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Netgear Nighthawk M2 Mobile Router, hands on: Fast, versatile connectivity for business travellers

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Written by Cliff Joseph on
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Netgear Nighthawk M2 Mobile Router

Netgear has been busy in recent months, launching an extensive range of Wi-Fi 6 routers, extending its Orbi range of mesh networking systems, and even making a somewhat surprising detour into smart-home devices with the acquisition of the Meural 'digital canvas'.

SEE: IT pro's guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)

Amid the high-profile Wi-Fi 6 products, the company has also updated its range of portable routers with the new Nighthawk M2 Mobile Router (MR2100). The M2 has a UK price of £417 (inc. VAT; £347.50 ex. VAT; US pricing TBA), so it's certainly not the cheapest portable router available for business travellers. However, its strong performance and versatile connectivity features will help it earn its keep when you're on the road.

Design & features

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The Nighthawk M2 packs a Cat 20 4GX LTE modem, 802.11ac wi-fi, a 2.4-inch touch screen and a 5,040mAh battery into a 105mm-square, 20.5mm-thick case.

Image: Netgear

Very much designed as a 'travel router' the square lozenge of the M2 measures 105mm by 105mm by 20.5mm and weighs 240g. It's easy to slip into a briefcase or bag when you're travelling, and won't weigh you down. 

Like its M1 predecessor, the M2 relies on 4GX LTE mobile broadband, as Netgear argues that 5G networks aren't sufficiently widespread to justify the extra cost of adding 5G support. However, Category 20 4GX LTE support means that the M2 doubles its maximum download speed from 1Gbps to 2Gbps, although the upload speed remains the same at 150Mbps. It then uses dual-band 802.11ac to create its own wi-fi network, which can support connections from up to 20 separate devices.

The M2 also gains a larger 2.4-inch touch-sensitive display that allows you to quickly configure the router, and to monitor signal strength, data usage and other settings. The Netgear Mobile app provides similar controls for Android and iOS devices, and there's a browser interface available for computers as well.

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Nighthawk M2 ports (left to right): USB-A, USB-C, RJ-45 Ethernet.

Image: Netgear

The M2's internal SIM slot and battery pack are accessed via a removable panel on the base of the unit, but the M2 has a useful selection of external connectors as well. There's a USB-C port, which can be used for charging via the included mains adapter or from a USB port on a laptop. A laptop connected via USB-C can also be 'tethered' in order to provide a wired network connection if required. There's also a traditional RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet port, which can be used for a quick connection to a router in an office, or perhaps in a hotel room that provides Ethernet connectivity. And if you need a bit of entertainment while you're travelling, there's a USB-A port on the M2 as well, which can be used to stream music or video files from a USB memory stick or portable hard drive without eating up all your expensive mobile data. 

You can use the M2 as a battery pack too, as its internal battery can top up a smartphone or tablet connected via the USB-A port.

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Image: Netgear

Our only concern is that Netgear is a little vague about battery life, stating only that the M2 should provide 'all day continuous use'. However, the battery's 5,040mAh capacity is greater than that of many high-end smartphones so you shouldn't have any problems if you're simply dipping into your mobile broadband every now and then. And if you don't need the full 2Gbps performance of the M2, then the M1 remains on sale at £245 (inc. VAT; £204.17 ex. VAT, £245 inc. VAT, or $350).

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