I needed a new WiFi router, and decided to try the latest offering from Google, “Google WiFi.” After a few days of playing-around with it, here’s what I think about Google’s nifty little networking gadget.
Google’s WiFi is a system that supports mesh networking, meaning multiple units can co-exist in your home or office, supporting seamless transitions as you move from room-to-room.
In my case, a single WiFi router centrally located in the middle of my single-story home does the job. It covers all of the rooms, as well as the adjacent outdoor areas. So, I went with the one-pack. You can also order Google WiFi in a three pack if your place is larger. Or, if you require more coverage (say, in a multi-story home or office).
Google WiFi Unboxing
I’m not a big fan of all the “unboxing” videos and posts popping-up online these days, but the packaging is clean & classy. It contains the router, an ethernet cable to connect to your modem, a power adapter, and a “Let’s get started” card.
Google WiFi is Super-Easy to Set-up
In the past, I’ve learned to plan on spending the better part of a day setting-up traditional WiFi routers, so it was a huge relief to see I only needed to do three things:
- Download the Google WiFi app (from either Google Play if you’re using an Android device, or the App Store if you’re on an Apple device)
- Plug the thing in, and…
- Fire it up using the app
The app had me scan the barcode on the bottom of my unit, told me it needed to download its latest updates, and after a couple of minutes, prompted me to create a name and password for my new WiFi network.
I hit one snag. After the updates, the app would no longer talk to the device. I called the Google Wifi support number listed in the app, and “Becky” answered on the third ring. She instantly identified the problem as being an incorrect setting in my Time-Warner cable modem, and talked me through correcting that.
Even with the support call, I was online, and everything was working perfectly less than 15 minutes after opening the box.
If You Love To Fiddle With Settings, Google WiFi May Not Be For You
Gone are all the bewildering settings that used to frustrate the heck out of me. In fact, there are very few. That’s because Google proactively handles all of the tedium normally associated with managing a router, inluding choosing a channel.
In the past, it seems that every time I’ve set a router to an empty channel, all of my neighbors would jump on that same channel within days. Google WiFi handles that automatically, as explained in the following video.
After about 72 hours with it, I have to admit, it works. Mine’s changed its channel three times now, without ever so-much as a hiccup on any device (including the Chromecasts). Here’s a look at how Google does it:
Another concept that took some getting used-to is Google’s use of dual bands. I’m accustomed to routers that treat each band as a separate network. Instead, Google uses only one SSID (and password) to label both the 2.4 and 5Ghz. bands.
I instantly realized the beauty of that.
It used to be that my first generation Chromecast, and Chromecast Audio units were on my 2.4Ghz channel. If one of my devices was using the 5Ghz channel, it was game-over. They couldn’t communicate with the Chromecasts.
Now, they automatically (and seamlessly) change between bands constantly, as I walk-around the house. They always choose the more efficient channel, and at the same time, always remain connected to everything else.
One less thing to worry about.
IFTTT Integration With Google WiFi
I’m calling this more of a novelty than anything else. IFTTT easily connects to Google WiFi, providing a limited set of triggers and actions.
As of this writing, the triggers are, “A specific device has connected,” and “A specific device has disconnected.” Neither of those is terribly useful.
On the Action side of things, you can only give one specific device priority access (QOS) for one hour.
I Can’t Find Much To Complain About
It’s now been 72 hours, we have 17 connected devices, and so far, I don’t have much in the way of gripes. All those devices do seem to be a lot faster, and the Chromecasts spool-up much more quickly.
About the only thing I don’t like is that you can’t block specific devices. At home, that doesn’t matter much, but in a small office, if someone leaves the company, there’s no way to prevent their device from re-connecting (whoops, Google!). Your only option is to change the password, which is a real pain for everyone else.
Fortunately, quite a few people are pushing for that capability to be added over in the Google Product Forum for WiFi.
The app, “Google WiFi,” not only controls this device, it’s also the interface for Google’s previous router, the “OnHub.” Reading through message threads was a bit confusing until I discovered that references to WiFi are actually references to both devices.
Questions? Comments? Gripes? Hit me up in the comments (below) or via social media.