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Sky Broadband Sky Hub: Hands-On Pictures, First Impressions

Sky has started sending out its latest generation of wireless routers – the Sky Hub – with its Sky Broadband packages. With Sky rolling out its new Sky Fibre product, customers needed some new gear to connect to the next generation of broadband.

Designed to be used by both Sky Unlimited (ADSL) and Sky Fibre (FTTC) customers, the Sky Hub promises significantly better wireless signal performance than the previous Sagem 2504n router and best performance overall. We’ve been lucky enough to get our hands on one and give it a quick test drive – here’s our thoughts.

Sky Hub: Design

Design-wise the Sky Hub looks an awful lot like a DAB radio. It’s a simple white cuboid with rounded edges that has a touch of Cupertino about it. It’s not that much taller than an iPhone 4 and even bears a slight resemblance to the Apple TV.

While design really isn’t a premium when it comes to picking out routers (come on, it’s a router not a sports car) we have to concede there’s something quite alluring about its understated white minimalism and lack of external aerials.

Sky Hub: Set up

Set up was incredibly easy – we were up and running in less than five minutes.

In the box you get a couple of microfilters (one with ADSL cable, one without) plus a metre-long Ethernet cable. Practically everything a new customer needs to get connected.

Being old customers, we simply switched out the relevant parts, plugged in the new power supply and powered the Sky Hub on.

The smiley face LED that signifies the internet (!) flashed amber for a couple of minutes before beaming out happy white light to tell us that everything was up and running.

The Sky Hub automatically connected to our Sky Broadband account and automatically signed in. Not all routers do this so it was refreshing to see the Sky Hub bypass the boring stuff. The WiFi network was already set up so all we really had to do was connect to WiFi on our laptops and phones and enter the default password, which we promptly changed.

The instruction guide is wafer-thin and is almost an indulgence – thanks to the simple step-by-step instructions printed on the box you don’t really need to consult the manual.

There’s cute ‘Eat Me, Drink Me’-esque instructions labelled on virtually everything. Sky has gone out of its way to create a simple plug ‘n’ play experience.

The SSID, PIN and default password are printed on the box, on the Sky Hub itself and on a tiny card, so it was easy for our busy household to share the details and hop on the new network.

Sky Hub: Performance

We’ve only had a couple of days to test the Sky Hub out. While we’ve not got anything in the way of hard data to suggest that it’s better than the older gear, anecdotally we can say the Sky Hub definitely offers a better performance than the 2504n router.

In this reviewer’s gadget-heavy and busy house of four (every current-gen console, connected Blu-ray player, several laptops, tablets and mobile phones) we’ve often struggled to get decent signal everywhere, even with optimal router positioning.

The Sky Hub offered significantly better performance upstairs where before we sometimes struggled to browse the web on our phones when connected to WiFi. Out in the garden too, some 15 metres away from the Sky Hub we were able to browse confidently on our phones where before that would’ve been impossible.

The Sky Hub comes with two MIMO aerials inside, which dynamically searches for the best wireless channels. This avoids interference and makes for a more reliable connection, as well as one with greater range.

Sky has published some data of its own regarding the Sky Hub – our experience was more or less consistent with what’s been published here.

For those who prefer the wired life, there are four 100Mbps Ethernet ports on the back. We reconnected our Xbox 360 and while we needed to resign in to Xbox LIVE a couple of times, normal service soon resumed. 

We’ll update with more info later, but for now take our word for it – it’s a big improvement on the older hardware.

Should I get the new Sky Hub?

While being doled out as standard to Sky newbies, veteran Sky customers will have to cough up £39 to get their mitts on a new Sky Hub. Is it really worth the cost?

Yes. Our home broadband experience was OK until we got the Sky Hub – now we can safely say it’s better. If you’re current router just isn’t giving you the domestic coverage you need then the Sky Hub will brighten the corners of your home.

At £39 (plus £2.18 postage) it seems like a lot and you’ll no doubt be irked to see newcomers getting this gratis. The cost breaks down to about £10/month over four months so it’s not a huge dent on your wallet.

While it’s been tweaked to work with both Sky’s ADSL and FTTC products, we note that the top speeds you’ll get out of the Sky Hub are capped at 100Mbps. In other words it’s not future proofed for true, FTTP Fibre to the Premises broadband. So if you’re a fibre evangelist and you’re waiting for some pure FTTP power, then investing in something else is a better move.

Of course this depends on the timetable of FTTP availability in your area. If it’s a case of months or (most likely) years before you get FTTP, the Sky Hub is the perfect stepping stone.

Note that the price for the Sky Hub is set to climb to £69 next year, so if you’re sitting on the fence you’ve not got long to make up your mind.