While Wi-Fi 6E routers for your home are a dime a dozen these days, that isn’t the case regarding portable routers. Today, Netgear announced the launch of its new unlocked version of the Nighthawk M6 Pro (MR6550), which brings faster internet connectivity to users on the go or for consumers that lack reliable fixed broadband service at home.
Compared to its predecessor, the M6 Pro adds Wi-Fi 6E connectivity and mmWave support for broader compatibility with 5G networks at speeds up to 8 Gbps (up from 2.5 Gbps max). The M6 Pro also features a larger 2.8-inch touchscreen (versus 2.4 inches) and ups maximum LTE speeds from 1.6 Gbps to 2 Gbps.
The mobile hotspot has 3,600 Mbps of available bandwidth (2,900 MHz 5/6 GHz, 700 Mbps 2.4 GHz) and an integrated 2.5 GbE port (the M6 has just a 1 GbE port) on the back. You’ll also find a USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 port on the back, which is used for charging and data. Another intriguing addition to the M6 Pro are two TS-9 antenna connectors. This allows you to connect external antennas to boost reception beyond what the M6 Pro’s internal antennas can provide (an ideal setup for users that need internet connectivity in more remote regions).
The M6 Pro’s internal battery can also last up to 13 hours per charge, which should be sufficient for even the most demanding users, Netgear told us via video call. I also asked how mmWave connectivity would affect battery life but was assured that endurance hit would be minimal. The M6 Pro’s Wi-Fi coverage is roughly 1,000 square feet on battery power. However, if you connect it directly to a power outlet, coverage doubles to 2,000 square feet.
You might ask why you would want to use a mobile hotspot like M6 Pro when a smartphone can perform the same task. According to Netgear, 88 percent of people purchasing a dedicated mobile hotspot use it as their primary home internet connection. Many Americans live in rural areas with non-existent or substandard broadband connectivity, so a cellular-based solution is ideal — and smartphones can’t simultaneously support up to 32 devices like the M6 Pro can.
Netgear’s research also found that 54 percent of people use portable routers as a “primary” connection in vacation homes, and 50 percent use them inside their vehicles while traveling.
There is one “gotcha” to the M6 Pro, and that's would be pricing. You can get an AT&T carrier-locked version of the M6 Pro for $460 or pay $12.78 per month on an installment plan. However, the unlocked version will set you back $999.99 direct from Netgear (and soon from Amazon). According to Netgear, the unlocked M6 Pro is currently only supported by AT&T and Verizon SIMs that have previously been activated or with T-Mobile BYOD plans. However, it does note that new BYOD activations for AT&T and Verizon will be "coming soon."