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BT Home Hub 4 review

Gordon Kelly

By

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

6

User Score:

Pros

  • Simple, thoughtful design
  • Line of sight performance tops BT Fibre speeds
  • Simple setup

Cons

  • Full price overly expensive
  • 802.11n 2.4GHz & 5GHz speeds below average
  • Just one Gigabit Ethernet port

Key Features

  • 802.11n dual band 5GHz & 2.4GHz wireless
  • 1x Gigabit Ethernet, 3x 10/100 Ethernet
  • WPA / WPA2 & WPS security
  • USB 2.0 port
  • CD-less setup
  • Manufacturer: BT
  • Review Price: £109.00

What is the BT Home Hub 4?

The Home Hub 4 is the somewhat overdue successor to BT’s ageing Home Hub 3 router released back in 2011. It brings dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11n wireless to the range for the first time - a long awaited move as the company’s fibre broadband speeds are increasingly rapidly.

After the positive impression made by the dual band Virgin Media new Super Hub and the decidedly iffy single band Sky Hub, how will BT’s latest and greatest router fair?

Video: How to improve your home's Wi-Fi network

Looking for a third-party alternative? Read our best routers round-up.

BT Home Hub 4: Design

Out the box the BT Home Hub 4 makes a very positive impression. The design is a subtle advancement of the Home Home 3 with a flat front and new silver base strip. It sits upright courtesy of spring loaded legs (which allow it to be packed flat) and the rear is well ventilated to stop the Hub getting hot. The entire casing is plastic, but that is the same for all routers as it lets wireless signal pass through easily.

Throughout the Hub 4’s design are a lot of thoughtful touches. Like the Hub 3, the back has a slide out card for the router’s admin and wireless passwords that makes it simple to take settings to different devices around the home. In addition, the Home Hub 4 has convenient large restart and WPS buttons on the top and the rear ports are colour coded with matching cables in the box.

Lastly the router’s activity lights are hidden behind the Hub 4’s black front strip, only showing up when in use. On the downside there are no activity lights on the Ethernet ports, which is always a bugbear.

BT Home Hub 4 3

BT Home Hub 4: Features

The highlight of the Home Hub 4 is its move to dual-band wireless n. BT uses 2x2 MIMO antennas rather than the 3x3 arrangement in premium third-party wireless routers, but it still represents a substantial improvement on the Home Hub 3’s single band 2.4GHz wireless n.

More curious is BT’s decision to fit the Home Hub 4 with the same 3x 10/100 Ethernet / 1x Gigabit Ethernet port combination as its predecessor. This is the first dual-band router we’ve seen not to embrace Gigabit Ethernet entirely and will be a significant letdown to those running local networks as it leaves just one viable port for high speed wired data rates.

Despite this the Home Hub 4 is reasonably flexible. It can’t double as a wireless bridge or access point (like the Asus RT-AC66U), but it does support both DSL and cable (WAN) connections. Interestingly, we found the Home Hub 4’s WAN doesn’t work with modems from other ISPs, but we can’t see many buying a Hub 4 to use it this way.

Another welcome sight on the Hub 4 is its USB 2.0 port - something seen on the Virgin new Super Hub, but left off the Sky Hub. This allows a printer or external hard drive to be easily shared across the network. Of course, third-party behemoths like the Linksys EA6700 and D-Link DIR-868L have moved to USB 3.0 (along with 802.11ac W-iFi), but this may come with the impending Home Hub 5 that BT hopes to launch before the end of the year.

Other notable elements are the Hub 4’s integrated parental controls, which allow you to cut off any device from your network at set times (such as children’s laptops after bed time) and WPA2 security, which is enabled by default.

BT Home Hub 4 UI

BT Home Hub 4: Setup

A big step forward with the Home Hub 4 is its CD-free setup. Simply connect up in the Hub 4, use the supplied card to log onto its Wi-Fi and you’re away. Admin settings can be reached at both http://bthomehub.home/ and 192.168.1.254. The user interface here (above) is basic and (needless to say there is no Cloud platform like Linksys’ Smart WiFi or D-Link’s mydlink), but navigation is straightforward.

Interestingly, BT sets both 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless bands to the same SSD. This is frustrating as it doesn’t let users choose which network they want. This is a crucial choice given the performance benefits of 5GHz and the control it offers a household in spreading traffic across between different bands to keep things speedy. That said this is easily changed in the ‘advanced’ admin settings.

BT Dual band dongle

BT also supplied us with its ‘Dual-Band Wi-Fi Dongle 600’ (£34.99), a useful option for older laptops and PCs lacking support for 5GHz wireless n. It claims a driverless install, but we found we needed to download software from bt.com/help/dongle to make it work with Windows 8. That said this is worth doing as the software is needed for the dongle’s WPS functionality to work on any Windows OS. Notably, we didn’t see any Mac OS X support.

TerFar

August 9, 2013, 10:26 am

How do the pings compare? WiFi suffers poor ping compared to gigabit CAT6 and ping is often more important than raw speed.

ByeLaw

August 9, 2013, 10:31 am

You mean latency right?

Tom

August 20, 2013, 12:18 pm

I've been using this router for about a month now and I'm very impressed.I didn't experience any disconnections yet.I play a lot of games using PS3 and I have no lags or any other problems with it.I had quite a few routers before and I do recommend this one to anybody.The thing is I would never pay £109 for it.It is worth about £50

MikeX

August 24, 2013, 2:42 pm

Just be warned there are some issues with DLNA support with this router! The BT forums are full of reports on compatibility problems, which were not present with the HH3. I have experienced issues with this router related to both the wireless and wired DLNA support. The wired problems can be largely overcome by assigning a short name to the devices in the DHCP table of the HH4, especially when this already contains a name which includes the MAC address. The wireless issues can't be overcome and only using another Wi-Fi router seems to fix the issues.
I suggest any future reviews test for proper DLNA functions using a range of devices (Blu-ray players, music streamers etc.), using both the wired and wireless connections.

mike

August 28, 2013, 10:05 am

Very poor performance if you have any Apple products, constantly drops wifi connection, there is obviously a major conflict between the hub and Apple protocols. Have reverted to our old Netgear router and wifi has been completely stable since. if you have iPads or iPhones don't bother life is too short without additional hassles.

Ketchupcol

September 3, 2013, 7:53 am

I have had a nightmare with the Homehub 4. Totally agree with you mike; I was iPhone/ iPad/ iMac and they all drop the hh4 wireless , ALL the time.
I tried lots of things including splitting the 2.1 and the 5 ghz signals, but still have problems and timeout connections.
So frustrating as I was expecting all my Internet problems to be over paying a lot of money for bt infinity 2.

The router is the biggest let down. It's like having Jamie Oliver in the kitchen and Norman wisdom bringing you your food.

Going to go back to my old router for now .

Timbo

September 15, 2013, 10:07 am

I have used the Hub 3 version a, then went to version b and I must say the version b was very good. I had excellent wireless all over the 3 story house, but alas when my contract was over, and been with bt for 7 years I decided to go to o2. The switch over to o2 was fantastic and what excellent service too. But o2 sold out to sky so I thought I would return to bt. The biggest mistake of my life. Despite having spending 1 hour in a phone box trying to find somebody that cared at bt, I decided to sack them. In-between bt & sky the internet was terrible on the Hub 4, on one pc I could not get a connection, nor could I do so on my smart phone or the B&O TV. I had to email bt to inform them that the hub 4 was basically USLESS & not fit for purpose. I went to sky BB and the connection is faster than bt and all my wireless items now work a treat. I also emailed bt to take the hub away, seems they are not interested lol..

thegrahamp

October 29, 2013, 5:41 pm

So wish I had search reviews before changing from Sky to BT - the Sky router was slow but I've had no end of problems with the BT HH4 - not been able to download a film to my iPad since switching and running my iPhone on the 3G just so it works.
Looks like I'm going to have to buy another router.

climor

November 18, 2013, 2:44 pm

Already on my second BT HH4. Constantly drops out and restarts its self when it pleases.
Very disappointing with this Bad Boy! It certainly behaves like a bad boy. Perhaps I should just turn it off and put that Bad boy over there in the corner.

Nikie Lima

January 28, 2014, 7:10 am

It looks huge. I have a RavPower filehub and it's a small gadget that could perform as a WIFI hotspot and battery charger. Love it!

Xman

January 29, 2014, 10:34 am

It works when you have direct sight but fails and the connection to gadgets drop when the are obstacles - in my home specially behind 2 standing walls in a similar way to the tests from trusted reviews. Did try splitting the 2 and 5 networks but range is an issue on the 2.4ghz frequency. Considering a separate all in one router and if that fails then I think I will have to relocate the master socket.

Barry

February 3, 2014, 8:17 pm

Ipad 2 and bt hub 3 nightmare always drops signal, fed up with BT can't watch anything in hi def on ipad without wifi outing

TerFar

August 18, 2014, 9:19 am

Yes.

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