BT home Hub 3 Review


Front of Hub 3
We like the look of this device a lot. It is by far the best looking bit of equipment BT has produced. It is also better than the out-going model for being quite simple and small. The pictures don't really show just how small it is, being just 18.5cm wide × 11cm tall.

We also like that it comes with a 12V dc power supply. This means we can power it via our 12V UPS and power network and keep it going, even during power cuts.


Rear of Hub 3
The full spec is available on the BT website but, this device is both ADSL and BT Infinity (fibre based broadband) ready. If you plug both in, it will simply power down the ADSL part and use the FTTP/FTTC network connection.

The device has 4 Ethernet ports on the back and one of these supports Gigabit Ethernet. Typically this is used for connecting to devices like Network Attached Storage (NAS) but you could connect this into a Gigabit capable switch and keep your whole network running at this speed.

On plugging the device into our ADSL network it took less than 30 seconds to configure itself. As it worked through the process, the LEDs on the front cycled through various colours. They all ended up being blue and everything just worked. We liked that a lot! Better still, they don't flash in normal operation. Flashing LEDs are great in a data centre or on the deck of the Starship Enterprise but I don't need them in my lounge!

A clever feature of the Hub 3 is a removable plastic tab, with the SSID and password required to allow Wi-Fi access. This is a nice touch and makes it easy to configure devices requiring wireless connections, by taking this tab to the device.

Home


Access control settings
This tab provides you with an overview of the hub status, service status and devices connected. It also lists the software version.

On this page you can also see if you have USB storage attached. We leave a 16Gb USB pendrive connected as a mechanism to share documents between computers and other devices in our home. Under windows 7 file explorer a device called BTHUB3 is present and has a mapped drive called usb1.

Services

The BT Home Hub has been designed to work with an expanding range of BT Broadband products and services. As new services are added, you can find out more about them here and use these pages to manage the services that you subscribe to.

BT FON Wi-Fi Community

We use this a lot. BT FON is a huge network of Wi-Fi access points and with the BT Home Hub you can turn your Hub 3 into one of these for other BT FON members to use. It uses a small amount of you Internet bandwidth and this usage doesn't come out of your network usage allowance.

BT NetProtect Plus

This PC security package provides computer protection. NetProtect Plus is free to option 2 & 3 customers. Option 1 customers can purchase the security package for a small monthly charge. The software includes:

  • Anti-virus and anti-spyware to protect you from malicious software online
  • A firewall to block outsiders from hacking into your PC
  • Protection for up to 7 PCs
  • SiteAdvisor lets you know where it's safe to go online with a traffic-light rating system
  • Identity theft protection and anti-phishing software to keep your identity safe online
  • A safe environment for your kids with parental controls

The are more details on the BT website.

BT Family Protection

Keep your family safe online with BT Family Protection. Its free for all BT Broadband customers  just download it at www.bt.com/netprotectplus and go to the Family Protection tab and click on the Get Protected button.

Settings

The settings screen

Wireless

The wireless settings let you choose the security (WPA, WPA2, WEP, etc.), the wireless key and the wireless channel. The Hubs 3 supports 'smart selection', which looks for the least congested channel to use.

Power Save


Power save settings
The power save settings allow you to configure when the Wi-Fi goes off at night and comes back on again in the morning. This is to save power. It doesn't allow you do have different behaviours for different days of the week, which is a shame. The wired Ethernet elements still remain powered and working, which is good. We don't turn our hub/routers off as they are connected to our 12V UPS and are used by our home automation system at all hours.

You can over-ride the Power Save mode and reactivate the wireless network by pressing the Restart button on the rear of the Hub.

Access Control


Access control settings
A nice feature is the ability to restrict access to the Internet by device. You can set rules based on time of day (but not on day of the week).

We tested this on our children's iPod Touch devices and they get a nice warning screen telling them that they are not allowed access, rather than a simple 404 error. This is what it looked like on an iPhone 4.

Port Forwarding

Port forwarding is used by devices (e.g. games consoles) and applications (e.g. servers) to make sure that data coming from the Internet gets to the device that needs to use it. The hub has a comprehensive list of services and you choose the destination device from the list of attached devices.

Admin Password

Lets you change the admin password.

Internet

Tells you if you are connected and asks for broadband user name and password if you are not. It defaults to a username that works on a BT line.

Advanced Settings


Advanced settings
The advanced settings provide more detailed control of the basic hub settings.

In the advanced wireless settings you can set the wireless interface type (802.11b/g/n) and change settings like the wireless key.


Line connection info
The advanced Internet settings provides four more tabs of information, including quite detailed line info.

You can also configure dynamic DNS settings.

The 'Home Network' tab gives you a graphical view of attached devices and allows you to assign them meaningful names (rather than just MAC addresses).


IP Addresses
Under 'Home Network', the 'IP Addresses' tab lets you set the IP address of the router and configure the pool address range for DHCP. It's limited setting addresses above .64 but this OK for most setups and all the fixed IP addresses in our home are less than this.

The advanced 'Port Forwarding' tab lets you add new services and port mappings.


System Settings
Under the 'System' tab you can set up NTP servers, restart the hub, check firmware version and last update, backup and restore hub settings, and rest to the factory settings.

The settings backup is a really good feature and it makes a lot of sense to save this config file somewhere safe once set up.

Summary

This is an impressive bit of kit and a clever and beautiful bit of design too. It does the basics really well and for the non-technical it is a 'plug in and go' device. It's reliable, provides good performance and for those more with technical knowledge, it provides the detailed controls required in the advanced settings.

The wireless performance is very good and it provides a stronger and more reliable network connection than the other Netgear, Thomson, and previous BT Home Hub versions we have in our home.

Updates

January 2012

Our ADSL connection was upgraded to BT Infinity (FTTC). We now have 40Mbps down and 10Mbps uplink.

March 2012

We noticed that the date/time didn't change itself automatically when BST started, despite the Hub 3 using NTP. This appears to be a bug.

We wanted to use our Hub 3 with OpenDNS but, the admin interface does not allow you to set the DNS servers used.

July 2013

We are now using our BT HH3 as a secondary wireless access point on our patio.

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