BT Home Hub vs Sky Hub vs Virgin Super Hub

wireless router lights©

WIRELESS routers may not be the first thing that springs to mind when we think about switching broadband providers.

But ISPs put a lot of effort into trying to make us believe their particular "hub", "box" or "super-duper-hyper hub" is the one to beat.

The fastest, the most wireless, the most connected - all very grand claims but whether any of them stack up is another matter entirely.

Hub by provider
Sky Hub and Sky Q Hub
BT Home Hubs and Smart Hub
Virgin Media Hub 3.0
TalkTalk Super Router
EE Bright Boxes 1 and 2

Are they really that different from each other, or is it just marketing and spin? We've rounded up the wireless routers and hubs from the biggest broadband providers in Britain, to see if any of them can legitimately claim to be "the best".

Standard wireless router features

To avoid sounding like a broken record, it's worth mentioning the features common to all the wireless routers we look at here.

Hey, good looking!

Wireless router design has come a long way in the past few years.

Much like digital TV set top boxes, wireless hubs and routers have undergone a style makeover - from ugly grey hunks of plastic to sleek, usually black, glossy pieces of design that look good sitting in almost any room, with green LEDs gently blinking away.

Obviously we should be thinking about their performance over their looks, but both BT Home Hubs and the Virgin Media Super Hub take our fancy in the beauty stakes.

Smart wireless switching

This feature allows the router to ensure wireless traffic is on the least congested channel by constantly scanning all available wireless channels, and helping to avoid interference from cordless phones, microwaves or any other devices.

Some broadband providers make a huge song and dance about it: the Sky Hub has "Smart Signal switching technology", the EE Bright Box has "intelligent wireless", and the BT Home Hub has "smart wireless".

In reality most routers are capable of carrying out this task. TalkTalk and Virgin Media both call it something much less glam, like "auto-switching".

The advantage for Sky, EE and BT customers is that the option is either set by default or can be activated by pushing a button on the exterior of the router.

TalkTalk and Virgin Media both require users to adjust the setting via the wireless router's configuration page: not difficult, but much less convenient.

Wireless routers from the big broadband providers

Sky Hub and Sky Q Hub

sky hub

The basic Sky Hub is starting to show its age. It offers 802.11n connectivity over the 2.54GHz band only, and there's no support for the faster 802.11ac protocol.

Wired connections are only supported up to 100Mb - but as Sky's fastest widely available broadband only goes up to 76Mb, that's not a huge issue.

Sky tried to differentiate their older hub from other wireless routers by pointing out how it can be connected to a Sky+ box to gain access to their On Demand services.

The reality is that users can connect any router, Sky Hub or not, to their Sky set top box via Ethernet to access these services. That said, it's possible to create a wireless connection between a Sky+ box and hub by using the separate Sky "Connector", which costs around £24.99.

There's no need for that with the Sky Q Hub - which is now available to all new Sky broadband customers, including those taking broadband packaged with Sky TV.

It's sleeker than its predecessor, and it supports dual-band 802.11ac and MIMO ("multiple in multiple out") connections as well as Powerline technology.

sky hub

When this is made available it'll be able to use a home's electrical wiring to send signals between devices - in this case with any Sky Q Mini TV boxes in the house. This should boost their performance not only streaming from the main Sky Q box, but as wi-fi hotspots boosting the signal around the home.

That's just as well, as the Sky Q hub has only two Ethernet ports - although they both support connections of up to one Gigabit.

Check availability and see prices for Sky's deals here, or take a look at some of their current offers below:

Offer Terms
sky Black Friday Offer: Get the Sky Box Sets bundle for just £25/mth when taken with Sky Fibre Unlimited for £25/mth

Hurry! Offer ends in 2 days!
27 November 2017
18 month minimum term. £39.95 setup. £50/mth for 18 months.
sky Sky Black Friday sale: Get a £50 Prepaid Mastercard and Sky Unlimited Broadband for £18/mth

Hurry! Offer ends 7 December 2017
12 month minimum term. £19.95 set-up fee. £18/mth for 12 months, then £28.99/mth.
sky Get a £50 Prepaid Mastercard and money off Sky Fibre Unlimited

Hurry! Offer ends 7 December 2017
18 month minimum term. £29.95 set up fee. £25/mth for 18 months, then £38.99/mth.

BT Home Hubs and Smart Hub

bt home hub 4

BT send their customers one of two different hubs, the Home Hub 4 or the new Smart Hub, depending on the type of broadband we're signing up for.

Customers ordering standard broadband will receive Hub 4 (pictured to the right). Until summer last year, signing up for one of BT's Infinity deals would have meant getting a Home Hub 5 but it's been replaced by the Smart Hub, pictured below.

Both feature dual band wireless, operating on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. Hub 4 supports the 802.11b/g/n protocols on both bands; Hub 5 adds support for the 802.11ac standard, and BT say the Smart Hub is ready for "next generation ac" protocols.

While Hub 4 is reserved for standard broadband customers, it can support fibre broadband connections: it has Gigabit support on one of its four Ethernet ports and can be configured to support up to 300Mb wireless using the 802.11n protocol.

bt smart hub

The Smart Hub is a big step up from this. As well as sporting four Gigabit LAN ports, it has seven internal antennae and can apparently support wireless connections of up to 1733Mb.

One thing the Smart Hub is lacking is an Ethernet WAN port - not an issue for most people, but those with true fibre (with the fibre optic cable coming all the way into the home) will need to sacrifice one of the LAN ports.

Check availability and see prices for BT's deals here, or take a look at some of their current offers below:

Offer Terms
bt Get a £125 Prepaid Reward card and money off BT Unlimited Infinity 2, for £39.99/mth

Hurry! Offer ends in 2 days!
27 November 2017
£9.99 activation fee and 18 month minimum term applies.
bt Get a £100 Prepaid Reward card and money off BT Unlimited Infinity, for £29.99/mth

Hurry! Offer ends in 2 days!
27 November 2017
£9.99 activation fee and 18 month minimum term applies.
bt Get a £50 Prepaid Reward card and money off BT Unlimited broadband, for just £23.99/mth

Hurry! Offer ends in 2 days!
27 November 2017
£9.99 delivery fee and 18 month minimum term applies.

Virgin Media Hub 3.0

virgin media super hub

So the Hub 3.0 (pictured to the right in its white incarnation, it's also available in black) is now taking over from the Super Hub 2AC; that in turn took the place of the Super Hub 2.

The original Super Hub was the first router to sport Gigabit connections across all four of its Ethernet ports, ensuring maximum speed and performance across multiple wired devices.

Not so unusual these days is the fact that the box combines modem and router in one package - although when the original Super Hub launched that made it a little more special, as it did away with the traditional mess that cable connections inevitably brought.

virgin media super hub

What is still unusual is that all of Virgin's hubs come with spanners to tighten the broadband cable - a real bonus for those looking to enhance their tool kit at no extra cost.

Hub 3.0 is actually very similar to its predecessor, the Super Hub 2AC (on the right), offering dual band wi-fi on the 802.11ac standard, with wireless connectivity up to 1,300Mb. It has five internal antennae - two for 2.54GHz wi-fi and three for 5GHz.

Virgin claim that even without wired connections, households should be able to use up to 20 devices at once, at good speed.

In addition to the four Gigabit Ethernet ports, however, are two new VoIP ports.

At present they serve no function, but during 2016 Virgin Media's parent company Liberty Global started rolling out support for internet phone services via their other European companies, and it's possible Virgin will join in at some point.

Check availability and see prices for Virgin Media's deals here, or take a look at some of their current offers below:

Offer Terms
virgin media Get a free 6 month Netflix Subscription with Virgin Media Bundles

Hurry! Offer ends 18 December 2017
12-month contract. £20 activation fee. Excludes the Player Bundle.
virgin media TV, broadband and phone bundles from £30 a month 12-month contract. £20 activation fee.
virgin media Broadband and phone from £29 a month 12-month contract. £20 activation fee.

TalkTalk Super Router

talktalk super router

TalkTalk now offer one of two "Super Routers" to all new customers, regardless of the package they're signing up for.

Customers are most likely to get an HG 633 router made by Huawei, a Chinese giant known for knocking out decent products for not much money. The HG 633 has 4 x 100Mb ports, offers dual-band wireless and supports 300Mb wireless using both 802.11n and ac protocols and can theoretically offer wi-fi transfer speeds of up to 1,300Mb.

Since January this year, some customers have started to receive the newer router, a D-Link DSL-3782. This also features 4 x 100Mb Ethernet LAN ports, and dual-band wireless using the 802.11ac protocol.

Oddly though, it only offers theoretical wi-fi transfer speeds of up to 1,200Mbwhen using both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, a little slower than the HG 633.

Long term TalkTalk customers seem to be perplexed by TalkTalk's approach to introducing new routers, as the predecessor to the HG 633, the 635, was generally considered to be faster - and it had four Gigabit Ethernet ports, offering a potentially much faster wired experience.

Whichever router customers get, they offer Youview compatibility, which seems sensible - but that's a similar claim to that made by Sky about their hub allowing access to Sky On Demand.

Almost any router connected to a Youview box, or Sky+ box on an internet connection fast enough to sustain the service will provide compatibility, so these aren't exactly unique features.

Check availability and see prices for TalkTalk's deals here, or take a look at some of their current offers below:

Offer Terms
talktalk TalkTalk Black Friday: 50% off Kids Boost - Fast Broadband, TV Entertainment and Kids TV bundle for just £27.45/mth

Hurry! Offer ends in 5 days!
30 November 2017
Price includes line rental. 12 month minimum term applies. £5 one off cost, free TV Plus Box included.
talktalk TalkTalk Black Friday: Get Fast Broadband for just £18.95/mth.

Hurry! Offer ends in 5 days!
30 November 2017
Price includes line rental. 12 month minimum term applies. No set-up fee.
talktalk TalkTalk Black Friday: Get Faster Fibre broadband for just £25/mth.

Hurry! Offer ends in 5 days!
30 November 2017
Price includes line rental. 18 month minimum term applies. No set-up fee.
talktalk TalkTalk Black Friday: 50% off Entertainment boost - Faster Fibre, TV Plus and 30 extra Entertainment channels just £31/mth

Hurry! Offer ends in 5 days!
30 November 2017
Price includes line rental. 18 month minimum term applies. No set-up fee, free TV plus box included

EE Bright Box 1 and 2

ee bright box 2

EE offer two different routers depending on whether customers are taking standard or fibre broadband, the Bright Box and Bright Box 2 (the Bright Box 2 is pictured right).

The Bright Box, for standard broadband customers, has 4 x 100Mb Ethernet ports and supports wireless connectivity up to 300Mb using the 802.11n standard - but only over the 2.4GHz frequency.

The fibre router, Bright Box 2, replaces one of the standard ethernet ports with a Gigabit connection and offers dual band wireless, using the 802.11ac protocol on the 5GHz frequency to give faster speeds, while maintaining range with the 2.4GHz wireless.

In fact, EE claim the wi-fi signal it broadcasts is three times faster "than before" - in reference to the Bright Box 1. They also say the signal it broadcasts is twice as strong as that from the standard Bright Box, which they've tested at up to 250m.

EE now make a bigger deal of the fact that it also offer beamforming technology, possibly as a result of rivals Vodafone flagging up this feature as one of the major selling points for their own broadband.

As with the other fibre routers we've looked at here, it has a VDSL2 modem built in so there's no need for a second box.

Check availability and see prices for EE's deals here, or take a look at some of their current offers below:

Offer Terms
ee Get a £125 reward with EE Fibre Max Broadband

Hurry! Offer ends 7 December 2017
No upfront cost, 18 month minimum term applies.
ee Free set-up (worth £35) with any EE Fibre broadband package, starting from £29/mth

Hurry! Offer ends 7 December 2017
18 month minimum term applies.

So which wireless router/hub is the best?

All the routers here offer some type of auto channel selection in an attempt to improve wireless signals, most offer Gigabit Ethernet on at least one port and all are configured for a straightforward initial set up.

Virgin's Hub 3.0 shows a lot of potential for future expansion, but at present it's simply a redesigned version of the Super Hub 2AC.

The Sky Q Hub is truly sleek but its lack of ports may play against it in homes without extra Sky Q Mini boxes.

So while it may not look as neat as the now discontinued Home Hub 5, BT's Smart Hub seems to have the edge when it comes to features - for now, anyway.

Then again, if we're after for something sleek to slide in next to the HDTV, all three of the above are small but stylishly formed boxes that also happen to be packed with the features required in any fully connected home.


7 September 2016

There is a version of the smarthub for fibre to the home that has a separate WAN port, so you don't need to sacrifice a LAN port if you have FTTP

6 September 2015
Mark jueno

I have Virgin Media super hub 2, 155Mb download and 12Mb upload. The speed is constant unless I use ridiculous amounts of internet before the week is up but all I do is reset the box manually and hey presto the speed is back. I would advise not getting this if you are like me and love xbox one and black ops 3 but only to find that the hub is crap for auto port opening... even manually opening them. Your NAT will forever be strict. But for streaming 10 devices at once yep no problem.
Package £50 includes line rental installation and house phone bills are history... no other cost but £50 a month. I thought that was pretty good considering I got hit with a first bill from Sky of nearly £300...

24 September 2015

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your post. I am a newbie on here - I am about to move into a new build house that is already wired for virgin media and your mention of issues with the xbox one worries me! What is meant by the port opening?

11 April 2015

Always had Sky broadband. Originally had standard broadband which was shocking. 1Mb tops. So we got fibre. Always 40Mb. Got the sagem N router, which recently started spontaneously losing wireless connection. Especially on Sky+ hd boxes, which had to be reset and reconnected each time. Had a trip to the local skip yard to dispose of an old standard lamp, and at the front of the skip was a black Sky hub. I took it, and set it up at home. It is excellent. The wireless Sky boxes never lose connection. Would never use any other broadband, TV or phone provider.

22 January 2015

I've been with Freeserve aka Orange aka EE since 2002 with no problems. With trepidation, I upgraded to fibre with EE just before Christmas 2014. I received the latest Brightbox 2 router from EE in a few days, but had to wait a couple of weeks for the line to be upgraded to fibre because BT had to connect via the green cabinet at the end of our road. BT carried out the connection on the appointed day (23 Dec). On receiving an email from EE that I could now in plug and GO, the new router plugged and played OK. Just had to put in my password and it flew!! Now obtaining 37Mbps out of the promised 54Mbps as suggested in their blurb. This lower speed is due to the fact that my setup is in my office at the bottom of the garden away from the house. So one happy bunny. Might venture to the 50-78Mbps package next year. Let's see how it goes until then.

14 January 2015

BT home hub 3 is rubbish! We are currently using BT home hub 3 and the signal is constantly dropping, the customer service is rubbish, our latest bill was £101, and we haven't gone over our contract usage. Since being on the phone for an hour and a half I decided to move to Virgin. We will now be getting 156Mb, unlimited any time calls, 2 Virgin HD V boxes with 256+ channels for £38 a month, although I did have to haggle for it I am excited to see how good they actually are! :)

9 February 2015
ex bt customer

Had exactly the same experience with BT. I apparently exceeded my broadband usage for the month in one day. Quite a technical miracle given the equipment was disconnected as I was decorating the room. BT refuse to accept their usage figures are sometimes wrong and just send you a huge bill. Or is this a deliberate scam?

28 February 2015

I had exactly the same thing with BT, had used 36GB out of max 40GB 3 days before the end of the billing period, bill comes out, had apparently used 85GB in the month, so used 48GB in the last 3 days of the month! £48 later! BT were having none of it, even with a 2 year record of average usage 23GB/month! Their suggestion was I upgrade to unlimited at another £3/mth, how convenient! Pure scam as far as I'm concerned! On top of that, hub 3 one minute shows around 35Mb next minute it's less than 1Mb! Currently 0.41Mb when I'm paying for up to 38Mb! Will be axed as soon as contract expires! Customer services are rubbish! 'British' Telecom, more like Indian Telecom!

5 March 2015

Hi, I had the same problem with my hub dropping. I recontracted with them and I am now getting 68Mb at best and at worst 60Mb. I'm on infinity 2 with them and my plan is £29.85 plus line rental.

20 November 2015

Just had a call from Sky 2 months before the end of my current contract (must be they logged that I called a few days ago enquiring about what offers they have).

I am currently on Sky unlimited Broadband with anytime calls to landlines including 0845 and free caller display at £21.40 pm.

In December the anytime calls will include mobiles and the price is set to go up to £25.40 and they're dropping the landlines only anytime calls package altogether. I also have a choice of calls after 7pm mon-fri free all
weekend for £21.40.

So the guy that spoke to me just now said he could offer another year free broadband. I said I had had a better offer a few days ago with 25% of the anytime calls inc mobiles (retention deal) making the deal £23.40. He said he wasn't aware as he deals mostly with BB. I said well it's all one package. He then said he could offer the 25% too. I said well I've seen Vodaphone offer £75 voucher ect and is that all he was going to offer. He then offered £50 credit off my future bills too. Whoop whoop. I also got out of him a free wireless booster box (am sure they normally charge for this) posted free after I asked about any new hubs after the Sky Hub 2 and that my wifi was weak in the other room. Apparently there is a new Hub coming out soon (Hub 3.0).

Update:yes they normally charge £20 for a booster.

Just some info for those on Sky trying for a retention deal or even those joining Sky fresh. Don't accept having to pay £5 for BB when with a little nogiation and stating what other deals are out there you could get BB free on Sky on signing up.

Sky don't traffic manage p2p too.

Uk call centres which has won awards (they would be good as they deal with peoples Sky TV packages too).

7 January 2016
Lisa Morrow-Mayer

I am looking at EE fbb, calls and TV, but would stay with sky if they can beat £35 for all. I can get nowtv for £6.99 a month all told cheaper than sky and bt. Closest sky will do is £65 a month and bt are £68 a month. I've been a loyal sky customer for years but new customers are getting better deals.

29 August 2014
Alan Eagleson

Just got shot of TalkTalk and I am getting much faster, more reliable and far stronger wifi with Tesco.

9 October 2013

I have just changed my package from BT to Sky. I had the BT Hub 3 then I got the 4 which was a lot faster and once it found out how much use we did. Very good box and wireless speed. But customer services is very very bad.
Now with Sky, the box is very very bad. Fluctuations that are out of this world. I ran a speed test with my phone. One min I'm getting max 26Mbs then it drops down to 12Mbs. How can that be.
So if you can put up with BT customer service then they have the best box. 65Mbs from there going down to 50Mbs. You work it out.

1 September 2016
Bob H

Can't you swap the Sky hub for your old BT one, or did BT take it back?

26 May 2013

We have the BT Home Hub 3 and never had a hub like it. It never loses connection and gigabit Ethernet is very handy with the fibre optic connectivity.

23 April 2013

I decided to buy the new Sky hub because when I joined Sky a number of years ago I was provided the old Sagem router and even though the wireless was ok it was not great, so £70 lighter in the bank for the router and a few days later it arrived. I can tell you what a difference it made, i'm glad I bought it as the wireless signal is a lot better all around the house even though I mainly use a wired connection so I am very happy and if any older Sky customers are thinking off upgrading it's well worth it.

13 March 2013

I have the 523a with my (terrible) TalkTalk connection. The wifi signal only just reaches everywhere in my one bedroom flat so it is ok for me but for those in larger properties this would be a problem. It's also not a good performer if your line has a high line attenuation (above 50dB on the downline).

7 March 2013

My Virgin Media Super Hub is rubbish. The wireless signal constantly drops out. I can't wait to get out of contract with Virgin. The only good thing is the speed (when the wireless works).

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