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Sky Hub review

Gordon Kelly

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Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score

5/10

Pros

  • Free to new customers
  • Simple setup
  • Sleek, minimalist design

Cons

  • No Gigabit Ethernet
  • Single band 2.4GHz wireless bgn only
  • No USB ports to network drives or printers
  • Weak wireless range & performance

Review Price £69.00

Key Features: 802.11bgn 2.4GHz WiFi; Integrated DSL modem; 4x 10/100 Ethernet ports; WEP, WPA/WPA2 & WPS security

Manufacturer: Sky

What is the Sky Hub?

The Sky Hub is the router the broadcasting giant supplies with every new connection to its ever-expanding fixed broadband network. Unlike previous Sky routers, which were designed by Netgear, this time Sky claims credit for its design and that its range and performance is a step above routers supplied by other ISPs. With Sky Fibre now unleashed and promising breakneck Internet speeds, it needs to be…

Sky Hub - Design

Take the Sky Hub out the box and its inspiration is clear. The white colouring, square shape and rounded corners owe a large debt to Apple’s AirPort Express Base Station. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The matt finish means it isn’t a dust and fingerprint magnet like many other routers and status lights - power, Internet, WPS, wireless and Sky HD - are clearly labelled. In fact, the inclusion of ‘Internet’ as a smiley face symbol is a nice touch as is its ability to detect when Sky HD on-demand services are in use.

Less welcome is where Sky has broken from Apple’s design principles with an off-white finish on one side and the gratuitous, reflective Sky logos on both sides that are stuck on rather than subtly embossed. Where Sky does deserve credit, however, is the Hub integrates both its DSL modem and PSU - the latter meaning no bulky plug or separate power brick and the whole package is highly compact at just 104 x 104 x 54mm and 368g.

Sky Hub 3

Sky Hub - Features

The problem is this immediately sets our Spidey senses tingling. How has the Sky Hub managed to be so compact? Sadly because it is extremely short on features.

What stands out most is the Sky Hub is just a single band (2.4GHz) 802.11n router. This means all wireless activity in a household must share the same bandwidth and the 2.4GHz band also performs more slowly than the 5GHz band, which is a part of dual band routers like Virgin’s new Super Hub and BT’s Home Hub 4 (review coming soon).

Another shock is the Sky Hub lacks Gigabit Ethernet, a standard feature on routers for a number of years now. Instead the Hub has four 10/100 Ethernet ports which means their peak wired speed (100Mbit) is only just above the 76Mbit speeds at which Sky Fibre can operate and will prove a serious bottleneck to wired home networks which can work in excess of well over 300Mbit.

The shortcomings don’t stop there either as Sky has also omitted USB ports which allow printers or external storage to be quickly shared across a network. Sky isn’t alone in this as Virgin’s new Super Hub also omits a USB port, but BT’s Home Hub 2, 3 and 4 all support it and one USB port is common on most third party routers. Indeed, some, such as our current favourite 802.11ac router, the Linksys EA6700, have two USB ports.

Elsewhere the Sky Hub does at least offer WPA/WPA2 and WPS wireless security as well as port forwarding, uPNP and Dynamic DNS, but it isn’t IPv6 compliant - something we hope Sky will add in a future firmware update.

Sky Hub UI

Sky Hub - Setup

The flip side of such a basic feature set is the Sky Hub is a doddle to set up. Plug in the power and your DSL cable (note Sky supplies just one microfilter), give it a minute to boot, connect to the wireless signal via the password provided on the bottom of the router and you’re ready to go.

Adjusting settings is just as straightforward. The Sky Hub lacks the advanced Cloud platforms launched by Linksys and D-Link, so it is a case of entering 192.168.0.1 in your web browser when connected to the network and logging in with the default username and password (remember to change them).

The Hub’s user interface is basic, but clear with major categories written along the top - Wireless, Security, Maintenance, Advanced, Support - and options are presented in drop down menus. A useful right-sided column gives novices a wordy description of what each section means, though it requires a great deal of scrolling and could’ve been better laid out.

Next page

Jimneybob

July 17, 2013, 10:31 am

The BT Homehub 3 does have a USB connection but it doesn't support printer sharing. I believe the 1 & 2 versions did support this feature. When you folks test the Homehub 4 can you check if this newer model supports printer sharing via its USB connection please.

Gordon Kelly

July 17, 2013, 10:52 am

Hi Jimneybob and thanks for the info. BT reports the HomeHub 4 will support both storage and printers, but we'll certainly check.

eca04acm

July 17, 2013, 11:44 am

Hi Trusted Reviews,

Very interesting to find out exactly what you are signed up for with a bundled router and even keener to improve on what is clearly a poor product.

How easy is it to turn the Sky Hub into a modem? What would you need to do to get this to work?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Dan Thomas

July 17, 2013, 12:28 pm

Should be easy. You would turn almost everything off then plug a wired router into one of the Ethernet ports (I would recommended some of the Asus products but the Lynksys is another good choice). Then set the new box to router 'mode' and that should be it, you will need to fiddle with the IP address but its not to complicated to do.

Gordon Kelly

July 17, 2013, 12:38 pm

Typically you are signed up to a 12 or 18 month control as a new customer or a customer renewing their contract.

Happily it is easy to turn the router into a modem which I mention in the review: "thankfully an option by unticking ‘Enable Wireless Access Point’

You can plug a third party router into the Sky Hub even with wireless on the Hub enabled, but it makes no sense to have two wireless products so close to one another.

Gordon Kelly

July 17, 2013, 12:39 pm

Dan is right, but see my reply above for specifically where this is.

Linksys and D-Link lead the way the minute, but we have Asus' flagship ac router due with us shortly.

aedwards

July 17, 2013, 12:43 pm

The new router will need to be a cable one, with an Ethernet WAN port. I've got a Netgear DGN3700 that does both DSL and cable, but anything that says it is for cable internet is what you need.

Turn the wifi and DHCP server off in the settings on the Sky router

Plug the WAN port of the new router into one of the ethernet ports on the Sky router.

There will be a setting for the internet connection on the new router that doesn't ask for a user name and password - that's the one you want.

Set the wifi up on the new router - don't forget to put a WPA passphrase in :-)

Turn the DHCP server on in the settings on the new router

Port forwarding for incoming connections might be a pain - the Sky router will need to forward to the new router's IP address.

eca04acm

July 17, 2013, 12:49 pm

Thanks Dan and Gordon. It all sounds quite painless.

Did a speed test and currently getting 8Mbps stood next to the router and 3Mbps in the lounge next door. Hopefully one of your recommended routers will increase performance.

I’ll report back on the results if I can get a new router up and running.

toboev

July 17, 2013, 12:55 pm

Gordon, I think we may have tangled on this before, and I'm not trying to be vexatious. Simply disabling wifi on a Hub does not revert it to modem-only mode. It just disables wifi. But NAT and DHCP etc (ie the router functions) are still there. Likewise the switch function. I would hope that true modem-only mode is available, but that must amount to more than disabling the wireless. Does unticking Enable Wireless Access Point do all that, or does it just do what it says?

Gordon Kelly

July 17, 2013, 1:04 pm

We have tangled on this before! No there is no true modem only mode (unlike Virgin's new and old Super Hubs), but disabling wireless and connecting a third party router will still get you around the problem.

Anyone looking to extensively tinker with router settings simply must do it in both the Sky Hub and third party router. Obviously this only applies for Internet access as well since the third party router will control the home network and - for example - any traffic prioritisation you may want to specify.

Gordon Kelly

July 17, 2013, 1:06 pm

eca04acm - are you testing your broadband speed or your home network? If your broadband speed is only a maximum of 8Mbit that is all you'll get from your broadband regardless of which router you have.

A home network on the other hand is something like network attached storage (a NAS) which will run much faster.

Regardless having your speed drop to 3Mbit just a room away is very poor indeed - much worse even than our test results.

Is this on a Sky Hub?

eca04acm

July 17, 2013, 1:20 pm

Yes, this is on a Sky Hub.

Sorry for my layman's turns explaining what I did... I used speedtest.net to get the results. Is this an accurate measure? I'm not sure if that shows broadband speed or home network speed?

Do you think a new router would improve the speed at all? Using the Sky Wireless receiver for on demand programmes it barely makes half signal strength and is in the next room c10m from the router.

Alex

eca04acm

July 17, 2013, 2:05 pm

Yes, it was one a Sky Hub. I was testing using the speedtest website.

Would a router upgrade increase the speed in the other rooms of my house?

My Sky Wireless receiver just about gets half signal strength for on demand services and it isn't more than 10m away from the hub.

Gordon Kelly

July 17, 2013, 2:09 pm

Ah then you're just measuring your Internet speed - though it shouldn't drop from 8Mbit to 3Mbit just one room away, even two or three rooms away. Walls are what hurts wireless signal most rather than distance btw.

If your Internet speed is 8Mbit then a decent router should be able to maintain this all over the house. There are budget, midrange and premium options listed in the review which will all do what you need.

If you get a third party router be sure to disable the wireless in the Sky Hub (I mention how in the review) so it won't interfere with the wireless in your new router.

Beaky69

July 17, 2013, 2:16 pm

t is possible to use a third-party router on it's own, but it's against Skys T&Cs to do so. Having said that, plenty of people do, & I don't believe any action has ever been taken against them. It's advisable to keep the Sky Hub though, in case of any support issues along the road...

eca04acm

July 17, 2013, 2:20 pm

Thanks Gordon. I'll see if I can move the router any closer to the lounge to start with. Not totally sure that wires all over the place would go down to well with my girlfriend unfortunately.

Is there a way of finding out what speed I can get from my connection? i.e. are the results from speednet the best I will be able to get?

Gordon Kelly

July 17, 2013, 2:21 pm

True, but there is little reason to do so.

1. It's complicated for most users
2. Routers with integrated modems are less common and more expensive.
3. The Sky Hub will do a perfectly fine job of connecting to the Sky network, we'd just advise it isn't what's used to distribute wireless around the house.

The only counter argument would be it is neater having just one unit which I don't think outweighs the others. Furthermore the Hub can be stored out of sight as only the router distributing the wireless needs to be in a prominent position in the house.

Gordon Kelly

July 17, 2013, 2:23 pm

PS make sure you give the Sky Hub a chance by positioning it in a central position in the house and away from the floor or corners. In a perfect world a wireless router would hover about 5 feet in the air in the geographic centre of a house!

Gordon Kelly

July 17, 2013, 2:25 pm

Speedtest will reliably measure your Internet speed. Since you don't mention any home networking kit (a NAS drive, for example) that's all that matters.

I'd also try Speedtest with other laptops as some can have poor wireless reception at distance (it can affect some metal unibody ultrabooks) - though this shouldn't be a problem when a laptop has line of sight with the Sky Hub.

eca04acm

July 17, 2013, 2:32 pm

I don't have any home networking kit, no.

I did the test using an ipad so I'll try my dell laptop and see what happens.

it's a shame the sky router isn't up to the shame standard as BT and Virgin though. I know it is included free with the sky contract but you shouldn't have to purchase a new router to get the best out of their service.

Beaky69

July 17, 2013, 2:48 pm

It is a bit complicated, but anyone with a bit of perseverance and access to Google can do it :)

Err...integrated modems? My comments referred to using the Openreach fibre 'modem', in conjunction with a conventional third-party router. You can indeed do away with the Openreach box as well, but as you say, that's an expensive option, & you still need to keep the Openreach box on the wall anyway.

Gordon Kelly

July 17, 2013, 3:23 pm

The one saving grace is, given the age of the Sky Hub, that an upgrade shouldn't be far away.

Gordon Kelly

July 17, 2013, 3:26 pm

Agreed, though I just don't think its worth the effort for those scared away by these things. Switch off the WiFi, plug in a third party router and off you go.

Most ISP supplied routers are poor, the Virgin new Super Hub actually is the exception to the rule. In an ideal world we'd cast them aside like bundled earphones.

toboev

July 17, 2013, 4:17 pm

Why would you not recommend (to improve wifi) the use of a wifi access point instead of a second wifi router. The issue I see with daisy chaining a wifi router behind the Hub is you will have double NAT and (unless the user reconfigures one) two DHCP servers. If all you want to do is to get better wifi, surely switching off the Hub's wireless and replacing it with a wifi access point (such as a TP-LINK TL-WA801ND) is all that is required. You don't need the extra baggage of a second router/NAT/DHCP functionality.

Gordon Kelly

July 17, 2013, 4:30 pm

Access points are fine, though don't offer the same degree of control and fine tuning of media settings for a home network. I'd also opt for a more powerful access point than the one you list here.

Furthermore the role of double NAT and two DHCP servers is greatly overplayed in real world usage. I've run numerous tests down the years with such a setup and most recently I've had no problems with Internet speeds above 110Mbit and incredibly low ping rates. It simply isn't a big real world issue.

Furthermore routers are by and large more user with simple and intuitive UIs these days. Especially the Cloud based models.

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