Web Hosting Reviews

Test: Netgear Nighthawk M2 – mobile router for maximum 4g surfing

Tested product: Netgear Nighthawk M2
Award: SEK 4,593 at Cdon.

2020 may be the year when we finally get 5g, but 4g will continue to dominate for a long time, especially outside the urban areas. If you’re going out into the woods and fields, spending the summer in the archipelago or if you simply can’t get fiber into your home, mobile broadband is a perfect alternative for connection. At least as long as you keep track of the gigabytes.

Then you may need a good 4g router. When Netgear released the Nighthawk M1 in 2018, it was the sharpest router in its class, a battery-powered unit small enough to fit in your pocket but with the range and features of any half-sized home router. Now Netgear has released a sequel, which builds on that and squeezes even more performance out of a small form factor.

The Nighthawk M2 is fundamentally very similar to its predecessor, a decimetre-wide square with curved surfaces that taper towards rounded corners. It’s a little too big for a trouser pocket, but fits into a backpack or jacket pocket without any problems.

Extra bandwidth, if you’re lucky

But it’s not really lying in the pocket it’s supposed to be used, but you spread it out on a table, or in the windowpane. It has four small feet on the underside, and can also be placed on a high edge. In any case, if you are not going to charge the battery, connect ethernet or usb devices, or external antennas, all of which have outputs on the same side.

Netgear Nighthawk M2 in hand
The Netgear Nighthawk M2 is shorter but just over twice as thick as a mobile phone.

What differentiates this model from its predecessor, the Nighthawk M1, is above all performance. Here, the 4g modem has been upgraded to a cat 20 type, which means up to five bands of so-called frequency aggregation, which can push download speeds to as much as two gigabits per second, compared to one gigabits per second for the Nighthawk M1.

So this is in theory under perfect conditions, and requires your operator, the load on local base stations, and even the weather of the day to allow it. Which is not that likely. But with the built-in antennas, we get stable speeds over 150 Mbps in most situations, both on the balcony in the middle of town, in a moving car and in the middle of the Swedish primeval forest.

Also works for fiber

If we plug into a broadband socket at home via the router’s ethernet cable, it can be run in a load-off mode, which means that it takes the internet connection from there and distributes it over Wi-Fi, to save on your mobile surfing pot.

In that situation, the Nighthawk M2 is a perfectly good router for a smaller apartment. We mostly get just over 300 and sometimes up to 400 Mbps in speed and a range that matches other compact routers without large external antennas. That’s better than the Nighthawk M1, although we got slightly better range on the 2.4 GHz band.

It is also possible to relieve the load via Wi-Fi. This means that you use the 5 GHz band to connect to another router, and then allow clients to connect to the 2.4 GHz band. It can be a smart way to share Wi-Fi for a family in a hotel or similar, where it is sometimes limited how many people per room can connect.

Netgear Nighthawk M2 ports
The Netgear Nighthawk M2 has a USB port where you can connect an external disk. The small type c port is for power adapter. Under the rubber feet on the side there are also sockets for external antennas.

Simple range of functions

In addition to the above mentioned offloading functions, we can set up media and file server with usb storage connected (but not with micro sd card as in Nighthawk M1), black or white list devices, and set up detailed information about data plans and subscriptions. There is also a simple parental control here, but it is unfortunately a bit unnecessarily complicated to get started with, as it requires a separate OpenDNS account.

Everything is conveniently controlled from Netgear’s handy mobile app, but there’s also a traditional web interface if you prefer. The router itself also has a small touch screen and two navigation buttons that not only provide you with detailed information about things like connection and data quotas, but also allow you to manage many settings directly on the device.

The touch screen is unfortunately anything but good. We have to tap once or twice sometimes before it registers fingertips, and swipes work sporadically. It easily becomes a frustrating experience. We definitely prefer mobile.

More technically cool than practical good

This is among the best portables that you can put a sim into right now. In theory, it can squeeze out more of the 4g networks than most we’ve seen in the way of mobile routers, and as a router on its own it’s both competently powerful and has all the important functions, although both the interface and handling of some of them could be smoother.

Netgear app
The app provides control over most of the router. But individual functions feel unnecessarily complicated to handle.

But the question is how many can justify the high price tag. You have to pay over four and a half thousand for it, for a basic function that many can get by sharing the connection with the mobile as a surf point or with a much cheaper device.

You want to know that you can use its capacity and technical conditions with your mobile broadband. Otherwise, the Nighthawk M2, despite being technically impressive, becomes quite redundant.


Product name: Nighthawk M2 MR2100-100EUS
Tested: March 2020
Manufacturer: Netgear
Modem type: 3g, 4g cat 20/13 (2,000 Mbps down / 150 Mbps up), micro-sim.
Wifi type: 802.11b/g/n/ac, dual band
Security: wpa, wpa2, wps.
Connections: Gigabit ethernet lan/wan, usb 2.0 type a
Number of users: 20 pcs.
Speed, 5 GHz wifi to fiber: up to 314 Mbit/s
Range, wifi: About 13 meters on 5GHz, about 22 meters on 2.4 GHz.
Battery: 5050 Mah, approx. 20 hours surfing time.
Admin interface: App, web, touch screen.
Other functions: Parental control, sim security, handover (ethernet or wifi), file server, media server
Size: 10.6 x 10.6 x 2.3 cm.
Weight: 240 g.
Rec. Award: SEK 4,890
Award: SEK 4,593 at Cdon.

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