The age of the traditional wireless router has come to an end, slowly getting replaced by wireless mesh routers like the Google Wifi. Devices like the Netgear Orbi and Samsung Connect Home are extremely popular these days, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that Google has jumped on the bandwagon with the Google Wifi.
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Google’s wireless router undertaking has paid off. Not only is Google Wifi the best wireless mesh router money can buy, but it’s also one of the best routers today. This is mostly thanks to the fact that it packs in more mesh units at a lower price than competing mesh routers.
This attention to value is combined with simple setup and great network management through a clean mobile app. Trust us – after using the Google Wifi, you won’t want to use any other wireless router.
Price and availability
With what’s on offer, Google isn’t asking for much, especially for what the Google Wifi can do. It will set you back $259 (about £204, AU$399) for a set of three units – that’s one primary ‘Wi-Fi point’ (the one you hook up to the modem or gateway) and two secondary WiFi points. Google promises that three Wifi Points can cover up to 4,500 square feet (418 square meters) in a home.
A single Google Wifi unit, on the other hand, can be had for $99 (£129, AU$199).
If you’re in the UK, you’ll find the Google Wifi in a 2-pack instead of the 3-pack, and it will cost £229. It’s worth noting, however, that this 2-pack is currently unavailable in the UK as of June 2019.
Australians will be happy to know that the Google Wifi is finally available – they can pick up a single node for AU$199 and the 3-pack for AU$399.
The Google Wifi is a massive value – it offers more units for less cash than any other competitor, like the Netgear Orbi, with other wireless mesh routers coming in at $400 (about £320, AU$520), at least, for the same amount of mesh nodes.
Wireless Connectivity: IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, AC1200 2x2 Wave 2 Wi-Fi (expandable mesh; dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz, TX beamforming); Bluetooth Smart ready
Processor: Quad-core ARM CPU (each core up to 710MHz)
Memory: 512MB RAM
Storage: 4GB eMMC flash
Beamforming: Implicit and Explicit for 2.4 & 5GHz bands
Ports: 2 x Gigabit Ethernet ports per Wifi point (1 WAN and 1 LAN port each)
Dimensions: 4.1 x 2.7 inches (106.1 x 68.7mm; D x H) each
Weight: 12oz (340g) each
Design and setup
Google doesn’t only have an advantage in pricing on its hands, but it also has the best designed Wifi units and the easiest setup of any offering. Each Google Wifi unit, a small and simple cylinder with a white LED band in its center, is capable of the same functionality.
This means that any Google Wifi unit can function as the core ‘router’ of the system, while the others can spread wired Internet (which is beamed to the unit wirelessly) with their included Ethernet ports as well as wireless internet. All three units are powered through USB-C.
Setup is also totally smooth, just like the Google Wifi’s hardware design – using a free iOS or Android app to facilitate the entire process. We’re not going to dive into the nitty gritty of the procedure, but the Google Wifi App will configure your network by first scanning the QR codes on the Wifi point connected to your modem or gateway.
The app will then ask you to give your new network a name and set a password, then pair any additional Wifi points you have, by scanning their QR codes – you’ll then be able to label individual nodes in the app. Again, this only takes a moment for the initial Google Wifi node to recognize additional nodes and for them to start working.
You’re not going to get the same depth of access as even Netgear Orbi provides, so no band switching for you. However, Google Wifi does handle this in behind the scenes automatically.
The Google Wifi app does boast more useful settings, like constant monitoring of your network, its points and the devices connected to it. The app has an included internet speed test, like Ookla’s mesh test that measures the health of your Points’ connections, along with a Wi-Fi test that measures your connection strength from within the network.
This is the most complete and elegant suite of controls we’ve seen on a Wi-Fi mesh system so far, despite its lack of dropdown boxes and toggles.
Additionally, you can prioritize bandwidth to one device for a time, control smart home devices and pause internet access to certain devices in a family setting – all from within this app.
And, now Google has expanded Google Wi-Fi’s Network Check feature to test multiple devices, so that you can spot potential bottlenecks in your network, as well as rearrange your Google Wifi access points in order to optimize network performance.
Here is how the Google Wifi fared in our brief suite of tests (conducted on a 100Mbps service):
Ookla Speed Test 5GHz (Download | Upload):
Within 5 feet/1.52 meters; no obstructions: 101.41 | 117.83 Mbps
Within 13 feet/3.96 meters; three plaster walls: 97.05 | 118.67 Mbps
Ookla Speed Test 2.4GHz (Download | Upload):
Within 5 feet/1.52 meters; no obstructions: 47.53 | 96.72 Mbps
Within 13 feet/3.96 meters; three plaster walls: 50.95 | 82.98 Mbps
1.5GB Steam download 5GHz (peak speed):
Within 5 feet/1.52 meters; no obstructions: 12.6 MB/s
Within 13 feet/3.96 meters; three plaster walls: 12.2 MB/s
1.5GB Steam download 2.4GHz (peak speed):
Within 5 feet/1.52 meters; no obstructions: 7.2 MB/s
Within 13 feet/3.96 meters; three plaster walls: 8.8 MB/s
The Google Wifi is able to match, if not surpass, Netgear Orbi’s performance. Drawing the absolute most out of our 100Mbps Wi-Fi service, we’ve never seen any router be able to do the same. However, the core difference here is that Google Wifi can deliver this high performance in every room of our, albeit small, house.
We are able to stream 4K video through Netflix to our Roku Premiere in the basement, as well as play Overwatch in the office where the modem is located without issues. Wi-Fi mesh systems like the Google Wifi aren’t focused so much on throughput as they are coverage, but this product definitely delivers.
The traffic prioritization feature can ensure that your gaming session is getting more of that crucial bandwidth than the other devices in your house that are used mostly for Facebooking and streaming HD videos. Plus, the network can automatically repair itself should one or more of the Wifi Points be accidentally unplugged or otherwise lose power.
While we know that Google Wifi operates its mesh system over existing Wi-Fi bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz) over the 802.11s mesh protocol rather than Netgear Orbi’s tri-band system that communicates over a second 5GHz Wi-Fi band, we haven’t found a massive difference between either’s performance. We do see slightly faster download speeds in MB/s on the 2.4GHz band from the Orbi over the Google Wifi, but that could also be an anomaly.
Where the Google Wifi truly excels over comparable routers is simple: the fantastic price to coverage ratio. You can get equal coverage from competing systems with fewer units, sure, but the versatility of having more units gives you – just in terms of eliminating dead spots – is huge.
The Google Wifi is the most straightforward router we’ve ever set up, bar none. And, that’s even taking the two extra devices required to complete it into consideration. For a relatively low price point, there are more units on offer than most of Google’s competitors, not to mention, the best setup and management app by far.
For all the finer hardware controls it lacks, and the lack of AC3000 or AC2200 throughput, Google considered every toggle and test it could present in an easily understandable way through its app. There’s even bandwidth priority control. Couple that with a minimalist hardware design that’s easier to hide in plain sight than any we’ve seen yet, and you’re looking at one of the best Wi-Fi systems that money can buy today.
Images Credit: TechRadar
First reviewed April 2017