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Three HomeFi Router Review: Awesome, but too expensive

As some of you may know, for pretty much all of October, I had no broadband at my house due to the ineptitude of my ISP, and when I was furiously tweeting at them, as a joke I added in Three PR people into the chat and asked if they’d like to send their 4G HomeFi Home router, and they did! In fact, they couriered it from London that very same day! Now that is Customer Service.

Disclaimer: Three provided me with the Huawei B310 router and 2 PAYG SIM cards with 12GB of Data preloaded on them. Three have not paid me for this review, but they deserve praise for helping me out in a time of need. No one outside of the MTT editorial staff is going over this post before publishing and no money have changed hands between either company.

Three HomeFi Review

I’ve always like the idea of having a Router with a SIM card in it ,as a backup or as the main and now I actually get to try one out. Taking the B310 out of the box I was pleasantly surprised at how simple it was, there isn’t a lot here. There is the router itself, a power plug (it is mains powered) an Ethernet cable and some paperwork, and that’s it. Three also sent me along 2 SIM cards, which was nice of them.

Hardware

Three HomeFi ReviewAs you can see from the attached photographs, the B310 is a nice and simple device. Taking a tour around the device, up front we have the Huawei Logo down the bottom, and 5 status lights up top for Power, WPS, WiFi status, Ethernet Status Mobile network strength. Up top is a power button and a WPS button. The left side has absolutely nothing, whereas the right side has a removable panel that hides the SIM card slot. Moving to the back there is a removable panel that shows you 2 antenna jacks, allowing you to plug-in some higher gain external antennas. At this point in time, I’m not sure if this is to increase the range of the WiFi or to increase the internal radio to access the 4G network. Below this is the reset button, the barrel jack style power input, RJ45 LAN/WAN port, and, strangely enough, an RJ11 telephone socket.

The B310 is 126mm wide, 181mm tall and 70mm deep (though, it does taper) and roughly 226g in weight. So size wise, even in the scope or AP’s/Routers etc, the B310 is quite small. As with another device recently, I feel that the B310 is too light, the power and Ethernet plugs with even the slightest bit of tension will cause this to wobble or fall, as has happened to me multiple times.

Despite the weight issue (which could easily be remedied by a few nuts hot-glued in the bottom of the case) the hardware side of the B310 and the HomeFi router itself is solid. Whilst I would have liked more than one Ethernet port, there isn’t really much need for one. Just get a cheap 5 port switch for something like £15 on Amazon, like this one and be on our way.

Software

Just as the Hardware was pretty solid, so is the software. The web interface for the HomeFi was one of the best I’ve used in a while, simple, snappy and full featured enough. and funnily enough, because it is a standard SIM card after all, you can send text messages from the web interface, for all those times where you’d like to use that I guess.

The Huawei HiLink app as well is one of the better designed mobile router management portals and it really was a joy to use. I could see who was on the network, what channel they’re on, how much data they’ve used since they’ve been connected, some of their traffic etc. Most importantly I could see the data usage, so when you’re on a limited data plan, you can keep tabs on it.

Are you confused about how this all works, having a mobile network instead of a copper line, fiber, cable etc? Well, you as the end user don’t notice anything. once you know the SSID (WiFi name) and password, it doesn’t feel any different to standard broadband, which is great. Speeds are dependent on your carrier, but I didn’t notice much speed fluctuation or congestion, it just worked seamlessly. If i hadn’t told my family that it used a SIM card and connected to the Three mobile network, I doubt they would have known.

Plans

Three HomeFi Review

This is where the HomeFi system falls apart for me, it is so damn expensive to run. Three gave me 2 SIM Cards to test the HomeFi with, each with 12gb of data. The first 12gb didn’t even last 24 hours. So I plopped in the second SIM card and was more careful. That lasted another 3 days, not great, but better. Then I went to top up.

Oh my. This hit me like a ton of bricks. £40 for 12gb of data for this setup. Forty pounds! 40 Great British pounds, for 12gb of data. This is utterly insane. The situation on the 12 month contract is better, but not by much. For £24 you get 40gb of data. What is worse, is that there is no higher data cap option. If you use more than 40gb in a month, this is not the system for you. Thing is, that could well include lots of people. Even my 78 year old grandmother would be up there nearing the 40gb.

Conclusion

So how do I feel about HomeFi? Well, as a concept and as a product, it’s great. It’s a solid setup and the app and router work better than I had expected. Where it gets harder to recommend though is when you start to look at the plans needed to use the HomeFi system.

I feel like Three have priced themselves out of this particular market with this release. Maybe if the prices dropped to more reasonable levels, and they added higher data caps or unlimited options, this might become more of a no-brainer. I really loved using this thing, and Three really came to my rescue, but these plan prices kill any chance of me recommending the HomeFi system to anyone, which is a shame, because it rocks as a product.

Three HomeFi Router

£60 on 1 month rolling Contract
8.1

Design

8.0/10

Performance

9.5/10

Value

6.0/10

Range

9.0/10

Pros

  • Great Range
  • No phone line means it can be placed anywhere
  • Small footprint
  • Great web interface and App

Cons

  • Price Plans are ridiculously expensive
  • Price plans have ridiculously low data caps
  • Only 1 Ethernet port

About Domenico Lamberti

Technology has been a big part of my life for years, whether it be ripping the family computer apart to see how it worked, playing with the new phones that Dad brought home from work. Senior Reviewer for MTT.

8 comments

  1. Until these come with unlimited data, they’re a waste of time and money. You can get the same thing from using your phone’s hotspot and tethering it to your devices. This is FREE to do on most 3 plans and comes with 30Gb of data.

  2. It depends on the network and the plan as well as whereabouts in the world you are. These are still a good option for some Rich.

  3. We phoned up to order the 40 gb plan at £24 month and was offered the 100 gb at £29 month with go binge included, also bough the soloway external omnidirectional aerial which boosted download speed from 23 mpbs to 48 mpbs . Only had it a month kids using Netflix about 4 hrs day and 4 of us onlin3 and only used about 40gb . Once or landline contrac5 comes to an end in 9 months time it’s bye bye landline. Can also take this on holidays with us.

  4. Gregory Charles

    I ordered one of these today £30 per month for 100gb, a vast improvement over a short space of time.

  5. Ordered the same today. Fed up,with crappy land line service. Fingers crossed

  6. AVOID HOMEFI LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!!!

    Described be three as “you can get access to high-speed Internet services” and “Get a Wi-Fi hotspot you can rely on.
    Fast and totally secure” and “LTE Cat 4: 150/50Mbps”.

    So I have had HomeFi for several months and I have complained about it several times via email and phone. The service delivers under 1Mbps most of the time and regularly dips to nothing/a few Kbps! This means that any video conferencing/Skype etc is unusable (and I need it to work from home). When watching videos it will often cut out, and/or resolution drops to 240p (not 720 or 1080p and looks crap!).

    Three support asked me to switch my router to 3G and it actually marginally improved service (far from acceptable though) and is doing exactly as above. I have now reported three to Ofcom because of these issues.

    Despite reporting this to Three and them admitting there is a problem, they will not let me out of my contract without charging me £400 and they continually say “this is something we are working on and it will be repaired within 7 days” in 7 days they repeat exactly the same message!

    Learn from my mistakes and AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!

    Where I live the network is rated as full service too (it’s not a signal issue).

  7. I’m just at end of contract with my 100gb data plan.. I used it all up before a month and the go binge stops working too if data runs out.. very high price for the add ons so I was wandering.. I used to get the 3 unlimited data for £25 and use the hotspot on a phone, all good until 3 restricted the hotspot data to 4gb a month, so beat option for me at the time was this 100gb for £30 a month.
    , Obviously now free from contract I could cancel the plan, my question if anyone can help is, if I take a regular payg 3 sim and select the £35 unlimited add on, will the router use the unlimited data between my connected devices .. or just access the 4gb tethering allowance? Anyone tried to use an unlimited phone sim in the router?
    Regards

  8. I’d like to say I’ve had a great experience overall with the b310 on 3, 100gb data with go.binge was lasting me the month with moderate use, excessive YouTube play is getting the blame for using all the data this month. No way I’m gonna use an add on tho with just 2 days till it resets.. an unlimited option is all they’re missing for me.
    I also have the Ethernet hooked up to my home network of audio and pc/server, providing all with connectivity and even port forwarding to host multiple web sites. On a speed test I hit 46.6 Mbps down while my neighbour on bt infinity only achieved 35.3 Mbps !! Truely couldn’t believe it was a mobile router.
    Regards

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