• Full Review
  • Specifications

Full Review

The Huawei AI Cube is a home broadband device for the home that doubles as a smart speaker with Amazon Alexa built in. So it’s a jack of all trades, but is it a master of any or are you better off buying separate products for these two features?

This review aims to answer that question, as well as looking at the price, design, performance and features of the Huawei AI Cube. So read on to find out if this is the 4G router, speaker and smart home controller for you.

Design

The Huawei AI Cube’s name is somewhat misleading, as it doesn’t look like any cube we’ve ever seen. It’s more of a cylinder, with a speaker on the bottom half and a plain white plastic finish above, along with a ring of lights on the top, similar to Amazon’s Echo devices.

The design is fairly plain and generally reminiscent of other smart speakers. Indeed, it has far more visually in common with a smart speaker than a typical mobile broadband device. And while the design is plain, that helps ensure it will fit seamlessly into most home décor, which is important, because this is designed to replace home broadband.

Huawei AI Cube Rear Connections

The AI Cube has an ethernet port and power supply on the bottom, and volume keys and a button to mute the microphone on the top – of course, when not muted the device will mostly be controlled by voice, more on which below.

Setup

Setup of the Huawei AI Cube is similar to most other home broadband devices, in that it’s virtually just plug and play once you’ve plugged it into the wall and inserted a SIM card. Helpfully, all the details you need to connect to the WiFi network the AI Cube creates are printed on a sticker on bottom of the device.

That means there’s no need to get an engineer out so you don’t need to wait for it to be installed, you can get it up and running yourself within minutes of receiving it. You will of course be able and want to change the Wi-Fi password and the like once the AI Cube is broadcasting a network, but that’s simple too as all the details for the web panel are also on the sticker on the bottom of the device.

Where things become a bit more involved than a typical home broadband device is in its smart speaker functionality, as you’ll need to get the Alexa app for one of your mobile devices, create or log into an Amazon account and link the Huawei AI Cube, but none of this is too tricky, it’s just a few extra steps that are required in order to get full functionality.

Performance

The Huawei AI Cube supports LTE Cat 6, meaning that it’s theoretically capable of 4G download speeds of up to 300Mbps (37.5MB/s). That’s more than you’ll get in practice with current real world speeds topping out at around 80mbps (10MB/s), but it does mean you are future-proofed and will get speeds faster than Cat 4 devices such as the Huawei E5573bs-322 4G Mobile Wi-Fi and the Huawei HomeFi.

The Huawei AI Cube can also theoretically manage upload speeds of 50Mbps over 4G. Again, actual speeds are likely to be lower, but still higher than most of the competition. Having said that, the Huawei B535 WebBox does beat it here, with upload speeds of up to 100Mbps.

Still, the AI Cube is fast, and that’s good news, because some home broadband can be faster than 4G, so for a 4G alternative to compete it needs to be able to make full use of 4G speeds.

On a related note, the Huawei AI Cube can get up to 64 devices online at once, which should be far more than most people will need and is at least double what most mobile broadband devices allow.

And it’s not limited just to 4G, as using the ethernet port you can also use the Huawei AI Cube as a Wi-Fi router, with support for 802.11ac, capable of broadcasting on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands and with speeds theoretically up to 1,200Mbps over LAN.

Features

The main feature of the Huawei AI Cube beyond providing 4G home broadband, is its smart speaker credentials.

With Alexa built-in plus four far-field microphones, so it can hear you clearly, you can use your voice to turn smart lights on and off, adjust smart thermostats and control other smart home devices. You can also ask for weather and travel information, ask Alexa to play music and ask it to look up information.

Huawei AI Cube Speaker

That makes it the potential heart of any smart home and a very versatile device. And it’s a speaker that you’ll likely want to listen to music through, as it includes a 400ml sound cavity and an aluminium diaphragm.

This allows for high quality audio, including strong but not overwhelming bass. Huawei’s Histen tech is also used, adding virtual bass, adaptive gain control, a linear phase equalizer and more. This isn’t going to compete with a high-end speaker, but the sound is better than you might expect for a device of this size.

On an unrelated note one thing to be aware of is that this doesn’t have a battery, so this isn’t ideal as a portable MiFi device. As it’s plug and play you can use it anywhere with power, but this won’t work for getting you online in the car or on a train.

Software

The router can be controlled via a web panel which you can login to using the credentials on the sticker on the bottom of the device. It offers all the features you would expect, including the option to change WiFi settings and channels along with advanced features such as VPNs, NAT, Mac filtering and more. You can also monitor data usage and users connected to the network.

Similar functionality is available through the Huawei HiLink and SmartHome applications, although they lack some of the advanced features of the web panel. While, the Amazon Alexa elements are controlled through the Alexa app which is easy to use and improving all the time.

Alternatives

Fibre Broadband is a one of the main alternatives, delivering potentially higher speeds and lower latency, but this requires a landline and setup by an engineer, whereas with the Huawei AI Cube you can get set up instantly, don't need a landline and can take the device anywhere with a network signal and mains supply.

There are also a couple of alternative products on Three. The HomeFi B311 has slightly lower specs with only 2.4GHz WiFi and lower maximum speeds, but has the option to add an external SMA aerial which can boost range significantly.

The Huawei B535 WebBox on the other hand is arguably the best option if all you want from the device is 4G home broadband. It matches the AI Cube for download speeds, Wi-Fi bands and simultaneous connections, but has higher max upload speeds, four ethernet ports, and support for an external antenna. Of course, what it doesn’t have is a speaker or smart assistant.

 

Huawei B535

Huawei B535

Huawei AI Cube

Huawei AI Cube

Huawei HomeFi B311

HomeFi

Download Speeds Up to 300Mbps (LTE CAT 7) Up to 300Mbps (LTE CAT 6) Up to 150Mbps (LTE CAT 4)
Upload Speeds Up to 100Mbps Up to 50Mbps Up to 50Mbps
Maximum Connected devices 64 64 32
WiFi 

Dual Band 802.11ac

(2.4GHz and 5GHz)

Dual Band 802.11ac

(2.4GHz and 5GHz)

Single Band 802.11b/g/n 

(2.4 GHz)

Ethernet Ports 4 1 1
External Antenna  Yes (sold seperately) No Yes (sold seperately)
Power Mains Power Mains Power Mains Power
Other Features   Alexa Smart Speaker  
  Huawei B535 review - Huawei HomeFi review

Price

The Huawei AI Cube is available from Three on a choice of a 24-month, 12-month or 1-month plan. These plans all include unlimited data, with the cheapest monthly cost being £25 per month with no upfront cost on the 24-month plan.

That makes it slightly more expensive than most other mobile broadband devices from Three, such as the Huawei HomeFi and Huawei B535 WebBox, but then the Huawei AI Cube can do more due to the Alexa smart speaker (though again, isn’t quite as good at the broadband part as the B535 WebBox).

It’s worth noting also that the price still makes it far cheaper than many typical home broadband plans, especially as they often require a landline, which this doesn’t.

Conclusion

The Huawei AI Cube is a seriously impressive device, managing to both match most smart speakers and better most home broadband devices.

It’s faster than HomeFi while packed with all the same sort of tech as an Amazon Echo. So if you want both 4G home broadband and a smart speaker then going all in one with this is a great option – you’ll save money and space.

Even if you only really want one or the other it’s definitely worth considering, though the Huawei B535 WebBox is now a strong competitor. It’s slight better on the broadband side because it has more ethernet ports, supports the latest 4G LTE standards and you can connect external antennas for extending range.

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Specifications

Specifications

  • Dimensions (mm): 146.8 x 68.7
  • Weight (g): 900
  • Modem: 4G
  • Colours: White
  • 4G specs: Cat 6, up to 300Mbps
  • Wi-Fi specs: 802.11ac, up to 1,200Mbps
  • Power: Mains powered
  • Launch date: Out now
  • Price: £25 per month on contract

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