Product Promotion Network

Repeaters

Electronics – Computers And Accessories – Networking Devices – Repeaters

Sky Q Hub review – A well overdue router upgrade

With so many of us taking up triple-play packages – combining TV, telephone and broadband, – it s not surprising that Sky has become the second largest ISP in the UK with some six million subscribers, including those over in Ireland. Whichever side of the Irish Sea you might be living on, though, Sky s slow and aging Sky Hub1 router has been a blight on its service as a whole. So thankfully, you can now upgrade to Sky Q2 and with it get the smart new Sky Q Hub. The old Sky Hub supported 802.11n but didn t stretch as far as the now-common 5GHz band, let alone the new 802.11ac standard. By comparison the new Sky Q Hub has everything you d expect from a modern router, dual-band 802.11ac and MIMO connections on both the 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands. Not sure what all that means? Well you can be sure that you re not missing out when it comes to range or bandwidth, on paper at least. There s both ADSL and VDSL support on the built-in modem, so it ll work with both typical copper-wire broadband and with faster optic connections – or fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) as it’s commonly known. So if you upgrade from the former to the latter you ll be able to keep the same router.

I m a big fan of wired Ethernet connections, as they re fast, consistent and provide the least possible latency for playing games online. Wired Ethernet is a bit of a mixed bag on the Sky Q Hub: on the plus side the ports now support Gigabit Ethernet (125MB/s), about time too as the Fast Ethernet ports on the old model were anything but by modern standards (at just 12MB/s).

However, the number of ports has been inexplicably cut from four down to two. The vast majority of modern routers have four ports, so it s odd that the new Sky Q hub has a pair. If you want to add more wired devices than that you ll need to plug in a small Ethernet switch, which seems a pity given how neat the box is otherwise. The new Sky Q Hub retains one of the old device s best features, the built-in power supply. Most routers have another box dangling from the back, or at best a chunky plug that doubles as a power supply. Sky has neatly integrated this into the router, so the device takes the same, standard, figure-of-eight power lead as most devices you ll find under your TV. It s a small thing but such attention to detail should be applauded. Speaking of looks, the router has no antennas sticking out of it either, although that s pretty typical for ISP-provided models these days; only the more serious devices from networking companies using these to wring every last drop of performance from their devices.

There s no USB port on the router either, though that s not a huge surprise as features such as printer sharing and network storage are again the preserve of dedicated manufacturers, largely because providing support for more-complex features to less tech-savvy customers would be tricky and expensive. With that in mind the interface is equally pared back. With only the most basic features you d expect when it comes to firewall control, port forwarding, URL blocking and the like.

Network hub

The Sky Q Hub isn t just a regular router though, instead it s an integral part of the Sky Q system. That means the other components, your Sky Q set-top box and any Sky Q Mini boxes act as wireless repeaters, expanding the range of your Wi-Fi network. It s a brilliant idea, as such systems have been a bit finickity in the past and this simply works – once Sky s engineers have plugged it all in and got it up-and-running of course. All of those extra devices also support Powerline networking, communicating with each other via the mains wiring in your home, further strengthening your Wi-Fi coverage, with no extra cabling required. The feature hasn t yet been activated, but will come in a later firmware update. I m not yet sure whether you ll be able to attached wired devices to the Powerline-extended devices to add them to your network but it s certain that Sky Q kit won t be compatible with other Powerline devices.

Wi-Fi performance

As mentioned above, the new Sky Q Hub ticks all the right Wi-Fi boxes on paper and in testing it certainly lived up to its billing. I didn t have a Sky Hub to compare it against directly but the speeds on offer here outstrip anything we saw when retesting the router last year as part of a group test. The Sky Q Hub produced speeds of around 320Mbit/s when transferring files across the network in the same room, compared to a paltry 20mbit/s from the old router. Even through a couple of walls to the back of the house, speeds kept up to an impressive 223Mbit/s, compared to just 13.5Mbit/s at a similar range from the old Sky Hub. If range is more important to you than raw speed, and it probably should be, then you won t be disappointed. The Sky Q Hub won t manage the same feats as say the top-end, antenna-studded Netgear Nighthawk X4S3 but then you wouldn t expect it to. Even without any extra Sky Q devices repeating the signal (and you should have at least one of those) it provided more than adequate coverage across both floors of a small terrace house. Factor in a couple of extra Sky Q devices and you should see coverage across even the largest of homes.

Conclusion

The Sky Hub was well overdue retirement. It may have worked for those with minimal needs, a basic ADSL connection in a small flat for instance, but it often struggled in larger houses and with more demanding video streams. The new Sky Q Hub banishes all those problems in one fell swoop. Only having two Ethernet ports is an odd decision and it s not exactly packed with features, but then the vast majority of users don t need such extras anyway. This is a capable and slickly-designed router. Factor in the increased performance on offer when it s hooked up with other Sky Q devices and you ve got a seriously clever router. The only downside is that you need to upgrade to Sky Q to get it, but we can t fairly mark down the Hub for that, and so it gets our Recommended award.

We ll update this review once we get the rest of the Sky Q system up-and-running with the router. Thanks to www.alphr.com for additional testing.4

Hardware Modem ADSL2+, VDSL2 Wi-Fi standard 802.11ac Bands 2.4GHz, 5GHz Stated speed 1600Mbit/s Security WPA2-PSK, WPA2-AES, WPA2-TKIP Upgradable antenna No WAN ports 0 LAN ports 2x 10/100/1000Mbit/s USB ports 0 Wall mountable No Dimensions 211x141x34mm Software Guest networks 0 Media server UPnP USB services N/A DDNS services Yes Buying information Price including VAT N/A Warranty Lifetime of contract Supplier Sky Details www.sky.com5

References

  1. ^ Sky Hub (www.expertreviews.co.uk)
  2. ^ Sky Q (www.expertreviews.co.uk)
  3. ^ Netgear Nighthawk X4S (www.expertreviews.co.uk)
  4. ^ www.alphr.com (www.alphr.com)
  5. ^ www.sky.com (www.sky.com)

The legal ways to boost your mobile phone reception

What do you do when your home or office is situated in a mobile reception blank spot, or in a place where receiving a signal involves standing on the washing machine with one leg on the fridge and your head pressed against the ceiling?

Read Paul’s latest advice on how to boost your mobile reception here1

Either situation is an impossible way to run your business life, and with the advent of mobile clients for social networks, such a lack of signal may adversely affect your social life too. Of course, you could simply change network, selecting the one that offers the best signal for your location, but for people with a company-supplied mobile phone that isn t even an option, since you usually have to take what you re given. Perhaps you live or work in a location where there isn t the faintest signal from any of the mobile networks: such places do exist, especially in remote coastal valleys. Changing networks wouldn t make a jot of difference there, so what do you do in a situation like that? Actually, there s a host of things you can try, but the one I urge you not to try is installing a cheap mobile phone booster or repeater. You ll find several UK companies selling these on eBay or Google, but none of them mention that using such devices is totally illegal. It s one of those peculiarly British law mess-ups that makes it legal to sell repeaters, legal to own them, but not legal to use them!

Ofcom says2 Mobile repeaters are classed as radio apparatus and their use in the UK is regulated by the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006. It is unlawful to install or use this type of radio apparatus unless that is done under and in accordance with a specific wireless telegraphy licence granted by Ofcom; or Ofcom has made regulations exempting the installation or use from the requirement for a licence. Ofcom has not granted any licences for the installation or use of repeaters nor made any exemption regulations. The unlicensed installation and use of a repeater would put the user at risk of prosecution under the 2006 Act. If found guilty users can face a fine of up to 5,000 and up to a year in prison.

Given this clear and unambiguous prohibition, I find it amazing that various forums are littered with people discussing their use of repeaters within their homes and small offices, some even posting photos of how they ve installed the kit. They might as well post a picture of a 5,000 cheque made payable to HM Court Services.

Legal options

Luckily, you have several legal options, the first being to use Voice over IP (VoIP) services to make and receive calls from your black spot, which of course involves having a wireless network, a smartphone or Wi-Fi connected device (a tablet or laptop would also do at a pinch), and some kind of VoIP app such as Skype, Truphone, WePhone or Viber.

Where you once had to worry whether your phone had VoIP built in and properly integrated into its operating system, the proliferation of these services means that you can now take calls from pretty much any Wi-Fi connected device as long as it has speakers and a microphone. If Wi-Fi coverage is an issue, simply shelling out for a Wi-Fi extender may be a relatively cheap remedy

As an alternative, forget VoIP and use one of the find me single-number providers that ring round a programmed sequence of numbers to locate you mobile, office, home and so on. The problem is that unless you regularly update them to try your current location first, they give a shifty and, frankly, unprofessional impression to callers as they ring around all your different numbers. (Some VoIP providers offer a similar system.)

Luckily, not all black-spot remedies are clunky or illegal. Probably the most mature of these is UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access) over Wi-Fi, and the only network that currently offers it in the UK is Orange. It requires a phone that has Wi-Fi and is also UMA-enabled, which to date considering only mainstream models restricts you to half-a-dozen BlackBerrys, a few Nokias, and odd models from Samsung, HTC and LG. I ve been doing my own UMA test using a BlackBerry Bold 9700 and a Nokia 6310.

References

  1. ^ reviews of the legal options (www.alphr.com)
  2. ^ Ofcom Mobile phone signal boosters (licensing.ofcom.org.uk)

Uinon Peak WR02E 300Mbps Dual Band WiFi Range Extender, WiFi booster, Wall Plug Design Wireless Router with External Antennas, Gigable LAN/WAN, Wireless Standard IEEE 802.11n, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11b – Cut Price

  • Supports routers, side of the bridge, repeater, AP Access Point, Support SSID control and WMM-APSD support
  • Provide consultative mechanism Ethernet WAN and LAN ports with 10 / 100Mbps
  • Networking standards IEEE 802.11n, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11b, Wireless speeds up to 300 mbps and backward compatible 802.11 b / g product
  • Wall plug design, Easy installation, simple to set up
  • Shipment 100% brand new and high quality. Shipping Time Usually Takes 10-17 Business Days

Product Description: It support 64/128/152-bit WEP, in line with 128 WPA (TKIP / AES), supports microphone, expansion, shared key authentication, IEEE 802.1 x User interface supports free software updates Configuration file backup and restore QoS functions ensure the quality of VoIP and multimedia streaming Package Contains 1 x WR02E Wifi Range Extender 1 x Network cable 1 x User Documentation

More Repeater Products

1 2 3 29