Name: Home Hub 3 (BT)
Type: Wi-Fi Broadband Router
Specs: Click here for full specs
Price: Free with new BT Broadband packages, £46 for existing customers, £92 without a BT contract
BT's Home Hub 3 aims to eliminate Wi-Fi woes by employing a new "Smart Wireless" technology. But does this new channel hopping system do enough to glaze over a few other notably absent features?
Wireless internet has become the standard for so many laptops and mobile devices that it's hard to remember a time when there was no choice but to wire a connection to your PC in order to connect to the net. However ubiquitous Wi-Fi connections have now become, so too have frustratingly frequent drop outs and wireless interference. As the headline feature of the BT Home Hub 3 router, Smart Wireless technology aims to do away with this.
Though the majority of routers these days scan for the most interference-free channel when first setting up your Wi-Fi connection, over time the channel can become flooded with interference from other devices in the vicinity, meaning only a hard reset or manual signal change will do the trick to fix connection issues. BT's Smart Wireless technology consistently scans for interference and dynamically changes the wireless channel to maintain the best possible connection.
And it seems to work too. I live in flats notorious for Wi-Fi drop out thanks to a number of gadget-happy neighbours, and experienced the first consistent wireless connection that I've enjoyed in many years. Even when I placed an analogue video sender near it, the router adapted quickly to the problem and changed channel accordingly. Though we couldn't judge how consistently the router would perform when surrounded by other routers in close proximity, the router should suit most home set ups without a hitch.
It's not just the consistency of the connection that's impressive, but the quality too. Even two floors up through solid walls it managed respectable speeds, with a maximum of 12Mbits/sec clocked outside thirty metres away from the router, using 802.11n wireless. Depending on your connection speed, data rates potentially can max out at 144 Mbit/sec or 300 Mbits/sec using the optional 40 MHz mode.
It's a pretty little device, as far as routers go aswell. A curved black sloping box, it features 3 front-facing indicator lights which change colour according to the power supply and quality of the broadband connectivity and wireless connections.
On the rear you'll find four Ethernet ports (though only one is Gigabit) and two WAN ports (an RJ11 port for the built-in ADSL modem, and another RJ45 port that supports the VDSL2 protocol used to connect to BT's Infinity fibre-optic broadband service). There's also room for a USB port, acting as a network storage space or printer sharer. A pull out tab that slips out of the rear of the device with the WPS pin and password written on it is a nice touch too, meaning you'll always have a portable code to hand as you set up devices around the house.
Those nice looks carry over into the simple set-up of the device too, making it perfect for novice users. A web interface allows you to adjust the hub's settings, such as wireless security protocols and eco-friendly standby scheduling. Though the web interface defaults to only the most basic commands, it opens up when you click the advanced view to carry out more complex tasks such as port forwarding and firewall details.
However, those using older Wi-Fi devices will be frustrated to find that 128-bit WEP isn't supported, leaving you only with 64-bit WEP instead. Though WPA and WPA2 should be sufficiently secure for the majority of devices, users of gadgets making use of older security standards may find this omission a little disquieting. Heavy media streamers and gamers alike may also be frustrated to see that there is also no support for QoS, meaning there's no way of prioritising traffic for smooth web video playback or stutter-free online gaming.
Though it's hard to judge the number of people who made use of the feature, the BT Home Hub 3 also drops Broadband Talk support. Those who make use of the service on previous Home Hubs and BT packages should therefore avoid this latest unit.
Though it may be a hard sell on its own, the BT Home Hub 3 is a consistent and reliable router. Maintaining a solid connection over-the-air at respectable speeds in our notoriously interference-rich testing spot, it's well worth a £46 upgrade for existing BT subscribers, and is a real bargain as a free part of the telecom giant's broadband packages.