The name is a giveaway, but the Sky Hub 2 (codename ‘SR102’) is the follow-up to Sky’s first self-branded router, the Sky Hub (SR101). The original Hub was a terrible disappointment with its smart design unable to mask dated wireless and wired technology. In fact we found its wireless performance so slow that a wired connection to the router was required to obtain the ‘up to’ 76Mbit speeds of its fastest broadband package.
Consequently, the pressure is on Sky this time around to show us it can make a router to compete with the cutting edge 802.11ac ISP-supplied routers like the BT Home Hub 5 and EE Bright Box 2. In fact, even a step up to dual-band 802.11n would be welcome, as provided by the Virgin new Super Hub nearly one year ago. But you’ve already checked the score above, haven’t you… so you know it isn't among the best routers around.
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Looking at the Hub 2, little has changed (which begins a recurring theme) but at least in terms of design that’s a good thing. The original Sky Hub is a nice looking device and that remains the case after Sky switched the colour of the SR102 to black. Of course black tends to make for a more noticeable product, but in still measuring 140.6 x 140 x 53mm the Hub 2 remains as pleasingly compact and it still integrates the PSU.
The Hub 2 facia hasn’t changed either and again it shows Power, Internet, WPS, Wireless and Sky HD status lights. The last of these indicates your Sky box connection to the Internet (something Sky insists upon these days) but it can’t tell the difference between just one or multiple Sky boxes installed in the home.
As for build quality, it is reasonable. The plastic construction feels a little flimsy in hand, but there are no creaks or squeaks and the vent at the top of the router allows it to run cool and quiet.
Like the SR101, however, the problems occur beneath the surface but first the good news: the Hub 2 now features an integrated VDSL2 modem. This means it will be compatible with faster Sky fibre broadband speeds beyond 76Mbit as and when they are rolled out.
Cleverly, the Hub 2 can also pre-configure the Openreach VDSL network in your home when it is plugged in. This saves Sky broadband users the need for a trip from a BT Openreach engineer to switch you on at the nearest cabinet, as is the case with other ISPs. Admittedly this is just a one-off saving, but it is something we’d like to see from all ISP-supplied fibre broadband routers going forward.
Sadly, though, from here it is all downhill. Quite astonishingly the Hub 2 remains a single band 802.11n 2.4GHz router while virtually all rivals have moved onto faster dual band 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11n routers. Furthermore, the switch beyond that to 802.11ac routers has already been realised by BT and EE with other ISPs confirming they are ready to follow in their footsteps. Quite simply, Sky is miles off the pace here.
It is equally distant when it comes to wired connectivity as the Hub 2 still has the same four Fast Ethernet (100Mbps) ports as the SR101. Again this compares badly with Virgin and BT, which equip their routers with four Gigabit Ethernet (1000Mbps) ports while EE throws in a mix of the two. For users looking for fast wired local network connection this will be an instant deal breaker.
The lack of any USB ports is another basic omission. This means users have no option to simply network a wired printer or external storage while IPv6 support (another staple of virtually any modern router) is lacking as well. The Hub 2 does get a few security basics right with WPS and WPA/WPA2 security aboard.
Interestingly, Sky seems to know the Hub 2 risks not cutting the mustard and it is supplied with a ‘Sky Wireless Booster’. This is a basic 802.11n 2.4GHz range extender that plugs into a wall socket and repeats the Hub 2’s single around the home. Sky states this is off the back of research that shows 37 per cent of all UK households have Wi-Fi blackspot areas, but we can’t help but think making a more modern, powerful router in the first place would’ve been better way to address this.