One of the perks of living in Chicago is I’ve had the opportunity to test out two different 5G networks – Verizon and Sprint. My 5G experiences on Big Red and Soon-to-be-Megenta‘s 5G networks experiences are on record here and on the Android Authority Podcast and the DGiT Daily. As part of my testing, I got to work with a new device, the HTC 5G Hub. This is a neat little device that can connect to up to 20 different devices in order to spread the 5G love. After putting it through its paces, it’s time to share some thoughts.
The HTC 5G Hub is different from other hotspots in two key ways. First, it’s a 5G hub, so if you live in Sprint’s 5G footprint, you’ve got access to some great speed. Second, the hub integrates a full Android operating system. You have full access to the app store, settings menus, games, and more. You can even play Clash Royale on this thing if you want. You won’t want to, but we’ll address that in a bit.
The HTC 5G Hub looks a little like a Google Home Hub. It has a landscape-oriented LCD screen. On the face, you have a microphone and HTC logo above and below the screen respectively. On top, there’s a single power/standby button. The top, bottom, and sides are all covered in a nice fabric, similar to the Google Home Mini. On the back are perforations that serve the dual purpose of venting heat and acting as as a speaker grille.
Regarding that speaker, it is fairly loud. The sound itself is hollow with no bass to speak of. It’s about on par with what you would get out of a Google Home Mini. There is no headphone jack, but the Hub supports Bluetooth, so you can connect your wireless headphones.
Also on the back, you’ll find a USB Type-C port, an ethernet port, and a barrel plug for the power cord that comes in the box. The Hub can charge through the USB port as well.
On the inside, we have a 7,660 mAh battery which we’ll discuss in more detail later. You’ll also find 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage along with a Snapdragon 855 processor and a Snapdragon X50 5G modem.
The HTC 5G Hub runs a full version of Android 9 with the May security update. Navigation buttons are located on the right side, including an added volume button. There is no app drawer, nor is there a dock where you can keep static apps or folders while scrolling between home screens. Apps are added to empty slots on the home screen. The far left panel is reserved for hotspot information such as data used and signal strength.
Having access to the Google Play store is a key advantage, because it allows you to install apps like Netflix or Amazon Instant Video directly on the device and stream from there. Of course, the apps might not run very well. Clash Royale, for example, forces itself into portrait mode, which means you have to hold the Hub sideways to play it. I get that. But Netflix also loads that way, and what’s up with that? Android really needs to figure out a better way to handle primarily landscape devices.
The 7,660 mAh battery is listed as an “all-day” battery, but that might be a bit of a stretch. While testing on Sprint’s 5G network, the battery drained to 20% after a full day of working downtown with three connected devices. During that time, I used approximately 5GB of data. In other words, I used it a lot, so it’s understandable that the battery drained fairly quickly. I made it home before it died, but “all-day” depends on your definition.
HTC does something really smart with the battery. It has a built in battery saver mode. This battery saver mode allows you to determine the maximum charge you want to put into the device. It might seem natural to want to juice it up as much as possible, but batteries don’t necessarily like to be completely full. Theoretically, only charging your Hub to 70% (there’s also an option for 50%) should prolong your battery’s life, which is nice. The software also gives you an estimated battery life based on that percentage. For example, it estimates 16 hours of usage at 70%.
Using the HTC 5G Hub on Sprint’s 5G Network
Of course none of this matters if the device doesn’t deliver, right? When I used the device on Sprint’s 5G network, it performed admirably. In fact, during testing I worked an entire day in Downtown Chicago during which I recorded, edited, and distributed an episode of the DGiT Daily podcast (Subscribe!), edited an episode of the SoundGuys podcast (Subscribe!), wrote an article, and kept up with the emails and social media activity that comprises my typical workday.
During testing, I did not notice a difference between my home internet connection and the 5G network. You might think that this is the part where I brag about uploading a podcast in half a second, but it’s not. Sprint uses Sub 6GHz 5G technology, so average speeds fall in the same range as my home internet – around 60-70 mbps. However, considering T-Mobile’s speeds on the same day averaged around 6 mbps, that’s fairly impressive. The fact that I left home and sat on a park bench recording and editing and didn’t notice a difference is pretty huge.
Pricing and availability
The HTC 5G Hub is available through Sprint for $600. Plus, if you purchase a 5G Hub, you need a 5G data plan, which costs $60/month for 100GB of data. This is not cheap, but then again, neither is 5G connectivity. This is really only right for you if you need constant connectivity at the highest speeds and you live in one of Sprint’s 5G networks. As of right now, that’s a fairly niche case. Plus, if you need constant high-speed connectivity, 100GB probably won’t do the job, so there are concerns in that area.
Overall, this is a nice, compact, highly functional device that does a lot more than a typical hotspot, 5G notwithstanding. It’s pretty expensive though, and I’m not sure the extra functionality is worth the extra cost. You might be better served going with a lower cost 4G hotspot until the price of this device comes down, 5G is more ubiquitous, or both.
HTC has a vision for this device – to be the utility device for every occasion. It can be a 5G home hub that connects to all of your family’s devices. You can take it with you on the go if you need it. It can simply be a connectivity device, or it can stream YouTube and play games. I’m just not sure that extra utility is worth the extra cost.