Huawei AI Cube Router Review: Get Unlimited 4G Broadband From Three
If you’re in the market for 4G home broadband then we’ve got some great news! Mobile operator Three have just launched a series of plans featuring the all-new Huawei AI Cube router, which doubles as an Alexa speaker and home assistant. Not sure if this could be the router for you? We’ve got all you need to know right here.
Table of Contents
- What is 4G Home Broadband?
- Introducing the Huawei AI Cube Router
- Key Specifications
- The Downsides of The Cube
- AI Cube Plans with Three
- How the AI Cube Compares to the Alternatives
- Alternatives within Three
- Alternatives with EE
- Alternatives with Vodafone
- What About 5G Options?
- 5G With Three
- 5G With EE
- 5G With Vodafone
- Coverage with Three Home Broadband
- The AI Cube Router from Three: Bottom Line Time
- Our Top Deal
What is 4G Home Broadband?
Before we get into the ins and outs of the router itself, let’s first have a quick look at 4G home broadband in general. Most UK homes have broadband internet these days, and there are a variety of ways to get broadband. You can have cable, fibre optic, TV cable, or mobile broadband.
Mobile broadband uses a router to hook up to a mobile operators data infrastructure and then broadcasts that signal around your home as a WiFi signal. There are, of course, both good and bad sides to getting your home internet this way.
On the plus side, you won’t need to get any extra cables or connections installed, you’ll simply plug your mobile broadband router into an electric socket and be good to go. This makes mobile broadband a great choice for renters, or for those that live in areas where other internet methods aren’t available. On the negative side, mobile broadband speeds can be a little slower than other methods (depending on how great your signal is), and prices can be a little higher (depending on your operator and what your other options are). Plus, most mobile broadband plans have a monthly data limit, something that other broadband methods generally don’t feature (though some do).
But if you rent your apartment or house, if you’ve just moved, if you don’t want the hassle of installing cables, or if you live in an area that isn’t well-service with internet providers, then mobile broadband is going to be a great option for you.
Introducing the Huawei AI Cube Router
Routers are technical devices and things that most of us don’t buy often and don’t know much about. For this reason, we’re going to skip the tech speak and tell you the stuff that you actually want to know, the things about this router that are going to affect you (as opposed to a bunch of specs and numbers).
First up, the Huawei AI Cube router looks pretty much like a smart speaker, it’s tall and cylindrical, and it’s white with a grey speaker area in the bottom half. So much for looks, what about performance? Alrighty, here’s what you need to know:
It Does Double Duty
The AI Cube acts as a wireless router, meaning you’ll get a WiFi signal in your home. But it also works as a smart speaker. In this respect, it’s the same as an Amazon Alexa smart speaker. You can speak to it, it will respond, and it will follow your instructions. You can talk to Alexa through the AI Cube just as you can through an Amazon Echo.
The AI Cube supports something called ‘category 6 LTE speeds.’ This means that theoretically, you can get speeds of 300 Mbit/s for downloads and 50 Mbit/s for uploads (for reference, that’s pretty fast even when compared to other broadband methods). In reality, speeds depend on your home, your location, and how many devices are around you. Most users are likely to see speeds of around 30 Mbit/s for downloads (i.e. around half of what you’d expect from a fast fibre-optic broadband connection, though 30 Mbit/s is pretty good, good enough for streaming from Netflix).
Speakers and Microphones
The AI Cube has a full speaker so you can use it to play music if you wish, and it’s a 360-degree speaker too. Plus, there are four directional microphones, so your Cube will hear you speaking wherever you are!
Finally, the AI Cube allows you to connect up to 64 different devices to its WiFi network, which is a lot, even for tech geeks like us. It only has one ethernet port, however, which means you can only plug in one device at a time (some people prefer to plug a computer directly into a router to get faster speeds). And the AI Cube does NOT have any ports for external antennae, so you can’t boost your WiFi signal directly from the router.
- Approx £210. Can be bought outright on Amazon if you don’t want to use a Three SIM.
- Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
- Gigabit Ethernet port
- Amazon Alexa
- CAT 6 LTE modem
- Micro-SIM slot
- Support 4G LTE Band B1/B3/B7/B8/B20/B32/B38
- Support 4G LTE Cat.6 2CC Technology
- CA Bands: CA_3C/CA_7C/CA_38C/CA_1A-8A/CA_1A-20A/CA_3A-7A/CA_3A-8A/CA_3A-20A/CA_7A-8A/CA_7A-20A/CA_20A-32A/
- Support 3G UMTS/WCDMA/HSPA+ B1/B8
- LTE download speed to 300mbps, upload speed to 50mbps
- WLAN: WiFi 802.111a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band(2.4GHz & 5GHz), 2 x 2 MIMO, 2 x 2 DBDC(Dual-band, dual-carrier)
- External Antenna connector: No
- 1 x RJ-45 for data, GE
- 1 x SIM Card slot (3FF), 1 x power interface
- 1 x Hi Key/ 1 x Reset Key/ 1 x Power key
- 2 x Voice + – / 1 x Mute Key / 1 x Pause Key
- Speaker: 15W Mono Speaker
- Voice Input: 4 x Microphones
- Main features: Huawei Hilink, Huawei Histen, Amazon Alexa, Far Field Voice Recognition
- Power: AC 100V – 240V, DC 12V, 2A
- Dimensions: 218mm (height) x 116mm (diameter)
- Weight: 900g
The Downsides of The Cube
Having a router that also acts as a speaker seems pretty cool, but there are a few downsides here. Firstly, there’s the issue of location. A smart speaker is usually best placed somewhere central, like in the middle of the living room where it can hear everything and music, for example, is better heard. However, that might not be the best placement for a router (which tend to be placed best closer to windows or outside walls). You might need to experiment to get good placement for the AI Cube.
The other downsides are mostly technical ones. The lack of antennae ports could be a deal-breaker for those in larger homes (they’ll need stronger WiFi signals to cover a larger area). And just one ethernet port might be a deal-breaker for some users too.
The AI Cube is definitely a compromise option, but the fact that you can have one device acting as a smart speaker and as a router could be convenient and cost-effective enough to overlook some of those downsides.
AI Cube Plans with Three
Right now, Three offers the AI Cube with three different 4G home broadband plans, and the good news is that they all offer unlimited data. Your three choices right now are:
- A 24-month contract with a £0 upfront payment for £25 a month
- A 12-month contract with a £49 upfront payment for £32 a month
- A 1-month contract with a £149 upfront payment for £32 a month
Since all three plans come with unlimited data, your choice really comes down to how much you’re willing to pay upfront and how long you can sign a contract for. If you’re likely to want to switch plans later or you want to try out 4G home broadband, then a 1-month contract could be your best option. On the other hand, signing up for that long 24-month contract will save you plenty of cash.
How the AI Cube Compares to the Alternatives
Is going with the AI Cube going to be your best bet? Well, there are some alternatives, both from Three and from a couple of other UK operators (not all operators offer 4G home broadband), so let’s take a look at those.
Alternatives within Three
The only real alternative with Three is going to be opting for the Huawei B535 HomeFi+ router. In terms of the router itself, the HomeFi+ does NOT act as a smart speaker, so there’s no Alexa here. However, it does offer slightly faster upload speeds (an advertised 100 Mbit/s as opposed to the AI Cube’s advertised 50 Mbit/s), and it has four ethernet ports rather than the single port on the AI Cube. Plus, prices are a little cheaper too. The available plans with Three and the HomeFi+ router all also include unlimited data and are:
- A 24-month contract with a £0 upfront payment for £20 a month
- A 12-month contract with a £29 upfront payment for £28 a month
- A 1-month contract with a £79 upfront payment for £32 a month
Alternatives with EE
EE’s 4G Home Router offers similar download speeds to the AI Cube. It has two ethernet ports rather than just one and two external antennae ports, but it only allows you to connect 32 devices to the WiFi network, rather than the 64 that the AI Cube allows. There are also no unlimited data plans with EE, though there are a ton of plan options:
- A 10 GB data limit on an 18-month contract for £129.99 upfront and £25 a month
- A 50 GB data limit for £35 a month for £0 upfront on an 18-month contract, or £100 upfront for a 1-month contract
- A 100 GB data limit for £35 a month for £0 upfront on an 18-month contract, or £100 upfront on a 1-month contract (no, that’s not a mistake, the 50 GB and 100 GB plans are the same price…)
- A 200 GB data limit for £40 a month for £0 upfront on an 18-month contract or £100 upfront on a 1-month contract
- A 300 GB data limit for £45 a month for £0 upfront on an 18-month contract or £100 upfront on a 1-month contract
A 500 GB data limit for £50 a month for £0 upfront on an 18-month contract or £100 upfront on a 1-month contract.
Alternatives with Vodafone
Going with Vodafone will get you the GigaCube router, also made by Huawei, and the closest competitor to the AI Cube. Again, the GigaCube is NOT a smart speaker as well. The GigaCube gets similar speeds to the AI Cube, and also only has one ethernet port. It will only support up to 20 devices connected at a time though, but it does have 2 external antennae ports, which could be useful in a larger home. There are three plan options with Vodafone all of which are 18-month contracts, there are no short term contracts available, but there are also no upfront payments:
- A 100 GB data limit for £30 a month
- A 200 GB data limit for £40 a month
- An unlimited data limit for £50 a month
What About 5G Options?
The AI Cube does NOT support faster 5G mobile data speeds. If you’re looking into getting faster speeds through 5G then you’ll need to go a different route. There are options available to you, though they’re not cheap. Do be sure to check that 5G is available in your local area before signing up, since 5G coverage is very limited right now.
5G With Three
5G with Three gets you the Three 5G Hub with realistic speeds of up to 100 Mbit/s. You can connect up to 64 devices, and there are two ethernet ports, though no external antennae ports. There is only one plan available:
- Unlimited data on a 12-month contract for £0 upfront and £35 a month
5G With EE
5G with EE gets you the EE 5G Hub with realistic speeds of up to 150 Mbit/s. You can connect up to 20 devices, there’s a single ethernet port, but there are no external antennae ports. The 5G Hub does have a screen, however, and can act as an Android tablet, music centre, or digital photo frame. There are only two 5G plans available from EE right now, and neither offers unlimited data:
- A 50 GB data limit on a 24-month contract for £100 upfront and £50 a month
- A 100 GB data limit on a 24-month contract for £100 upfront and £75 a month
5G With Vodafone
5G with Vodafone gets you the 5G GigaCube. This has realistic speeds of between 150 and 250 Mbit/s, allows up to 64 connected devices, has 2 ethernet ports, and 2 external antennae ports. There is also a range of plans available:
- A 100 GB data limit for £30 a month and a £100 upfront payment on an 18-month contract or a £325 upfront payment on a 1-month contract
- A 200 GB data limit for £40 a month and a £100 upfront payment on an 18-month contract or a £325 upfront payment on a 1-month contract
- An unlimited data limit for £50 a month and a £50 upfront payment on an 18-month contract or a £325 upfront payment on a 1-month contract
Coverage with Three Home Broadband
Because 4G mobile broadband uses a mobile operator’s data signal to get you online you will need to ensure that you live in an area with decent coverage from the operator in question. The good news is that Three covers 99.8% of the UK population with their 4G signal, meaning most people should be just fine.
However, it’s never a bad idea to double-check. You can easily check if you’ll get coverage with Three by looking at the coverage map found on Three’s website.
Our Top Deal
Get Three AI Cube
The Huawei AI Cube B900 is available on three price plans. The unlimited data plan costs £25/month with no upfront cost on a 24-month contract. Alternatively, shorter 12-month and 1-month plans are also available.
- Unlimited Data 24 month contract £0 upfront just £25/month
- Unlimited Data 12 month contract £49 upfront + £32/month
- Unlimited Data 1-month contract £149 upfront + £32/month