By Paul Mutter. Updated December 07, 2016.
Google Wifi, the company’s newest offering in the world of mesh routers, is now available. This new router is an upgrade on Google’s older OnHub router, which debuted last year and which will be compatible with the new hardware.
The Google Wifi device was shown to the public in October, and It is now available for regular sales this week.
Each router retails at $129, or $299 for a set of 3. (Reviewers so far have often mentioned the price as being very attractive given its performance compared to other, competing systems, though for people with smaller homes and apartments, it might not be as great a savings.)
It does not contain a modem, so that item is still necessary for users, and has just 2 Ethernet ports in its current configuration. Combination modem and router devices will connect with it, once their own Wi-Fi is turned off, but the device is only compatible with its Google stable mates, including OnHub.
This device, like more expensive mesh routers from companies such as Eero and Netgear, is meant to get around a lot of casual users’ complaints about their standard router options.
According to Google, one router has coverage for 1,500 square feet and there’s no need for unreliable and spotty extender coverage since each unit is an interlinked, fully capable device. As for speed, New York Magazine tested one and found it had a respectable 117.6 Mbps for downloads and 108.5 Mbps for uploads -- both out of 150 Mbps.
My old, boxy router has exactly that sort of coverage issue: It doesn’t extend far enough from one end of the house to the other and in its basic configuration, I actually cannot use it in some upstairs rooms. It also runs slow at odd hours and reaches a mere fraction of the Google Wifi’s speed without any peripherals to boost its signal in other rooms.
The setup uses an app, either iOS or Android, (you will need to run a QR scan) and is billed as being much more user friendly than most web interfaces, though it has more advanced settings for those who’d prefer a more hands-on configuration approach. To further appeal to users who don’t want to have to fiddle with their connection, the router’s Network Assist function will help manage signals without needing much user input, especially limiting the need for resets.
(As the former owner of a router in an apartment that I needed to jab a pencil into the reset slot at least once a week, that’s a much appreciated feature.)
The device also lets you set up guest networks for the privacy consciousness, and doesn’t, “track the websites you visit or collect the content of any traffic on your network.” As for being part of the larger “smart home” ecosystem, Google told Engadget that it doesn’t have any plans to integrate it with Google Home for now, just Amazon Alexa and Philips Hue light switches.
One feature that will prove less appreciated, though, is “Family Wifi,” which allows the account holders to freeze internet access on any connected devices. It’s billed for parents to use on kids, but I’m sure a lot of adults will use it on other adults.
None of the locked out parties will be pleased, regardless of age, though at least it’s a step above someone walking up to the screen and turning it off before you can react!