Netgear and AT&T are introducing the most impressive mobile hotspot I’ve ever seen: a four-inch puck that promises to turn the newest, fastest flavors of 5G and Wi-Fi into speedy internet for your laptops, tablets, and even wired PCs.
It’s called the Netgear Nighthawk M6 Pro, and at $459.99, it ain’t cheap. But it’s a leap over its predecessors in practically every way. Not only is it one of the first hotspots with both actually useful C-band 5G frequencies and speedy-but-spotty mmWave but also AT&T says it’s the first with Wi-Fi 6E for 3.6Gbps wireless transfer speeds. It’s also got a 2.5Gbps ethernet jack for wired gadgets where its predecessor maxed out at gigabit wired speeds.
Oh, and it’s got a USB 3.2 Type-C port for charging and tethering, a pair of external TS9 antenna connectors if you want to boost its reception, and a chunky 5,040mAh removable battery beneath that 2.8-inch touchscreen.
Mind you, you’re not going to be using all that goodness at the same time. Out of the box, the M6 Pro is set to 5GHz-only mode — which tops out at 2.9Gbps, not 3.6Gbps — in order to “reduce power consumption and extend the battery life.” (Not that you’d necessarily find a 3.6Gbps 5G internet connection in the wild even if you’re using mmWave.) The 2.5Gbps ethernet port is also disabled by default for the same reason, and you can only turn it on after you remove the router’s battery pack and plug it into an A/C adapter.
And, despite those battery-saving techniques, Netgear is only quoting six hours of YouTube playback (and a few hours of idle) from the M6 Pro, down from nine hours of YouTube with its predecessor. If you max out the speed with mmWave and 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E, battery life might be even shorter.
You should also know that while the mini router can support up to 32 devices over Wi-Fi, you can only use two of its three Wi-Fi bands at once: either 2.4GHz and 5GHz or 2.4GHz and 6GHz, in addition to the 5GHz and 6GHz standalone modes. Still, that’s a heck of a lot of routing for a half-pound puck.
Someday, I’m going to host an entire LAN party with one of these and see if anyone notices.
Here’s the list of bands that the M6 Pro supports, in case you’re curious:
- 5G Sub-6: n2/n5/n12/n14/n29/n30/n38/n66/n77/n78
- 5G mmWave: n260
- LTE: B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B7, B12, B14 (FirstNet), B29, B30, B46 (LAA), B48 (CBRS), B66
- 3G: B1, B5
Note that, according to the user manual (pdf), the hotspot won’t actually differentiate between mmWave and C-band 5G. Both will show up as “5G plus” on the hotspot’s screen. Both AT&T and Verizon have been rolling their C-band and mmWave networks together, seemingly to avoid having to admit that mmWave was an epic headfake.