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TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub review: Superfast speeds for not much money

Our Rating 
Free to new customers

One of the speediest routers we’ve tested but also one of the most basic, which may frustrate techie types

Pros 
Great wireless performance
Compact design
Not locked to TalkTalk
Cons 
Very limited feature set
No USB
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TalkTalk is a popular ISP, but its bundled “Super Router” was always a little lacklustre when it came to wireless performance. Now it’s been replaced by the snazzy new Wi-Fi Hub, which promises much better speeds. TalkTalk is so confident in its new router that it’s even making it available to customers of other ISPs, for a price, naturally. The question is – is it worth the upgrade?

READ NEXT: The best wireless routers to buy

TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub review: What you need to know

The TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub is a dual-band 802.11ac router that supports 4x4 MU-MIMO, something its predecessor lacked. Simply put, that means it contains multiple antennae, which allow it to communicate with several Wi-Fi devices at once, or to talk to a single device on multiple channels simultaneously. The result is a faster, smoother network, especially when there are several people connected. TalkTalk claims effective speeds could be up to twice as fast as they were with the old Super Router.

The Wi-Fi Hub comes with a built-in ADSL/VDSL modem that’s preconfigured to connect to TalkTalk but it also offers an Ethernet socket for an external WAN connection, so if you’re with a different ISP you can use it in partnership with a standalone modem, or simply hang it off your existing router. There’s no proper access point mode, though, so you’ll need to make sure that all your clients, both wired and wireless, are connected to the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub, or they may not be able to see one another.

TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub review: Price and competition

The TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub comes free with all new TalkTalk fibre broadband contracts, while existing customers can get it for £30. There’s really no competition unless you’re willing to pay a lot more: comparable third-party MU-MIMO routers start at around £70.

If you’re not a TalkTalk customer then you’ll pay £120 for the Hub on its own. That’s still not a terrible price, but it’s closer to contenders such as the £170 TP-Link Archer VR2800. The choice might come down to how much flexibility you require; as we’ll discuss below, the Wi-Fi Hub isn’t as feature-packed as most third-party alternatives.

Buy the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub from TalkTalk now

TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub review: Setup and connections

If you’re a TalkTalk subscriber then the Wi-Fi Hub doesn’t require any configuration at all. Simply plonk the thing in a suitable location and plug in your ADSL or fibre cable and you’re ready to go. It’s quite compact, measuring 259 x 59 x 165mm and has no protruding aerials, so it’s easy to accommodate. Indeed, the dark grey and orange colour scheme is rather chic, so you might want to put it on display.

Thoughtfully, the default Wi-Fi SSID and passphrase are printed on a removable plastic tab at the back for easy reference and, if you customise these settings, then there’s a blank space for you to make a note of whatever you’ve changed them to.

Also at the back of the router, you’ll find four Gigabit Ethernet ports and the aforementioned external WAN socket. It’s just a shame that there’s no USB socket for file sharing or streaming, as there was on the old Super Router: I understand this isn’t a mainstream requirement but it’s a handy way to share occasional files across computers, especially in these days when said computers might not have full-sized USB ports of their own.

Still, it’s good to see a physical WPS button tucked away in the corner. Just be careful to reach around the correct side to push it; if you get it wrong, you’ll be pressing the power button instead.

TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub review: Performance

The TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub is all about speed and, in my own tests, it didn’t disappoint. Copying 100MB files up and down over a 5GHz connection, I got same-room speeds of 26MB/sec – precisely on par with the Netgear R9000 Nighthawk X10, which is the fastest router we’ve ever seen – and comes with an eye-watering £397 price tag.

Perhaps even more impressively, the Wi-Fi Hub held its own as I moved further away from the router. In the upstairs bedroom it kept up a download rate of 22MB/sec, and even in the bathroom at the back of the house – always a tricky spot for wireless reception, thanks to a combination of distance and plumbing – I got a whizzy 12MB/sec, enough to convey the full bandwidth of my 100Mbits/sec fibre broadband connection. The Nighthawk, with its oversized external antennae, did slightly better here, but only nudged speeds up to 13MB/sec.

This may all sound a bit slow for a device that claims wireless speeds of up to 2,200Mbits/sec (275MB/sec). But as usual with routers, that’s merely a theoretical maximum and it rather unrealistically adds together the maximum 2.4GHz and 5GHz speeds. Make no mistake, the real-world file copy speeds I saw from the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub are among the best in the business.

TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub review: Features

While the Wi-Fi Hub’s performance is hard to fault, the feature list is a letdown. Log into the web portal and you’ll be amazed by how little there is for you to configure and customise. You can set up port forwarding and register dynamic DNS details to access to your devices from outside of the home network but that’s pretty much it.

There’s no way to set up an isolated guest network, no support for VPNs, no AP or extender functions and, since there’s no USB socket, no file-sharing or streaming capabilities either. Nor are there any sort of built-in parental controls, to restrict what your kids are doing online and when, although some of this can be achieved online through TalkTalk’s HomeSafe service.

Since the router’s so new, it’s not unreasonable to hope that future firmware updates will add in some of those absent features. As things stand, though, this is one of the least versatile routers I’ve ever come across.

TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub review: Verdict

The Wi-Fi Hub won’t be perfect for everyone. The absence of USB ports leaves a box unticked for home users, and those who want to set up advanced network configurations will find the lack of features frustrating.

However, if it’s speed you’re looking for then the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub unquestionably delivers, with wireless performance that gives the high-end champions a run for their money. If you’re a current TalkTalk customer or are considering becoming one, it’s a hell of a deal. In fact, even if you’re with another ISP, it’s worth a look. You won’t find anything faster for £120.