I think we can all agree that Wi-Fi routers aren’t sexy devices. Nobody really get excited over a router, unless maybe if you work in IT.
And yet, Wi-Fi routers are various kinds of the rage right now. You assure, we all want fast and reliable Wi-Fi in every corner of our home. But networking gear is largely “meh, ” with ugly and cumbersome hardware and sub-par software, often using dated web-based interfaces that might as well require a computer science degree to figure out.
Google’s OnHub router, which debuted last year, was a good step towards improving Wi-Fi at home, but at $200 it was still too pricey and didn’t really fix bad Wi-Fi in large, multi-room homes.
Google’s new approach to improve home Wi-Fi, simply called Google Wifi ($ 129 for a single division, $299 for three ), takes a different tack. Rather than cramming a dozen antennas into one router, Wifi mimics routers from the likes of Eero and Luma, using multiple small routers to create a “mesh network” and essentially kill dead zones.
Coverage and speed
Though it’s possible to get a beefy wireless router with a dozen antennas sticking out of it like some kind of alien spaceship for better wireless scope, the vast majority of people aren’t going to buy a router that looks like a plastic tarantula taking a nap.
Most people usually stick with the modem and router their cable/ internet provider includes with their internet service. And because these routers are usually average, they largely have poor Wi-Fi range, which means the farther away you go from its physical place, the weaker your signal gets.
Most newer Wi-Fi routers support 2.4 GHz and 5GHz wireless frequencies. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. A 2.4 GHz network has greater coverage over farther distances, but lower velocities, and a 5GHz network has poorer long distance coverage, but faster speeds.
Google Wifi, just like Eero and Luma, offers the best of both worlds: coverage and speed.
A single Google Wifi division runs exactly like the OnHub. You connect it into your modem via Ethernet, plug it into power, use the Google Wifi app( previously called OnHub) for iOS or Android to configure it, and in less than the time it was necessary to attain yourself a hearty sandwich, you’ve got a functional Wi-Fi network. It’s really telling how easy Google made the setup process when the box doesn’t even come with instructions.
If you’ve got a small apartment( 500 -1, 500 square feet ), a single Google Wifi unit is enough, and at $129 it’s more affordable than the OnHub. Not to mention the physical Google Wifi is less than half the size of it progenitor.
Creating a home ‘mesh network’
But you’re likely reading this review because you do have Wi-Fi dead zones in your home and want to know if the $299 three-pack of Google Wifi routers will fix things.
And the answer is: yes, Google Wifi will fix them.
All you have to do to attain your poor Wi-Fi go away is place a second or third Google Wifi division in the room you want to extend Wi-Fi to and wirelessly connect it the main unit.
So for example, if my main Google Wifi unit is connected to a modem in the living room, but I want to get a stronger Wi-Fi signal in, say, the basement or garage, I merely need to place Google Wifi divisions in those two rooms and have them wirelessly connect to the one in the living room.
The two Google Wifi divisions in the basement and garage are essentially acting as nodes for your wireless network. I tried the above setup at my at my sister’s home where the Wi-Fi download and upload velocities are usually half that in the living room.
I operated the Ookla Speedtest app on my iPhone to compare the velocities before( network with OnHub) and after( network with Google Wifi) in the basement and garage and was happy to see the new velocities matched those in her living room.
If you’ve ever tried connecting to Wi-Fi networks in rooms that are either too far or obstructed by physical barriers that the Wi-Fi can’t pass across easily, you’ll know that your connection can be very spotty. Trying to stream a YouTube or Netflix video is a test of patience as you watch it try to buffer with little success and downloading files is slow as balls.
At some point you’ll probably just give up and move closer to your router.
I noticed no such wireless issues while testing Google Wifi and its additional divisions in what were previously Wi-Fi dead zones. The Wi-Fi was as strong and fast as if I was standing next to the main router. Your mileage may vary, but I’m quite impressed at how Wi-Fi mesh networks are tackling the problem of lousy Wi-Fi performance and coverage.
Google says two Wifi divisions are good for homes between 1,500 and 3,000 square feet. Use three to cover a home with 3,000 to 4,500 square feet.
The OnHub app set the bar nice and high with its super-friendly interface. It also came with some handy velocity exam and the ability to prioritize bandwidth for a specific device.
The Google Wifi app is just as visually attractive and friendly. It still lets you manage all of the advanced router stuff( DNS, WAN, PPoE, etc .) manually if you’d like and comes with all the aforementioned features that were in the OnHub app.
One new feature is called “Family Wi-Fi” and it lets you “pause” a device from accessing Wi-Fi. Paused devices are still connected to the Wi-Fi network, but they won’t be allowed to refresh app content or access the internet. Google says this is useful for, tell, mothers who want to temporarily disable their kid’s Wi-Fi for dinner or homework time. I could see it being a good tool for mothers, for sure, but if your kid’s still got a cellular connection, the intermission feature doesn’t block that.
A more useful new feature is “Guest Wi-Fi”, which, as you can probably guess, makes a Wi-Fi network for guests. A guest network is separate from your main Wi-Fi network and also lets you grant guests access to devices you’ve got set up to your main network( i.e. Chromecast ). It’s definitely a nice convenience.
Better Wi-Fi at home
Google Wifi is not the first mesh network system out there. As I said earlier, Eero and Luma promise the same exact thing.
I’ve heard largely good things about those products and how they bathe your home with faster, more reliable Wi-Fi. But they’re merely too expensive.
A single Eero costs $199 and a single Luma costs $149. Google Wifi is less than both at $129. Luma is priced the same as Google Wifi for a 3-pack ($ 299 ), but a 3-pack of Eero costs a whopping $499.
Google Wifi is all the more compelling( even if you don’t live in a large home) now that Apple is reportedly no longer attaining its AirPort Wi-Fi routers.
If you want your Wi-Fi to “just work, ” I can’t recommend Google Wifi enough.
Stupid easy to set up Simple, beautifully designed app Handy Wi-Fi pausing feature Boosts coverage and Wi-Fi velocities Single device is cheaper than competition
Only comes in 1- or 3-pack
The Bottom Line
Google Wifi is a sleek and affordable way to improve bad W-Fi at home.