Huawei B535 Router Review
Mobile broadband is better (and faster) than ever. But choosing the right plan and the right router can be tough. But we’re here to help. We’re taking a look at Three’s Huawei B535 router (also known as the HomeFi Plus), as well as plans to go with the hardware, and giving you the real low-down on what you can expect for your cash, and whether or not it’s worth it.
Table of Contents
Do I Need 4G Home Broadband?
We’ll get into detail about that router and those plans in a moment, but first, let’s talk a little about 4G home broadband. Getting the internet into your home is pretty easy these days, with tons of options from cable to fibre optic to mobile broadband. Mobile broadband uses mobile data, just like your phone does. You get yourself a mobile broadband router and the router hooks up with your chosen operator’s mobile data signal and then broadcasts that as a WiFi signal around your home to get your devices online.
Obviously, there are both pros and cons to getting the internet this way. The biggest advantage of mobile broadband is that you won’t need any cables or connections, there’s no installation process, all you need to do is plugin that router. On the down-side, mobile broadband could be slower than other options (though that depends on what your options are), and prices may be higher (again, depending on what your other options are). And… many mobile broadband plans have monthly data limits (just like your mobile phone plan), something that doesn’t generally feature in cable or fibre optic internet plans.
That’s not to say that mobile broadband isn’t a good choice. If you’re a renter and can’t install other cables in your home then mobile broadband is a great idea. Or if you frequently move, mobile broadband is awesome because it travels with you, you just need to take your router to your new home, no messing around. Finally, there are some areas in the UK that don’t have access to fibre optic or cable internet, in which case mobile broadband could be your only choice since 3G and 4G mobile data signals cover around 99% of the UK’s population…
The Huawei B535 Router
Buying a router can be a complicated business. Most of us don’t buy them often, and those tech specs and IT jargon can be overwhelming. So we’re going to try and keep things as simple as possible. Yes, we could list tons of specs, but instead, let’s focus on performance and what you really need to know about this router:
- It’s Simple: The B535 is as simple as it gets. It looks sort of like a tablet but without a screen. There’s a stand and around at the rear, you’ll find all your ports and sockets. It’s light, easy to move around, and blends seamlessly into the background (a good thing, we think).
- Set-Up is a Cinch: No, really, it is. You plug the electric cable into the back, plug the end of that cable into a socket, slide in the SIM card that Three provide you with, and you’re off to the races. That easy. No engineer visits, no drilling holes, no fuss.
- Speeds: The B535 gets pretty good speeds. It supports what are called “category 7 LTE speeds” which means in theory you can get download speeds of up to 300 Mbit/s and upload speeds of up to 100 Mbit/s. In reality, the speeds you’ll get will depend on the cell phone reception in your area, how much traffic is online, and a host of other factors that you really can’t control. Three say that realistic speeds for the B535 are somewhere between 15 and 30 Mbit/s. That’s around half the speed of a super-fast fibre optic connection but is in line with most traditional broadband connections. In short, you can stream Netflix and be just fine with these speeds. And if you happen to live somewhere with great reception then you can expect to see far faster than average speeds.
- Connectivity: Finally, connectivity is important. First up, you can get up to 64 devices online at a time using the B535. That should be more than enough for most households. If you prefer a wired connection rather than wireless, the B535 comes with 4 ethernet ports so you can plug directly into the router (possibly getting faster speeds). And there are also two ports so that you can plug in external antennae. An external antenna should improve reception in areas with poor coverage and should also broaden that WiFi signal a bit too, giving you better WiFi coverage in large houses.
Sounds pretty good, right? A router that is up and running in less than a minute is awesome. And all those ports for antennae and ethernet make this one of the best 4G routers around. You won’t be making compromises here. But what about getting service to your router?
4G Mobile Broadband Plans with Three
Three is currently offering three separate contract options that include the Huawei B535. All three of these options contain unlimited mobile data, so you won’t get any limits there. The only real difference (other than cost) is contract length. Your choices are:
- A 24-month contract with a £0 upfront payment for £22 a month
- A 12-month contract with a £29 upfront payment for £27 a month
- A 1-month contract with a £79 upfront payment for £31 a month
Since all plans are identical other than contract length your choice is going to come down to how long you’re willing to commit for. That one month contract could be a good way to test the service out to see if it works for you, or is a good temporary solution. But since you can easily move the router and plan around with you, committing to a longer, two year, plan is probably a better bet. However, do remember that breaking a mobile contract can involve hefty fines and fees, so don’t sign up for longer than you really need!
How Does the Huawei B535 Compare to the Alternatives?
So far, we’ll admit that we’re pretty impressed with the B535. But is it going to be your best bet? Let’s take a look at some of the competition here, both from Three and from other operators that also offer 4G mobile broadband.
Alternatives with Three
Okay, the only really comparable alternative with Three is going to be the AI Cube router, also made by Huawei. The AI Cube has an advantage in that it’s also an Amazon Alexa speaker as well as a router, meaning it does double duty. However, the Cube has some distinct disadvantages too. It gets slightly slower speeds than the B535, it only has one ethernet port (rather than 4), and it has no external antennae ports at all. Given the choice, the B535 is the better router, unless you really need that smart speaker functionality. And prices are higher with the AI Cube too. Again, there are three options:
- 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
Alternatives with EE
As for other operators, EE’s 4G Home Router will give you the same download speeds as the B535. However, you’ll be making a few sacrifices. You can only connect 32 devices to the EE router (as opposed to 64 on the B535), and there are only two ethernet ports, rather than four. You do still get two external antennae ports though. There are a ton of plan options with EE, but none of them includes unlimited data, meaning Three is still going to be your best bet if you’re a big data user:
- An 18-month contract with a 10 GB data limit for £129.99 upfront and £25 a month
- An 18-month contract with a 50 GB data limit for £35 a month for £0 upfront, or £100 upfront for a 1-month contract
- An 18-month contract with a 100 GB data limit for £35 a month for £0 upfront, or £100 upfront on a 1-month contract
- An 18-month contract with a 200 GB data limit for £40 a month for £0 upfront, or £100 upfront on a 1-month contract
- An 18-month contract with a 300 GB data limit for £45 a month for £0 upfront, or £100 upfront on a 1-month contract
- An 18-month contract with a 500 GB data limit for £50 a month for £0 upfront, or £100 upfront on a 1-month contract
Alternatives with Vodafone
The only other really similar offer comes from Vodafone and gets you the GigaCube router, also made by Huawei. You’ll get the same speeds from the GigaCube as you get from the B535, but you’ll still be making sacrifices. You can connect only 20 devices to the GigaCube (rather than 64 to the B535), and you’ll only get one ethernet port, rather than four. You do still get two external antennae ports though. However, the B535 is simple a better router. And when it comes to plans Three wins out again. Vodafone offers only long term contracts (there’s no shorter 1-month contract available), and prices are higher than with Three, though there are no upfront payments:
- An 18-month contract with a 100 GB data limit for £30 a month
- An 18-month contract with a 200 GB data limit for £40 a month
- An 18-month contract with an unlimited data limit for £50 a month
What About Going with 5G?
If you’re looking for faster mobile data speeds, then a 5G connection is going to be your answer. 5G is not available to everyone, it’s new tech and coverage isn’t great yet. And the Huawei B535 does NOT support 5G data, so you’ll have to opt for a different router. Just to give you an idea of what you’ll be paying for 5G in comparison to cheaper 4G plans though, we’ve briefly outlined your options below. Do make sure that you live somewhere with 5G connections before signing up though! You’ll find a link to a coverage checker below in the “Mobile Coverage with Three” section.
5G from Three
5G from Three is pretty simple. You’ll get Three’s 5G Hub which gives you realistic speeds of up to 100 Mbit/s (around three times faster than your B535 speeds). The Hub can connect up to 64 devices, you’ll get two ethernet ports, but there are no external antennae ports. And there’s only one plan to choose from:
- A 12-month contract with unlimited data for £0 upfront and £35 a month
5G from EE
5G from EE is a pricey affair. You’ll get EE’s 5G Hub, which gets impressive speeds of around 150 Mbit/s, which is fast. However, you’ll only be able to connect 20 devices, you only get one ethernet port, and you don’t get any external antennae ports. Having said that, one nice feature of EE’s router is that it has a screen and can be used as an Android tablet. However, you’re going to be paying a fair price for service:
- A 24-month contract with a 50 GB data limit for £100 upfront and £50 a month
- A 24-month contract with a 100 GB data limit for £100 upfront and £75 a month
5G from Vodafone
5G from Vodafone is also not too cheap. You’ll get the 5G GigaCube, with speeds of around 150 Mbit/s. You’ll be able to connect up to 64 devices, and you’ll get 2 ethernet ports and 2 external antennae ports as well. But prices with Vodafone are going to be more expensive than with Three:
- A 100 GB data limit for £30 a month and a £100 upfront payment for an 18-month contract, or a £325 upfront payment for a 1-month contract
- A 200 GB data limit for £40 a month and a £100 upfront payment for an 18-month contract, or a £325 upfront payment for a 1-month contract
- An unlimited data limit for £50 a month and a £50 upfront payment for an 18-month contract, or a £325 upfront payment for a 1-month contract
Coverage With Three
Obviously, 4G mobile broadband needs a decent 4G mobile data signal from an operator, just like your mobile phone needs a data signal to get online. Fortunately, with Three most people should get good reception since Three gets around 99.8% population coverage in the UK. If you’re opting for a 5G plan though with a different router, that coverage is going to be a lot spottier. Having said all that, it is a good idea to check coverage since there are black spots and you don’t want to sign up for a plan that you can’t use. You can easily do this by looking at the coverage map on Three’s website, or by using the OFCOM coverage app that combines data from all operators.