BT Home Hub 4

August 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Can the Home Hub 4 beat Virgin’s new Super Hub for wireless speeds?

Score 6/10


Simple, thoughtful design
Line of sight performance tops BT Fibre speeds
Simple setup

Full price overly expensive
802.11n 2.4GHz & 5GHz speeds below average
Just one Gigabit Ethernet port
Review Price £109.00

Key Features: 802.11n dual band 5GHz & 2.4GHz wireless; 1x Gigabit Ethernet, 3x 10/100 Ethernet; WPA / WPA2 & WPS security; USB 2.0 port; CD-less setup
Manufacturer: BT

What is the BT Home Hub 4?
The Home Hub 4 is the somewhat overdue successor to BT’s ageing Home Hub 3 router released back in 2011. It brings dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11n wireless to the range for the first time – a long awaited move as the company’s fibre broadband speeds are increasingly rapidly.

After the positive impression made by the dual band Virgin Media new Super Hub and the decidedly iffy single band Sky Hub, how will BT’s latest and greatest router fair?

bt-home-hub-4 (2)

BT Home Hub 4: Design

Out the box the BT Home Hub 4 makes a very positive impression. The design is a subtle advancement of the Home Home 3 with a flat front and new silver base strip. It sits upright courtesy of spring loaded legs (which allow it to be packed flat) and the rear is well ventilated to stop the Hub getting hot. The entire casing is plastic, but that is the same for all routers as it lets wireless signal pass through easily.

Throughout the Hub 4’s design are a lot of thoughtful touches. Like the Hub 3, the back has a slide out card for the router’s admin and wireless passwords that makes it simple to take settings to different devices around the home. In addition, the Home Hub 4 has convenient large restart and WPS buttons on the top and the rear ports are colour coded with matching cables in the box.

Lastly the router’s activity lights are hidden behind the Hub 4’s black front strip, only showing up when in use. On the downside there are no activity lights on the Ethernet ports, which is always a bugbear.

BT Home Hub 4: Features
The highlight of the Home Hub 4 is its move to dual-band wireless n. BT uses 2×2 MIMO antennas rather than the 3×3 arrangement in premium third-party wireless routers, but it still represents a substantial improvement on the Home Hub 3’s single band 2.4GHz wireless n.

More curious is BT’s decision to fit the Home Hub 4 with the same 3x 10/100 Ethernet / 1x Gigabit Ethernet port combination as its predecessor. This is the first dual-band router we’ve seen not to embrace Gigabit Ethernet entirely and will be a significant letdown to those running local networks as it leaves just one viable port for high speed wired data rates.

Despite this the Home Hub 4 is reasonably flexible. It can’t double as a wireless bridge or access point (like the Asus RT-AC66U), but it does support both DSL and cable (WAN) connections. Interestingly, we found the Home Hub 4’s WAN doesn’t work with modems from other ISPs, but we can’t see many buying a Hub 4 to use it this way.

Another welcome sight on the Hub 4 is its USB 2.0 port – something seen on the Virgin new Super Hub, but left off the Sky Hub. This allows a printer or external hard drive to be easily shared across the network. Of course, third-party behemoths like the Linksys EA6700 and D-Link DIR-868L have moved to USB 3.0 (along with 802.11ac W-iFi), but this may come with the impending Home Hub 5 that BT hopes to launch before the end of the year.

Other notable elements are the Hub 4’s integrated parental controls, which allow you to cut off any device from your network at set times (such as children’s laptops after bed time) and WPA2 security, which is enabled by default.

BT Home Hub 4: Setup
A big step forward with the Home Hub 4 is its CD-free setup. Simply connect up in the Hub 4, use the supplied card to log onto its Wi-Fi and you’re away. Admin settings can be reached at both http://bthomehub.home/ and The user interface here (above) is basic and (needless to say there is no Cloud platform like Linksys’ Smart WiFi or D-Link’s mydlink), but navigation is straightforward.

Interestingly, BT sets both 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless bands to the same SSD. This is frustrating as it doesn’t let users choose which network they want. This is a crucial choice given the performance benefits of 5GHz and the control it offers a household in spreading traffic across between different bands to keep things speedy. That said this is easily changed in the ‘advanced’ admin settings.
BT also supplied us with its ‘Dual-Band Wi-Fi Dongle 600’ (£34.99), a useful option for older laptops and PCs lacking support for 5GHz wireless n. It claims a driverless install, but we found we needed to download software from to make it work with Windows 8. That said this is worth doing as the software is needed for the dongle’s WPS functionality to work on any Windows OS. Notably, we didn’t see any Mac OS X support.

BT Home Hub 4 – PerformanceBT-Home-Hub-4-5GHz
5GHz PCWe decided to test the Home Hub 4 with both our regular test laptop and the provided BT dual-band dongle across 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. This was done in the same residential environment we test all routers with measurements taken at identical spots: two metres and 10 metres away from the router with line of sight; and 13m away behind two standing walls.

After the heroics of the Virgin Media new Super Hub and the disappointment of the Sky Hub, we found the BT Home Hub 4 sits somewhere in the middle.

Using our laptop at 5GHz wireless n the Hub 4 achieved speeds of 13.5 megabytes (108 megabits per second), 13.1MBps (104.8Mbit) and 4.92MBps (39.4Mbit) at 2m, 10m and 13m respectively.

The dongle achieved 12.9MBps (103.2Mbit), 11.1MBps (88.8Mbit) and 3.16MBps (25.3Mbit) – a small but unsurprising drop-off since USB antennas tend to lack the range and power of an integrated wireless chip.

Compared to the Virgin new Super Hub’s 17.5MBps (140Mbit) and 11.5MBps (92Mbit) at 2m and 10m the Home Hub 4’s peak performance struggles, though it’s noticeably faster than the Super Hub’s 4.3MBps (34.4Mbit) at 13m.

BT-Home-Hub-4-2-4GHz2.4GHz PCAt 2.4GHz the Home Hub 4 managed speeds of 7.61MBps (60.88Mbit), 7.45MBps (59.6Mbit) and 2.79MBps (22.3Mbit), which are behind the new Super Hub’s 10.1MBps (80.8Mbit), 8.5MBps (68Mbit) and 3.2MBit (25.6Mbit), but far better than the Sky Hub’s 5.8MBps (46.4Mbit), 5.1MBps (40.8Mbit) and 1.3MBps (10.4).

That said all these figures only reinforce that 2.4GHz wireless n is not up to the task of delivering fibre broadband speeds widely around the home, and 5GHz should be a prerequisite on any ISP-supplied router for fibre optic broadband.

Meanwhile USB network transfer speeds remain disappointing on most routers due to a lack of horsepower. The Home Hub 4 stuck to this theme hitting 2.74MBps (22.3Mbit), which means USB storage, while convenient, is merely a back-up to wired Ethernet. (Graphs for all tests are in the photo gallery tab at the top of the page)


Should I buy the BT Home Hub 4?
It all depends on circumstance. New BT Fibre customers get the Home Hub 4 free while existing customers can get it for a £35 upgrade free, making it a welcome and reasonable update. That said, buying the Home Hub 4 at its exorbitant full price (£109) from the BT Shop is too much for the features and performance on offer.

It is also worth noting that BT, Virgin and Sky’s routers are all substantially slower than the routers from the best third-party manufacturers. By comparison the fastest dual-band wireless n router we’ve tested, the D-Link DIR-845L, is up to 30% faster on the 5GHz band (top speed 152.8Mbit) and up to 28% faster (84.8Mbit vs 60.88Mbit) on the 2.4GHz band. It retails for roughly £100.

Meanwhile 802.11ac routers (circa £150) push these 5GHz and 2.4GHz speeds even faster and their next generation wireless ac standard can reach speeds of nearly 30MBps (240Mbit) at 13m. So unless you’re getting a cheap upgrade there is little point in paying full price for the Home Hub 4.

The BT Home Hub 4 is undoubtedly BT’s best yet and it is both stylish and simple to setup. It’s essential if you’re on one of BT’s fastest fibre packages, and over its 5GHz band it’s fast enough to deliver these speeds over a wireless connection.

Scores In Detail
7/10 Build Quality
7/10 Design
6/10 Features
6/10 Performance
6/10 Value

To read the original article on TrustedReviews click here 

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 






D-Link DIR-868L Cloud Router

August 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

The best elements of every D-Link router come together.

Score 8/10

Review Price £139.99

Superfast wireless n & ac performance
Simple setup
Smart, interesting design
Well priced

mydlink Cloud platform remains basic
Just one USB port
No Ethernet activity LEDs

Key Features: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac; mydlink cloud platform; 802.11n dual band 5GHz & 2.4GHz wireless; USB 3.0 port; 4x Gigabit Ethernet Ports

What is the D-Link DIR-868L?
The DIR-868L is D-Link’s second 802.11ac wireless router following the impressive DIR-865L. Like its predecessor, it integrates the company’s mydlink cloud platform, but also reverts to the D-Link’s popular cylindrical design and incorporates the acclaimed SmartBeam technology found in the DIR-645 when using 802.11n. Could this combination make it both the wireless n and ac router to beat?


D-Link DIR-868L – Design
As mentioned the DIR-868L is the first time D-Link has brought its likeable cylindrical design to an 802.11ac model. This should not be surprising as many of the first wireless ac routers broke from their respective companies’ traditional designs due to the scramble to get models to market.

In addressing this, D-Link is doing more than gifting us a more pleasant aesthetic. Many routers tend to perform better from one side of another (try turning your router around at home to test this), but D-Link boasts the cylindrical shape of its Darth Vader Pringle tube means signal can be distributed equally in all directions.

Aside from this the cylindrical design gives the D-Link DIR-868L a pleasingly small footprint. And while its casing is plastic like all routers (so as not to block wireless signal) it is well made and doesn’t pick up fingerprints easily. The only downside of the cylindrical design is it is not wall-mountable.

D-Link DIR-868L – Features
The D-Link DIR-868L Cloud Router’s specification list is impressive. The highlight is obviously the 802.11a/b/g/n/ac connectivity, which is boosted by six amplified internal antennas, but the talking point is the aforementioned SmartBeam.

DIR-868L-A1-Image-L-Back-This is a standard part of the 802.11ac spec (where it is called ‘Beamforming’) but is not usually applied to wireless n. It works by detecting connected devices and focusing signal in their direction instead of casting out wireless signal randomly in all directions. It benefits range and performance significantly. This gives us high hopes that the 868L Cloud Router will bring new life to your existing wireless n equipment, not just shiny new ac kit.
Moving to the more perfunctory side of the D-Link DIR-868L, it also packs Gigabit WAN, 4x Gigabit Ethernet ports and a USB 3.0 port for sharing a wireless printer or USB storage across a network.

Being picky, we would like D-Link to supply a second USB port (increasingly common on routers these days) and more Ethernet ports, but no router-maker seems to be listening to this latter request. One larger complaint is the 868L’s Ethernet ports have no flashing LED activity lights. Some may welcome this as the lights can be distracting, but they are a useful element in troubleshooting problems should you ever run into difficulties.

Switching to software the D-Link DIR-868L offers WPA/WPA2 security plus WPS for adding devices at the touch of a button (here it is positioned on the rear below the USB port). There is also compatibility with IPv6 and support for guest access, which grants devices a web connection but restricts access to your local network and router settings.

To top its features off, we have mydlink, the company’s cloud platform, which allows users to check the status of their router from any web browser from any location by logging into the website or using the company’s mydlink app for Android and iOS. Additional mobile apps SharePort’ and ARS Mobile let you access media remotely from your network and offer a step-by-step setup guide respectively.


D-Link DIR-868L – Setup
Something D-Link has aced in recent years is the simplicity of its router setups. This is again the case with the D-Link DIR-868L Cloud Router.

Just connect your modem to the DIR-868L’s WAN port (a modem restart may also be required), plug in the power cable, switch it on and connect to the wireless signal using WPS or the password written on router and supplied on a card. Once connected you are prompted to change the default router password and asked whether you want to change the SSID and wireless passwords for the two signals its projects (2.4GHz wireless for b/g/n and 5GHz for a/n and ac).

As mentioned the mydlink Cloud platform remains basic, but its ability to check the router status, connected devices, set email alerts for any network activity you specify and change passwords and SSIDs is all most people will need. For more advanced users the traditional text heavy router interface we have seen for the last decade remains at which will no doubt please techies.

D-Link DIR-868L – Performance
ac-preformance802.11ac performanceWe had high hopes for the D-Link DIR-868L and by-and-large they were met. Our tests showed some barnstorming wireless ac speeds when transferring files with the D-Link.

Testing at our usual distances of 2m and 10m line of sight plus 13 metres between two solid walls the D-Link DIR-868L Cloud Router recorded speeds of 34MBps (272Mbit), 31.2MBps (249.6Mbit) and 24.5MBps (196Mbit). This was when transferring data within the home network, letting us max-out the router’s speed.

All are far in excess of any fibre optic broadband speeds and provide local network speeds fast enough to enable multiple streams of 4k video let alone 1080p. These speeds make the 868L our second fastest wireless ac router to date, just behind the retested Linksys EA6700, which clocked 36.7MBps (293.6Mbit), 35.2MBps (281.6Mbit) and 28.8MBps (230Mbit) in an identical test scenario.

5GHz 802.11n performanceAnd what the much hyped 802.11n SmartBeam performance? At 5GHz its speeds of 20.7MBps (165.6Mbit) at 2m and 19.4MBps (155.2Mbit) at 10m were actually topped by the EA6700, which managed 24.5MBps (196Mbit) and 22MBps (176Mbit) respectively, but it blew away the Linksys at arguably the most important distance of 13m with two solid walls recording 14.1MBps (112.8Mbit) verses the EA6700’s fairly poor 7.7MBps (61.6Mbit).

868L-5GHz-NIn fact the 14MBps figure at 13m is the fastest 5GHz n speed we’ve recorded from any router, besting (surprise, surprise) D-Link’s original wireless ac router, the 865L.

The good news continued on the wireless n 2.4GHz band as well hitting speeds of 11.5MBps (92Mbit), 10.1MBps (80.8Mbit) and 3.3MBps (26.4Mbit) at 2m, 10m and 13m. At 2m and 10m these again were records besting the EA6700 at 2m (9.1MBps) and 10m (9MBps) though interestingly not the EA6700’s predecessor, the EA6500, at 13m (3.9MBps). All in all though this means the 868L is not just a great router for 802.11ac wireless, but one that will deliver a sizeable performance boost to your existing 802.11n equipment.

We also got reasonable speeds from the DIR-868L’s USB 3.0 port. Dragging files from USB connected storage produced speeds of 4.9MBps (39.2Mbit) which remains some way off the 7.1MBps benchmark of the EA6700, but still the second fastest USB network speeds we have had. That said these figures do illustrate that USB network speeds (whether 2.0 or 3.0) are still a long way down on what can be achieved over a Gigabit Ethernet connection.

Incidentally D-Link restricts the 868L’s USB 3.0 port to USB 2.0 by default saying it interferes with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. We didn’t see any evidence of that with USB 3.0 enabled, but it is something we will keep an eye on in future USB 3.0-enabled routers.


Should I buy the D-Link DIR-868L?
Based on its performance alone, the answer to whether you should buy the D-Link DIR-868L is a resounding ‘yes’, and sweetening this further is that the 868L retails for £30 less than the EA6700 at £139.99, comapred to £169.99. D-Link products also traditionally fall faster in price online than Linksys models.

That said there are some caveats. The EA6700 does remain the faster wireless ac router and mydlink is significantly less developed that Smart WiFi. As such we find ourselves still slightly inclined to lean towards the Linksys EA6700. But there is only a hair’s breadth in it. For all intents and purposes D-Link has produced a router every bit as appealing as Linksys’s benchmark and consequently we highly recommend it.

The D-Link DIR-868L takes all the best elements of previous D-Link routers and wraps them into a single package. As such it has superb wireless ac performance, class leading wireless n performance and tops it off with an appealing price tag. The company’s mydlink cloud platform does still need to develop though and we’d like to see a second USB port and activity lights on the Ethernet ports, but otherwise this is truly superb product.

To read the original review on TrustedReviews click here.

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.   






Sky Hub

July 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Planning to get Sky Fibre? If so, prepare to buy another router.

Score 5/10


Free to new customers
Simple setup
Sleek, minimalist design

No Gigabit Ethernet
Single band 2.4GHz wireless bgn only
No USB ports to network drives or printers
Weak wireless range & performance
Review Price £69.00

Key Features: 802.11bgn 2.4GHz WiFi; Integrated DSL modem; 4x 10/100 Ethernet ports; WEP, WPA/WPA2 & WPS security

What is the Sky Hub?
The Sky Hub is the router the broadcasting giant supplies with every new connection to its ever-expanding fixed broadband network. Unlike previous Sky routers, which were designed by Netgear, this time Sky claims credit for its design and that its range and performance is a step above routers supplied by other ISPs. With Sky Fibre now unleashed and promising breakneck Internet speeds, it needs to be…


Sky Hub – Design
Take the Sky Hub out the box and its inspiration is clear. The white colouring, square shape and rounded corners owe a large debt to Apple’s AirPort Express Base Station. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The matt finish means it isn’t a dust and fingerprint magnet like many other routers and status lights – power, Internet, WPS, wireless and Sky HD – are clearly labelled. In fact, the inclusion of ‘Internet’ as a smiley face symbol is a nice touch as is its ability to detect when Sky HD on-demand services are in use.

Less welcome is where Sky has broken from Apple’s design principles with an off-white finish on one side and the gratuitous, reflective Sky logos on both sides that are stuck on rather than subtly embossed. Where Sky does deserve credit, however, is the Hub integrates both its DSL modem and PSU – the latter meaning no bulky plug or separate power brick and the whole package is highly compact at just 104 x 104 x 54mm and 368g.



Sky Hub – Features
The problem is this immediately sets our Spidey senses tingling. How has the Sky Hub managed to be so compact? Sadly because it is extremely short on features.

What stands out most is the Sky Hub is just a single band (2.4GHz) 802.11n router. This means all wireless activity in a household must share the same bandwidth and the 2.4GHz band also performs more slowly than the 5GHz band, which is a part of dual band routers like Virgin’s new Super Hub and BT’s Home Hub 4 (review coming soon).

Another shock is the Sky Hub lacks Gigabit Ethernet, a standard feature on routers for a number of years now. Instead the Hub has four 10/100 Ethernet ports which means their peak wired speed (100Mbit) is only just above the 76Mbit speeds at which Sky Fibre can operate and will prove a serious bottleneck to wired home networks which can work in excess of well over 300Mbit.

The shortcomings don’t stop there either as Sky has also omitted USB ports which allow printers or external storage to be quickly shared across a network. Sky isn’t alone in this as Virgin’s new Super Hub also omits a USB port, but BT’s Home Hub 2, 3 and 4 all support it and one USB port is common on most third party routers. Indeed, some, such as our current favourite 802.11ac router, the Linksys EA6700, have two USB ports.

Elsewhere the Sky Hub does at least offer WPA/WPA2 and WPS wireless security as well as port forwarding, uPNP and Dynamic DNS, but it isn’t IPv6 compliant – something we hope Sky will add in a future firmware update.


Sky Hub – Setup
The flip side of such a basic feature set is the Sky Hub is a doddle to set up. Plug in the power and your DSL cable (note Sky supplies just one microfilter), give it a minute to boot, connect to the wireless signal via the password provided on the bottom of the router and you’re ready to go.

Adjusting settings is just as straightforward. The Sky Hub lacks the advanced Cloud platforms launched by Linksys and D-Link, so it is a case of entering in your web browser when connected to the network and logging in with the default username and password (remember to change them).

The Hub’s user interface is basic, but clear with major categories written along the top – Wireless, Security, Maintenance, Advanced, Support – and options are presented in drop down menus. A useful right-sided column gives novices a wordy description of what each section means, though it requires a great deal of scrolling and could’ve been better laid out.

This is a sample, to read about the Sky Hub’s shocking performance, why you may be shortchanged on its 76Mbit Sky Fibre boradband package and what can be done click here to read the full review @ TrustedReviews

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 





Linksys EA6700 802.11ac router

July 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

The EA6500 was already our favourite 802.11ac wireless router, the EA6700 improves upon on it…

Score 9/10

Blistering 802.11ac & 802.11n 5GHz wireless performance
Smart WiFi the class leading Cloud platform
Subtle, stylish design
USB 3.0 & USB 2.0 ports
Simple, intuitive setup and management

802.11n 2.4GHz performance could be better
Still expensive
Only four Gigabit Ethernet ports
Review Price £169.00

Key Features: 802.11ac Wireless; 802.11n dual band 5GHz & 2.4GHz wireless; Smart WiFi Cloud platform; SimpleTap NFC device pairing; 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0 ; 4x Gigabit Ethernet Ports; WPA / WPA2 & WPS security

What is the Linksys EA6700?
The EA6500 is Linksys’ new flagship 802.11ac wireless router. It replaces the EA6500, Linksys’ previous top of the line model and its first router to support the next generation ac wireless standard.

The EA6500 is our current pick of the 802.11ac routers available, so given the EA6700 will replace it on shop shelves it has big shoes to fill.

Linksys EA6700 – Design
From first glance the EA6700 looks identical to its forebear. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Much like a ThinkPad, Linksys’ premium routers have had a consistent design for some time now and the EA6700 retains this same rectangular, wall mountable shape. Plenty of thought is behind it: the matt grey finish resists dust and fingerprints and the metallic band adds to its discrete stylish look and opens up to make space for a ventilation grill.

Interestingly the EA6700 still sports the Cisco logo, despite Cisco selling Linksys to Belkin a few months ago. Belkin has already announced it will keep the Linksys branding, but whether it will also add its own logo to the EA6700 in time is unknown.

The first sign that changes are afoot is along the rear of the EA6700 with the EA6500’s pair of USB 2.0 ports replaced by one USB 2.0 and one welcome USB 3.0. The layout of the ports has also been tweaked. Running left to right you now have USB 3.0, USB 2.0, 4x Gigabit Ethernet ports, an Internet port (for connecting to your modem), a reset pinhole, power socket and power switch.

Previously the USB ports had been sandwiched between the Ethernet ports and power button and the new arrangement makes them more accessible.


Linksys EA6700 – Features
Aside from USB 3.0, the EA6700 ticks the same primary boxes as the EA6500. Its headline feature remains its 1300Mbit 802.11ac and this is augmented by 450Mbit 802.11n for the misleading ‘1750Mbit’ figure punted by most ac wireless routers. These bands are powered by six internal 3D antennas with high power amplifiers.

The other talking point with any new Linksys router is the company’s ‘Smart WiFi’ (previously ‘Connect Cloud’). Smart WiFi is a Cloud platform which enables you to access your router from any location by logging in at or using the company’s official Android and iOS apps. Smart WiFi lets you remotely add or remove devices on your network, adjust privacy and parental settings, control guest access, prioritise devices or applications, change passwords and even the router SSID and broadcast bands. It also has an API for third party apps and their numbers are growing.

Connect Cloud actually had a contentious launch as it unilaterally imposed itself on all the latest pre-Cloud Linksys routers. But under the Smart WiFi banner it has matured into by far the most attractive, intuitive and powered router control platform currently available. It won’t intimidate technophobes and advanced users can tweak minutiae to their heart’s content.


Like the the EA6500, the EA6700 also caters for users with NFC enabled devices with a bundled ‘SimpleTap’ card. Just touch the card to your NFC device and it will be automatically connected to the EA6700’s 802.11n 2.4GHz wireless. Why Linksys chose to associate the card with this band is down to prevalence as wireless n 5GHz support still isn’t ubiquitous and of course 802.11ac support right now is rarer still. That said, SimpleTap is a great way to quickly add devices.

Not leaving out the more perfunctory elements, the EA6700 also supports IPv6, Dynamic DNS, port forwarding and there’s even an integrated broadband speed tester.

This is a sample to read about how the EA6700 performs, its value for money and the overall verdict read the full review @ TrustedReviews

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.





Virgin Media new Super Hub

July 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Virgin has high hopes for this update to the infamous Super Hub…

Score 7/10


Impressive 2.4GHz & 5GHz 802.11n performance
Simple setup
Intuitive user interface

Lacks IPv6 compliance, QoS & Dynamic DNS
Faster 802.11n routers at distance
Should be free to existing as well as new customers
Review Price £50.00

Key Features: Integrated cable modem & wireless router; 2.4GHz & 5GHz dual band wireless; 802.11b/g/n standards; Modem-only mode ; 4x Gigabit Ethernet Ports
Manufacturer: Netgear

What is the Virgin Media new Super Hub?
The latest router from Virgin Media targets the company’s higher speed customers (60Mbit and above) and is the first to offer dual band 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless support. This is important because 5GHz is a less congested spectrum and allows 5GHz Wi-Fi equipped devices to operate at faster speeds with less interference.

Furthermore the new Super Hub is a vital upgrade after the original Super Hub suffered numerous performance and reliability issues. Like the original, the new Super Hub is made by Netgear, but this time Virgin is confident it is not only bug-free but also the fastest router supplied by an ISP.



Virgin Media new Super Hub – Design & Features
Routers aren’t famed for their jaw dropping design and the ‘new Super Hub’ (thanks ‘new iPad’) won’t be causing fashionistas to have a rethink. That said its matt black finish and simple curves have an understated elegance and it is solidly constructed. At 215 x 195 x 69mm and 520g it isn’t the most compact router, but it is stable – a vast improvement on the old Super Hub, which perched on a wobbly stand.

The new Super Hub also has far more subtle lighting with LEDs along the front to indicate power, data transmission, broadband status and the operation of 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless modes. This means Virgin wisely omits the garish glowing Virgin Media logo slapped on the side of the old Super Hub, though both it and the new model can dim or switch off the lights completely.

Far more important than the new Super Hub’s looks, however, is its functionality and in adding dual band Wi-Fi Virgin has effectively stepped into 2011. This isn’t a slight, many ISPs have yet to do this with their routers, but third-party dual band routers have been around for years now and are rapidly moving onto the next generation 802.11ac standard while the new Super Hub is moored in 802.11b/g/n.

There are many reasons 802.11ac routers are desirable, too many to list here at least. Read our feature: 802.11ac vs 802.11n Wi-Fi: what’s the difference? for all the details.


Still, Virgin is doing its best to eek out every last drop of from 802.11n. It has equipped the new Super Hub with three 5GHz spatial antennas for a theoretical top speed of 450Mbit and there are two 2.4GHz spatial antennas theoretically capable of producing 300Mbit. On paper this puts it ahead of every router supplied by an ISP (including the BT Home Hub 4, which we will be testing soon) and in line with the best third-party 802.11n routers.

Virgin ticks other boxes too: there are four Gigabit Ethernet ports, support for WPS wireless security, MAC filtering, port forwarding and UPnP. You can also set up two guest networks per band each with separate passwords for visitors that keep them off your main network. Should you wish to use a third-party router (for example an 802.11ac router) Virgin also offers a ‘modem mode’ that switches off its Wi-Fi to avoid interference, though when you connect another router it also disables the new Super Hub’s remaining three Ethernet ports.


Despite all this the new Super Hub is far from an A to Z of networking functionality. There are no dynamic DNS settings, no Quality of Service and no parental controls (note Virgin does offer parent controls via its free ‘Virgin Media Security’ software). Surprisingly, the new Super Hub is also not IPv6 compliant, though Virgin Media confirmed this should be corrected in a firmware update.

Needless to say the new Super Hub also lacks a Cloud platform like Linksys’ Smart WiFi or D-Link’s mydlink, which lets you control the router remotely. On the plus side, the new Super Hub can be set to allow Virgin Media technical support to access your router settings, but sensibly this is disabled by default to keep security tight.

This is a sample, to read about the new Super Hub’s performance, value for money and my view on whether you should buy it or not click here to read the full review @ TrustedReviews

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.


Securifi Almond

June 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Does adding a touchscreen make this a must-have router? Newcomer Securifi delivers a surprising answer… 


Stylish, unqiue design
Both router & wireless bridge
Breakthrough touchscreen setup & management
Reasonably priced

Limited to 2.4GHz 802.11bgn
Average performance
Three 10/100 Ethernet Ports
Review Price £64.99

Score 8/10

Key Features: 802.11bgn 2.4GHz WiFi; 2.7in 320 x 240 touchscreen display; WPA / WPA2 & WPS security; IPv6 ready; 3x 10/100 Ethernet Ports
Manufacturer: Securifi

What is the Securifi Almond?
The Almond router is the first product from new networking company Securifi. It has been available in the US since last year, but arrives this month in the UK with upgraded antennas and new firmware. It is the first router on the market to operate via a touchscreen display and it can also double up as a wireless bridge to extend wireless signal from your existing router around the home.


Securifi Almond – Design
This is not a section we usually devote much time to with routers, but the Almond is different. Most manufacturers produce dull slabs in the hope you won’t notice them, but the Almond hopes to be front and centre in your living room.

Most obviously it is the touchscreen that grabs our attention. The 2.7-inch, 320 x 240 pixel display may not match the ultra-high resolution panels we are used to in our smartphones, but colours are strong and it is highly responsive. When not in use it switches off by default, though a nice touch is it can be setup to display the time or weather. This not only makes it useful, but encourages users to display it in a prominent place, which benefits wireless range.

The other key aspect to the Almond is its size. It’s tiny. At just 122 x 109 x 48mm the Almond is one of the smallest home routers we have seen and at a mere 363g it is also one of the lightest. It helps that Securifi hasn’t integrated a DSL modem, but to be fair the vast majority of the routers on the market don’t these days and it enables the simplest setup as they just plug into the router supplied by your broadband provider.

When it comes to build quality, the Almond is less exceptional. It takes the familiar gloss piano black route, which attracts finger prints and dust in equal measure, and like every other router on the market its exterior is plastic. That said its size means the Almond doesn’t feel as hollow as many rivals and while we aren’t into the practice of beating up review samples of networking equipment it appears highly durable.


Securifi Almond – Features
While we will focus on the touchscreen shortly, the most useful aspect to the Almond is its flexibility because it can function as both router and wireless bridge. Consequently those that need a new router can upgrade, but those looking for more wireless range can simply pair the Almond with their existing router and have it beam signal to new parts of the home or office.

That said there are compromises. While the 802.11ac standard is gathering momentum, the Almond is limited to just 802.11bgn over the 2.4GHz band and it only has dual antennas rather than the four and even six antenna arrays we have seen from some models. Consequently the Almond boasts a theoretical transfer rate of up to 300Mbit per second – half many mainstream routers. The fact theoretical transfer rates have little to do with real world performance means it is not a deal breaker.

What may be a deal breaker for some, however, are the Ethernet ports. Whereas router manufacturers have been decried for years for having just four ports, the small size of the Almond means it can only fit three ports and they are 10/100 spec rather than the prevalent Gigabit (1,000 Mbit) standard. If you need a lot of high speed wired connections, this isn’t the router for you.

It also isn’t the router for you if you’re a fan of the Cloud. Linksys’ Connect Cloud, D-Link’s mydlink and Netgear’s ReadySHARE have their detractors, but all enable remote control of the router and/or remote access to local files and media. Control of the Almond is only available when you’re connected to its network.

On the plus side WEP, WPA and WPA2 security profiles are supported along with the expanded IPv6 protocol. Still if this seems somewhat underwhelming, we would urge you look beyond the spec sheet for a number of reasons…

To learn why the Almond is much more than the sum of its parts and see its performance results click for the full review @ TrustedReviews

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Jolla Sailfish OS smartphone (preview)

June 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

A hands-on look at the smartphone industry’s latest player…

Key Features: 4.5in display; 16GB storage; microSD slot; Replaceable battery; Sailfish OS

What is the Jolla Sailfish smartphone?
Jolla is the first phone by the Finnish start-up of the same name. It will be released in late 2013 and run the Sailfish OS, which is based on the abandoned MeeGo project founded by Intel and Nokia. Jolla is largely made up of ex-Nokia employees disenchanted by the handset maker’s move to Windows Phone exclusivity in early 2011.


Jolla announced itself to the world in late 2011. It has already raised $258 million in investment from the telecommunications industry to help revive tMeeGo, which has only been available to the public once before on the widely praised Nokia N9.

We got an early hands-on with the handset and its software at an exclusive launch event this week in Helsinki.

Jolla handset
Six months is an eternity in the handset market, so we were surprised Jolla was keen to demonstrate its smartphone just one day after it was formally announced and targeting a Christmas arrival. That said from a hardware perspective what we saw is extremely encouraging.


The Jolla certainly has taken style cues off the Nokia N9, but its design is as unique as anything we have seen in recent years. On the surface the phone appears a fairly angular touchscreen slab and standard connectors including a top mounted micro USB charge port and headphone jack, side positioned power and volume buttons and speakers at the base. There are also some predictable specs: 4.5in display, 4G support, eight megapixel camera, 16GB of storage, microSD slot and an unspecified dual core processor.

Look closely, however, and things become more interesting. Firstly the phone has no facia buttons or soft keys (more of later) and secondly the phone quite clearly comes in two halves. Typically a colourful rear (though black in our demo) snaps on and off not only to allow access to a replaceable battery, but to enable an array of different covers to interact directly with the phone.


Jolla wasn’t revealing technology behind this (we suspect NFC), but covers have the power to automatically change the colour scheme (‘ambiance’), wallpaper, fonts, profiles and even functionality of the user interface. Jolla calls this ‘The Other Half’. Admittedly it is slightly gimmicky, but it opens up an array of marketing and brand opportunities we’re sure Jolla will be keen to exploit.

In hand the Jolla feels angular, though by no means uncomfortable compared to the 5-inch monsters now on the market. It was noticeable on our demo unit that some of the fittings weren’t flush and it had chips and dents, but we won’t read anything into that for a handset likely in heavy testing and still five to six months from release.

The Jolla has been announced with a €399 (£339) SIM-free retail price which we find a little high, especially considering where the handset market could be come the end of 2013. That said Jolla admits this may change and with a network deal in Finland with DNA and several European and Chinese carrier deals “in the pipeline” it will be interesting to see if the company can secure those all important network subsidies.

What will attract them? The software itself… This is a sample, to read about Jolla’s highly impressive Sailfish OS click here for the full preview @ TrustedReviews

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 





TomTom Rider v4 2013

May 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

TomTom’s fourth generation bike sat nav is the most expensive product in its portfolio, but sadly it disappoints…


Fast, accurate route planning
Tough, durable construction
Motorbike specific UI & features

No HD Traffic support
No external speakers
No spoken directions when paired with a smartphone
Expensive for the feature set

Review Price £349.99

Key Features: 4.3-inch, 480 x 272 touchscreen; Bluetooth pairing; Waterproof

What is the TomTom Rider v4?
This is TomTom’s fourth generation dedicated motorbike sat nav. It has a more rugged construction than regular TomTom units to cope with wind buffering and exposure to the elements. It has a custom motorbike-specific user interface allowing it to be operated with gloves. Marketing materials often refer simply to the ‘TomTom Rider’ so be sure to check you are buying the TomTom Rider v4 edition that is new for 2013.

TomTom Rider v4 – Design
Take the TomTom Rider v4 out of its box and the first thing you notice is the weight. Its rugged construction means at 353 grams the Rider is 40-50 per cent heavier than most TomToms and it is twice as thick – 53mm to be precise, or roughly as thick as a doorstep sandwich. It still feels good in hand, however, and is small enough to store easily.

Furthermore, it’s very durable. It is largely unchanged from previous editions, but the matt black finish is practical and scuff resistant, while a hood helps shield the TomTom Rider v4’s 4.3-inch screen from sunlight. This only works from some angles, but TomTom has fitted the Rider with a sunlight readable screen in any case.

Given the Rider will be exposed to the elements it also carries an Ingress Protection (IP) rating of X7. The seven represents water protection and specifies that the Rider can withstand limited immersion in water, so even the heaviest of down pours shouldn’t be a problem. The X is irrelevant as it represents dust and if water cannot get in, neither can dust.

It is true that the Rider is far from the most attractive sat nav in TomTom’s product line, but it is certainly the most practical and durable.

TomTom Rider v4 – Features
Interestingly, the TomTom Rider v4 is both heavy and light on features. For instance, the screen may be sunlight readable, but it is also low resolution at just 480 x 272. It remains easily readable, but feels light years behind the high density displays seen on modern smartphones and even some car sat navs.

Next to tally in the cons column is the absence of Live services, since the Rider lacks the integrated modem seen on the Live range. The knock-on effect is TomTom Places (a web-based search for businesses) is entirely absent, though Live POIs can be added manually via the company’s long running ‘Home’ PC and Mac software. It also means there is no support for HD Traffic, TomTom’s dynamically updating traffic monitoring software.

As such if there is a major hold up one morning, you’ll ride straight into it. This is less of a problem for bikers than car drivers since bikes filter, but it is still a notable omission from a premium device.

On the plus side, the Rider is customised heavily for motorcycle riders. The home screen features the addition of “Plan winding route”, which aims to pick the most enjoyable twisty method of getting somewhere rather than the most efficient.

Itineraries are also featured more prominently on the Rider than a standard TomTom sat nav, given bespoke routes and advance route planning are a major part of enjoying a motorbike for most riders. Itineraries allow the easy insertion of multiple way points in any route and they are also backed up by TomTom’s own route software. Itineraries can also be shared over Bluetooth with other Rider sat navs, which is a nice touch.


TomTom is keen to point out its tie in with motorbike-centric route making software ‘Tyre’ as well. Tyre integrates with the Rider so created routes can be uploaded directly to the Rider when it is connected into a PC. But note that Tyre is freeware and also works in this fashion with Garmin’s competing 350LM and 660LM motorbike sat navs.

Another tick in the plus column is the Rider’s Bluetooth lets it pair with a headset for spoken turn-by-turn directions and it can pair with a phone to sync contacts and make phone calls. Countering this the Rider doesn’t allow for spoken directions through earphones connected to a paired phone (like the 660LM) and it pair with both a headset and phone simultaneously to allow calls via a headset resulting in an either/or situation. Unlike Garmin’s sat navs, the Rider also has no external speakers.

That said we end on several pluses with many core TomTom features present and correct. These include Advanced Lane Guidance for turnings, IQ Routes, which provides a database of average road speeds at specific times of the day, near limitless POIs and an extensive speed camera database.

TomTom also bundles free lifetime European map updates and its long running ‘Home’ PC software allows the Rider to receive software updates, purchase additional country-specific maps and install daily map alterations.

This is a sample. To read about how to setup the Rider v4, how it performance, what value it offers for money and my final verdict click here for the full review @ TrustedReviews 

 Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 


Western Digital WD TV Play

May 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

An excellent value media player, but compromises have been made.

Our Score 6/10


Attractive, intuitive UI
Wide range of integrated streaming services
Very cheap

No support for DTS audio
Poor navigation for local media
Remote has questionable layout
Review Price £55.00

Key Features: Local & network media playback; Netflix; BBC iPlayer; Spotify; Bulit-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet; USB & HDMI

Time was media players were about one thing: codecs. And time was one little media player ruled them all: the original WD TV. With the world quickly adopting streaming across both music and video, however, the war has moved on. Now WD TV maker Western Digital is back with the WD TV Play, which it claims excels at both while hitting a new price low.

WD TV Play – Design
If the premise is ambitious, the design certainly isn’t. The ‘hockey puck’ box is now as much a staple of the media player market as smartphone slabs and ‘unibody’ laptops. This isn’t to say Western Digital has done a bad job. Certainly the Play knocks off the Apple TV, but its curves are similarly graceful and it could just as easily fit in a coat pocket as under your TV.


In fact, if we had a gripe about the Play it is that it feels too light. This comes down to build materials with Western Digital cutting costs by using cheap plastics. We also aren’t convinced by the mixture of finishes with the matt black top clashing with its gloss sides, but the hint of blue created by the entirely blue base does win us over.

Apple would no doubt call the Play a cheap copy and it may well be, but we’ve seen far worse.

WD TV Play – Features
While the Play cuts costs on the outside, it doesn’t where it counts. Sticking to its roots, the Play supports a vast array range of codecs. For video lovers there’s AVI, MKV, MPEG4, MP4/MOV and WMV9 to name but a few, while music lovers get numerous formats including MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC, FLAC, OGG and Dolby TrueHD. There is also JPEG, GIF, TIF, BMP and PNG image support as well as a wide selection of playlist and subtitle formats.

Looking to the future the WD TV Play embraces a significant number of streaming options. We may lose its Hulu and Pandora support in the UK, but staples like YouTube, iPlayer and Netflix are joined by SlingPlayer, WVimeo, VUDU, DailyMotion, Spotify and CinemaNow. There are also widgets for Accuweather, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picassa, Flixster and more. If you don’t own a smart TV, the WD TV Play gives you a potentially decent stand in for very little outlay.


Connectivity is also good. Squeezed into the Play’s dainty dimensions are HDMI, Ethernet, optical, auxiliary and USB ports plus 2.4GHz 802.11n WiFi. The greater speed of 5GHz 802.11n WiFi would’ve been welcome (as would 802.11ac), but it isn’t a grave omission.

There are multiple control options, too. The WD TV Play comes with a fairly uninspiring remote with overly spongy buttons, but Western Digital also supplies virtual remotes via iOS and Android apps. More of which later.

WD TV Play – Setup
Boot up the WD TV Play and what immediately strikes you is how far media player user interfaces have come. The home screen takes inspiration from the Windows 8 start screen with large, colourful tiles and a favourites area to which you can pin as many apps and services as you like.


Setup is simple since each service takes you through a setup wizard on first start, though usernames and passwords are best done through the smartphone apps as they provide access to a full keyboard. We also found the apps easier to use in general as they have dynamic layouts, a dedicated services section with quick access icons for every service and the ability to toggle between a standard control dial or touchpad for navigation.

By contrast the physical remote is limited and fiddly. Notably, the back button is positioned right below the power button (which caused us to accidentally switch off the Play on multiple occasions) and a dedicated Netflix button, which is only useful to Netflix subscribers and cannot be customised.

That said getting the WD TV Play up and running is nigh on foolproof, which means getting to your content is only minutes away…  This is a sample, to read about the performance, value and to read my final verdict click here to read my full review @ TrustedReviews 

 Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 


Braven BRV-1

March 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

If you’re looking for a portable speaker that can withstand the trials of outdoor life, the Braven BRV-1 could be the perfect travelling companion…

A sample of my review for ITProPortal.

Score 4/5 Stars

Price £149.99

Good Points
Stylish and extremely rugged design
Speaker, speakerphone and charger in one
Clear, rich audio performance

Bad Points
Volume could be louder
No support for AptX over Bluetooth
Battery life could be longer

“Rugged, water resistant, and built for the outdoors. The BRV-1 will keep up with you in even the most extreme environment.” – Braven BRV-1 product page.

Here at ITProPortal we like a challenge so we decided to put the marketing rhetoric behind Braven’s first rugged Bluetooth portable speaker to the test. In our exclusive review we took the BRV-1 north of the Arctic Circle to spend a week in the snow covered landscape of Finnish Lapland where temperatures in March can drop below -30 degrees Celsius.


Making the 1,000km journey from Helsinki to our destination in Äkäslompolo by train meant a 14-hour ride. This was more than enough time to get a feel for the BRV-1, but it took just minutes to be struck by two significant aspects. The first observation upon opening the box is that Braven has decided to omit a wall charger. The BRV-1 charges over microUSB and a USB to microUSB cable is included in the box (plus lanyard and 3.5mm cable) and while USB wall chargers aren’t exactly scarce, it will come as a shock to buyers who first unpack the speaker on their travels as we did.

Secondly, and more positively, was the BRV-1’s build quality. To guard against water, impact and extreme temperatures the BRV-1 has a molded rubber finish, tightly sealed seams and control buttons and a large screw cap at the rear which covers its ports. At the front is an aluminium grill (coming in blue or orange finishes) to protect the drivers and the whole package not only feels solid as a rock, but measures only 115 x 60 x 85mm and weighs just 338g. The BRV-1 also looks great thanks to curves somewhat reminiscent of Dark Vader’s Tie Fighter!


Style is rarely high on the agenda with ruggedised products, but on the side of substance the BRV-1 is shock resistant and sports an IPX5 water resistance rating. The latter of these is defined by International Protection standards as “water projected by a nozzle (6.3mm wide) against enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects”. In real life this translates to the BRV-1 being happy out in the rain, snow, or liberally sprayed by water in a shower. It cannot, however, be fully submerged.

Aside from the durability the key feature of the BRV-1, and Braven speakers in general, is its flexibility. Bluetooth audio playback is its staple fare (more on this later), but users will also find the BRV-1 functions as a speakerphone for taking calls and a portable charger. The former is aided by the inclusion of a noise cancelling microphone while the latter is enabled by the inclusion of a USB port under its rear screw cover.

The BRV-1 is fitted with a 1,400mAh battery which Braven claims is good for up to 12 hours of continuous playback, but this capacity is also large enough to virtually recharge an iPhone 5 (1,440mAh) or iPhone 4S (1,430mAh) from flat. It will also add significant extra juice to a Nexus 4 and Samsung Galaxy S3 (both 2,100mAh) or a Galaxy Note 2 (3,100mAh), or even an iPad Mini (4,400mAh). It won’t make much impact on the huge 11,666mAh battery fitted inside the iPad 4, but it does still make the BRV-1 potentially three highly useful portable devices in one.


So how does it all come together? The good news is remarkably well. At the heart of the BRV-1 are two 40mm drivers, a large 70mm passive subwoofer, class D digital amplifier (delivering a total of 6W) and output level of 95dB at 0.5 metres. Other than the size of the passive sub these don’t actually stand out a great deal, but for portable speakers dispersion and sound signature are far more important and Braven has got both of these right… This is a sample, to read more detail about the performance of the BRV-1, how it faired in our durability tests, its value for money and it read my final verdict click here for the full review @ ITProPortal

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 




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