BT Whole Home Wi-Fi

£195.97 www.shop.bt.com En­joy house cov­er­age with this ‘mesh’ wire­less setup

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If you’re strug­gling to get Wi-Fi re­cep­tion in cer­tain ar­eas of your house, then BT’s new Whole Home Wi-Fi setup could be for you. As the name sug­gests, this is a set of de­vices that should en­sure your en­tire home is cov­ered when it comes to wire­less net­work­ing.

It achieves this by in­clud­ing not just one sin­gle router that will sit in a room and strug­gle to trans­mit Wi-Fi far and wide, but two ex­tra de­vices that you can dot around your house to guar­an­tee blan­ket cov­er­age. They all trans­mit the same Wi-Fi net­work, cre­at­ing a ‘mesh’ that al­lows you to seam­lessly switch from de­vice to de­vice eas­ily.

Mesh net­work­ing is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar – we’ve pre­vi­ously looked at sim­i­lar sys­tems from Net­gear. Google Wifi uses the same mesh tech­nique.

De­sign and setup

As we men­tioned ear­lier, BT refers to its Wi-Fi units as ‘discs’, and it’s easy to see why. Each one is small­ish, white, flat and cir­cu­lar, and look rather nice com­pared to many other routers. They each come with rounded metal stands, and all the units are iden­ti­cal as well, so there’s no ‘base’ unit that’s de­signed es­pe­cially for plug­ging into your mo­dem – any of the units will do.

The front of each unit dis­plays the BT logo, along with a sin­gle LED at the bot­tom that’s used as a sta­tus light. This changes colour depend­ing on the sta­tus of the router, and if it glows blue ev­ery­thing is al­right.

If the LED shows am­ber, then that’s the BT Whole Home Wi-Fi sys­tem telling you that the lo­ca­tion that par­tic­u­lar unit is po­si­tioned in isn’t ideal, and that you should move it. This is a handy guide to mak­ing sure each unit is po­si­tioned to give you the best pos­si­ble Wi-Fi cov­er­age through­out your home.

The LED will also turn pur­ple if the unit is up­dat­ing its firmware, and red if there’s no con­nec­tion or there’s an er­ror.

On the rear of each unit is a sin­gle Eth­er­net port, a WPS (Wi-Fi Pro­tected Setup) but­ton, a power but­ton, a fac­tory re­set but­ton and a port for a power sup­ply. The de­tails of the Wi-Fi net­work, such as the name, pass­word and ad­min pass­word are printed on the back. In a nice de­sign fea­ture, you can pull out the tab with these de­tails and keep them else­where, which saves you hav­ing to crawl around the back of the router every time some­one comes over and wants to con­nect to your Wi-Fi.

Be­hind that tab is a hole for wall mount­ing the router. With most routers we’d rarely sug­gest hang­ing them out for all to see, but the BT Whole Home Wi-Fi units are so nicely de­signed, they wouldn’t look to out of place.

An­noy­ingly, there’s no easy way to re­move the metal base of each disc, so if you do wall mount them,

they wouldn’t hang flat against the wall, which is a shame. While a nice de­sign isn’t al­ways the high­est pri­or­ity for router man­u­fac­tur­ers, the fact that BT has ob­vi­ously taken some time and con­sid­er­a­tion when de­sign­ing these units means you don’t feel the need to hide them away – which would po­ten­tially limit the strength and reach of their Wi-Fi net­works.

With three separate units, you’d fear that set­ting them up would be overly com­pli­cated, but thank­fully we found that not to be the case.

“When all the discs are in­stalled they will re­boot, and then turn into one large Wi-Fi net­work”

This is be­cause the process is han­dled by the BT Whole Home app, which can be down­loaded on iOS and An­droid de­vices. This takes you through the setup pro­ce­dure in an easy-to-fol­low way. All you have to do is choose a disc and plug it in to your mo­dem us­ing an Eth­er­net cable. With the disc plugged in, you load up the app and se­lected ‘Get started’. The step-by-step guide then shows you with illustrations how to con­nect up your router.

Once the first disc is up and run­ning, the app takes you through the process of set­ting up and po­si­tion­ing the other discs. Again, this is nice and straight­for­ward, with the app dis­play­ing colour­coded graph­ics show­ing whether the phone is in a poor lo­ca­tion, or a good lo­ca­tion. If it is des­ig­nated ‘good’, then you can plug in and in­stall the disc as close as pos­si­ble to that lo­ca­tion.

When all of the discs are in­stalled they will re­boot, and then turn into one large Wi-Fi net­work. You can then con­nect your de­vices to this new net­work, which each one con­nected to the disc clos­est to it.

You can see which de­vices are con­nected to which disc through the BT Whole Home app, which is very use­ful. You can also use the app’s Pause but­ton to tem­po­rar­ily dis­able the Wi-Fi net­work, for ex­am­ple if it’s bed time and you don’t want your chil­dren to be dis­tracted. Sadly, you can only pause the en­tire net­work, rather than pause the net­work for spe­cific de­vices, like you can with Google Wifi. This means no one can use the net­work while it’s paused.

Per­for­mance

Con­sid­er­ing how easy BT’s Whole Home Wi-Fi is to set up, we were ex­pect­ing sim­i­larly im­pres­sive re­sults when it came to the de­vice’s per­for­mance. We used the BT Whole Home Wi-Fi in a build­ing with three floors, with a sin­gle BT Whole Home Wi-Fi disc on each floor (with the one in the mid­dle con­nected to our wired net­work us­ing the built-in Eth­er­net port on the back of the disc).

Next to the mid­dle disc, we recorded wire­less speeds of 134Mb/s, which is around what we would get with a wired con­nec­tion.

Mov­ing one floor above (and in another room), we achieved an im­pres­sive 122Mb/s, where sin­gle routers would usu­ally strug­gle. Go­ing down to the bot­tom floor also saw an im­pres­sive speed, this time 133Mb/s. Each time, our test de­vice switched to the clos­est BT Whole Home Wi-Fi disc, and it is clear that the con­nec­tion be­tween the three discs was nice and strong.

In dif­fer­ent house lay­outs the per­for­mance may be even bet­ter (or worse), but it’s clear that if you have a large house or of­fice and need your Wi-Fi to reach every cor­ner of the build­ing, then the BT Whole Home Wi-Fi is a very good choice – but there are cheaper al­ter­na­tives, such as us­ing pow­er­line adap­tors.

Sum­mary

Even if BT isn’t your ISP, the BT Whole Home Wi-Fi kit is worth con­sid­er­ing if you have a large home that has far flung cor­ners that strug­gle to get Wi-Fi. It’s el­e­gantly de­signed, easy to set up and use, and can of­fer real-world per­for­mance in­creases.

How­ever, if you have a smaller home, or a tighter bud­get, we’d sug­gest not go­ing the ‘mesh’ route of­fered by BT Whole Home Wi-Fi, and in­stead look to­wards pow­er­line adap­tors for ex­tend­ing the in­ter­net through­out your house. BT’s easy-to-use mesh net­work can reach where other Wi-Fi set­ups can’t, but it’s not cheap.

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