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A Comparison of Home Broadband Router Specs from the Big UK ISPs

Friday, Dec 28th, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 80,800

Which of the UK’s largest home broadband ISPs give you the best wireless router hardware for your internet and home connectivity needs? We take a brief look at the options and specification sheets from BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Sky Broadband, Zen Internet, Hyperoptic, Vodafone and KCOM to compare key features.

Sadly very few providers in the market today will publish a detailed feature set for the router(s) they bundle and at best you’ll only ever get a fairly basic summary, which often won’t tell you nearly enough about its actual capabilities. Instead ISPs are far more likely to speak in vague generalisations (e.g. “powerful and reliable wifi“, “superfast router“, “3x faster“), which are largely useless for any practical comparison.

Another crafty trick is when ISPs attempt to positively highlight otherwise common features by expressing them as being somehow unique or advanced, even though such aspects may in fact merely be part of a standard specification that is likely to be shared by nearly all of their competitors.

On the upside many of the routers that come bundled today tend to be fairly capable pieces of kit, which are often significantly better than the rubbish that first generation broadband providers use to dish out a decade ago. Back then it wasn’t uncommon to have problems with WiFi compatibility, crashing and an inability to handle connections from more than a handful of devices at once.

As a result consumers are now much more likely to stick with what their ISP gives them than to go hunting around for a more advanced third-party router, although there’s still a strong market for those who seek cutting-edge hardware. But all this merely makes it even more important to know what you’re getting for your money.

Who Cares About the Router?

At this point some of our readers might be raising their hands to ask an obvious question: “What difference does the router actually make?

Certainly it’s true that a router with the right modem / chipset could improve your broadband connection ever so slightly, although in the grander scheme of things the ISP will usually aim to supply a device that can cope with the best possible speed of your connection type. Instead the real difference tends to be in what that device can do for your home network.

Naturally there are some fairly self-explanatory things to look out for here, such as the significant factor of wireless network speed and coverage. On this point we recommend looking to identify what WiFi specification is being used (e.g. 802.11n, 802.11ac or the latest 802.11ax), as well as the peak theoretical wireless speed of the device and the number of antennas (note: bundled routers tend to only offer internal antennas).

In addition, you’d definitely want a router that can support both the 2.4GHz and the 5GHz radio spectrum bands for maximum performance. Both should be common today and if the kit that an ISP supplies doesn’t support both then it may be best avoided (2.4GHz alone is slow and congested). We recommend reading our ‘Top WiFi Boosting Tips‘ for more info. on wireless performance as it’s quite an extensive subject.

Elsewhere you should also consider whether the router includes USB ports (i.e. how many, what version (v3.0+ is fastest) and what devices can it connect – storage, printers, 4G mobile adapters etc.), as well as the speed of any Ethernet LAN (wired network) ports on the back (100Mb vs 1000Mb etc.). We’d also look out for a WAN port as this will enable you to connect another router (e.g. when opting to use the ISP’s router as just a modem).

Now on to the hardware comparison..

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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44 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Brian says:

    Zen have upgraded to the Fritz!box 7530. It adds mu-mimo, dect base station and a bunch of other voice related features. Plus looks much better than the 3490.

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Interesting, Zen never notified me of that change and the 3490 was only introduced late last year. Surprised they didn’t mention it to me.

    2. Avatar photo saf says:

      not easy to find details of their new router FRITZ!Box 7530 on their website but here it is


  2. Avatar photo Carl says:

    I was expecting an actual performance comparison not just a specs sheet for each router.

    1. Avatar photo Burt says:

      This ^

    2. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Sorry about that. Sadly only around half of the ISPs mentioned seemed interested in having their router tested and we don’t have the budget to buy them all just for a single test, although in the future I will come back to see if we can do this.

    3. Avatar photo Alex says:

      I’m sure if you offer to pay for marks time you might be able to
      Come to some arrangement

    4. Avatar photo Steve says:

      Title of the article says: “A Comparison of Home Broadband Router Specs from the Big UK ISPs”.
      If you weren’t able to test properly for whatever reason (provider wasn’t interested / provider wouldn’t supply / you couldn’t afford) then change your article headline.

      There are so many articles out there that promise comparison but are nothing more than tables of specs.


  3. Avatar photo J Carrington says:

    Great article. Please can you update the specs for the Fritzbox 3490 to state that 3G/4G USB devices are also supported. I have one plugged into my Fritz!Box 3490, which serves as failover when there are problems with my fixed line. The 3490 allows you to configure the router to only serve a mobile connection or do failover.

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Will do, thanks for spotting that.

  4. Avatar photo mirdragon says:

    It’s not just speed you should look at but also security and features which some routers lack, especially sky’s routers.

    1. Avatar photo A_Builder says:


      I would certainly agree with that.

      As well as looking at the automated pushing of firmware updates which used to on a certain ISP’s routers wipe all of bespoke config from them……

      And how frequently is the firmware updated and to what extent the thing is locked down.

      I must admit that I almost never use any ISP provided kit apart from the OR Gfast modems mainly due to lack of alternatives.

  5. Avatar photo Ian M says:

    For me the main reason for using an alternative router to the ISP’s is to have a solid connection. I was previously with BT and recently moved to Vodafone. In both cases the router would drop the line at least once every 2 days, and often more than once a day. My TD-W9970 has not dropped the line once in 30 days, and that is with a faster VDSL sync speed than either of the ISP’s routers.

    1. Avatar photo Joe says:

      Router shoulnd’t make that much of a diff

    2. Avatar photo docious says:

      I had frequent Vodafone WAN disconnections until I disabled unused features. I was very close to either buying a better router or switching ISP. I disabled the following:

      Guest network (Wi-Fi 2).
      Sharing settings > DLNA/Twonky / FTP / Samba – (all off).
      USB port.
      IPv4 > Guest network > DHCP Server.

  6. Avatar photo MontgomeryWick says:

    Its a very simple concept really.Depends what you want from your internet,what type and how fast.
    Ive had old netgears with custom firmwares,which could adjust attenuation (noise on line) on the adsl type line and they were great,i was getting 2mb ,BT couldnt sort the speed,so i did,and i got it to around 7-8mb and they were far better than the BTHome hubs.
    I now have FTTP,separate modem and separate router which would be overkill for some people,on an ASUS router,do i game ,yes,do i use streaming on LAN yes,would i buy this if i didnt..NO.
    BThome hubs are built to a price point,there not up to much,but get the job done and are fine for alot of people,but BT vastly over exaggerate its performance its laughable.
    A good quality decent router should cost around 150 pounds upwards and when you get one,you wouldnt go back,but for cheap internet and just basic things,why would you buy this?you wouldnt.
    I always found the HomeHUB 4 without built in modem was far better and they are really cheap,maybe £5 pounds(Ive seen these new for that,sealed),but you need a separate modem,which is around £10.

  7. Avatar photo Edward Brundel says:

    Vodafone’s one is worst, still used the outdated (unsecure) SMB1 , not working under latest windows 10 and Vofdafone -as they don’t want to upgrade- suggests to use … FTP (!) if you want share files on the USB port. Not to mention their policy to don’t give away the user credentials for the internet, so they even force you to use that Huawey (spyware on board as extra)

    1. Avatar photo Zaza says:

      Incorrect. Vodafone supplied me new router. Not old one Huawei. It has MU MIMO and working much better

    2. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Which router did they supply (assuming you’ve taken their FTTC rather than FTTH service)? Any details.

    3. Avatar photo joseph says:

      The USB port on many devices mentioned will only allow file access and transfer using certain protocols. Most commonly allows it to be a used for a print server or FTP and least often DLNA, those that do support that is often a very basic implementation.

      As for ” Not to mention their policy to don’t give away the user credentials for the internet” that is also incorrect and they have allowed that for around a year now.

  8. Avatar photo Chris S says:

    Vodafone’s Huawei (aka Spyware On Board) supports USB storage, but its still limited to SMB1 (not safe and is disabled on latest win10) so only option is good old FTP (as Vodafone don’t want to upgrade their crapware)

    1. Avatar photo joseph says:

      It is not disabled in Win 10. It is not enabled if you are running version 1709 (as that had separate options for CIFS/SMB 1.0) or if you install the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update(1709). The only other circumstances it becomes disabled is if you plug in another device to a 1709 or earlier build that is not capable of acting as a SMB 1.0 client (if that has happened then you must be running some janky NAS or similar hardware).

      It is nothing to do with spyware or anything else you are blurting on about. An updated Windows 7 also has separate check boxes FOR ALL VERSIONS of SMB.

      Pretty simple to fix…
      Control Panel > Programs and Features > Turn windows features on or off > scroll down until you see SMB 1.0/CIFS File sharing > expand it > then put a check mark to SMB 1.0/CIFS client > click OK and then restart you computer.

      Please try to stick to facts.

    2. Avatar photo dennis says:

      Just tried file sharing on my voda router with windows 10 (2 different machines on a network) and it works fine, DLNA on my TV with it also works fine, also tried a 10+ year old D-Link USB print server dongle on it and apart from having to get windows 10 to like the driver that also worked just fine.

      All redundant and unplugged after though and back to my own router which ive also been using fine since beginning of the year.

  9. Avatar photo TheMatt says:

    Edgerouter X all the way.

    4 x gigabit ports.
    Supports PPPoE and hundreds of other protocols.
    Costs £50.

    I just hook my openreach modem and my Virgin modem straight into it and it works perfectly. Have I ever had to unplug and plug it back in ? Ever ? nope…

    1. Avatar photo Mouse says:

      Yet the Edgerouter has no wifi built-in so for many, that £50 would be a waste of money as they would still have to buy additional hardware for wifi. Yes I’m sure the Edgerouter would be great for network geeks but for your typical user, they just require a solid router able to do DHCP and offer wifi.

    2. Avatar photo TheMatt says:

      Mouse… dead right… but I love it when someone has 1 lil internet wifi box in one corner of their house connected to their phone line and then they say ah but my wifi doesn’t work .. in the basement . or in the 3rd floor bathroom. I have the BT whole home one. Yes most users don’t give two hoots about the box they have and literally every ISP sells the bestest,fastest wifi .. whatever that is. Give people an edgerouter and a wifi mesh system and you’ll most likely find your ISP spends less money on pathetic “support” who’s only line is to turn it off and on again. Also, i’d wager that the vast majority of people reading ispreview are technically minded people.

  10. Avatar photo RickyMcdd says:

    Also i noticed you didn’t include BT Assure option, This provides a back-up service with the hub automatically switching to 4G should a firm lose its fixed broadband connection.

    1. Avatar photo Meadmodj says:

      BT Assure (4G Dongle in USB port) is only guaranteed to work on BT Business Hub 5 or BT Business Smart Hub. I haven’t had the opportunity to see if the compatibility is present in the Smart Hub 2 so far. Smart Hub 2 includes BT proprietary mesh.

  11. Avatar photo Paul Crossley says:

    Nice chart but still only a partial story.
    For example if a 5 antenna system has 2 antenna for 2.4 GHz and 3 for 5 GHz the 2.4 Ghz will be limited to 2 spatial streams while 5 GHz may use 3 ( depending on client capabilities and multipath environment ).
    None of the providers supply antenna radiation charts or receiver sensitivity details either (so far as I can make out).
    Some providers such as sky also have meshing functionality between their own devices.
    Another vital piece of info is the supported channels. Many devices only support the first 4 channels in the 5GHz band as these don’t require Dynamic Frequency selection, consequently these 4 channels are often saturated.

  12. Avatar photo ComicBookAssassin says:

    Personally all the routers listed the ISP’s have back doors into, for me that is too much control, I had a draytek router and it had no end of drops I was getting 47 meg when service started then reduced to 40 meg. Big fight with BT about my home made router, I stuck to my guns 7 engineers and now touch wood has been 70/71meg for 3plus months. Biggest thing for me was Security and DNS filtering subnetworks and so on, I didn’t like that ISP’s have automatic access to your router no code that you have to input or tell them like remote connection on the computer, so I built my router i5,8gb of ram,120ssd, 4lans and one wan all gig ports when 10cards get cheaper I’ll upgrade it, maybe faster CPU as well. Main problem is ISP’s blame your kit when you have a problem hence why I have one if there routers for fault finding, that said I’ve got lots of security on It emerging threats bots, the houses internet of things is screened certain countries around the world have been blocked from coms my router is the size of a mini computer probably because it is one and I wanted the ability to upgrade it and have the horse power to run it but it lives in the loft so not in the way and most of the house has been wired cat7a yes I’m over kill lol, what they should be pushing is mesh instead of all powerful, all that does is push the signal two doors up and down sucking the bandwidth from your neighbors and potentially you, it should all be contained within the house WiFi would be a hell of a lot better for speed and reliability.

    1. Avatar photo CarlT says:

      Overkill probably, more money than knowledge definitely. My £50 wired ASIC-based router manages a gigabit line rate. My ‘all powerful’ access point reaches throughout the property at the full speed of our broadband which is quite a lot faster than your FTTC.

      Wired access to all 3 floors for about £400 all in, wireless upgradable on demand.

      I may be missing a trick by not having an i5 with 8GB of RAM to feed a 70Mb Internet connection of course, and indeed should perhaps have considered 10Gb Ethernet for my own broadband rather than, say, 10Gb switches to provide capacity for the local network rather than having access to the edge device 120 times faster than the actual WAN link because I can.

      My broadband is 7 times faster than yours. I use off the shelf components. I have no bottlenecks on my home network, and if I hit any I can simply Etherchannel the two cables I have between each floor or add another access point depending on where the bottleneck is. Etherchannel is free with my £20 switches, a legacy, old wireless router or an £80 access point would be fine for wireless capacity.

      When it comes to it my humble Cat 6 cabling will handle 10Gb just fine over the tiny distances within the home. It would actually be fine for 40.

      I have a switched infrastructure behind the WAN edge, segmenting the network and ensuring that only external traffic gets inspected. The local network is devoted to pushing frames around as quickly as possible as cheaply as possible. If you’re on that side of my network I am stuffed. The only exception being my working from home network which is isolated.

      Tad more scalable than a ‘minicomputer’ router with loads of NICs feeding Cat 7a cabling apparently plugging straight into devices.

      Think your cash would have been better spent on FoD and some network courses, either way you certainly aren’t an example of how to do it.

    2. Avatar photo A_Builder says:


      I would wholeheartedly agree with you.

      I am afraid my house only has Cat6e cables.

      And I only have 1Gb capable Netgear PoE router: so I am clearly missing out on something (grins).

      /* tongue in cheek

      So I am limited to a local max through put of 40Gb on the local router. 🙁

      None of my home devices have anything faster than 1Gb interfaces 🙁

      I am unable to experience the benefits of @ComicBook networks. 🙁

      tongue in cheek */

      Maybe the clue is in the handle?

      In all seriousness there was at time with early FTTC connections where being able to manually fiddle with some of the parameters did improve performance. Particularly coupled with a DLM reset over troublesome lines. Over shortish good copper, which you would have to have to achieve 70Mb/s then it would make zilch difference.

    3. Avatar photo joseph says:

      CAT 7A cable in a home install…. About as thick, pointless and as unnecessary as some of the (cough) knowledge of ISP gear demonstrated from about half way on in these comments.

  13. Avatar photo Richard Thompson says:

    Superhub 3 does not have an ethernet wan port, only wan option is docsis coax.

    I think you are meaning 1 port can be used for modem mode but this is something else entirely

    1. Avatar photo joseph says:

      Port 4 acts as a WAN or LAN port

  14. Avatar photo James Crossland says:

    How about a comparison piece with some of the aftermarket routers out there just to show how poor the ISP supplied routers are as well as detailing how locked down the ISP ones are.

  15. Avatar photo ComicBookAssassin says:

    @CarIT lol jokes not sure what you are harping on about my gripe was with ISP routers, and for your info I have three access points which is not what I was going into I was mealy talking about the ISP routers Not sure where I said that it was just plugged into 4nics my house is separated into 4 different networks one for camera’s guest network, internet of things and my main network, I have 2 24port switch’s with another 8port Switch for my backhall, toys pram? Unfortunately tech doesn’t stay still while yes over kill at some stage the tech will be at that level and I don’t want to be taking up floorboards and replastering! That’s why you do it once @A_Builder seems to be with you on that. As you maybe aware as you guys are on the forum about Fibre poss running to the pole? At which point I don’t think I would be limited to 70meg which would make my setup a lot more scaleable. Yeah but none of my devices run more than 1gb so all future devices will be limited to 1gb even though the base speed will be more? Think not tech moves on! @CarIT you say maybe your missing a trick by not having the processing power Maybe because your not running PFSENSE! All the stuff that it is doing needs a bit of processing power and memory, so please don’t think yourself superior to others as you post personal attacks, lastly why don’t I get FoD that would have been better yep 100% right but @550meters away I don’t think I would of ever paid for such an upgrade let alone have any money to do my home network work 😉 Hope now I have explained my reasons why I got what I’ve got and I humble before your superior knowledge, and will endeavour to do everything you say lol @A_Builder I’m not talking about modding the VDSL signal I know exactly what you mean I use to do it on the openreach modem and then the drayteck but then I got a lot more security conscious and built my own router to run PfSENSE, just have a little look at PFSENSE and all the things it can do,which is why I need processing power. Have a good day guys and no hard feelings, I don’t know everything that’s why I’m here as I guess you guys are too

    1. Avatar photo A_Builder says:


      In all fairness the network cabling in my house is a mixture of Cat6 and Cat7. We refurbished the house in phases and we used the best available at the time.

      And I agree with you the cost of the cable is utterly trivial an it would be pointless to lift floors and hack out plaster twice to save pence.

      I’m interested that you found the Draytek to be unreliable. Our business has loads of their modems working 24/7 on monitored connections and we see few if any drops.

      TBH I don’t really understand why you need so much processing power for a gateway, most people I know use Intel Atom low power CPU’s for high throughput gateways. The main issue being the physical size and power consumption/heat dispersal from the comms cabinet.

      And yes 10Gb will be here a lot sooner than a lot of people on here think. CommunityFibre are offering it in some places for sensible money.

    2. Avatar photo ComicBookAssassin says:

      @A_Builder at one stage Drayteck had two hacks one of the hack the ip address was changed to route somewhere else see link https://securityaffairs.co/wordpress/72682/hacking/draytek-routers-zero-day.html thank goodness it didn’t affect me, but after that looking at tech stuff on the web i came across PFSENSE, which has the capability to Be its own DNS resolver filter and block countries IP address and filters for emerging threats around the world ie bad ip address and the annoying samsung tv DNS that it puts out every 5 seconds why it need to communicate to samsung that many times i’ll never know and also why it needs 20 plus different DNS address to achieve it, which takes a bit of processing power, At times where i logged into my Draytek seeing the memory taxed 80 to 90 percent without doing jack was annoyance and the cpu at 70 to 80 didn’t fill me with much confidence as i was getting over the normal few drops a day, but as said before it could have been the issue with the line but the openreach modem was rocksoild, and the real bug bear was that every update draytek did the line speed would suffer regardless of me the different firmware versions ie V1,V2,V3 and V4. My server and gaming comp are both 10Gb nics from the motherboard, and i say server loosely as its just a thread ripper 16core running unraid but there is no point in me upgrading the switches yet until i can really take advantage of it around the whole network. My refurb was only 3years ago, 7a was an approved standard so just thought what the Hell although my refurb is still ongoing in some parts of the house lol, Yeah the size isn’t a problem for as its all up in the loft so its a big empty space, that case is a mini computer case so i could house enough fans in it and allow the air to move freely. Yeah can’t wait for Fibre but hope more than one provider has access to it so you can switch, otherwise it’s going to be just like virgin

  16. Avatar photo arundel says:

    Worth noting that it’s not as trivial to swap routers with sky broadband compared to some of the others. Due to the way they’re set up it’s necessary to have a router that can send the required DCHP options (usually involving manual configuration) or you’re out of luck.

    1. Avatar photo joseph says:

      Most devices in the last year or so support MER which sky use, this very site had some mentions of recommend devices not just for sky but in general back in the summer. All of them supported Sky

      Setting any of them up on Sky is no more difficult than it is for any ISP.

  17. Avatar photo Ioannis Bazianas says:

    I would like to know why ISP router reviews treat the routers like wireless Access Point devices for the majority of their review. While the router does today act like an WAP as well, this is not the primary function. it is an important one, as we all have mobile phones and tablets that we want connected in our house, but we are ignoring the part that is in the name; router. Why are we not discussing actual routing metrics? For example some routers behave badle in a multi device home, some have bad NAT forwarding rules or behaviours, in others the internal switching bandwidth is so slow that an external good switch is almost required, and so on. I am interested to hear why we do not explore this side of the routers when we do reviews; not just in this website, in all websited and publications I have seen.

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Easy, time and money. You’d have to setup a lot of complex tests, run repeatedly, in order to properly identify the traits but that takes a lot of time.

      Effectively you’d need to devote several days or a week to fully testing every aspect of the router, which is not economically productive for most sites. You’re essentially choosing between maintaining the site for a week and not doing anything but one article.

      Consequently you instead have to focus on the aspects that matter the most to ordinary consumers and which are easily testable, such as WiFi speed, diversity of settings options and so forth.

      Side note: The above article isn’t a review, it’s just a basic spec comparison because most people don’t know the specs of the bundled routers and ISPs rarely repeat them.

  18. Avatar photo Ioannis Bazianas says:

    Mark, thank you for your reply. I understand your argument and I accept it. I just wish that someone would do this at least once. And I do wish that ISPReview would be the first.

Comments are closed

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