Home networking is more important than ever before. So many of the services we use in our daily lives are now delivered through the internet that getting a good connection through the whole home is vital.
Wi-Fi routers aren't that glamorous, but they're important, and if you don't have a good enough router you'll feel the effects the further away you go from it. And not everyone can run a wired network through their house. That's where Mesh networks could be beneficial. And one of the consumer options available is Google Wifi, which is actually very good.
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What is Mesh networking?
We've a comprehensive guide on choosing between a regular router or a Mesh setup, but this snippet sums it up well:
Not all the "whole home" Wi-Fi kits on the market are a true Mesh system. Google Wifi, is, and it's one of the easiest routers to use I've ever laid my hands on.
This isn't a review of Google Wifi and its hardware, our buddies over at Android Central have taken care of that with a full and extensive review I recommend checking out.
Google Wifi specs
- AC1200 2x2 Wave 2 expandable mesh Wi-Fi
- MU-MIMO dual-band (2.4GHz / 5GHz)
- 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless support
- 802.15.4 Zigbee TX/RX support
- Bluetooth 4.0 LE support
- 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports WPA2-PSK
Costly but so easy to use
My reasons for investing in a Mesh solution are a combination of moving to a larger house and not wanting to run a wired network throughout. Mesh seemed like a better compromise compared to pulling up carpets and drilling holes in walls. Previously I've run a Netgear Nighthawk X4S, but the idea of running repeaters and having separate network connections around the house just feels messy.
Mesh systems aren't cheap though, but Google Wifi isn't the most expensive at least. It's available in kits of two or three units or a single node on its own. Prices start at $130 for one and go up to $300 for a three pack. It's quite a lot to spend on a router, but then it isn't just a router.
Google Wifi produces a single network throughout the entire home with one connection and one password. You'll never know you're switching between nodes, and you should experience consistent speeds throughout assuming you have enough nodes to cover your home. I've started with three, with one at the bottom of the stairs, one in an upstairs bedroom and one in my office. A fourth will be added later on to the kitchen.
Setting up is ridiculously simple. There is, however, one little flaw: It requires an Android phone or an iPhone, there isn't even a web portal. For the majority of people that won't be a problem. But for some, it will and will render the product useless.
Setting up takes a matter of moments in the app and requires little more than connecting one node to your modem and following a few simple steps.
A great way to interact with a router
While Google Wifi may lack many power-user type features, for the average person this is perfect. Every router I've ever used has had some clunky web interface to do basically anything, and maybe a limited app to use on a smartphone.
I can often find fault with a Google app, but this one is basically faultless. There are "advanced features" like changing the DNS, port forwarding and a couple of other bits, but as much as I like tech and want a good network performance, I hate dealing with routers.
The main settings you may want to tinker with are easy to access and understand, like creating a guest network or setting a priority device. Family settings are a couple of taps away and without your kids knowing you can just turn off their access at bedtime from the phone in your pocket.
It's just very little fuss and so simple to use. I love it.
Google recommends not having more than two rooms between each node, and I did notice that when starting out with just two nodes, one on each floor, the signal was weak in the furthest rooms still. Improved on the ISP supplied router, but not something you'd call good.
Adding a third made a significant difference. In my son's bedroom previously the ISP router would only give download speeds of 2Mbps or less. With two Google Wifi nodes this went up to around 12Mbps and adding a third pushed it to between 27 and 30Mbps.
In my office at the front of the house and with a Node on my desk, I'm seeing download speeds of between 55 and 60Mbps, about double what I'd get previously, with uploads between 18 and 20Mbps. I don't have ridiculous speeds available in my area, with my base performance being 52Mbps download and up to 20Mbps upload. Connected directly to the router I'm not currently getting over 60Mbps, so the Google Wifi seems to be working well.
What's also great about the Google Wifi app is that it will run an internal speed test if you wish and tell you what you're getting directly from the modem. In some rooms, like my office on the first floor, it's as close as makes no difference a match to what I see running a speed test on my PC. The nodes utilize 5 GHz connections, too, so you don't have range, but you get the maximum performance.
The app will also quickly help you check the health of the Mesh network separate to the broadband connection, easily allowing you to identify issues and rectify them.
And adding additional nodes is as easy as plugging them in and scanning the QR code on the bottom in the Google Wifi app. There's no real limit, you can use as many as you need to in order to get the coverage you desire.
The bottom line
When Android Central reviewed the Google Wifi they said this:
Primarily I picked Google Wifi because it cost a bit less than Netgear and Linksys systems where I am in the UK. I haven't used those, but I can easily recommend Google Wifi to someone who wants to improve the connection throughout their whole home. And do it with no fuss.
The nodes are pretty good looking little things so you won't offend anyone dropping them around the house, and literally, all you need is a Google account and a smartphone to be up and running in moments.
The app is so good to use that it's easily the most user-friendly Wi-Fi router I've ever laid my hands on. It's a little pricey, but equally, it's not that much more than a decent router and a good extender and has the bonus of working as a single network.
The question at the top of this article was: Is Google Wifi worth it? The answer is yes. Unless you're the kind of power user who really needs to get involved in network tech and settings, Google Wifi is a remarkably good product for use in the home.
More: Best Mesh Wi-Fi router kits
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Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
How is this article related to anything Microsoft?
You can connect your Microsoft devices to it?
Got an Eero and I'm pretty happy with it.
for sure i'm using google fu.... service.... are you kidding?!!!
Being that Google said they do not yet have a fix for KRACK while their competitors do and will not have one for weeks (their words, not mine), their horrible security and privacy record, their attempts to embarrass other companies for their security while hiding their own, and just plain ignoring their own "Do no evil" credo, giving all my Wi-Fi traffic to a Google device is just not going to happen.
I agree,if getting a mesh network is important, I would place ubiquity at the top of my list. People forget so easily that range and usability are just nice to have features compared to a robust secure solution when it comes to WiFi. Ubiquity is so far ahead of the curve. People fall so easily for the next gadget !
If it has the name "Google" on it, there is one thing for certain. They are collecting all your surfing data and storing it in the mother ship. Just say no to the NSA uhm... I mean Google, recording everything about you and your family. Wise up!!! Don't use their DNS servers either!
Agreed. I do use their DNS servers but only to cache on my local DNS.
Data collecting free of charge!! :D
Not a snowballs chance in hell. Probably never get and update for KRACKs.
"Not getting it because of KRACK..." Yeah, sure. Most people are using ISP-supplied routers with a username & password of "admin/admin", so you're damn right this is a better solution. At least when Google does have a patch (for this or any other exploit), they'll flash it directly to the hardware. I'm totally with the author on this one: ...as much as I like tech and want a good network performance, I hate dealing with routers. It's not about Google...anyone who makes routers suck less has got my support.
"At least when Google does have a patch" And as I wrote in another article, that "when" should be an if. A couple years ago a major bug was found in the web browser of Android 4.3, released in July 2013. Google released 4.4, then 5.0 in March 2015. The bug was found in January 2013. Google refused to fix that bug, even though 60% of Android users were on 4.3. Think about that for a second. Before Google released a major upgrade, only had a point release out, and less than a year and a half, they completely dropped support, leaving their customers at risk, and didn't care at all. Meanwhile, Google will release the code to exploit computers, complaining that Microsoft is not supporting a 16 **year** old operating system. Google doesn't care after a year and a half. How long should a company still support their software/hardware? I don't know if there is a time period, but I know it should be more than a year and a half.
I don't know who your isp is but my routers over the last 10 years covering FiOS, at&t, Comcast and twc have all had scrambled passwords....usually based on their MAC address.
Nothing from Google is ever worth it. Ever.
will google wifi work with windows devices? Is google wifi patched for the recent wifi KRACK?
Replaced our AirPort Extremes last Christmas with the Google WiFi and been really happy we did. Google really nailed this product. Everything from setup to daily. Use they also have been great on adding new functionality to the product. I have a HUGE family and the ability to tag people and do what you need to do is so easy with the iPhone and Android app. The App is really well done. We have the three pack but I have purchased another three pack and then use the individual pucks for my family that does not live in my house. This makes things so easy to just use the app to manage remotely. My parents live in a condo and everyone lost Interent in the condo but my parents. What had happened is their ISP DNS had gone down and I had used Google DNS (126.96.36.199 & 188.8.131.52) on the pucks. So to everyone else in the condo they thought the Internet was down and my parents were so excited when I came over asking how I did it. All these really old people telling my parents what a genious their son must be, etc. Made me laugh as this is about as simple as it gets. BTW, older and retired people really love their Internet and when it goes down it is a really, really big deal and they reallly do NOT understand DNS.
They are starving for data... But it looks practical. I won't buy it tho...
The 1st time I encountered an online game problem is with For Honor beta.
My old router... don't seem to work no matter how I set it (I now live in Japan so it's a local brand), my NAT type always shows Moderate... then I gave up buying the Full version.
Maybe I'll give this a go when my old router died.
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