BT’s Home Hubs are certainly some of the most attractive routers on the market right now, but what do the Home Hub 4 and 5 offer beyond their good looks? Let’s find out...
In this guide:
Cor, it's pretty isn't it?
That was pretty much the first thought we had when BT (www.BT.com) introduced its svelte new Home Hub 4 router. Now BT's launched the Home Hub 5 - designed for BT Infinity fibre optic broadband - and… well, we still think it's one of the best-looking routers you can get with a package right now.
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But is that beauty only skin-deep - or plastic-deep if you want to be a pedant? What other features do these routers have, and what's the difference between them? Read on and we'll tell you.
Depending on the BT package you pick, you'll be provided with either a BT Home Hub 4 or Home Hub 5.
- If you get a BT broadband package that is delivered through your phone line - typically advertised as offering speeds up to 16Mb - you'll get a Home Hub 4
- If you get a BT Infinity fibre optic broadband package - advertised as offering speeds of either up to 38Mb or 76Mb - you'll be given a BT Home Hub 5
The BT Home Hub 4 is a powerful, reliable router with a good range - enough to cover most houses and flats. Its compact size - width 23.6cm, height 11.6cm - means it will sit comfortably on most shelves or mantelpieces.
The front's dominated by the BT logo, but what really matters is the indicator light below. It glows different colours to indicate the router's status.
When it's working properly, the light is a cool blue, orange signifies that there's a problem and red indicates that the router isn't detecting a broadband connection. And if there's no light at all, you've forgotten to plug the router in. Oops.
On top of the router is a restart button - useful if the Home Hub drops its signal and needs to be reset. You'll also find button marked 'Wireless WPS'. WPS stands for Wi-Fi protected setup, and lets you connect compatible devices to the web at the push of this button, rather than you having to faff around with passwords and what not.
The back of the router is where you'll find the power button. You'll also find a number of ports. The important ones include:
- DSL port - Lets you get online via your telephone line. Simply plug it in with the cables provided and you're ready to go.
- Four ethernet ports - Let you connect up to four devices to the web using an ethernet cable as opposed to connecting wirelessly.
- WAN port - If you have BT Infinity you would once use the WAN port to connect your Home Hub to an Openreach modem. However, you now get the Home Hub 5 instead.
BT's Home Hub 4 has some smart features that make it stand out as one of the better devices you'll get from a broadband provider.
The Home Hub 4 uses dual band technology. This means the router transmits wireless broadband at two different frequencies. Different users in the home may use different frequencies, so there's less chance of the connection slowing due to congestion. It's also more reliable than single band routers, and offers faster connections at close range.
On a visual level, the Home Hub 5 is very similar to the 4, but the eagle-eyed among you may have identified some key differences.
Firstly, there's a snazzy blue strip across the front, by the hub indicator lights. It's a small thing, but we like it - it's a bit like a go faster stripe on a car.
A more substantial difference can be seen with the gig ethernet ports on the back. These allow for faster transmission of data than standard ports - something you'll need for superfast fibre optic broadband packages.
Like the Home Hub 4, BT's latest router uses dual band technology, to minimise the effects of lots of people using Wi-Fi at once. That means less chance of slow speeds, or losing your Wi-Fi entirely.
However, the Home Hub 5 is superior to the Home Hub 4 in that it includes AC wireless technology. What's that? Well, essentially, it's the fastest version of a wireless signal you'll get with a household router. It's great for activities that benefit from faster connections, such as streaming video services like Netflix or BBC iPlayer.
Of course, to benefit from that technological advance, you'll need also need to use a device that's compatible - and that's only going to be something very recent. The AC wireless functionality is nice to have, but it shouldn't be the basis for choosing a package with the Home Hub 5.
Rest assured, you should still be able to connect all your Wi-Fi-enabled gadgets and gizmos using Wi-Fi regardless. What's more, you should get decent wireless speeds, as you'll be using a fibre optic broadband package, which should give you a fast, reliable connection, so long as you set up your Wi-Fi network properly.
Check out our simple guide to find out how to make sure your wireless network's as good as it can be.