The Netgear Nighthawk Mobile Hotspot Router goes on sale Friday for $50 when you buy it with a two-year AT&T contract, at a minimum of $20 per month plus taxes, activation fee and so on. The all-in cost is a bit high -- but the features are seemingly endless.
The hotspot has a 5,040 mAh battery, which Netgear claims gives it 24 hours of use. It also allows you to connect up to 20 Wi-Fi devices. It's dual-band, so you get both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies for more reliable signals. There's even a convenient USB charging feature called JumpBoost to top off your phone.
While this device sounds cool and is packed full of features, "5G" standards haven't officially been established yet. The Nighthawk Mobile Hotspot Router's isn't 5G, but its 5G Evolution speeds are said to be up to twice as fast as 4G LTE, which averages around 10-15 megabits per second (Mbps). Some estimates put real 5G speeds at 10Gbps, or more than 1,000 times faster than 4G LTE. Saying 5G Evolution is misleading, because the industry-wide definition of 5G is still up in the air. AT&T expects to have official 5G available to the public as soon as late 2018.
The hotspot should still give you very good performance though, and its myriad of features seem well worth the commitment, if you use a lot of data and multiple devices away from your home network. Especially in light of the recent KRACK Wi-Fi security hack, you should be careful about using public Wi-Fi networks.
The Nighthawk uses a SIM security system to allow only certain devices to connect to the hotspot. It also has parental controls for those family outings when you can't monitor your kids' internet activity 24/7 or you just want to mess with your friends. You can manage the rest of its features via the AT&T Wi-Fi manager on a device connected to the hotspot or via the Netgear app.
Overall, I'm impressed by how much Netgear and AT&T have packed into this tiny mobile hotspot. The 5G reference bugs me, especially since 5G Evolution, which is still in trial mode, is only available in Austin and Indianapolis and was previously only available for Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ phones. AT&T plans to expand its 5G Evolution service to Waco, Texas; South Bend, Indiana; and Kalamazoo, Michigan by the end of the year. This means if you're outside those cities, you can expect, at best, 4G LTE speeds.
At the time of publishing, an AT&T representative was not available for comment regarding if this device will work with official 5G when it becomes available in a few years' time.