HTC 5G Hub review: Small package, big ideas
- Easy to customize software experience
- Really useful as a 4G hotspot
- 5G is a bit hit-and-miss
- Pricing for data is fairly expensive
The HTC 5G Hub is an awesome little gadget right now and it’s only going to get better with time as more of the 5G network comes online and competition pushes the pricing to a better space.
Price$ 70.00 (AUD)
The HTC 5G Hub feels like a natural conclusion to an emerging problem.
Unless you’re the lucky winner of the property lottery, Australian internet kinda sucks. I’ve been told that “NBN is coming” more times than the Starks warned Westeros about the white walkers. Yet, I’m still stuck on ADSL. And with the advent of 5G mobile networks, I have to wonder if going entirely mobile when it comes to my internet connection will yield the best results.
After all, in theory, 5G can probably offer me much faster speeds than my (eventual) HFC NBN connection ever could.
The HTC 5G Hub is the first opportunity I’ve had to put that suspicion to the test - and while the results weren't quite enough to win me over to the case, they’re definitely something to sit up and take notice of.
In its current incarnation, the HTC 5G Hub feels like a great gateway drug for 5G and a solid gadget in its own right. However, it's very much limited by the reality of Australia's 5G infrastructure. Still, to HTC's credit, that caveat might not be as drastic of a deal-breaker as it sounds.
It feels the best is yet to come for the HTC 5G Hub but that doesn't mean that what we’ve got right now isn't pretty great.
The HTC 5G Hub is 5G/4GX portable hotspot that comes ready to deliver wireless connectivity to up to twenty devices at once and boasts a 7660mAh battery that Telstra claim delivers all-day battery life. It runs on a Snapdragon 855 processor and Android 9. It charges via USB Type-C and it weighs about 318 grams. There's also an ethernet port on the back.
The HTC 5G Hub is available online via a a variety of Telstra plans.
What did we like about the HTC 5G Hub?
In terms of doing the things I needed the HTC 5G Hub to do, it lived up to its reputation. If you just want to boot it up and connect, away you go. If you’re looking to do stuff that’s a little more advanced, the reality that it runs a fairly open and accessible version of Android 9.0 makes it easy to jump in and mess with.
And though the actual experience of using the touch screen can feel clumsy, the HTC 5G Hub feels like a product begging to be what you make of it. Of course, there are some things that are out of your control.
As you may or may not know, the coverage for Telstra’s 5G network is far from comprehensive. The telco currently offers 5G in ten major Australian cities but no matter which one you choose the rollout is very patchy. It’ll certainly get better over time but given the HTC 5G Hub is pitched as the Australia’s first 5G device, the inconsistency-in-service stands out as a massive caveat to what would otherwise be a slam-dunk piece of tech.
If you go to the right places (and at the right times), the HTC 5G Hub can maybe get you those 5G speeds that are many times what the NBN can offer. And whether or not it can sustain those speeds is another question entirely. Testing the Telstra 5G hub, we encountered a massive degree of variability when it came to things like simple speed tests.
When tested at Telstra HQ, we'd be able to hit four-digit Mbps download speeds. When tested out in the wild, we'd be lucky to get even close to half of that result. The best we could manage was around 330Mpbs, most of the time we'd get around a third of that.
Realistically, if you buy it right now, you’re going to have to accept that you're mostly going to be using this thing as a 4G hotspot. That's far from ideal, even if the HTC 5G Hub is a really good mobile hotspot. It provided much faster speeds than my home internet ever could and was more-or-less a match when it came to stability.
Even when used for gaming, the HTC 5GB Hub did a great job of delivering a solid and stable connection - sometimes in places where my own mobile reception is often less so. The occasional (albeit brief) lag spikes aside, I could totally get away with playing a fast-paced first person shooter like Overwatch using the HTC 5G Hub. We could even use it to stream 4K video content like Amazon's Good Omens, though the quality of the stream did dip in and out.
What didn’t we like about the HTC 5G Hub?
The biggest problem here is the 5G part of the equation.
Don’t get me wrong, if I’m standing in one of the handfuls of areas where Telstra’s 5G network covers at the time of writing - you can get some wicked fast speeds on this thing. However, the reality is that the places where you can currently actually achieve any semblance of 5G speeds that the HTC Hub is capable of delivering are literally few and far between.
Certainly, this will improve - or at least change - over time. But if you’re looking to buy this right now and expecting it to replace your existing broadband connection, I’d look again.
The other problem here is the pricing. Despite the on-the-go nature of the thing, it’s hard not to see the Telstra 5G Hub as a low key solution for your own home internet woes and with the speeds that both 4G and 5G can deliver, there’s something to that idea. However, the data limits that the HTC 5G Hub is subject to are a major barrier to enjoyment here.
As someone who downloads a fair amount of games (and updates those I’ve already downloaded) using services like Steam, it’s not difficult to imagine me breezing right past that data limit in no time - especially if the HTC 5G Hub was my primary internet connection. Again, this could - and probably will - change over time but right now, you're paying more than $1 per gigabyte across the board - which feels a little steep.
The Bottom Line
The HTC 5G Hub is the only product of its kind on the market right now and that exclusivity is both a blessing and a curse.
It’s an awesome piece of tech that allows you take an high-speed internet connection with you wherever you go and, even if there some definite limits to when and where you can get the benefits of the Hub’s 5G connectivity, the extensive battery life and overall utility aren’t overly hindered.
If you’re a consumer looking to use this to replace their primary connection, there are pros and cons to consider. If you’re a small business looking for something that you can rely, things feel a little more clear-cut.
Regardless, the HTC 5G Hub is only going to get better with time as more of the 5G network comes online and competition pushes the pricing to a better space. It’s not quite at the stage where I’d recommend it over a stable home broadband connection but it’s not that far off either.
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