Virgin Media Superhub 60Mbps Review

28 Jun

I recieved an email from Virgin offering me the new SuperHub and 60Mbps (from my previous 20Mbps), for free, and so I thought to myself “that sounds tidy, let’s go”.

I booked in the VM man for a Saturday, over a month in the future as it was the only weekend appointment I could get, the Saturday came but the man did not arrive. after 18:00 on the Saturday, I called VM who told me I was booked in for the following Tuesday and that I must have got it wrong. Yes, I waited over a month to get a Tuesday appointment that I could have got the same week? So, not a great start, anyway, on Tuesday the man did turn up, plugged it in, it worked, and off he went.

I initially moved the SuperHub (SH) to the bedroom (from the loft) to give better wireless coverage around the house, but that evening while testing the reception, it kept dropping out and signal was very weak. After trying every setting I gave up and went to bed. When I woke, I found a towel placed over the SH, a towel placed there by the wife because the lights were too bright, this obviously explains the wireless issues! In her defence, the strobe lights on the SH are way over the top (I wonder how much unnecessary power they use too?), so I have now moved it to the lounge and modified it with some gaffa tape in an attempt to dim the lights on the front, which has worked and you can’t tell unless you really look at the box.

With my old VM setup, I was using it purely as a modem, with my own m0n0wall sitting behind it and then a couple of switches and access points sitting off that, one for me, one for guests, with the m0n0wall separating these networks and sorting all the security, NAT, Traffic Shaping, DHCP and IPSec VPN. I also had the home plugs on a DMZ with very limited access to my LAN, a bit OTT probably. Anyway, to save power I wanted to get rid of the kit that was on 24/7 and the SH offers a ‘Guest WiFi Network’. I predicted that this was going to be joined to the main wireless and not provide me with much security, but I was very wrong. The Guest wifi has internet access and nothing else, it has no access to anything hard wired into the SH or anything running on the other main wireless network, big win.

I can get 60Mbps on the SuperHub, but most of the time (peak time) I get around 30Mbps, which is fine for most of my usage.

Now for the bad bits. As mentioned, the lights can been seen from space, this is unnecessary. The box doesn’t support SNMP, which is more annoying than anything else. No IPSec VPN option, but then I probably wouldn’t expect this on a home device. But the main gripe is the firmware issue, that has plagued SH users since it was released. If you take a look in the VM forums you will see the number of people affected by these issues, that are still ongoing.

The main problem I have is that every couple of days, I cannot access the webGUI of the SH, DHCP stops working too and so obviously stuff starts to drop off my network, and inevitably the wife complains to me that the printer isn’t working. The connection still runs fine though, and at a decent speed, NAT also still works and I can still ping it. I’m currently on firmware V5.5.2R30 and hardware version 2.00.

As a fix, I’ve fitted a plug timer to the Virgin Media cable box, this reboots it early every morning and seems to have helped the issue. It’s a bit of a hack granted, but works for the moment. I’m hoping that the next VM firmware will fix it for good, here’s hoping.

So generally, it’s good, and if VM can fix the firmware issues it could be great. I’m pretty busy with one thing or another these days and so I like to have things that work, and keep working. Fingers crossed…

Update, October 2012:

I’m now running V36 and this seems to have cured all the bugs.