Whether you’re looking for a mobile broadband contract or pay-as-you-go plan, you’ll want to the latest USB dongle to get the fastest speeds...
These days all dongles have built-in 'plug and play' technology, so there's no need to install any software - just insert your sim card and stick the device in your USB.
It will automatically load the files it needs and you should be online within minutes.
What are dongles?
Mobile broadband allows you to connect to the internet, wherever you go with your laptop, iPad or tablet computer.
A "dongle" is essentially a small modem you attach to your computer like a USB memory stick. Once plugged in, you'll be able to browse the web and send emails from virtually anywhere.
As long as you're within range of a mobile phone mast, you'll be able to get online.
How do dongles work?
When you sign up with a mobile broadband provider, you'll get a sim card to put in your dongle. This works in much the same way as a mobile phone, connecting you to your chosen network.
And just as the sim card in your phone dictates how many minutes and texts you have, the sim card in your dongle gives you an amount of "data" to use on surfing and downloads.
Why use a dongle?
A dongle allows you to take the internet wherever you go, and it's about the same size as a USB memory stick, meaning its portable enough to just throw in your pocket or bag when not in use.
They're compatible with any web-enabled device that has a spare USB port, whether it's a laptop, netbook or tablet computer - even your desktop PC or Mac.
Dongle download allowances
The amount you can download each month will depend on the mobile broadband deal you've signed up for. Allowances currently range from anywhere between 500MB and 15GB a month.
Although most providers now offer generous amounts of monthly data, with the average being around 3GB, excess usage costs can be enormous.
You should always monitor your downloads and, if you're approaching your limit but want to keep surfing, pay for a data add-on rather than going over.
With our Ofcom-approved price calculator you can compare mobile broadband packages and find the right deal for you.
A mobile broadband dongle is one of the cheapest ways to get online, and there are lots of great deals to choose from. From monthly contracts to pay-as-you-go, here's everything need to know:
Although you might have to pay for your dongle upfront, a pay-as-you-go mobile broadband plan is one of the most affordable means of getting online. As with any mobile broadband product, you won't need a landline and you can simply top-up your dongle as and when you need it.
This makes pay-as-you-go the most flexible option for occasional users or anyone on a tight budget. You can now pick up a pay-and-go dongle for less than £10.
All mobile broadband providers now offer a free USB dongle when you sign-up on a monthly contract.
While this saves you money upfront, you should think about whether it is worth being tied to the same tariff for 12 or 18 months. You might only be saving as little as £10.
However, if you do find a good deal that suits your needs, then you might want to secure it for a full year or so by signing a longer contract.
If you want an inclusive download allowance, but aren't looking for a long-term commitment, a 30-day contract could be the ideal compromise.
Although you'll still have to pay for the dongle upfront, you won't be stuck in a contract. Plus, there are some great one-month deals on the market.
Dongles for laptops
You can plug your mobile broadband dongle into any web-enabled device with a spare USB port. This means laptops, netbooks and tablets, as well as your desktop PC or Mac.
But the real benefit of mobile broadband is the fact you can take it anywhere you go. The speeds are far less than you'd get with a fixed line, but you'll be able to check Facebook and email no matter where you are - as long as you've got a 3G mobile signal.
While any dongle will work on your laptop, you need to think carefully about which type of price plan best suits your needs.
Choosing the right dongle
Dongles are an easy way to get online with your laptop, tablet or netbook - whether it's a one-month contract, a longer commitment or just a pay-as-you-go tariff.
However, there are several things you need to consider before signing up. Firstly, make sure you've checked the mobile broadband coverage in your local area.
One provider might give you better reception than another, so it's always a good idea to compare all the options available.
Secondly, think about your download allowance. Are you just an occasional user? Or will you be online for more than an hour each day? It's important to choose the right package, because out-of-bundle charges are often quite extreme.
Finally, the download speed you receive from your mobile broadband is unlikely to be as high as your home broadband connection. You should bear this in mind before replacing your fixed line with a mobile connection instead.
Other ways to get online with mobile broadband
Although USB modem sticks are the standard device for accessing mobile broadband on your computer, there are also some other ways of getting online.
You can now get mobile broadband routers that turn your connection into a mobile Wi-Fi or 'Mi-Fi' hotspot. This allows you to have more than one device connected at the same time.
In addition, some of the latest laptops and netbooks, on offer as part of a mobile broadband deal, come with built-in mobile broadband.
This means that once you've put your sim card in, all you have to do is switch on the computer - you don't even need a USB dongle. Use the broadbandchoices price calculator to compare broadband for your laptop, iPad or tablet.