The fifth generation of the Internet router which comes free as part of every BT Broadband contract, the BT Home Hub 5, is possibly the best bundled router around and could even give third-party vendors a few headaches.
It's almost identical in shape and size to the Home Hub 4, but inside the new model features integrated modems for use with both ADSL and VDSL services, and a full set of four Gigabit network ports plus dual-band Wi-Fi with support for the latest 802.11ac technology.
What you get
Sign up for BT Infinity today and you'll get the new Home Hub for free as part of the deal. You can also get the Home Hub for nothing by renewing an existing contract. Otherwise it costs £129 (around $202, AU$231) to buy outright, with a discount if you're an existing Infinity users that brings it down to a bargain £69 (around $108, AU$123). Whatever the chosen route, the Home Hub is then posted out in a neat cardboard box designed expressly to fit through the average letterbox.
Open up the box and inside you'll find one of the neatest and lightest broadband routers around with very clean lines and no external antennae to spoil its good looks. Power is supplied by an external AC adapter and, courtesy of a couple of twist-out feet, the hub is easy to position close to the incoming phone line, although it can't be wall mounted and on ours the cables we plugged in lifted it off its feet.
With integrated ADSL and VDSL modems, this hub can be used with either an ordinary ADSL line or much faster BT Infinity service. The separate OpenReach modem previously used to provide the VDSL connection is, therefore, no longer required, which is good news as it consumed a fair amount of power and ran very hot. The Home Hub does the job all by itself and only gets moderately warm.
On the LAN side a 4-port switch is built in to handle cabled connections and these are now all Gigabit ports instead of one Gigabit and three fast Ethernet as on the previous model. There's also a USB port which can be used to share storage, typically in the form of a memory stick or external hard disk. USB printers can also be shared through the Home Hub, but the port is USB 2.0 only.
Lastly there's the upgraded Wi-Fi with support for both dual-band 802.n and the latest 802.11ac standard which operates solely at 5GHz. Three antennae have been neatly integrated inside the Home Hub casing, with 802.11n clients connecting across just two while for 802.11ac all three are available for MIMO duties. Of course, whether they're all used will depend on the clients. Not that many devices come with ac as standard and most plug-in dongles come with one or two antennae.
BT itself sells a USB dongle with two antennae – the BT 11ac Dual-Band Wi-Fi Dongle 900 which costs £34.99 (around $55, AU$63).