Modem: ADSL2+, VDSL2, Wi-Fi standard: 802.11ac, Stated speed: 1600Mbit/s, USB ports: 0, Wall mountable: No
With so many of us taking up triple-play packages – combining TV, telephone and broadband, – it’s not surprising that Sky has become the second largest ISP in the UK with some six million subscribers, including those over in Ireland. Whichever side of the Irish Sea you might be living on, though, Sky’s slow and aging Sky Hub router has been a blight on its service as a whole. So thankfully, you can now upgrade to Sky Q and with it get the smart new Sky Q Hub.
The old Sky Hub supported 802.11n but didn’t stretch as far as the now-common 5GHz band, let alone the new 802.11ac standard. By comparison the new Sky Q Hub has everything you’d expect from a modern router, dual-band 802.11ac and MIMO connections on both the 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands. Not sure what all that means? Well you can be sure that you’re not missing out when it comes to range or bandwidth, on paper at least.
There’s both ADSL and VDSL support on the built-in modem, so it’ll work with both typical copper-wire broadband and with faster optic connections – or fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) as it’s commonly known. So if you upgrade from the former to the latter you’ll be able to keep the same router.
I’m a big fan of wired Ethernet connections, as they’re fast, consistent and provide the least possible latency for playing games online. Wired Ethernet is a bit of a mixed bag on the Sky Q Hub: on the plus side the ports now support Gigabit Ethernet (125MB/s), about time too as the Fast Ethernet ports on the old model were anything but by modern standards (at just 12MB/s).
However, the number of ports has been inexplicably cut from four down to two. The vast majority of modern routers have four ports, so it’s odd that the new Sky Q hub has a pair. If you want to add more wired devices than that you’ll need to plug in a small Ethernet switch, which seems a pity given how neat the box is otherwise.
The new Sky Q Hub retains one of the old device’s best features, the built-in power supply. Most routers have another box dangling from the back, or at best a chunky plug that doubles as a power supply. Sky has neatly integrated this into the router, so the device takes the same, standard, figure-of-eight power lead as most devices you’ll find under your TV. It’s a small thing but such attention to detail should be applauded.
Speaking of looks, the router has no antennas sticking out of it either, although that’s pretty typical for ISP-provided models these days; only the more serious devices from networking companies using these to wring every last drop of performance from their devices.
There’s no USB port on the router either, though that’s not a huge surprise as features such as printer sharing and network storage are again the preserve of dedicated manufacturers, largely because providing support for more-complex features to less tech-savvy customers would be tricky and expensive.
With that in mind the interface is equally pared back. With only the most basic features you’d expect when it comes to firewall control, port forwarding, URL blocking and the like.
The Sky Q Hub isn’t just a regular router though, instead it’s an integral part of the Sky Q system. That means the other components, your Sky Q set-top box and any Sky Q Mini boxes act as wireless repeaters, expanding the range of your Wi-Fi network. It’s a brilliant idea, as such systems have been a bit finickity in the past and this simply works – once Sky’s engineers have plugged it all in and got it up-and-running of course.
All of those extra devices also support Powerline networking, communicating with each other via the mains wiring in your home, further strengthening your Wi-Fi coverage, with no extra cabling required. The feature hasn’t yet been activated, but will come in a later firmware update. I’m not yet sure whether you’ll be able to attached wired devices to the Powerline-extended devices to add them to your network but it’s certain that Sky Q kit won’t be compatible with other Powerline devices.
As mentioned above, the new Sky Q Hub ticks all the right Wi-Fi boxes on paper and in testing it certainly lived up to its billing. I didn’t have a Sky Hub to compare it against directly but the speeds on offer here outstrip anything we saw when retesting the router last year as part of a group test.
The Sky Q Hub produced speeds of around 320Mbit/s when transferring files across the network in the same room, compared to a paltry 20mbit/s from the old router. Even through a couple of walls to the back of the house, speeds kept up to an impressive 223Mbit/s, compared to just 13.5Mbit/s at a similar range from the old Sky Hub.
If range is more important to you than raw speed, and it probably should be, then you won’t be disappointed. The Sky Q Hub won’t manage the same feats as say the top-end, antenna-studded Netgear Nighthawk X4S but then you wouldn’t expect it to. Even without any extra Sky Q devices repeating the signal (and you should have at least one of those) it provided more than adequate coverage across both floors of a small terrace house. Factor in a couple of extra Sky Q devices and you should see coverage across even the largest of homes.
The Sky Hub was well overdue retirement. It may have worked for those with minimal needs, a basic ADSL connection in a small flat for instance, but it often struggled in larger houses and with more demanding video streams. The new Sky Q Hub banishes all those problems in one fell swoop.
Only having two Ethernet ports is an odd decision and it’s not exactly packed with features, but then the vast majority of users don’t need such extras anyway.
This is a capable and slickly-designed router. Factor in the increased performance on offer when it’s hooked up with other Sky Q devices and you’ve got a seriously clever router. The only downside is that you need to upgrade to Sky Q to get it, but we can’t fairly mark down the Hub for that, and so it gets our Recommended award.
We’ll update this review once we get the rest of the Sky Q system up-and-running with the router. Thanks to www.alphr.com for additional testing.
|Security||WPA2-PSK, WPA2-AES, WPA2-TKIP|
|LAN ports||2x 10/100/1000Mbit/s|
|Price including VAT||N/A|
|Warranty||Lifetime of contract|