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BT Home Hub 5: Performance, Value & Verdict

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly

Reviewed:

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Home Hub 5

Summary

Our Score:

9

BT Home Hub 5 - Performance

BT has nailed the design, features and setup so what about performance? Happily, BT has aced that as well.

HH5 ACAt our test distances of 2m and 10m line of sight and 15m behind two solid walls the Home Hub 5 recorded 802.11ac speeds of 50.9MBps (413.4Mbps), 38.4MBps (307Mbps) and 14.9MBps (119Mbps) respectively.

Compared to the Linksys EA6900, our current flagship, it is convincingly beaten (76.4MBps, 72.3MBps and 46MBps) but the Home Hub 5's speeds hold up against most 802.11ac routers you can buy. It also outperforms EE’s Bright Box 2 – the only other 802.11ac ISP-supplied router currently available – besting it by 10 per cent at close range and a hefty 40 per cent at 15m. That’s the advantage of a 3x3 antenna array.

For those without wireless ac in their PC it is worth noting BT sells an 802.11ac dongle separately (£34.99) but, like all wireless dongles, this is a 2x2 antenna device and significantly less powerful than the 3x3 Asus PCE-AC68 wireless adaptor we use in our test setup.

With the dongle we found wireless ac speeds maxed out around 30MBps (240Mbps), which is typical for a dongle and perfectly illustrates that with 802.11ac routers these days most bottlenecks come from our wireless receivers rather than the routers themselves.

HH5 dongle2

HH5 5GHzGood as its 802.11ac performance is, proportionately 5GHz 802.11n is the Home Hub 5’s biggest surprise. Our test system managed speeds of 33.9MBps (271.2Mbps), 24.1MBps (192.8Mbps) and 9.35MBps (74.8Mbps). These are faster than anything we have seen excluding the breakaway performance of the EA6900.

Against the Bright Box 2 peak performance is 50 per cent better while it doubled the speed of Virgin’s ageing new Super Hub (it was always a bad name) and more than doubles the results of the Home Hub 4.

This will be of great immediate benefit since 802.11ac is still gaining a foothold, but 5GHz 802.11n is in nearly all phones, tablets and laptops of the last few years. As for the BT dongle, it recorded respectable peaks of 24MBps (192Mbps) at close range and kept up at distance.

HH5 5GHzThe HH5’s 2.4GHz 802.11n performance holds up as well. Speeds of 10.4MBps (83.2Mbps), 7.6MBps (60.8Mbps) and 3.24MBps (25.92Mbps) again place it in the top bracket of all the wireless routers we have tested with only the proprietary 2.4GHz technology in the EA6900 and Asus RT-AC68U breaking clear.

In fairness, the bottleneck of 2.4GHz wireless n means most speeds are bunched close together, but it still beats the Virgin new Super Hub, the Home Hub 4, PlusNet’s TG582n and the TalkTalk DSL-3780 while it doubles the performance of the woeful Sky Hub.

The Home Hub 5’s USB performance is less impressive. Speeds of just 2.12MBps (16.96Mbps) are half that of the EE BrightBox 2, but many ISP-supplied routers don’t even offer USB connections and its speed is fast enough to stream HD video.

Home Hub 5

Should I buy the BT Home Hub 5?

The pleasant surprise is for many there is no need to buy it. BT is giving the Home Hub 5 away to new BT Infinity customers who sign an 18 month contract while existing Infinity customers in the last three months of their contract get it for free if they sign a new 12 month contract. Interestingly, existing Infinity customers not in their last three months can also get it free if they sign-up for a further 18-months.

The BT Shop also sells the Home Hub 5 directly for £129 and while this is still very well priced (given it packs in a VDSL modem) there seems little reason for any interested party to pick this option. Yes, some users on rival broadband networks may be tempted to buy it, but BT makes no promises it will be compatible with them.

In the wider context of third-party rivals the Home Home 5 is only left standing by the Linksys EA6900 and Asus RT-AC68U. They retail for £169.99 and £189.99 respectively and don’t integrate a modem. Speed freaks will stick with them, but for the mainstream user BT just took ISP routers to a whole new level.

Verdict

The Home Hub 5 is fifth time lucky for BT. It delivers superb performance in an attractive package, has a simple setup and a bargain price tag. It can’t outpace the fastest 802.11ac routers but it stands toe-to-toe with many while far costing less, especially considering there’s a VDSL modem inside. The BT Home Hub 5 redefines what we should expect from an ISP supplied router. Until rivals respond, it leaves them all eating its dust.

Overall Score

9

Scores In Detail

  • Build Quality 8
  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Usability 8
  • Value 10

Prem Desai

December 30, 2013, 1:36 pm

I have one. It is rubbish. How on earth did this score 9/10?????

The wireless range is almost useless. The hub is upstairs and I struggle to get a decent signal downstairs. It is so poor that I have purchased a wireless access point and use that instead.

Also, the hh5 is devoid of features for power users. For example, remote management is non-existent or not accessible.

My own score: 2/10.

ISO2000

December 31, 2013, 11:23 am

At first my HH5 did not work with my iPad Air so I selected "No" in the "Sync with 2.4 GHz" option in the 5GHz panel (as suggested above). However, I did not change the SSID so the 2.4 and 5 Gig bands have the same names but the iPad Air connects fine. I intend to leave this setup as it is. How can I tell which band the Air is using?

ISO2000

December 31, 2013, 11:25 am

How does it compare with other wi-fi routers? Did you get a better signal before the HH5?

Gordon Kelly

December 31, 2013, 4:26 pm

When you change the SSID the Air will see both and when you choose which one to connect to that will automatically see it select the correct band.

Gordon Kelly

December 31, 2013, 4:30 pm

Having been professionally tested I can assure you the HH5 is far from rubbish. Often in these situations the issue lies with the device you are connecting to. The Hub has 3x3 5GHz antennas, very few laptops do, most tablets have a 2x2 array and most phones are 1x1. I suspect you're blaming the wrong device.

True remote management is currently only offered by Linksys' Smart WiFi. D-Link's mydlink has some barebones management so you shouldn't be surprised a router supplied in many cases free by an ISP doesn't. If you desperately need remote management spend £150+ on a Linksys EA6900. Otherwise a work around is to use Logmein to connect to a home computer and access it that way.

5/10 is ridiculous.

Gordon Kelly

December 31, 2013, 4:31 pm

I go through this thoroughly in the review with detailed performance comparisons to third party and rival ISP routers.

Prem Desai

December 31, 2013, 4:44 pm

Gordon - always had the highest respect for your articles.

In this case, I have to disagree somewhat. 'Professional testing' in lab conditions differs from real world conditions.

I have swapped the hh5 for a cheapo Tp-Link access point and get better reception/performance on my mobile, ipad and laptop.

I'm not getting hung up on the 3x3 or 4x4 or whatever - I'm focussing on user experience.

My current router is a Draytek and it supports remote management. I'm sure I had a Belkin one a couple of years ago that supported this too.

I take your point about being bundled free by the ISP and agree that this may well be one of the best ones.

However, if you're paying for it, would you buy a HH5? I know I wouldn't.

Prem Desai

December 31, 2013, 4:45 pm

Sadly, just about anything I had before: Netgear, Linksys, Belkin. I'm currently using a cheapo Tp-Link one from Amazon - miles better than the HH5.

It may well be settings/channel on the hh5 that are to blame but BT say that the hh5 (and previous generations) sort themselves out.

Gordon Kelly

December 31, 2013, 4:54 pm

Thanks for the kind words Prem, but you misunderstand. All our router testing is done in real world conditions in central London where there are numerous interfering wireless signals and the conditions are identical for every router we test.

If you added an access point you simply repeated your signal upstairs it is always lead to stronger reception - it is like have two routers in your home. But you will still be limited to the top speeds of your existing router rather than the 50MBps and above of the HH5.

Signal is not the same as speed. Having great signal from a slow router then adding an access point is only half a fix.

If you live in an old house with particularly thick walls that would could reduce the range, but 3x3 is the most powerful array you're going to get in any router (sorry 4x4 isn't available ;) it is then up to how each particular router maker supercharges it.

Draytek does have some remote management features, but I wasn't including b2b routers due to their exorbitant price tags. That said I will be reviewing a Draytek on the site soon.

As for your last question, it depends on my budget. Limitless? No, I'd get the Linksys EA6900 then the Asus RT-AC68U then the Netgear R7000. But beneath that, if my budget was limited, I'd most definitely pay for the HH5 and heartily recommend it.

I can't speak for your personal experience (are you using 802.11ac equipment with it?), but it is so radically different from my testing that I'd suggest you get it exchanged.

Gordon Kelly

December 31, 2013, 5:03 pm

PS in addition to using ac wireless devices (you will see from the review the 2.4GHz speeds are nothing to write home about), did you split the SSID into 5G and 2G signals so you could connect to the right one?

If you used 2.4GHz devices with the HH5 or 5GHz devices but didn't split the SSID then there's every chance you were simply using it as a 2.4GHz router which is the one area the HH5 does is no better than many routers.

Those aside, I'm out of ideas!

DoomKmPa

December 31, 2013, 8:10 pm

I also had trouble with range at first with both my HH4 and 5 but I've since used an android phone or tablet, downloaded Wi-Fi analyser and used it to check what channels were in use. Turns out my default 2g HH channel was being swamped by next doors router (so much for the claimed auto channel management). Manually changed it to a clear channel range and I've not had a range problem since.

mothergoose85

January 2, 2014, 10:26 am

Good tip this one, I'll be giving it a go if there are issues with my girlfriends one when it gets installed :)

mothergoose85

January 2, 2014, 10:33 am

Gordon Kelly - quick question for you. My girlfriend is getting a new BT install done in a week or two. If they come and give her a HH4 is there any chance of asking them to change it for a HH5 instead?

I know this might not be your wheel house, I guess I'm after an opinion more than anything concrete.

Dave Bullock

January 3, 2014, 9:37 am

Does this thing have a 'Modem mode' function (ie a switch in software that disables all the routing, wireless stuff and so on and turns it into a dumb box that simply takes the signal from BT and outputs it through one of the ethernet sockets)? Reason I ask is we're moving soon and was thinking about getting BT Infinity, however I want to use my *own* network gear...

kevin

January 4, 2014, 5:38 pm

You misread. Gordon obviously said that HE had been professionally tested. "Having been professionally tested I can assure you... "

Not sure why he thought that relevant to a discussion of hubs and routers, but ......... :-)

Mowglix

January 9, 2014, 7:42 pm

Does this device support WIDI?

mrbee

January 22, 2014, 10:20 pm

The 2.4Ghz band seems stronger for me than the HH3 and the 5Ghz band works well enough...The a/c band works very well for me too, and at 10m away through 2 walls and past telephones, TVs and various items I still get 350Mbps+. So all in all Im happy with the wireless.

I have also renamed the 5Ghz channel and manually selected the 2.4Ghz channel number after scanning for congested channels in my local vincinity.

My previous router had 7 Gbit ports so going down to 4 is a little squeeze but has not put me off, but those coming from a HH2/3/4 will gain Gbit ports, which are useful if you shift a lot of data as I do.

I also love the that the VDSL modem is integrated, meaning I can shelve the Open Reach Box and go to a single box solution.

Of course there are a few limitations, mostly in the GUI and a lack of ability to 'tweak' too many settings may put a few folks off, however these days I am more interested in it 'just working' without too need to fiddle. My main gripe is still the lack of custom DNS, I find this lack rather frustrating because I have a nice set-up with OpenDNS.

Overall not a bad upgrade if you are a BT customer looking to move from a HH2/3 at the least...looks pretty good, takes up a small space and fairly straight forward to set-up. Im very happy with the purchase for £45 + PnP and it has made a good replacement for my previous router wich had begun flaking out, and I had to drop the HH3 in while waiting for the HH5 to arrive.

Bill Young

January 24, 2014, 10:57 am

Having the HH3 with Huawei modem, my current installation requires 2 sockets on the UPS. The HH5 will free up one socket and probably reduce the load too, although this is not mentioned in the review.

What is less clear is whether the individual attached device setups are still the same as before. I require several components of my network to have fixed IP addresses.
---------------------
Since my comments above I've now tried a Home Hub 5.
Menus are pretty similar and fixed IP is a doddle. The hub seems to accept that all addresses are static unless declared otherwise. Port Forwarding is also straightforward. No changes there then!

BUT here's the rub! I need Dynamic DNS enabled for my Storage Device and use DynDNS. No matter how hard I try to get it to connect to DynDNS, which is a listed service, it will not do so. The only option is to run DynUpSvc on the PC, which works. This proves there is no port problem and, having said "Yes" to using Dynamic DNS in the appropriate menu, I see no reason why it shouldn't work on the HH5. It works fine on the HH3!

I asked the Technical Expert line but they told me they do not support Dynamic DNS problems. So that's it, then!!!! I've removed the HH5 and returned the HH3 to its rightful place. The HH5 is incomplete and unusable until they get that supported and working reliably.

mrbee

January 29, 2014, 12:48 am

Its odd that yours don't work for sure, my DynDNS works without hitch, and in additional one of the hosts I have on my DynDNS account is used by my brother for remote access to his Security VCR/Cameras, he also has a HH5 and his HH5 with DynDNS also works without a hitch...

Why yours would not work I cannot really think, we have however turned off uPnP (I dont know if this makes a difference to the DynDNS or not but that we just disable it) other than this I have no idea why your own HH5 would fail to update the address and can tell others that in our own situations at least it works properly.

As for the HH5 being garbage, well I suppose each is entitled to their opinion, and mine is that I disagree with you wholeheartedly, mine has been rock solid (thank goodness) since I put it on-line and I can say without a doubt that it surpasses the HH3 by huge margin all round and if you have gotten one free or paid the £45 UG you have a bargain.

I am just thankful I have seemingly been lucky enough not to encounter too many issues thus far, and sincerely hope that you get your problems sorted asap.

best wishes

mrbee

Bill Young

January 29, 2014, 2:39 pm

Thanks, Mr Bee, for your response. Perhaps I was a bit too severe in saying "garbage" but after such a frustrating day I thought it appropriate! I have noted on the web that the error I get for DynDNS connection is also reported for HH4 which has a similar origin!

I set the HH5 to emulate the HH3 identically. This does include uPnP and DynDNS as well as Port Forwarding. The HH3 is currently performing perfectly. I only use the GigE port(4) as the LAN is on a large, fan-cooled, hub with multiple devices attached.

Perhaps, when in an appreciably less pressured state, I will give the HH5 another try, without uPnP, and see if that works. Too little time these days to devote time to experimentation.

Thanks again for your sympathy!

Mr Bee

January 30, 2014, 8:15 am

Hi Bill, yes sometimes it can be rather frustrating getting things to work the way you expect them to. On of my own previous routers had problems with updating DynDNS (Not a BT HH). It was a pain cos I had moved from a Static IP with O2 but when they announced they were not going FibreOp and were selling out to Sky I moved to BT as they were the first offering Fibre in my street/area and I could not entertain going with Sky as I needed at least basic access to the router to setup RDP and WebServer stuff etc...

For the most part I am very happy with the purchase as it all works pretty well, I was a little worried at first as I have a fair few devices connecting to the hub, using all the components, ie, I have a couple of G devices, 7-8 N devices and 2 ac devices all running through the hub, plus all four Gbit ports are in use, all in all it has held up pretty well really so far.

I still have to test/set up things like RDP and a couple of other inbound services, but the ones I have set up, such as HTTP Web Server seem thus far to be working well and like all things I suspect at some point it will cause me some frustration but at this time I am very happy with it.

When I get to it and have a bit more spare cash I will prob buy another top end router and just keep the HH5 as a drop in if required, but that seems to be less important now the HH5 is taking the place of my old Draytek so well and I will wait to see what is on offer with a built in VDSL modem, who knows, maybe I will end up with a HH5 Rev B.

I do hope you get things sorted out and get to using your HH5 because actually, its not half bad really.

Best wishes...

mrbee

cmorgan

January 31, 2014, 11:49 pm

A word of warning for those who expect their routers to operate silently!
This HH5 router emits a hight pitched buzzing noise fluctuating with download speed. In quieter environments (most home environments) this is clearly audible and can be unpleasantly districting. No noticeable issues with speed or range in the four units tested.

Mr Bee

February 3, 2014, 4:44 am

Mine doesn't emit a high pitched buzz...and I sit 2 feet from it most times, its sat right on my desk next to my workstation monitor...and I can hear the server and workstation fans and I can even hear the CPU on the server chugging away sometimes when under load if I listen really closely, but no hi pitched buzz from the router...

Maybe you were unlucky to have been the recipient of a bad batch...four units does seem to point to a batch of poor quality control, because like I say the two I have encountered make no discernible audio emissions that I can point to...

Hope you get it sorted...

mrbee

Interrogative

February 3, 2014, 6:02 pm

The 'free for existing customers' is not actually correct.
Having just spent an age speaking to an Indian BT call centre, I was told that it is £45 to existing customers. They can only send free for a new account; which could be another person living at the same address.

Alex McDonald

February 4, 2014, 10:11 pm

I got it for free as an upgrade from BT Broadband to Infinity.

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