Sky Q Hub review: Finally, Sky makes a router that doesn’t suck
Sky’s broadband service isn’t bad, but it’s long been hampered by its atrocious Sky Hub router – and the reluctance of Sky to allow users to allow users to replace it with a better third-party model. The arrival of the Sky Q TV system, however, brings with it a brand-new router: the Sky Q Hub.
The Sky Q Hub has been designed to address all the major failings of its predecessor. The Sky Q Hub isn’t a wireless beast on the same level as, say, the Netgear Nighthawk X4S. As ISP-supplied routers go, however, it’s well specified, with dual-band 802.11ac, support for 3×3 stream MIMO on its 5GHz network and 2×2 stream MIMO connections on the 2.4GHz network.
And it’s just as convenient to use as the Sky Hub 2. It supports both ADSL and VDSL connections and has an integrated modem, so you don’t have to plug two boxes into the mains. It’s also one of a very few commercially available routers to have an integrated power supply. Just plug a figure-of-eight cable into the back of the hub and you’re good to go. For those offended by such things, there are no ugly, protruding antennae either.
The other key improvement is the move to Gigabit Ethernet for the wired network ports, removing one of the main performance bottlenecks of the previous model. It’s about time, too: previously if you wanted to connect a high-speed network drive to your router, you were limited to a dreadfully slow 100Mbits/sec (around 11.9MB/sec).
However, there’s a catch: Sky has seen fit to equip the Sky Q Hub with only two Ethernet ports, so you’ll need to budget for an extra hub or switch if you want to connect more wired devices.
There’s also no USB port here, a feature most third-party routers use to enable printer and basic USB storage sharing. That’s not a huge surprise, though, and neither is it any particular shock that other features are limited. You’ll find very basic URL-blocking and schedule-restricted access here, but very little flexibility otherwise for guest networks and the like.
Sky Q Hub review: Features and performance
If these were the only changes from the previous Sky hub, the Sky Q Hub would be a step up from the broadcaster’s previous woeful efforts. But fortunately, the improvements don’t end there. It has a couple of other tricks up its sleeve.
First on the list is the ability to extend the network, using the Sky Q Silver/Standard and Mini boxes as wireless access points. Second is powerline networking. In addition to Ethernet and Wi-Fi, the Sky Q Hub can send data to the Sky Q TV boxes using your home’s mains wiring; even if you have thick stone walls, your TV boxes should be able to get a solid connection back to base – and extend your Wi-Fi so you get a solid signal everywhere.
There’s one small catch: powerline networking is a feature Sky isn’t going to unlock from the get-go. It’s coming later in a firmware upgrade. Also, don’t expect other powerline components you might already own to be interoperable with your Sky Q gear. Despite being based on the Powerline AV 1.1 standard, Sky is completely locking it down.
At this stage I want to stress that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to test out the Sky Q-specific features of the Sky Q router detailed above. That will come next week, once I’ve had the system installed and it’s all had a chance to bed in.