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  • #4209236

    internet on the road


    by df54 ·


    My tech experience spans a dumbphone and a few desktops (one of which I built 12 years ago). Never owned a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Just didn’t want to deal with them. Now, I’m contemplating a project that might need more advanced connectivity.

    I’m planning a high-stakes solo road trip and since my destination will be determined by the weather, I will need access to updated weather forecasts and extensive maps.

    I think I should buy a mobile device with on-the-road internet access. I want to keep costs around $300 to $400 (if possible) and avoid buying expensive gizmos that I won’t want later. But, my dumbphone – with its cheap cellular plan and small screen – won’t work well by itself, or even as a hotspot for another device.

    I’m considering buying an inexpensive laptop with its own internet connection through a cellular network.

    My current idea:
    – refurbished laptop, something a couple of years old
    windows 10 is OK
    preferably can accept a cellular SIM card
    – if no SIM support, then add a plug-in USB modem that accepts a SIM card
    – prepaid plan connected to the SIM card from a reputable carrier
    I guess at least 20GB of high-speed data before throttling would be nice
    don’t expect to need the plan for more than a month
    – I won’t be sending sensitive info. I can handle business with my phone
    – download some maps ahead of time with Microsoft’s Maps app, saving data
    – GPS optional; I can navigate with a decent map

    I was hoping for some advice about the following concerns:
    – compatibility issues between an older laptop, USB modem, SIM card and data plan
    what specs should I focus on for compatibility?
    where should I get this equipment?
    – what SIM card and provider would be good?
    – what am I missing?
    – are there better ideas I should consider?

    Thanks for any direction you can offer me.

All Answers

  • Author
    • #4209325
      Avatar photo

      Re: internet on the road

      by kees_b ·

      In reply to internet on the road

      Since there’s no WiFi on the road, you need 4G (5G might not be available everywhere you go) mobile data. That indeed needs a device with a SIM-card: a mobile phone, a tablet or a laptop. I’ve never seen a laptop with built-in SIM, but you can buy a “USB 4G dongle” for a Windows device everywhere, like you can buy a phone, tablet or laptop everywhere. We won’t recommend shops or makers.
      Choose a nice device that you can keep using for other purposes later or easily sell second-hand if you have no use for it yourself any more. The advantage of a tablet or phone is that it comes with GPS, so you can use Google maps to navigate.

      Prepaid usually is quite expensive for mobile data, but some carriers might offer an additional data plan for a limited amount or a limited period. Or they might offer a full subscription for one or 2 months in stead of the usual 12 months. That fully depends on the carrier / provider. Find one in your country that offers what you need for an good price.

      • #4209590

        Re: reply to internet on the road

        by df54 ·

        In reply to Re: internet on the road

        Hey kees_b,

        Thanks for the response. It’s good to know that I’m on the right track.

        I do worry about buying equipment that doesn’t work together (esp the 4G dongle and a laptop). It’s sometime hard to get all the info one needs to make an informed decision. I guess you just have to research as much as you can.

        Thanks again!

        • #4209630
          Avatar photo

          Re: work together

          by kees_b ·

          In reply to Re: reply to internet on the road

          If the specs of the dongle say it works for Windows 10 and 11, it will work on all laptops with such an OS. You might need to install a driver, but that’s in the documentation that comes with it.

          There’s no need to buy the latest laptop you can find.
          A refurbished model is fine for people with modest requirements. But to be used safely in 2025, it must be able to run Windows 11 or, preferably, come with that already installed. But if you built your own desktop years ago, you should be able to do that upgrade yourself.

        • #4209976

          reply to Work together

          by df54 ·

          In reply to Re: work together

          Thanks for the guidance on the dongle. I guess this won’t be too hard after all.

          As for the laptop, I was thinking of installing Linux after the trip just as an experiment. Hopefully, that would be reasonably secure for light entertainment for at least a few years.

      • #4209852
        Avatar photo

        Reply To: internet on the road

        by birdmantd ·

        In reply to Re: internet on the road

        Ironically, I do remember in the early to mid 2000’s that Dell did have a series of laptops that did support SIM cards using 3G technology. Excruciatingly slow by today’s 4G/5G standards. I don’t recall what models included SIM slots. Back then, the US did not use eSIM technology, Europe and Asia might have but I can’t say with any certainty.

        • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by Avatar photobirdmantd.
        • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by Avatar photobirdmantd.
        • #4209979

          Reply To: internet on the road

          by df54 ·

          In reply to Reply To: internet on the road

          In my searches so far, I found a few new laptops that might support a SIM (if I understood the specs correctly). They were beyond my budget.

          Recently, I found a few refurbished laptops (only a couple of years old) that also seemed to support it, but the specs weren’t clear, at least not on the seller’s site.

          I’m concerned that a laptop with SIM support might lock you into a provider, though I’m no expert on that.

          • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by df54.
          • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by df54.
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