Fight: Premier Inn vs. DoubleTree Hilton (Woking)

I recently stayed at both the Premier Inn and a DoubleTree Hilton in Woking. The Premier Inn is cheaper, and while there are fewer thrills, is a perfectly comfortable. The DoubleTree Hilton is more expensive but offers a few more interesting things. I have some thoughts on both.

Digital Keys and the Smart Hotel Room

Something I’ve wanted to try for a long time was the ability to use one’s phone or Apple Watch to unlock your room door. Effortless checkin from app to room without having to go through to front reception. Premier Inn doesn’t support this – thankfully, but there is the ability to check in at the front desk via one of the machines. Unfortunately with the Premier Inn automated check-in, it’s failed two out of four times – often with the machine failing to print the room number or the meal voucher. It’s a bit like a supermarket checkout – it’s just quicker to have somebody check you in.

With the DoubleTree, I booked online and used the Hilton Honors (sic) app to set-up the digital key that would let me check-in via the app and go straight to my room. That all worked just fine, but when I came to go to the hotel – I headed straight to the lift and it didn’t work. So I went to reception who had to issue a keycard anyway so that the lights and AC in the room would operate. Alas, this isn’t strictly necessary as you only need a credit-card size something that fits in the slot.

The digital key itself uses Blueooth. You need to hold your phone near the reader (either on the door, or by the lift buttons) and wait until the user interface changes in the app. And yes, you need the app opened at the time – simply pointing the phone at the reader doesn’t activate the app.

In all truthfulness, the digital key doesn’t save you any time at all. I found it fiddly and intrusive and there is no integration into the likes of iOS or WatchOS which would make a huge difference. And what’s worse is that you need a card to be inserted into the wall socket for the lights and AC to work – where is the Premier Inn’s The Hub-like smart room features such as being able to control lights and AC from the phone? But similarly, where is the digital lock for Premier Inn’s The Hub?

Modernising hotels with smart technology is hugely frustrating. I don’t believe any one brand has got it right yet. It’s one half of this, and another third of that. When I last stayed at a Premier Inn The Hub, even though it states it supports Apple TV, due to the technology they use, I could stream anything from my iDevices. So a complete waste of time. But at least they allow you to hook up via HDMI. DoubleTree doesn’t do that.

The Bed

Premier Inn always win this, expecially with decent pillows and an ultra thick blanket. But the DoubleTree Hilton comes close – though the pillows are too soft and the blanket isn’t as thick. I did notice that DoubleTree’s beds are lower to the ground too, which I actually prefer to the Premier Inn.


Both good, though the DoubleTree’s bath is lower to the ground which makes getting in and out easier. The shower head, while adjustable in both positioning and type of shower, feels a bit cheap versus the Premier Inn’s rainforest-style head (although not adjustable).

Looks like pressure is bad/clogged holes, but just twist the rubber ring for different variations

Toilets are both okay – though if you’ve had 20 curries washed down with 500 pints, the Premier Inn isn’t going to be good enough and there are single sheets of toilet paper. DoubleTree has more household-style toilets with proper toilet rolls.

Other facilities

Tea and Coffee

Tea-making facilities in both hotels are reasonable. Nothing special. Neither provides enough sugar, tea or coffee sachets for the serious tea or coffee drinker. With Premier Inn, however, you can just head down to reception and grab some more tea, coffee or sugar. No idea what to do with DoubleTree.


And speaking of the DoubleTree, if I had gone straight to my room via the digital key, I’d have missed out on the Wi-Fi password (no open Wi-Fi here unlike Premier Inn). I had to get a welcome sheet from reception upon checking in with the password as well as room service details. The speed at the DoubleTree, however, is one of the best of the chain hotels I’ve seen so far. I could stream TVs and movies and do stuff. Premier Inn, even with their £5/day Virgin Media Business Premium package was absolutely dire. Premier Inn wins the award for THE worst Wi-Fi I’ve ever encountered. I had to tether my phone (which has poor reception inside Premier Inn, Woking) to get anything done.

It’s a shame that Wi-Fi in hotels overall are bad. We need to get these places up to Wi-Fi 6 standards at a minimum, with better placement of access points and better cabling within the property. I speak as somebody who has had to call a Canadian tech support line at midnight in Vancouver at his hotel, because his American lady friend wasn’t able to get a good Wi-Fi signal. We spent 30 minutes troubleshooting with the ultimate soluton being to reboot both access points on the floor we were staying on. That did the trick.

Room Service

Premier Inn doesn’t operate a room service, but the DoubleTree does. The problem? Hilton are extremely bloody inconsistent with trying to balance technology with being sensible. As such, there is barely any printed material in the room. You have to scan a sodding QR code to get the menu. Or the phone directory. As a sysadmin and as somebody who works with technology for a living – it’s nice to see tech being used, but not at the expense of convenience. I found it VERY inconvenient!

Massive DoubleTree fail.. don’t make assumptions that everybody has a mobile phone or knows how to scan QR codes

Why can’t Hilton for all their development work in their Hilton Honors app put the menus in the app and allow people to order room service from within the app? Or put a laminated printed menu in the room? Let your customers pick the most convenient way of getting room service.


I don’t bother with hotel TVs. All my entertainment (audio and video and books) is on my iPad mini, iPhone or Mac. In any case, Premier Inn wins the TV fight because they allow you to connect your iPhone/iPad/Mac to the TV via HDMI and have other audio inputs too. DoubleTree does not.

Room overall

With the Premier Inn in Woking, I usually get put on the third or fourth floors and found it quite quiet. There are some outside noises, especially if people are talking outside and I’ve encountered building work. Very little noise coming from the neighbours or corridors. The windows cannot be opened.

With the DoubleTree, I got to pick my room in the app and chose the 5th floor. The windows in the DoubleTree can be opened, though it took some effort to close my one – after which the noise from the main road dissipated. AC worked well, with decent controls.

The big issue I had with the DoubleTree was the lack of lighting. Just lamps beside the bed, one on the table and the entrance way. Made the whole place feel very dark with the curtains closed. The Premier Inn, on the other hand has a nice, well covered lights covering the room making it much brighter.

Bonus (lifts)

Lifts in both hotels do exactly what they say – nothing to write home about, though I did notice that in both cases – even with keycard protection on the DoubleTree’s lifts – for somebody from outside to come into the hotel. Had somebody waiting in the lift area when I was going back up to my room at the DoubleTree. Hadn’t unlocked the lift button and as soon as I had and got into the lift, he came up with me.

Still, could be worse – this is from the Travelodge in Woking from quite a few months back. I was amused by this and recorded a silly video (which has now had over 3,000 views!).

Broadband Trek: The Wrath of Drake

Or: My Smart Home Turned Dumb Very, Very Quickly

Computer artist’s impression

Over the last week, my village suffered a power cut during the middle of the night. I know this because whenever it happens the lights come on when the power is restored. Usually not a problem, I just need to wait until everything boots back up and I can remotely turn off the lights from bed using my iPhone. This I did, and went back to sleep.

I woke up again when the lights came back on about 20 minutes after the first incident. But this time I couldn’t turn them off with Apple’s Home app. Going downstairs, the lights of the Virgin Media Hub 4 were on, but a static white. Logging into my Netgear Nighthawk router, it wasn’t t able to get an internet connection from the Virgin Hub. Checking Virgin’s web site on my phone (which initially wouldn’t tether to the Mac) there wasn’t any reported issues at the time (nor were there later on in the morning) apart from some work being carried out on the 8th August.

Thankfully I could turn off the lights without internet access (but if I were to use Siri, it requires internet access to turn off devices which is absolutely bloody ridiculous) and just went to bed. I called Virgin later on and after a period of 9 thousand centuries, I was put through to somebody who tried all the remote tests and couldn’t access the Hub at all. So, they booked an engineer. I said it’s likely only to be the hub – it probably didn’t like being interrupted like that (for example, given the time of the outage, it may have been performing a firmware update which must never be interrupted). I asked if they could just send out a replacement Hub and I’ll return the old one. Nope, it’s got to be an engineer and I can’t get one for two weeks.

At this point I also check my contract and was surprised that in 10 days time the minimum contract term expires and I can cancel otherwise face an extra £15/month. While Virgin have generally been very good, this was one situation where I feel they could have done much better and failed. And that’s cost them.

But it’s also cost me too, because I’m still without broadband here and I’m just thankful that I have EE’s top tier package for the iPhone that allows a very generous tethering allowance. But it got me thinking – what I really need is a backup line. Something that doesn’t require physically cables but I can easily switch my entire home network to it should I need to.

As my contract on an o2 phone is coming to an end soon, I’ve bought one of these doodads: a Netgear Nighthawk M6 5G Mobile Wi-Fi router along with an unlimited O2 data package. What this means is that not only can I take it wherever I go (as it can be battery powered), but also keep it at home and hook up the switch with all my devices to it as a backup router. It hasn’t arrived yet, but I’ll give my opinions as to how well it works and how cost effective it is when I do.

Meanwhile the search of a replacement broadband provider begun, and it is the biggest pain in the arse I have endured in many, many years. Firstly, many of the providers that had G.FAST products don’t have them in this area anymore. In English: packages with over 300Mbs or over are not available anymore. Whether this is because the local exchange is at capacity, or whether the ISP has dropped it, I don’t know. I looked at going back to Zen, but the best they can do is 80Mbs. A shame, because I could do with a static IP. Bearing in mind I’ve been used to gigabit speeds for downloading and 100Mbs speeds for uploading.

I also looked at Andrews & Arnold Ltd., a highly respected ISP within the tech community that could provide me with everything I wanted. Except – bloody hell – it’s expensive. The current quote is:

£100 + VAT for the installation
£60 + VAT for the modem (which is, presumably, the Huawei (thought they were banned) MT992)
£65 + VAT per month for a metered package (2Tb/month)
£20 + VAT for a hardware firewall (the Wi-Fi router I have would sit behind that)

Expensive. I spoke with a couple of sales folk and they said that their experience with the G.FAST speeds (e.g. 300Mbs and up) wasn’t as mature as their slower and more mature offerings. Plus the ordering system is broken too (and still is at the time of writing – when you ring them they ask you to email them).

So I’m not happy about any of that.

There was an alternative provider called Cerebus Networks Ltd. which could offer what I wanted, in a similar vein to A&A, but their prices are even more expensive when it came to the set-up fees. And this is without buying a router from them. It’s not stipulated how the connection is presented, either. Do I need to buy an MT992 modem from them? In any event, they’re out of the running.

The stupid thing is that I don’t need a new telephone line. The BT line I have here was last used with G.FAST many years ago and probably only needs a bit of TLC from an engineer to get it working and activated again. It has the necessary filters and has separate telephone and RJ11 jacks. Even so, nearly £200 for an engineer call out to activate a line is fecking silly money.

Looking at the regular consumer ISPs, I was also bitterly disappointed. Especially with Sky which is now offering a Wi-Fi 6 router but is advertising it incorrectly. It’s only available for VSDL2 and FTTP customers, it doesn’t feature G.FAST or ASDL support. But that’s not mentioned on their site, and I spent two days with Sky trying to figure out why it couldn’t be added to an 145Mbs Ultrafast order.

And this is what REALLY pisses me off – the complete lack of technical information on ISP sites. The situation comes close to the following conversation from my favourite of books (with apologies to Douglas Adams for changing “notice” to “specs”):

“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the specs, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

– The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

What I’ve effectively got to do now is to use the ISP’s router for main internet connectivity and DHCP (the ability to assign internal IPs to devices) and my existing Wi-Fi 6 Nighthawk router as a glorified access point. That’s fine. I chose EE in the end because I already have so much with them as it is, so there are some benefits to using them (more data allowances, discounts, etc.) but the downside is, like BT, they increase the price every March in line with inflation which – at the moment – is an absolute bastard. And I’m committing to 2 years.

I looked at Plus Net, but they don’t have the speeds. TalkTalk has a reputation plus their router doesn’t have good DHCP configuration options, apparently. BT is more expensive than EE despite being practically the same product, so EE it is. Vodafone, BTW, simply fell over and did this – hardly encouraging as a potential customer:

And that’s not without technical glitches during the EE ordering process: