Google Wifi Review

Posted on September 18, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Cloud, Hardware, iOS, Mobile, Paul, Smart Home with 43 Comments

Google Wifi Review

After using Google Wifi full-time for a month, I’m still impressed with its easy setup and rock-solid performance.

As I wrote way back in early July—it feels like it was two years ago—I knew we’d need to do something different when it came to networking at the new home. And I had resolved early on that the only way to cover this larger place with Wi-Fi would be to use a mesh wireless networking solution.

My choice, made while we were still in Dedham, is Google Wifi. So I purchased a Google Wifi three-pack for $270, which includes three access points and is designed for homes up to 4500 square feet. (If you have a smaller home, you can get individual Google Wifi access points for about $120.)

As I noted in my Google Wifi First Impressions article, Google Wifi is a modular, mesh-based wireless networking solution. It doesn’t provide modem capabilities, so I had arranged for RCN to install a cable modem—and only a cable modem; no Wi-Fi, cable TV or phone—during one of the several trips we made to Pennsylvania before we moved.

I wrote about that experience in Paul’s Tech Makeover: Internet and Mesh Wi-Fi (Premium), but the short version is that RCN is the best of the few choices we have here, and the service offers speeds of 330 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up. The cost is $80 per month ($60 for the service plus $10 for the modem and assorted taxes and fees).

As far as Google Wifi goes, the experience has been excellent.

Setup couldn’t be easier. You connect the first access point directly to the modem and then step through a wizard in the super-simple Google Wifi app (Android or iOS). Once the first access point is connected, you place the other access point(s) elsewhere in your home, connect them to power, and add them to the network in turn. The result? A mesh wireless network.

The access points themselves are gorgeous and, dare I say, rather Apple-like with their minimalist white design and pleasant ambient lighting. Each includes a USB-C port for power, an Ethernet port for connecting to the modem (used only on the first access point), and a second Ethernet port for adding a wired device.

One of the unknowns going into this was whether I’d need to wire at least part of the house for Ethernet, as we did back in Dedham. I was vaguely hoping, but not expecting, to be able to work almost exclusively on Wi-Fi. To my surprise, that has not been an issue: In testing the connectivity around the home, I see excellent bandwidth performance everywhere, even in the far corners of the basement. We routinely get over 220 Mbps down on modern wireless devices, like my PC, and 20-25 Mbps up. (And, yes, a wired connection provides the full 330 Mbps.)

That said, I did connect a switch to the first access point since I needed to add two wired devices, a Philips Hue Bridge, which is required for smart lighting, and our home NAS, a WD My Cloud EX2. At some point, I’ll arrange all that in a little cabinet or whatever, but for now, they’re all over the floor in the corner of a room. No judging.

And there is a possibility that I’ll want wired Ethernet for the coming wave of 4K/UHD streaming content via Apple TV 4K and Chromecast Ultra. I will test that first and see how it goes.

I wasn’t able to do too much with the home Internet connection until we moved, but one of the nice things about Google Wifi is that I could check on—and manage—the network remotely. So while we were still in Dedham, and while we were traveling to Barcelona in early August for our annual home swap, I could use the Google Wifi app to see that our home network was online with all three access points working correctly.

Now that we’re here, the app is doubly useful: You can see which devices are online and how much bandwidth they’re consuming. (Which I did to humorous effect one time when my son was utilizing about 90 percent of the bandwidth one time to download a game to his PC.) You can also temporarily set one device as the priority device for a set amount of time, which I have done a few times while the kids were all online but I needed to record a podcast. Windows Weekly gets priority over Netflix, sorry.

My wife was streaming a video to the TV using Chromecast during this test.

The Google Wifi app provides a number of advanced features I don’t need at the moment, including port forwarding, network bridging, and IPv6 support. But it also includes some neat features that most consumers should examine, like the ability to add a separate Wi-Fi network for guests and a Family Wi-Fi feature that can pause the Internet connect at specified times. There are also some very basic and redundant home controls, but you’re better off using other apps (in my case, the Philips Hue app).

The Google Wifi app also presents you with some nice troubleshooting tools, including a network check utility that looks at your download and upload speeds, the strength of your mesh network (the connection between your access points), and your Wi-Fi connectivity. I never actually needed to run any of these tests, but I did so several times anyway just to see how well things were working. There were never any issues.

But the biggest win here is the simplicity: The app-based interface to Google Wifi is obvious and easy to use, and the system itself has just run flawlessly for over two months now, with the second of those months involving steady usage. I cannot recommend this product highly enough, and while there are no doubt more complex mesh wireless networking solutions that do more, I don’t need more. Google Wifi is perfect.

Note: A few of the links in this article are affiliate links. Most are not. –Paul

 

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Comments (44)

44 responses to “Google Wifi Review”

  1. RonH

    My brother was in need of a WiFi solution for his condo. the issue was that where the carrier modem had to be installed, we couldn't put the modem/WiFi in a good location because of the wiring for the TV and and wireless TV access point, and the Ethernet cables required (too many cables and too much equipment was visible). The modem was also close to the TV so that may have affected the WiFi as well.


    I advised him to get a single Google WiFi, and he set it up without any trouble. It is so small that it was easy to place it in a more optimum location in the room.


    He now has a minimun of 2 times better speed over WiFi in the condo with most locations getting the full speed of his internet provider. 2 of his rooms are "3 rooms away" and it is recommended to only be 2 rooms away for better signals.


    This just works. He is very happy with this product.

  2. Jack Smith

    Purchased Google Wifi to replace our Airport Extremes last Christmas when word came of apple ending support and could not be happier.


    Easily the best wifi we have ever had with coverage and speed. But it is the app that is the killer feature.


    I now have been switching my families networks to GW as just so much easier for me to manage remotely with the app but so far have not had to do anything as they just work. Highly recommend. You can buy a 3 pack and split them up and mix and match if needed. All three pucks are identical.


    Also they scale so well. So my oldest moved out and has an apartment so one today and when he gets a bigger place he can easily add.


    Nothing else at this price possible to do similar. Hope they add to a Google Home as has been rumored.


    Have seen they are the most popular router sold on Amazon for most of the summer with 4 1/2 stars and not surprising. Not just most popular mesh but the most popular router.



  3. ChesterChihuahua

    I wonder how long before Google loses interest in Wifi and discontinues this product ?

    • timothyhuber

      In reply to ChesterChihuahua:

      Actually, their OnHub line of routers, which other OEMs produced, was upgraded to work with the Google WiFi mesh. I have hybrid of the two and it works brilliantly. This does not seem to be a thrown together project, but one that was planned and appears to be working well.


      Of course, I bought into Zune... so what do I know?


      Microsoft used to have a line of home networking products, too. Came and went in the blink of an eye.



  4. SleepingPelican

    Just curious why you are renting a cable modem instead of buying one? At $10/mo you could have a good one paid off pretty quickly.

  5. timothyhuber

    I picked up an OnHub on sale last year a few months before Google WiFi was announced. (The specific driver was my son heading to college and needing a fairly simple way for my wife to diagnose/fix connectivity issues, in this case with the app). In a three-story townhouse it gave pretty decent coverage when placed in the center of the main floor.


    The OnHub was subsequently upgraded with the Google WiFi mesh capabilities. I recently started a new job, working from home several days a week. The room I'm using as an office is about as far away from the OnHub as I can get. While I had signal, it wa not robust enough for video conferencing. So instead of a full kit I bought a a single WiFi unit. The installation was seamless and straightforward. Couldn't be more pleased.


    The OnHub got an even better price drop on Amazon last week, so I've ordered another and will incorporate it as the third piece of the mesh.

  6. Ryan Palmer

    I read this comment on another site regarding Google Wifi. It seems you haven't had any of the issues mentioned below or might not ever have those issues. This is concerning to me as I'm considering a mesh system and Ring products. I have no experience with Google Wifi or Orbi. I'm just looking to see if anyone else has had these issues with Google Wifi. In premise, Google Wifi seems great and very simple.


    "Google WiFi was good, but there were a couple of frustrating things about it. As someone else mentioned, you need an ethernet switch to hardwire if you require more than one ethernet port, but that's not a big deal. $19 bucks on Amazon can solve that. The thing that I felt was unforgivable is if you have to reboot the main puck, the main obviously comes back on first and then the other two satellites after that. But here's the issue: the 2.4 band from the main is far reaching enough for devices that should pick up that 5 band from the satellite RIGHT next to them pick up the 2.4 from the main since it's up first and there is NO way to force the 5 from the nearest satellite to the devices without either turning the WiFi off and then back on on the device (no big deal for tablets and phones) or rebooting them (a bigger deal with my Ring where you have to remove the faceplate to reboot and repair). I had one satellite right next to my Ring and it would connect to the main in my living room 4 rooms' length away and my TV upstairs had a satellite directly underneath and that TV would connect to the satellite next to the Ring. It was annoying.

    Plus, I'd only get 250-300 up/down wireless from the main and 100-150 up/down from the satellites. Not bad, but when you consider that I have Uverse gigabit service, it kinda sucks. I boxed the Google WiFi back up and swapped them out for an Orbi 3 pack from Best Buy. All my devices connect to where they should and I get 400-500 up/down wireless from the main and 250-300 up/down from the satellites. For me, it's no contest: Orbi."

  7. Librarianscott

    I have had a similar, but even better, experience with eero, who had the original idea of mesh for home.

    Itt was expensive, and I never got rid of wired Ethernet for my main desktop. But it just works. Even on the front porch or in the closet upstairs. No separate -5g mess.

    And updates itself to improve performance, not to add fancy features no one uses.

    It's like an Apple quality product without the constant force-you-to-buy-a-new-model.

  8. Jeremy Turnley

    There are three things to know here:


    1. Mesh networks improving wireless coverage comes at an overall decrease in speeds (unless you have a mesh with a dedicated backchannel like the Netgear Orbi). This is because for each "hop" you need to go through, your traffic needs to compete with all other traffic across every node it passes through. This adds latency, lowers available bandwidth, and most importantly adds an order of magnitude more collisions per node you add.
    2. The "better coverage" aspect of Mesh networks is in general just a placebo effect. You see more bars on your device, you think it's faster - when, in fact, your throughput is not in general improved. This is worsened by the issue of poor node placement choices. If you place your nodes too close to the prime node, you get crosstalk; too far, and dropped packets make the backchannel problems even worse.
    3. Google Wifi is among the worst solutions out there among Mesh systems. It's slower, less flexible (has fewer router options), and is more expensive than just about all of the products it competes with. Google Wifi starts with a low-end AC-1200 router, then tries to push two other AC-1200 router's throughput through it with very little in the way of optimization to make it work smoothly.


    Before you make any purchases, do yourself a favor and don't rely on just anecdotal reviews and comments. Check out some sites that are dedicated to reviewing routers and wireless devices, such as Small Net Builder. In some cases, a Mesh system (the RIGHT Mesh system) might be a good choice for you, and in others investing in a higher-end single router might work better. Just do the legwork before you plop down $300+ on your choice.

  9. mmcpher

    I am not currently in the market for a mesh system as after a lot of trial, error, effort and expense, I've succeeded in cobbling together a more traditional setup centered around a high end Linksy router and a couple of extenders. It stays up and meets our needs. The whole system worked better after I hard-wired the Xbox and my sense is that the newer mesh systems would provide better coverage and save me a lot of time. I'm not sure the Google mesh would match the speeds though.


    We have Verizon Fios and still have the coax to run the settop boxes, so I bypass the wireless radio on the Verizon modem/router in favor of the Linksy router. I assume I could do the same thing with a mesh system. The Linksys also has a good desktop and mobile app. Verizon supposedly is going to do an upgrade in our area and retire the coax modems but I will believe it when I see it.


    Google Wi-Fi is well reviewed on Amazon and looks to be a great value. I think Smallnetbuilder is a very useful resource and they test the hell out of all the new releases and take their time about it. They've been tracking mesh development for years but waited for the market and the technology to develop to bring it within their comprehensive testing, review and rankings. Google Wi-Fi is a value entry but is not among the highest ranking (or more expensive) alternatives. FWIW.

  10. octafish

    Quick question: I'm researching a better WiFi set up for a friend's large and awkwardly shaped home here in the UK. They don't have ios or android devices to run the app on. Can set up be achieved via Ethernet/ browser? Thanks.

    • tdreed00

      They can only be managed with the App. To the best of my ability, they appear to only be "cloud managed" meaning they must be connected to the internet and can only be managed with the app. I would have hoped google would have provided a web interface for management. Similar to how you can ring and manage your android devices through the web browser. Given the time the devices have been released without this web browser management, I don't forsee it happening. One unique thing about using the app is that I bought the three pack. I have one point in one location and the other two in a mesh at a second location. I can then manage/pause/see statistics from both locations anywhere in the world I have my phone. The security is managed through the google app and your google login. I could add Paul Thurrott as a "manager" of my network and vice/verse easily I presume strictly through google/gmail authentication but I've not tried that feature. In reply to octafish:


  11. PhiREflY

    I ended up going with the Linksys Velop. It is way more expensive but it is triband with a dedicated 5Ghz channel for node communication. It also supports IGMP Proxy which is need for my FiOptics TV to work properly without using the phone company's router. I am very happy with the speed and coverage and the App is very user friendly and the setup was a breeze.

  12. summersk59

    I've had my Google WiFi working flawlessly since May (when it was released in Canada). Without getting all technical, I would simply say the Google WiFi works extremely well right out of the box. For the average home user that wishes for the thing to just simply work without issue, this is the one. Great for setting up friends and relatives without the constant support calls.... I'm sure there's others out there that have faster speed, more range, look prettier and so on, but for the money and effort, one can't ask for more. Toss the tinfoil hat in the corner, the sky isn't falling....

  13. rwest

    Do you have the ability to hard wire the additional access points to the network, assuming that an Ethernet connection is available? It would seem that if this was possible it could lower the latency since it would not involve an additional hop of the wireless network.

  14. vernonlvincent

    I've been looking at Google Wifi and the Eero mesh system for our home (we moved recently too). Interested in any takes as to which could be better.

    • cyloncat

      In reply to vernonlvincent:

      I've been using Eero for close to a year, and it has been flawless. I have full signal strength throughout the house, and Eero automatically switches devise over to the closest access point. It is also app-based for setup and monitoring, has wired Ethernet ports, etc., pretty much the same capabilities as Google WiFi.

    • Chris Mertens

      In reply to vernonlvincent:

      I've had the Eero for a couple of months now....very happy with it so far and like the whole Mesh setup. The 2nd generation Eero just plug into an outlet and create a nice night light too!


      I do subscribe to their premium service and like the weekly reports they provide about usage and what has been blocked.


  15. Bats

    Well, there was a time when I contemplated purchasing Google Wifi because I already a Linksys router that was working well as the main router along with a Western Digital router that I used as an access point. My internet speeds were really good with Optimum Online, and I had no complaints. However, there were a few spots in my house that my routers covered, but the speed was low and I often get complaints that the interet was slow. I often dismissed it, claiming that it wasn't the internet that was the problem, it was their device.

    Then there was a really good deal on Amazon, which got me to "try" Google Wifi and I did. There were other mesh systems on sale too, that seemed to offer more features, like the one Brad endorsed some time ago. However, I figured with all my Androids, PCs, Chromecasts, Home, Cloud Printers, and Nest....I would be better off doing Google Wifi. So I bought, installed it and couldn't believe what I found! 

    Earlier, I mentioned that my internet speeds were really good with Optimum Online service. For me, 30-50 mbps is really good and that is what I was getting, pre-Google Wifi. NOW, with Google Wifi, installed throughout my whole house, I am getting over 100 mbps download speed! LOL...I didn't think that it mattered much, but....heck, I'll take it.

    Perhaps, the best thing about Google Wifi, is not only the speed and coverage, but also the app. LOL...no more "192.168.1.1". It's now just a press of a button and you can do whatever you want. 

  16. Simard57

    You and Brad have chosen different solutions to the mess networking needs.

    would you consider a joint article regarding the pros and cons of the different approaches?


    Does google mine the consumer internet usage? What is in the licensing agreement with their mesh solution?


    I expect to be mined when I visit the "free" Google.com Search engine and Docs services - it is how those are free. I suspect that when using an Android Phone that I paid for includes some additional monitoring. Is the Mesh network seen as another means to get better telemetry on me as the user?


    I rarely put on a tinfoil hat but I do wonder what the goal of an ad platform is for providing hardware solutions!

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to Simard57:

      I don't expect to be "mined" by Google Wifi. But I will look. :)

    • Nicholas Kathrein

      In reply to Simard57:

      When you use our products, we realize you’re trusting us with your information. We are committed to keeping your data private and safe.

      The Google privacy policy applies to all Google services, including the Google Wifi app and Wifi points. This article sheds additional light on your privacy choices specific to Wifi points and the Google Wifi app.

      Last modified: December 6, 2016


      Information Wifi points & the Google Wifi app collect

      The information your Wifi points and the Google Wifi app collect helps us deliver the best Wi-Fi experience possible. Importantly, the Google Wifi app and your Wifi points do not track the websites you visit or collect the content of any traffic on your network. However, your Wifi points does collect data such as Wi-Fi channel, signal strength, and device types that are relevant to optimize your Wi-Fi performance. Google policies and terms of services apply as normal to any Google services you use (like Gmail or Google search), whether you’re using them on an Google Wifi network or not.

      With simple controls in the Google Wifi app's 'Privacy' settings, you can manage three types of data collected -- Cloud services, Wifi point stats, and App stats. Examples of the kinds of data managed by these controls are given below.

      Please note that some features may not function with certain privacy settings turned off, and some information (such as the association of your Google Account to your Google Wifi network) is stored by Google even if all privacy controls are turned off."


      • Wifi point statsAnonymous usage data. This helps us improve all Google Wifi products. Examples of the types of data we collect include aggregated counts of WAN type usage (DHCP, Static IP, PPPoE) and mean download time for update payloads.
      • Crash reports. These let us know when Google Wifi’s software stops working properly, so we can prevent it from happening in the future. Reports can include information like stack traces, types of crashes, and which software version you’re running.
      • Wifi point performance information. This includes how long it takes to boot up, CPU utilization, and memory utilization.


    • Waethorn

      In reply to Simard57:

      Just because they provide a hardware channel to which you might use their services, doesn't mean they mine all your data. Why would Apple make routers, after all? You could say they have no business getting into networking gear when there are so many other OEM's that provide those to customers. And Apple really sucks at cloud services, and yet they've entered that market as incompetent as they are at it.

  17. Waethorn

    On the extension access points, both Ethernet ports can be used for LAN devices. I don't know if you have to set a switch to enable this or if it's automatic, but I've read this in reviews, and they say it is marked "WAN/LAN" for that port.

  18. draft myletter

    My Google Wi-fi Working fine and I am getting High speed internet. I searched on Google Funny Wi-fi Names. i am getting fresh Wifi Names

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