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T-Mobile Inseego 5G MiFi M2000 - Review 2021


The T-Mobile Inseego 5G MiFi M2000 hotspot is the slam-dunk portable 5G device we’ve been waiting for. Up until now, T-Mobile’s hotspot lineup has been a parade of relatively weak 4G products with slow modems. The M2000 is far faster, hooking you into T-Mobile’s 4G and 5G networks at the very respectable rate of $50/month for 100GB, offering broad connectivity to many phones and computers at a reasonable price. That makes it well suited to both home and professional internet use on the go, and an easy Editor’s Choice for T-Mobile hotspots.


Why Get a Hotspot?

Your phone has a Hotspot mode, so why invest in a separate gadget and pay for additional service? In this case, it’s about devices served, networks accessed, and the data plan. Phone hotspots can usually handle 5 to 10 connections; the M2000 can deal with 30 at a time. No T-Mobile phone plan offers more than 40GB/month of hotspot data; this hotspot has a $50/month plan with 100GB. And if you have an older phone, it may not be able to access the latest T-Mobile 5G networks, which the M2000 can.

The solid, rectangular, matte black M2000 is almost identical to Verizon’s M2100 hotspot, though the two have different hardware. T-Mobile’s unit ditches Verizon’s millimeter-wave ultra wideband (UWB) support and uses the space saved for a larger battery. The gadget measures 2.76 by 5.91 by 0.78 inches (HWD) and weighs 9.13 ounces; I wouldn’t call it pocketable, but it’s fine in most bags.

The only visible port is a USB-C port, which can be used for two-way charging or to tether the hotspot. The only button is a power button. The 5050maH battery under the black soft-touch back is removable; a nanoSIM card slides in under that.

Interaction takes place on the 2.4-inch touch screen, where you can see which devices are connected, check their status, and fiddle with the basic Wi-Fi settings. The touch screen isn’t 100% responsive; it missed a few touches in my testing, but not enough to create any real problems.

A web interface lets you get deeper into the settings. There’s MAC filtering, port forwarding, a guest network, and a basic firewall with VPN passthrough. However, there are no parental controls, like you find on most home routers.

There’s no option to turn off 5G. That’s not a concern for T-Mobile, though; T-Mobile’s 5G performance is generally better than its 4G performance.

A dragon with a hotspot

The Qualcomm X55 Snapdragon modem is the same one that powers the iPhone 12.

State-of-the-Art Performance

A Qualcomm X55 modem—the same one that’s in the iPhone 12—gets the M2000 connected, and it works with almost all of T-Mobile’s frequency bands, including standalone 5G, LAA, and CBRS. According to Inseego, it has category 22 LTE with 4×4 MIMO and 256QAM encoding. It lacks millimeter wave, but T-Mobile has been extremely unenthusiastic about building out millimeter wave, so that isn’t much of a loss.

It’s important to note that the M2000 has come a long way since it was first released in late 2020. At first it only managed slow and unreliable connections, but those problems were fixed with a firmware update in March. Poor reviews on the T-Mobile site appear to reflect the earlier firmware.

Once the firmware was up to date on our testing unit, performance was on par with a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, which is as good as you can expect on T-Mobile right now. At a solid testing location with good T-Mobile mid-band connectivity, tests showed 470Mbps down and 42.5Mbps up with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, and 471Mbps down and 97.4Mbps up with the hotspot.

Up to 30 devices can connect to the M2000. Of course, as you increase the number of active connections, each of them will get a smaller slice of the pie. With two computers connected and running speed tests near-simultaneously, the one that started the test first received 453Mbps down, and the second was only allocated a weak 72Mbps. As soon as the first one finished its test, the second one shot up to 454Mbps.

With three devices connected and testing at once, the first two had about 200Mbps down while one struggled along with 25Mbps. When the first one’s speed test completed, the third’s speeds skyrocketed.

In low-signal conditions, the hotspot also appeared to perform about as well as the S21 Ultra. In another location with a signal strength around -106dBm (which is quite low), our tests showed 10–15Mbps down on both devices.

Wi-Fi 6 is supported on channels up to 80MHz. As with other hotspots like this, I got pretty consistent speeds to about a 50-foot line-of-sight distance, with some wobble starting at 70 feet and distinct speed declines around 80 feet.

Back of hotspot

The matte back is removable, so you can get at the battery.

The 5050mAh battery gave us between 8 hours 50 minutes and 11 hours of continuous YouTube streaming, depending on signal strength. Inseego provided me with an 8500mAh accessory battery that boosted life to 17 hours 13 minutes, but I can’t find that accessory actually for sale anywhere.


Taking 5G Home

T-Mobile has been quietly seeding its 5G home modems to some customers, and that service may be fully launched by the time you read this. The company’s 4G LTE home service “pilot program” currently costs $60/month for unlimited data. With median US home usage now up to 346 GB/month according to Comcast, a truly unlimited plan is better for homes than the 100GB plan that this hotspot supports. The home gateway will probably also get better reception from its bigger antennas.

But T-Mobile said it will only launch home broadband where sufficient capacity is available, whereas this hotspot works anywhere T-Mobile has coverage. And the 5G home modem is not portable; it’s the size of a roll of paper towels, and T-Mobile says it should remain plugged into the wall.

T-Mobile home gateway

T-Mobile’s 5G home gateway is bigger than this hotspot, and less portable.

If you’re hoping to use the M2000 for home internet service, the limited range and lack of external antenna ports may be a bit of a downer. On the other hand, I haven’t seen any 5G hotspot yet that has external antenna ports.

One way to extend range is to hook the hotspot up to a secondary router. That’s trickier than it sounds: The M2000 doesn’t have an Ethernet port, and even if you use an adapter to connect a router through the USB-C port, most routers don’t have the drivers to tether to a hotspot. You’ll specifically need a travel router that supports tethering.

For more on that, I turned to mobile internet expert Chris Dunphy of RVMobileInternet.com. He recommends connecting your hotspot to a Pepwave or WifiRanger mobile router to improve coverage in your home, office, or RV. We haven’t reviewed those models at PCMag, but Dunphy’s site has reviews of them and many more.

If that all sounds too complicated, a simple and inexpensive option is to get a USB Wi-Fi antenna for a particularly distant computer.


T-Mobile’s First Worthy Hotspot

T-Mobile’s hotspot lineup has been pretty sad up until now. The M2000 turns that frown upside down with performance that matches top smartphones. When combined with T-Mobile’s $50/month, 100GB plan, this makes the M2000 a great choice for a mobile or backup Internet connection. T-Mobile’s hotspot plan delivers more data for less money than either AT&T or Verizon, both of which offer 15GB rather than 100GB at that price.

T-Mobile sells less expensive hotspots, such as the Alcatel Linkzone 2. But they perform well below the M2000—typically 30Mbps where the M2000 may get 400Mbps or more. The M2000 is so vastly superior that it’s well worth the extra cost.

If you’re choosing between the M2000 and T-Mobile’s home 5G system, the home 5G unit will provide better performance on an even better service plan, as long as you can get your hands on it and you don’t need to carry it around much. The M2000 is still by far our Editor’s Choice for truly mobile hotspots on T-Mobile.

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