If you want to extend fast internet to every corner of your home, the Google Wifi is the best device to do it. You just need two things:
An internet-connected iOS or Android mobile device, like a phone or a tabletA Google account, which you can get for free
This is because, unlike most routers, there’s no web-based interface and the new Wi-Fi system can only be set up and controlled via the new Google Wifi mobile application. Once set up, the Google Wifi will stay connected to Google at all times and will log into your Google account each time you want to manage it.
Google says the Wifi doesn’t collect user activity data, like what sites you’re visiting. By default, it appears to collect only hardware-, app- and network-related information. However, you can turn this off in the Privacy section of the settings.
Still, a constant connection to Google is required. That’s a dealbreaker for some. Not all home mesh Wi-Fi systems (a system that uses several “satellite” devices to extend the Wi-Fi signal) require a connection to the vendor in order to work — the Eero does while the Netgear Orbi doesn’t. Most home routers don’t require this at all.
But that’s not something most people will care about, plus it will keep the device secure from hacking via regular automatic updates. So if you’re cool with this setup, Google Wifi has the best balance of ease-of-use, performance and price yet.
What I love about Google Wifi
The price: At just $129 for a single unit or $299 for a set of three, the Google Wifi is cheaper than other Wi-Fi systems like the Eero or Orbi. (Google hasn’t said whether the Wifi will go on sale in the UK or Australia, but those prices convert to around £100 or AU$170 and £235 or AU$400.)
It’s really easy to use: It took me about 15 minutes to set up all three units using an Android phone. The whole process was self-explanatory, and dare I say, fun.
And fast. In terms of data throughput it tested well for a dual-stream AC1200 router, with a top sustained Wi-Fi speed of more than 470 megabits per second.
The nature of Wi-Fi, however, means that each time you extend the signal wirelessly, signal loss will occur, which basically means slower speed. You can mitigate this by placing the satellite units around the first router unit. To avoid this completely you can connect the units together using network cables.
Coverage and reliability is great: As a single unit or as a system of three units, the Google Wifi passed my 48-hour stress test with flying colors. During the test I set it to transfer lots of data between multiple wireless clients (four laptops in this case). The Wifi did this without any disconnections. The system also had excellent signal hand off, allowing you to walk around your house, seamlessly connecting from one unit to another without getting disconnected from the internet. I tried this while making a call over Wi-Fi and the conversation wasn’t affected at all.
Google claims the system is constantly analyzing the air space to figure out the cleanest channel and the best Wi-Fi band (5GHz or 2.GHz) for a client to connect to. I used it in a home with many other routers and the Google Wifi network remained stable, which definitely adds credence to its claim.
OK, so how exactly does this work?
In many ways the Google Wifi is the evolution of the company’s previous home routers, the OnHubs. The difference with the Wifi is that instead of just a single unit, you can have up to three. Each hardware unit is called a Wifi point. If you get a single unit, you have just one point, which can cover about 1,200 square feet, which is suitable for a small home or average-sized apartment. More points (up to six) scattered around the house will increase the area of coverage accordingly. A set of three units can easily cover a 4,000 square-foot or even larger home.
All Google Wifi units are identical. When multiple units are used in a home, the first unit works as the main router that connects to an internet source, like a broadband modem. The additional units extend the Wi-Fi coverage to create a single Wi-Fi mesh network. Depending on the layout of your home, you can put the Wifi points one or two rooms away from one another to maximize the Wi-Fi coverage. The Google Wifi app can help determine the best location by measuring the connection between units.
The app displays your entire home network in an easy to understand layout. You can use it to visualize your entire home network, quickly prioritize the broadband connection to any particular device, and pause/unpause the internet to one or a group of devices. You can also use it to find out which Wifi point a particular client is connected to and customize a few network settings that the Google Wifi has to offer, including guest network, IP reservation and port forwarding. Everything can be done via a few taps on your phone’s screen. Going forward, Google says it will continue to update the Wifi with more capability, such as voice control (via your phone, Google Home and Amazon Alexa) and support for other appliances, like the Nest thermostat. Be sure to check back to find out how these features pan out.
So yes, Google Wifi has a lot to love. It delivers both in ease of use and Wi-Fi coverage. It has great performance, too. And there’s more: If you already own one of the Google OnHubs, starting today, it will be automatically updated to be part of the Wifi ecosystem, and use the same Google Wifi app. This means, apart from being a standalone router like it has always been, any OnHub can also work as a Wifi point, the same as a unit of Google Wifi.
Ideal use case
Before you decide to get the Google Wifi, make sure your current internet setup is ready for it. Ideally you’ll want it as the sole router in the house, directly connected to your broadband modem.