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BT Smart Hub review

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BT Smart Hub review
  • BT Smart Hub review
  • BT Smart Hub
  • BT Smart Hub
  • BT Smart Hub
  • BT Smart Hub
  • BT Smart Hub
  • BT Smart Hub
  • BT Smart Hub
  • BT Smart Hub
  • BT Smart Hub

Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • 50% better performance than the Home Hub 5
  • Simple setup process
  • Solid multi-device connectivity

Cons

  • More advanced third party routers available
  • Doesn't match BT's signal distance claims

Key Features

  • Four ethernet ports
  • USB 3.0
  • Wave 2 AC wireless connectivity
  • Seven antennas
  • MU-MIMO function incoming
  • WPS
  • Manufacturer: BT
  • Review Price: £50.00

What is the BT Smart Hub?

Internet service provider (ISP) routers aren't known for being speed demons. The latest routers from the likes of PlusNet and TalkTalk have very basic specs that offer at best reliable, albeit relatively slow connections speeds. It's no surprise, really, since budget broadband companies aren't going to throw a £100 router at their customers on super-cheap tariffs.

BT, though, which offers hugely expensive tariffs with blisteringly fast speeds, has no such excuse. If it's going to sell expensive broadband, it needs a router to match. Enter the Smart Hub.

It builds on the company’s previous Home Hub 5, and offers buyers a fuss-free setup process alongside the current-generation AC-wireless standard. The combined package works to great effect and makes the Smart Hub the best ISP router TrustedReviews has tested.

Video: BT Smart Hub review

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BT Smart Hub – Design and Features

The BT Smart Hub is an unassuming router that builds on the Smart Hub 5’s design. The unit has a minimalist two-tone black front, with the only obvious design features being a BT logo and single glowing light at its centre. The light is colour-coded to let you know the status of your Wi-Fi connection.

The Smart Hub is slightly taller and wider than the Home Hub 5, but it contains massively improved hardware. It has seven antennas, which BT claims will let it offer significantly improved connection distances over the Home Hub 5, which had a 2 x 2 dual antenna setup.

The Smart Hub also has a USB 3.0 port on its rear. This is a marked step up on the USB 2.0 port seen on the Home Hub 5 and offers radically improved data speeds.

Round the back you’ll also find the usual assortment of four Gigabit Ethernet ports and a RJ-11 socket for broadband. For BT Infinity customers, the Smart Hub supports VSDL.

The rear of the unit also includes the same removable clip showing the hub’s name, Wi-Fi and admin passwords, which are randomised as you'd expect.

Related: Best Routers 2016BT Smart Hub

BT Smart Hub – Software and Setup

Since this is a bespoke design for BT customers, the Smart Hub is a doddle to set up. Out of the box, you simply need to connect the router to the mains, attach the broadband cable to the correct socket and wait for the Smart Hub to connect BT’s servers and automatically configure itself. The process takes around five minutes and is complete when the router’s front light glows blue.

BT is marketing the Smart Hub as being the ultimate no-hassle router. Specifically, the firm claims that the router’s Smart Scan feature means the Hub should automatically optimise itself to offer its user the best Wi-Fi signal and performance. This is standard among most routers these days, but should keep the Smart Hub from choosing wireless channels that are already congested.

BT Smart Hub

If you want to manually adjust the Hub’s settings via its web interface, you can type “http://bthomehub.home” into any web browser and log into your BT account. The interface has basic options, such as seeing which devices are currently connected to the Hub and a basic breakdown of current connection speeds.

Advanced settings let users manually turn off the Hub’s automatic scan features and choose which specific band or frequency they want the hub to transmit. Going into this amount of depth will be unnecessary for most. In general, I found that the Hub performed perfectly well in its out-of-the-box settings.BT Smart Hub

BT Smart Hub – Performance

BT brought AC wireless connectivity to its customers in the Hub 5, and it's present again here. For non-techies this is a big deal, since the AC standard is a marked step up on the previous-generation N standard.

Related: What's the difference between N and AC Wi-Fi?

On paper AC routers should be able to deliver up to three times faster performance. The only downside is that the router requires a device with an AC-compatible card to take advantage of the tech – which is why the Smart Hub also broadcasts using the N standard for older devices.

The Smart Hub features an upgraded version of 802.11ac called Wave 2. It's currently all the rage with tech companies and is traditionally only seen on more expensive routers from specialists such as Asus, Linksys, D-Link and Netgear. Wave 2 allows routers to broadcast on more parts of the wireless spectrum, making for more reliable and faster connections with multiple devices.

During my tests (reviewed using the D-Link AC1900 Wi-Fi USB Adapter) I found the upgrade works a treat and the Smart Hub easily outperformed the Home Hub 5.

At one meter, with the router unobstructed and locked to the 5GHz AC frequency, I measured a consistent 44% speed improvement over the Home Hub 5.

BT Smart Hub

At five meters, with one wall obstructing me from my router, I measured a more impressive 54% speed boost over the Home Hub 5. BT Smart Hub

10 meters away, with two walls between me and the router, the Smart Hub offered a startling 59% connection speed improvement on the Home Hub 5.

BT Smart Hub

Testing speeds at 20 meters on my balcony with four walls between me and the router, neither router was outstanding, but the Smart Hub remained 50% faster than the Home Hub 5.BT Smart Hub

I do have one big beef with BT's marketing, though. The company claims the Smart Hub’s seven antenna setup will let it push signal as far as 500 meters unobstructed and up to 350 meters through one wall. Living in London I couldn’t find a large enough location to test either figure, but if my experience using it in my flat is anything to go by, neither is accurate. During my time testing the Hub I always lost signal the moment I reached my building’s stairwell, which is a paltry thirty meters away and only blocked by two thin walls. This isn't unexpected, but I can't think why BT chose to make such big claims about the router's range.

The Smart Hub also deals with multiple devices connecting to it better than the Home Hub 5, which is surprising given that the router doesn’t currently have Multi-user Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO).

MU-MIMO is a cool bit of wireless tech seen on most high-end AC routers. It’s development on basic MIMO tech that helps a router better cope with multiple devices connecting to it at the same time – if the connecting hardware supports it, that is, which many older devices don’t. BT has pledged to add the functionality to the Smart Hub at a later date via an over-the-air update.

With three laptops, three phones, two tablets, a games console and a gaming rig attached to the router, I’m yet to see any serious outages or drops in connection speed. By comparison, the Home Hub 5 hung up at least once a month facing the same workload.

Related: Best Wi-Fi extenders 2016

BT Smart Hub

Should I buy the BT Smart Hub?

If you’re already with BT then, yes, absolutely. The Smart Hub is a huge step up compared to the Home Hub 5 and consistently offers a 50% performance boost and above. With BT currently offering it to existing customers for £50 – a £70 cut on its usual price – it’s also great value for money.

If you’re a power user looking for something a little speeder and feature rich then you'd still be better off checking out a third-party AC router, such as the TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900.

Verdict

The best ISP router TrustedReviews has tested.

Overall Score

8

toboev

June 20, 2016, 6:21 am

Does it have a guest network yet? Visitors increasingly expect to be offered a wifi connection - certainly I expect to be able to offer it, and you don't necessarily want them to be able to trawl your NAS drive, or put your home network at risk from any viruses they might harbour.

Duncan Dunnit

June 20, 2016, 7:14 am

It would be nice to see bt broken up. Bt has for years had a monopoly and i feel like many others bt offers poor value for money and had damaged competition.

Matthew McLaren

June 20, 2016, 10:44 am

Change the record ffs!

Matthew McLaren

June 20, 2016, 10:45 am

I agree, I threw this in BT's face on Twitter when Virgin Media advertised their Guest network capabilities!

TimmyBk

June 21, 2016, 12:56 pm

I just received an email from BT offering me a Smart Hub for an "exclusive offer" price of £9.65 extra per month on top of a new 18 month contract, plus £7.95 delivery - I can't see many people wanting to pay over £180 for a router upgrade.

ExasperatedMe

June 21, 2016, 12:58 pm

They want £15 a month for this hub!!

L4lefty

June 21, 2016, 3:09 pm

...And you're repeating yourself here. Change the record, ffs!

Andy Parker

June 21, 2016, 3:43 pm

ordered mine today. no extra cost at all..

Duncan Dunnit

July 1, 2016, 8:19 am

bet you support boris johnson, you come across as a talking bottom.

Matthew McLaren

July 1, 2016, 7:58 pm

Shhh now slice a cake! Wouldn't wanna crack the icing xP...

Alan Roy Poole

July 21, 2016, 4:21 pm

got mine free if i stick with them which i was doing anyway cause it's the best round our way

Quiet Disqusser

July 30, 2016, 11:53 am

What's with meter and meters, it's metres for distance, at least it was when I was at school, has it changed?

Ampex

August 7, 2016, 4:19 pm

I've now had the SmartHub (aka Home Hub 6) installed for a couple of weeks and I must say I have been happy with it in every respect. I use the 5GHz channel for two Dell M6800 laptops and the 2.4GHz channel for a Roberts internet radio - all of which perform faultlessly. I also use an Amateur Radio utility called EchoLink which requires some port forwarding adjustments to be made - and this too was effected without all the hassle I'd had with previous hubs.The range of the Smarthub is definitely greater - and thus the signal strength correspondingly stronger - than the Home Hub 4 that it replaced, although regretfully I am unable to provide you with specific details due to mobility problems. The hub's modem is built-in, unlike previous models and so it does not need an external box and two power adapters. It is also little taller than the Home Hub 4.

Nick G

August 15, 2016, 11:23 am

It's "metre" not "meter". Meter with "er" is an electricity meter, not a unit of distance.

Nick G

August 15, 2016, 11:25 am

It has BT Wifi, which guests can use if they're BT customers, but not a proper secured guest SSID.

Avalonica

August 27, 2016, 3:22 pm

This new router is fast - when it works. It drops my connection and fuxxors the house network every two days or so. The Home Hub 5 never used to do that. Maybe I'm missing something but this constant need to reboot the thing is getting extremely annoying.

David Fulford

August 31, 2016, 9:42 pm

BT appear to have sent out a batch of HomeHub 6s that do not work. However, BT do not want to admit this. This is unfortunate when it is being so heavily advertised. I hope the new versions work better than the one I was sent. They promised to send me a replacement, but I have not seen it yet.

DK

September 2, 2016, 3:17 pm

BT eventually confirmed today that the new Smart Hub 6 is not compatible with traditional home broadband (i.e. non-fibre) despite selling it to new BT Home Broadband customers for a special discounted price when signing-up.

Robert

September 3, 2016, 4:51 pm

Incorrect. I've had mine setup for two weeks and it works fine on my standard broadband. Full 20mb down, 1.5mb up. We don't get fibre where I live, and I've had no issues with it.

Robert

September 3, 2016, 4:54 pm

I had the exact same issue three weeks ago. I got my new replacement 3 days later, and I've had it working fine for two weeks so far. Much better signal than my Homehub4b, it use to drop in my kitchen but the new 6 gets me a solid 50% signal.

DK

September 3, 2016, 7:30 pm

Well, the fact BT confirmed its incompatible to me is not 'incorrect'. Perhaps the information they confirmed is though? I'm getting nowhere with BT Customer Services atm. Their advice is all over the place!
Robert, I'm please for you and only hope I can achieve anything like your speeds - with a new Smart Hub or otherwise.

Robert

September 3, 2016, 7:53 pm

Did you get a faulty one? There's been lots of reports of a dodgy batch of Hub 6s being sent out. I had my first one cap at 10mb, and constantly restarting every hour. My new one is completely fine though.

harryposter

September 14, 2016, 10:34 pm

Okay that's all fine with bombarding your neighborhood with 350meter wide wifi, but: DOES IT PERFORMS WITH WIRED CONNECTIONS FOR STREAMING LIVE FULL HD TV OR WILL IT BE THE SAME CRAP AS BEFORE?

harryposter

September 14, 2016, 10:35 pm

Guest will be able to connect to your network as before, the viruses will be from your network, as usual

harryposter

September 14, 2016, 11:10 pm

How?
their youview offer is crap and Sky already want me back for £32 a month... Which is exactly the price I will pay for TV with BT after the 3 months half-crap offer

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