slide in the SIM, pop in the battery and plug in to charge.
It was then a case of setting up a couple of passwords and selecting the right APN (connection with your mobile network) on the router. Once I’d connected with my computer, I was ready to go.
The instructions all appear on the touch screen. I didn’t even need to open the instruction manual if I didn’t want to – it was all very intuitive and the on-screen instructions prompt you with the short setup process.
At just 240g, the Nighthawk M2 is a small, lightweight device that you can slip easily into a bag, or even a large pocket.
It becomes your own portable wifi network, which is ideal if you’re somewhere with no or limited wifi or with strict download limits.
Although I’ve used my phone as a hotspot in the past, this provided a much faster connection and meant I could save my mobile data allowance and battery life. I could also connect several devices, ideal if you’re working with somebody else or want to use a tablet and laptop for example.
Its square shape is very practical and although small, it’s not so small that you’re rummaging in your bag for something as tiny as a USB drive.
I tried the router at home initially, instead of my regular home connection. I don’t normally have any issues with my home broadband yet the difference in speed was noticeable. It’s amazing how those microseconds make a difference. I don’t think I was waiting any time for websites to load or update.
Everything was instant and that in itself put one less boundary in the way of getting on with work. It was reassuring to know I’d have no issues with connection.
I use video a lot for work. I do lives on social media, I use Zoom for video to do interviews and connect with people. I also edit videos and upload to YouTube occasionally.
Do you ever get the ‘connection unstable’ message on a video call? Ever occasionally find yourself waiting while somebody freezes or get told: “You’ve frozen again”? I had a zoom call scheduled for an interview and experienced a seamless, uninterrupted call and have to say it was one layer of frustration removed from the whole process.
I could focus on my interviewee and what they were saying, rather than whether I was missing certain details. There was no asking them to repeat or worrying about turning off all my other devices connected to the wifi just to get through the meeting.
While I was testing the router, we also had to move house. This was the perfect true test and a real-life scenario where you may be without home broadband for a short period. Not only that, but we were also moving into an old property in a rural area and I wasn’t sure how fast or strong the home broadband connection would be.
(However, I know people in the centre of London who struggle with poor wifi so it can be a problem wherever you live.)
The reassurance of having the Nighthawk M2 was immense. I knew I wasn’t going to have to sacrifice work time or forgo any commitments due to a lack of connectivity.
It also meant that while we were trying to unpack and get sorted and my work area wasn’t arranged, I could head out with the mobile router or find a space in the home and not worry about getting online.
They say you can connect up to 20 devices with the M2. For this mobile router review, we didn’t try with quite that many but our children and husband could all get online by connecting the iPad, our mobiles and laptops without any obvious downgrade in performance.
This is where the Nighthawk M2 mobile router has a few surprises up its sleeve. It doesn’t just act as a router; you can use it to boost your battery life on your smartphone and even upload files to a USB drive.
If your phone or small USB device is running low on juice, this is the perfect way to give it a little extra charge. Connect your phone to the router’s USB port and with its JumpBoost capability, you can give it a bit more life.
The router has both USB A and USB C ports. By connecting an external hard drive to the router, you can watch films and videos on your portable devices when travelling or on holiday.
You can also offload to an Ethernet or wifi connection, useful if you’re somewhere like a hotel or want to reduce your data usage. You can do this via the NETGEAR mobile app or your web browser.
The tech specs
As mobile broadband routers go, the next generation gigabit LTE Nighthawk M2 is impressive with both its bandwidth and speed.
It does as it suggests, offering a new iteration of LTE (Long Term Evolution) mobile technology with peak download speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second (1000 Mbps) – much faster than the UK average of 64 Mbps
- Superfast speeds using the next generation of mobile technology
- LTE CAT 20, up to 5-band CA and 4×4 MIMO
- Up to 5-band Carrier Aggregation
- LTE/4GX 700/900/1800/2100/2600 MHz
- 3G 850/900/1900/2100 MHz
You can buy the NETGEAR Nighthawk M2 from Amazon, Scan, and few a few broadband providers such as EE and BT. The price varies slightly but is around the £400 mark.
You will then need to consider the cost of the data.
Last year, average data use on a fixed broadband line was 240 GB per month. And 2.9 GB on mobile devices.
You can get unlimited data SIM only deals from around £30 per month depending on which provider you go with. However, if you were using the device purely for your own use out and about or in the home office, you can find cheaper rates with limited data, particularly if you’re not going to be streaming lots of videos.
Equally, there are pre-loaded pay-as-you-go SIM plans valid for up to a year or more, which might be ideal if you’re only looking to use the mobile router as a back-up or for use when travelling, on holiday, or heading out of the home. For instance, you can get a pre-loaded 24 Gb SIM for £60 valid for up to two years.
Mobile router review: Final thoughts
The Nighthawk M2 sits, unobtrusively on a desk or table. You can use it happily for the whole work day on a full charge thanks to its strong battery life.
While some might consider the router expensive, as a business cost, it really seems to make sense, particularly for added reassurance, flexibility, to aid productivity, and ease frustration.
A mobile hotspot can work on an ad hoc basis but the Nighthawk M2 gives you the connectivity, speed, and longevity of battery life that you want to rely on for work.
It is a smart, compact device that importantly provides exactly what you need: fast, reliable broadband connection when you need it.
In collaboration with Netgear