TalkTalk WiFi Hub Black (Huawei DG8041W) Review, Test and Tear-down
In early 2020 UK based ISP TalkTalk silently released their newest router for fibre customers of their 38Mbps package, reserving the Sagemcom based model for higher speed tier packages. This router is not that well known and there is not a lot of information on it others than its physical differences with the Sagemcom model.
I have put together this quick review, test and teardown post, to fill in the gaps on the internet an provide a better understanding of the device, it’s capabilities, and more importantly (well to me at least, what chipset it has). This router is a Huawei branded router, and is available to all TalkTalk customers for £110 on the TalkTalk online store, or for new customers who sign up to the 38Mbps FTTC service.
Huawei DG8041W specifications:
Triductor VSPM340 1GHz ARM SOC Chipset
3×3 2.4Ghz MU-MIMO A/B/G/N Wireless
4×4 5GHz MU-MIMO A/N/AC Wireless (Wave 2 spec)
AC2400, 2.4GHz Max Speed = 300mbps, 5GHz Max Speed =
7 x Wireless Antenna configuration
4x RJ-45 Gigabit 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet LAN ports
1 x RJ-45 Gigabit 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet WAN port
1x RJ-11 DSL Port
WPS (Wireless Protected Setup Button)
Detachable wireless settings card
Front Panel Single LED Status Indicator
Dimensions: 26cm width x 16.5cm height
Power Supply: 12V 1.5A
The new Huawei DG8041W appears on the face of it very similar to it Sagemcom model both in specs and in physical appearance. However upon receiving the router you can tell even TalkTalk are not sure on what it should be called, which makes you wonder. TalkTalk Router on the box, wifi hub on the start guide, and wifi hub black online, its clear TalkTalk might not be sure where this router sits, or they think its good enough to earn the title of “WiFi Hub”.
Upon opening the box, you get the standard set of stuff to get you going, 2x Microfilters, 1x RJ-11 DSL cable, 1x Ethernet cable and a power supply, quick start guide, and the router itself.
The router itself looks very much like the Sagemcom model, albeit the “black” is actually a bit of plastic encased under the meshed fascia holes. The router itself is actually more of a grey colour than a black. It feels lighter and cheaper though that the Sagemcom variant, so you can tell it a cost optimised router. The ports are slightly different with the WAN port on the Huawei model on the left side of the LAN ports block. The stand on the router also is more springy and sticks out further than the Sagemcom model. The stand can be detached if necessary by pulling the side of the stand near the casing of the router. If your remove the stand however there is no ability to wall mount this router, so you will need to find some other method of affixing it. There is also a pull out router details card, on the rear top of the router to allow easy joining to the WiFi by other members in your home or for guests.
The rear of the router has the usual set of ports you’d expect to find, from right to left is the: power switch, power input, reset button, Gigabit ethernet LAN ports 1-4, WAN port for connecting external modems, DSL broadband port to connect to phone line, and the WPS (wireless protected setup) button.
The router has opensource software installed, and included in the box is written offer from Huawei, allowing you obtain the opensource code files from them for the version of firmware this router has. This could allow you to build your own firmware for this router, or look at possibly putting on openwrt etc. However how that would work in practice may be difficult, which I will explain in the tear down stage.
Upon plugging the router in, the startup process is fairly quick with a blinking orange LED which remains until an active internet connection is found, where the LED then illuminates solid white. The router was fairly cool in operation and made no noise (as expected).
Before I detail my testing part of the review, I should note, testing was done in a medium sized detached house with a small garden, with 4 users actively using the internet for streaming, gaming and high bandwidth applications, etc. The connection is VDSL2 (FTTC) with a capped (DLM banded) speed of 22.39Mbps down, and 4.99MBps up, on one of those problematic ECI VDSL fibre cabinets.
I tested this router both via the WAN port with a separate Huawei HG612 modem in bridge mode, and also with the routers own VDSL built in modem. I first tested this with the WAN port connection to the HG612 modem and overall it seems to work ok at least at first, the throughput speed is good and multiple wifi devices work well and can use the net at the same time as you would expect. However after a couple days of testing, reports came in from family members that the internet was starting to run slowly and was sporadic on what devices on the WiFi worked on the internet etc, rebooting the router fixes this.
I then tested the router via its own built in VDSL modem to see if there is was any improvement. Bad move, the performance was awful straight off the bat, slow throughput, coming to a crawl on any devices, even if there is one device connected it was slow, this is simply not acceptable of any router let alone an ISP router. In terms of VDSL sync speeds the speed is bang on 22399 down and around 5 Mbps up, and is much better than the Sagemcom model straight out the box at least. The statistics also seem to have a rather optimistically high attainable rate of 35Mbps, which seems to be a possible flaw/misreading of the Triductor chipset as the HG633 also has this issue, as on most chipsets Broadcom and Latiq etc all come about around 28-30Mbps attainable for my line. Attainable figures can not always be relied on due to possible miscalculations on the router firmware, and the actual hardware within the modem section of the router circuitry.
The WiFi range seems to be a little bit better than the Sagemcom model, and is quite stable no dropouts or reduction in signal strength that was noticed, unlike previous TalkTalk Huawei models. The 5GHz band reach the top of the 1st floor, though struggled to be maintained constantly, 2.4GHz worked ok and the range was good, spanning most of the house, and in the garden as well. This router does not have the built in WiFi optimisation software so it is more equal in comparison to Sagemcom in regards to WiFi signal distribution, which should mean all devices have signal rather than a device loose signal when a another device connects nearby the existing device.
This router also does not have the same backdoors the Sagemcom router has, so cannot be easily monitored by TalkTalk, probably why it ended up as their 38mbps tier router. However saying that it is manufactured by Huawei, so there could be some backdoor by Huawei that we might not know about hidden in the firmware, only seeing the source code, would anyone know.
I had also read on the TalkTalk community forums that this router also has an issue where it will randomly reboot at any point, usually once a day but occasionally more than once. Originally I did not experience this issue with the router, however a couple days later of use the daily reboot issue started to occur for me. The router was immediately removed after this, and not used since as this router does not function properly as it should, and should not randomly reboot. Looking in the logs it also suffered from kernel panic issue others in the forums had complained about, again another firmware bug that needs attention.
This routers web interface is a far bit different to that of the Sagemcom model, and actually offers more features and statistics than the Sagemcom model. To access the web interface navigate to http://192.168.1.1 on your browser of choice, you will then be prompted to login, the username and password details can be found on the back of the router (behind the pull out card, printed on a label on the router). Once logged in you will see a basic overview of status of the router which will show if it is connected to the internet etc.
To get to the more techy bits click on “see internet options”, you will be initially be shown the device overall status home page, showing the status of the router and how it is currently operating, click any of the tabs on the side to explore more. I will not be going in details as showing what all the pages do or configuring the router in this post.
Now for the fun bit. Taking apart the Huawei DG8041W is fairly simple, the from mesh type fascia detaches from the bottom of the router held in by two screws. Removing the fascia ureveals the black plate that gives the mesh holes that black appearance, this detaches using the plastic clips on the outer surround of the router, which can be pried apart using a cutting knife or spudger type thing. There is screws hidden behind the rear label on the router that needs to be removed to remove this plate/panel. It will then come apart to reveal the inside circuitry of the router.
The circuit board is fairly standard, incorporates all the operations of this router, the front side of the board is faily vanilla. The rear is more interesting side, and includes all the ports, the bottom left is the DSL modem and signal switching transformer which looks to support VDSL only. The middle of the board behind the black metal shield is the Triductor VSPM340 1GHz ARM SOC chipset which supports G.Fast, VDSL2, and ADSL standards. This is similar chipset used in the Huawei HG633, though that model in the HG633 is the VSPM310. The Triductor chipset is a direct competitor to Broadcom like Intel/Lantiq, technically Triductor is a Chinese spin off, from an ex employee from Broadcom who wanted to make better more efficient chips. So far I’ve only even seen them in a handful of Huawei devices though I know Netgear have/are using them too.
Technically this router would support G.Fast at least in terms on of the chipset, however due to the signal transformer near the DSL jack only limited to VDSL signals this router wont work with G.Fast. This is a bit of missed point that TalkTalk could of got them made to support, then again given the lack of G.Fast coverage and the Sagemcom router being their flagship router they ship with G.Fast packages, it woudl make sense to use that router for G.Fast.
The other two metal shield section on either side are the wireless controllers, which are Atheros based chips one for 2.4GHz and one for 5GHz. Located across the top of the PCB is the 3×3 Antenna array for the 2.4GHz Band and 4×4 antenna array for the 5GHz Band.
The PCB does not have any of the header pins, or points on the PCB that I can see that would support a serial UART TTL link. This will make it much harder to unlock or amend features on the router, and or install OpenWRT, or potentially install any other custom firmware on this router. You may be able to decrypt the router config file, makes changes, then encrypt again, however I have not tried this.
While the router looks promising with its good feature set in the web interface, and good wireless hardware. However It very much lacks when its comes to its main task of being a router, and takes me back to the mediocre super router days when all three were rubbish, then again 2/3 of those were made by Huawei so what do you expect. Throughput speed is very slow, after a few days, on any type of connection, and I wouldn’t even bother on the built in VDSL modem. These will soon cause users annoyance, as its not stable or ready for real use yet (not sure how these issues didn’t get picked up in testing trails). Hopefully a future firmware release might fix these issues (I was using V1.05t for this review) but I guess time will tell.
Based on this I would personally give this router a miss and pick the Sagemcom variant of the TalkTalk WiFi Hub if you can obtain one, due to the Sagemcom variant being a more solid and much more reliable router. I wouldn’t even take this router as a replacement for an old super router. Alternatively you can purchase your own router which you can setup how you would like.