Remember when Microsoft briefly got into the home networking hardware market? Well, ten years later Google is following in their footsteps—yes, again—with the announcement this week of its first Wi-Fi router, called OnHub. And as you might expect, Google is billing OnHub as “fast, secure, and easy to use.”
We’ll see. I preordered an OnHub to test whether Google is on to something here, though I find my current router to be fast, secure, and easy to use already. But if you are interested in OnHub, I recommend you move quickly: the preorders from various retailers are filling up quickly, with delivery expected in September. (After flaming out at the notoriously terrible Google Store, I ended up finding success with Wal-Mart. Which, yes, should be an oxymoron. Anyway.)
According to Google, OnHub is designed for the home, so it doesn’t look like a scary attack drone from a sci-fi movie, like some routers. Instead, it features “subtle, useful lighting” (with no blinking lights, and a self-dimming light ring) and a gentle, cylindrical form factor.
What is perhaps more useful is what’s allegedly happening inside—again, testing is necessary—as the OnHub “searches the airwaves and selects the best channel for the fastest connection. A unique antenna design and smart software keep working in the background, automatically adjusting OnHub to avoid interference and keep your network at peak performance. You can even prioritize a device, so that your most important activity — like streaming your favorite show — gets the fastest speed.”
OnHub provides 13 congestion-sensing antennas, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and also supports emerging technologies for smart devices like Bluetooth Smart Ready, 802.15.4 and Weave. And it will be continually updated, Google says, using the 4 GB of internal flash storage it contains. It also has 1 Gbps LAN and WAN ports.
As a Google hardware product—Chromecast works like this, too—OnHub is controlled via a mobile app for Android or iOS. Called Google On, this app tells you how much bandwidth each connected device is using, lets you check out the network health, and has help for when things go wrong. Best of all, you can snag your Wi-Fi password quickly, and the device will text or email it to your friends so they can get online easily.
Intriguingly, OnHub is the first in a series of coming devices, with third-party hardware makers coming on board for future devices. This initial OnHub router is really made by TP-LINK, and Google says the second one is coming from ASUS. (This mimics Google’s strategy with Nexus phones and tablets, which are also made by third party hardware makers.)
Google’s OnHub costs $200, which isn’t cheap. But then that’s why it needs to be tested.