WiFi notspots at home? The BT Mini Home Hotspot 500 Kit Review

I don't have WiFi issues. I used to, but not anymore. We have Virgin Media's latest "Super Hub" with AC band WiFi and my PC also has AC, and the PC isn't far enough away from the router to cause any issue either. Even my PS3 and PS4 get a decent signal on 2GHz N-band.

Not everyone is that lucky though. There's always somewhere in the home that doesn't get good signal on WiFi, whether it be because you have too many brick walls between your machine and the router or the house is bigger than the router range or whatever. Sometimes it will just be because that is where you want to put your PC so obviously Karma has something against you.

This is where the Mini Home Hotspot 500 comes in.

This little kit is £59.99 on BT's website and might solve an issue my parents have had at their house for over a decade - an entire corner of the house that has no signal at all.

Whenever my sister comes home from University and sets her PC back up in her room, she has the same issue. My parents can't get Virgin Media (cable) or any type of fibre optic connection to their home, so they used to be stuck with a limited supply of ADSL providers. Back when I lived with them, the best stated 8Mbit download as the fastest that could be provided. That was until a little company called "BE" popped up with their new 24Mbit technology. We immediately jumped from whatever antiquated provider we had back then and got onboard with BE. This allowed a whopping 5Mbit of download speed, sometimes up to 5.5Mbit, from the promised 24Mbit. Bearing in mind that this was a four fold increase on what we had, we weren't complaining.

Skip forward a few years and BE has been acquired a couple of times over, and now belong to Sky. Their technology has been adopted industry wide and every ADSL provider now has 24Mbit. The issue my parents have with this is firstly having Sky as their provider and all the issues that entails (their misleading adverts are something I believe should be criminalised) and the garbage router Sky provides. Signal around the home is patchy at best and often the router will just reboot itself or stop accepting additional connection or reconnection requests from devices. In a home full of PCs, Macs, phones and tablets it's not the best.

The "Mini Home Hotspot 500 Kit" is something I've got in house for review, so I took it back to my parents to see if it works. I couldn't think of a better candidate testbed. The kit itself consists of two three-pin plugs, each with a couple of ports for ethernet, and am ethernet cable. There is also a brief set of instructions but they're not really needed.

I took the units down to my parents and set about the installation. In the past I've had to use expensive Airport Express units, so they were the first to come out.

Then in went the first of the two plugs - the Broadband Extender. There aren't any buttons on this unit, it's just a plug with an ethernet port. I stuck it into an IKEA power strip and stuck the ethernet into it, the other end going into the Sky router. This was placed in the front right corner of the house, downstairs.

This first plug is supposed to get a connection through the ethernet and rebroadcast it through the home's power sockets. It creates a high speed ethernet network through the home's power lines, so to speak. It saves having to install extra ethernet cables all over the house when you already have cables in the walls to begin with. This is where I thought the kit would come undone - my parent's house is big by UK standards, and has had a few extensions and extra bits added to the power supply. Just to give the units an extra challenge I also plugged it into the IKEA power strip, thinking sharing all the cables might hinder the signal. I used to be a science teacher, and should know better.

Makes me wish I'd dusted the socket first...

The second unit went upstairs in the back left corner of the house - basically as far away as possible. After about 30 seconds the green lights had all come on. I pulled the little card from the back of the plug and got myself connected to the new network using the passkey provided. And that was it. I was on, at speed, the WiFi about sixty feet from the router, through two breezeblock walls. Excellent. My sister will be pleased.

As I said before, my parents are on Sky broadband "Unlimited". This means they are privilege to a whopping 4Mbit download - a regression on what they got 10 years ago, and a 50ms ping to the nearest speedtest.net test server. I set about hammering both the Sky router and the BT Hotspot with the Speedtest.net app to see if there was any discernable difference in speed or ping. After going back a few times and retesting, there isn't any real difference, save for maybe a small bias towards the BT units in terms of ping and consistency. More often than not the Sky router will be just as fast overall, but the speedtest.net app showed peaks and troughs in throughput that wasn't there on the BT units. I've also heard no complaints from family members about the internet since it was installed, and that's the real win.

Overall, if you have any WiFi notspots at home, you can't really go wrong with this little bit of kit. It still goes through your main router as well, so there's no need to change any settings or anything like that to worry about. It's just plug in and go.