TalkTalk Plus Fibre router
Following Sky & PlusNet, yet another single band ISP fibre router disappoints
Pros: Simple, thoughtful design, Easy setup USB 2.0 port
Cons: Cannot hit advertised fibre speeds, No Gigabit Ethernet, No IPv6 support, Schizophrenic UI
Review Price £45.00
Key Features: 802.11bgn 2.4GHz WiFi; 4x 10/100 Ethernet ports; WPA / WPA2 & WPS security; Fibre & ADSL2+ ports; USB 2.0
What is the TalkTalk Plus fibre router?
It is the premium router TalkTalk supplies to customers signing up for its 38Mbps and 76Mbps fibre broadband packages. Like the Sky Hub and PlusNet Fibre router, TalkTalk’s Plus router is a single band 802.11n 2.4GHz model, which raises concerns it may struggle deliver Wi-Fi speeds that match the fastest connections – an issue the BT Home Hub 4 and Virgin Media new Super Hub dodge by supporting the 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz bands.
Is the TalkTalk Plus fibre router up to the task of delivering proper fibre speeds over Wi-Fi, or is it another underwhelming effort from a UK ISP? Note: TalkTalk uses two suppliers for the Plus router, D-Link (model number ‘DSL-3780′) and Huawei (model number ‘H533′), but claims both perform very similarly and look identical. We received the D-Link edition of the Plus router so will refer to it as the 3780 in this review.
TalkTalk Plus fibre router – Design
Out of the box things look promising. TalkTalk has previously spoken of its desire to provide customers with a more stylish router and the 3780 is a marked improvement on previous models. Out goes its predecessor’s glossy white finish, large garish TalkTalk logo and boxy angles to be replaced by a smaller, subtly branded, curvier, matt black unit.
Admittedly we are still a long way from the stylish design seen in the sector’s flagships like the Linksys EA6700 and D-Link DIR-848L, but it is no eye sore. It is also well-built. There are no creaks or squeaks and while we aren’t in the habit of throwing routers on the floor, it feels capable of withstanding a few drops. A moulded base stand means the 3780 can only sit bolt upright though and while this isn’t a major issue it does mean it cannot be wall mounted.
The 3780 also has 11 front facing activity lights (power, ADSL, Fibre, Internet, WLAN, WPS, LAN1-4 and USB) and while all of these won’t be flashing at once you would be advised not to place it in a common eye line.
TalkTalk Plus fibre router – Features
While the look of the 3780 causes no offense, much of its feature set does raise concern. The aforementioned limitation of 802.11n 2.4GHz WiFi is the most obvious talking point, but it doesn’t even come with the fastest implementation of 2.4GHz. As such it uses a 2×2 antenna array when a stronger 3×3 array is common in many single band routers including D-Link’s own excellent DIR-645. In addition to this the 3780 fits four 10/100 Ethernet ports rather than the more common Gigabit (1000Mbps) Ethernet standard.
This will be an instant deal breaker for users running NAS boxes as it creates a fixed bottleneck even for wired connections. IPv6 is also missing, though D-Link confirms the hardware is capable of being updated to support it in future. Elsewhere we are pleased to see the 3780 supports WPA/WPA2 and WPS security and there is also a USB 2.0 port on the back for sharing a printer or USB storage across the network. Interestingly, the 3780 packs both ADSL2 and Fibre internet ports. This adds flexibility but, like the PlusNet fibre router, really only shows that this is a bridging product (ADSL2 reaches just 16Mbps) rather than a router purely intended to do justice to the speeds of fibre optic broadband.
Still this is better than the PlusNet Fibre router which had to commandeer one of its Ethernet ports just to support Fibre – a real botch job.
TalkTalk Plus fibre router – Setup
For technophobes TalkTalk supplies both a CD-based setup wizard and a manual which includes step by step graphical guides for Mac OS X, Windows XP, Vista, 7 and (impressively) Windows 8. Users will also be able to simply plug the 3780 in and connect to its Wi-Fi using the key printed on the back of the router.
Happily, WPA2 security is enabled default, but slapped wrists are in order for setting up the default username and password for the router’s settings as admin/admin. We thought we had long passed the days of this aged and easily guessed combo and they should be changed immediately… something we doubt many mainstream TalkTalk users will do. For those who do dare to fiddle with the 3780’s settings, they will find not one but two UIs. By default the 3780 loads a simple TalkTalk status screen (shown above), but clicking the ‘advanced’ tab sees it open D-Link’s standard router UI in a new window (below).
We weren’t expecting the smoothness of Linksys or D-Link’s premium Cloud platforms Smart WiFi and mydlink, but the effect is jarring and akin to jumping between the desktop and touch-friendly modes in Windows 8.
TalkTalk Plus fibre router – Performance
Given the glaring array of old tech within the 3780 we expected it to perform little better than the subpar efforts of the PlusNet Fibre and Sky Hub and sadly we were proved right. At our test distances of two metres and 10 metres line of sight plus 13 metres behind two standing walls the 3780 hit speeds of 8.57 megabytes per second (69.36 megabits per second), 8.55MBps (68.4Mbps) and 3.2MBps (25.6Mbps) respectively.
The immediate point to note is even at two metres the 3780 won’t achieve the 76Mbps fibre speeds TalkTalk advertises. There isn’t a massive shortfall like the Sky Hub’s 5.8MBps (46.4Mbps) and it is over the 62.7Mbps Ofcom claims is average for 76Mbps customers, but it does mean you will need a wired connection should you be lucky enough to receive real world broadband speeds in excess of 70Mbps to your door.
Furthermore the 3780 is outstripped by the aged PlusNet fibre router’s 9.63MBps (77.04Mbps) and 8.82MBps (70.56Mbps) at two and 10 metres, though its 13m performance of just 2.2MBps (17.6Mbps) falls well short as does the Sky Hub’s woeful 1.3MBps (10.4Mbps) at the same distance. That said any victories here are hollow are all three routers falling well short of providing satisfying fibre optic speeds once walls come into play which highlights the limitations of 2.4GHz WiFi.
By contrast the BT Hub Home 4 (while actually more sluggish than both the PlusNet and TalkTalk routers at 2.4GHz) hits speeds of 13.5MBps (108Mbps), 13.1MBps (104.8Mbps) and 4.92MBps (39.36Mbps) at 5GHz. Meanwhile the Virgin Media new Super Hub’s 5GHz performance achieves 17.5MBps (140Mbps), 11.5MBps (92Mbps) and 4.3MBps (34.4Mbps) and even its 2.4GHz performance reaches 10.1MBps (80.8Mbps), 8.5MBps (68Mbps) and 3.2MBps (25.6Mbps).
One slightly brighter spark is the 3780’s USB performance, which peaks at 3.02MBps (24.16Mbps). This batters the 1.42MBps (11.36Mbps) of the PlusNet fibre router and inches ahead of the BT Home Hub 4’s 2.79MBps (22.32Mbps) while the Sky Hub has no USB port at all. Still the new Super Hub comes out on top here as well managing 3.2MBps (25.6Mbps), though USB remains a poor medium for file transfer until routers significantly boost the power of their chipsets.
Should I buy the TalkTalk Plus fibre router?
As with the single band routers supplied by PlusNet and Sky, the answer is a straightforward ‘no’. Of course new customers get the 3780 free and existing customers can upgrade (TalkTalk says the router is worth £45, subject to your haggling) so avoiding it may be easier said than done.
Despite this we would argue any TalkTalk customer receiving decent fibre speeds and living in more than a single room studio should ditch the 3780 even if they got it free. And upgraders should put their £45 towards the circa £100 RRP of the excellent dual band D-Link DIR-845L, whose 5GHz speeds hit 7.1MBps (56.8Mbps) at 13m and even its 2.4GHz performance reaches 5.5MBps (44Mbps) at the same distance.
Going further, those who are prepared to pay around £150 should opt for a next generation 802.11ac router such as the superb Linksys EA6700, D-Link DIR-868L and Asus RT-AC66U. All offer blazing 5GHz speeds and their wireless ac performance universally tops 24MBps (190Mbps) at 13 metres. For those pushing a lot of traffic over local networks in particular they’re a whole new ball game.
In supplying its fibre customers with a single band router TalkTalk falls foul of the same errors as Sky and PlusNet. In itself the 3780 isn’t to blame, it is a reasonably good-looking, basic, 2.4GHz router which performs as it should, but it is the wrong standard to supply with fibre optic broadband. The pre-fibre days have made many ISPs lazy in the routers they supply. Fibre is now showing this up and it needs to stop, quickly.
Scores In Detail: Build Quality 6/10, Design 6/10, Features 4/10, Performance 5/10, Value 5/10
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