When you sign up for broadband, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) will supply you with a modem router for free, and these are usually low-spec devices that don’t have the features you can get from (more expensive) third-party companies such as Netgear and Belkin.
With the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub, TalkTalk is attempting to challenge the notion that for the best Wi-Fi speeds you need to use a third-party router, promising the improved Wi-Fi performance and features you usually see on more advanced routers, such as beamforming and multiple Ethernet ports.
And, while the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub is designed to deliver a performance boost for TalkTalk customers, it can also be bought separately and used regardless of your ISP.
Price and availability
The TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub sells for £120 in the UK. This is a fair bit cheaper than the extremely fast and feature-packed TP-Link Archer C5400 v2, and cheaper than mesh Wi-Fi devices such as the Netgear Orbi.
Perhaps its biggest competitor is from TalkTalk’s rival ISP, BT – it offers the BT Smart Hub, which it bills as offering ‘the UK’s most powerful Wi-Fi signal compared to routers from other major broadband providers’, and which retails for £129.99.
The TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub is available to buy right now, and if you’re an existing TalkTalk customer, or you’re thinking of signing up, the price drops to £30.
Design and features
The design of routers has improved dramatically in recent years, with manufacturers making efforts to produce units that look nice enough that their customers don’t feel the need to hide them away (which could potentially affect their Wi-Fi performance).
The TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub continues this trend, with an unobtrusive design that won’t look out of place in a living room. It’s a simple design, with no protruding antennae, and features a grey body covered in perforations, displaying bronze material underneath. It looks good, and while it doesn’t compete with Google Wifi when it comes to design we really appreciate the understated aesthetics.
The TalkTalk branding is subtle, with a slightly darker grey colour that makes it only visible when viewed from a certain angle. It’s a nice contrast to the BT Smart Hub’s loud and proud design, which includes a prominent BT logo on the front.
There are four gigabit Ethernet ports on the rear of the device, which is a big upgrade over the ports that are supplied with TalkTalk’s older routers, and it means this is a great router for networks with plenty of wired devices.
There’s also a broadband port, which is used when the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub is acting as a modem, and which connects to your phone line via a supplied micro filter. There’s also a WAN port if you’re using the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub as just a router, which will connect it to a separate modem.
We like that the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub has a modem built in, as if you have a compatible fibre connection it means you only need one box (rather than a separate router and modem), while the inclusion of the WAN port allows for some flexibility, for example if you have cable broadband.
There’s also a WPS (Web Protected Setup) button on the back of the router, which allows you to quickly and securely connect devices to the wireless network. It’s a convenient feature, but it’s placed in an inconvenient place, right at the bottom of the router’s rear, which means that, depending on where you place the router, you may struggle to reach it.
A nice touch, however, is that the Wi-Fi name and password are written on a removable plastic tag, which means you don’t have to manoeuvre yourself behind the router when adding a new device. There’s also space for you to write your own network name and password if you change it from the default.
Apart from the placement of the WPS button, this is a very nicely-designed router, especially compared to the basic modem routers we’re used to getting from ISPs.
Feature-wise, the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub comes with 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi, which is currently the fastest form of wireless networking, and according to TalkTalk it makes the new router two times faster than its previous models.
It’s also dual band, with 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands for keeping your wireless network from getting too clogged up, and it has a 3 x 3 antenna array for the 2.4GHz and 4 x 4 MU-MIMO for the 5GHz.
The TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub includes features we’ve seen in other advanced routers, but which rarely come with ISP routers, such as beamforming (which focuses the Wi-Fi signal to better reach your devices) and the ability to automatically choose the best Wi-Fi channel to reduce interference.
Installation and performance
The ease of installing the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub will vary a little depending on whether or not you’re an existing TalkTalk customer. If you are, and you upgrade to the hub through TalkTalk, then the process should be as simple as swapping out your existing modem and router for the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub.
You’ll need to add your devices to the new Wi-Fi network, however, or you can change the name of the new network to your previous one, which may be faster if you have lots of wireless devices, and which can be done via the router’s web interface (more on that in a moment).
If, like us, you’re not a TalkTalk customer, the setup is slightly more involved. If the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub is going to replace your modem and router, then you’ll need to get details from your ISP about your username and password. These are different credentials to the ones you use to connect to your Wi-Fi, or to log into your router’s admin page, and some ISPs are reluctant to hand them out, but preserve and you will get them.
If you’re just using the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub to act as a router – and not a modem – then you just need to plug your modem into the WAN port of the Hub.
To set up the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub you need to go into its admin page, which is accessed by typing 192.168.1.1 into a web browser, then entering in the admin username and password, which is printed on the reverse of the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub (not on the removable Wi-Fi username tag, for security reasons).
The web-based interface is clear and simple, and you can expand most sections to see advanced settings that you can use if you know what you’re doing.
During our tests the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub did a really good job of delivering fast and reliable Wi-Fi throughout a three-storey building. In the same room as the router we got 74.1Mbps download from a line capable of 80 Mbps, which is a pretty decent score, with a ping of 11ms.
Moving to the floor above the router, there was a drop in speeds, but not a significant one, with 73.9Mbps download, with a ping of 10ms.
Moving up to the top floor the speeds remained steady with 73.7Mbps, and a ping of 10ms. While the speeds we experienced while using the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub varied depending on what part of the house we were accessing it from, overall we were very impressed with the speed and the coverage of this router, especially considering it doesn’t have external antennae.
If you’re a TalkTalk customer and want to boost your Wi-Fi coverage, you should definitely take the chance to upgrade to the TalkTalk Wi-Fi Hub, as it really does deliver with improved performance. Speeds were impressive and coverage was very good, while we also quite like the new design.
If you’re not a TalkTalk customer you may still be interested in this device, but be warned that the setup procedure is more complicated. However, it is possible to use it just as a router if you have another ISP.
The Wi-Fi Hub certainly a very good effort from TalkTalk, and it’s always good to see ISPs offering more powerful hardware to their customers.