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Virgin Media Superhub 2ac review

Tom Morgan
27 Mar 2015
Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
0
free to new Virgin Media subscribers

Super-fast Wi-Fi speeds to match Virgin's massive cable bandwidth, but the Super Hub 2ac still lacks features

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Specifications

Modem: Cable, Wi-Fi standard: 802.11ac, Stated speed: 1300Mbit/s, USB ports: 0, Wall mountable: no

Virgin Media has been slowly improving its routers since its Super Hub cable router. First it introduced dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz support with the Super Hub 2, and now the Super Hub 2ac has 802.11ac support for a much-needed improvement in wireless speeds.

The Super Hub 2ac looks the same as the outgoing model, with the same black finish, integrated stand and large WPS button for quickly connecting compatible devices. LED indicators along the front of the unit are clearly labelled, showing 5GHz and 2.4GHz Wi-Fi activity, the cable connection, network traffic and power. A sticker on the bottom of the router shows both SSIDs (one for each network) and their relevant passwords, as well as the WPS PIN and the default web address and password for the router administration page. 

In our tests the router's 5GHz performance was definitely superior to that of the outgoing model. We tested the router's transfer speeds using a laptop with a built-in Intel Dual Band Wireless N-7260 adapter. With this setup we saw 167.8MBit/s at 10m and 79.6MBit/s at 25m - far faster than the 74Mbit/s and 13Mbit/s we saw from the old model, but nothing that spectacular. Those speeds bumped up to 181.8Mbit/s and 121.1Mbit/s respectively when we switched to a Huawei E367 external dongle, which is still middle-of-the-road performance.

The Super Hub 2ac is a Netgear device underneath the Virgin branding, so we used a Netgear 802.11ac adapter for testing 802.11ac speeds. With this adaptor plugged into our laptop, at 10m we saw a superb 326.2Mbit/s, and 181.8Mbit/s at 25m was faster than we saw from 802.11n in the 10m test. This is a seriously impressive result and welcome news for anyone with 802.11ac hardware they want to connect to the router.

2.4GHz performance wasn't quite as fast as the previous model at 10m range; the Super Hub 2ac managed just 15.6Mbit/s, compared to over 30Mbit/s from the previous Super Hub. However, 10.3Mbit/s at 25m was a definite improvement, as the previous model failed to hold a stable connection at that distance.

Simultaneous 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi is still available, so you can connect newer devices at the same time as older, 2.4GHz-only models. With five internal aerials (two for 2.4GHz and three for 5GHz), the Super Hub 2ac has a theoretical 1,300Mbit/s maximum transfer speed. We might not have seen anything close to those speeds in our tests, but considering we conducted them in an office with high electrical and wireless interference, the router should perform well in a less electrically-busy home environment.

Four Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back ensure there are no speed bottlenecks, whether you connect your devices with a cable or via Wi-Fi. However, there's not a lot else in the way of connectivity or features, with no support for external storage devices or printers. This was the case with the older Super Hub models too, so doesn't come as a surprise, but it would have been nice for advanced users to have a few extra features out of the box.

Logging in to the router reveals an almost identical setup interface to the previous model's, divided into four sections. The first, Wireless network settings, contains everything you'll need to get your devices connected and adjusted to get the best wireless speeds. 2.4GHz is set to the default channel 6, while 5GHz defaults to Auto Compatibility mode. You can set the channels manually if you prefer, or are getting interference from other devices or your neighbour's router.

The Super Hub Settings screen and Device Connection screen are fairly self-explanatory; the former lets you change admin passwords or enable Modem mode so you can use the Super Hub with another router, while the latter shows what devices are connected and on what IP addresses.

Finally, the Advanced Settings menu lets you limit wireless speeds to improve compatibility and range, set up guest networks (two per band with their own passwords and security settings), enable port forwarding and configure DHCP settings. However, there are no Dynamic DNS settings, no QoS settings and no parental controls.

The Superhub 2ac will be provided free of charge to new cable broadband customers on all Virgin's broadband packages. As is standard with Virgin Media kit, you don't actually own the router, so you can't sell it on should you upgrade, but you do get the peace of mind that the company will replace it should it fail. New customers may also have to pay an installation fee, with someone coming to your house and setting up your connection.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing Virgin wasn't making the new model available to existing customers, meaning anyone stuck on the now ancient original Super Hub can only upgrade to the 802.11n Super Hub 2 for £50, with no option to grab the faster Super Hub 2ac. It makes more sense to put your existing Super Hub into Modem mode and buy a similarly specified router for around £80. D-Link's DIR-868L has USB ports for sharing storage devices, printers and multimedia files, and is just as quick as the new Super Hub for wireless transfers.

The Superhub 2ac is a surprisingly capable ISP-provisioned router for those only looking for straightforward internet access and networking. Anyone looking for more advanced features, such as network storage, should look at setting the Super Hub to modem mode and using a separate router, however. 

SPECIFICATIONS
ModemCable
Wi-Fi standard802.11ac
Bands2.4GHz, 5GHz
Stated speed1300Mbit/s
SecurityWPA2, WEP-128
Upgradable antennaNo
WAN ports0
LAN ports4x 10/100/1000Mbit/s
USB ports0
Wall mountableno
Size215x69x195mm
Software
Guest networks4
Media serverDLNA
USB servicesNone
DDNS servicesNone
Buying information
Price including VAT£0
WarrantyLifetime
Supplierwww.virginmedia.com
Detailswww.virginmedia.com
Part codeVMDG490