Google WiFi review

Google's mesh Wi-Fi network scores a home run for small businesses

Editor's Choice
Price
£190
  • Setup is fast and simple; Loads of network monitoring tools included; Coverage is excellent
  • Not quite as fast as other mesh Wi-Fi systems; Single nodes lose speed over long ranges

Unreliable Wi-Fi is something that is hated by all - sudden dips in signal, downloads grinding to a halt, unexplained black spots in the home, these are annoyances that we encounter far too frequently in daily life. Thankfully, a solution is available in the form of mesh networking, the latest innovation courtesy of Google Wi-Fi.

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Instead of the traditional setup, where one router is responsible for covering the entire property, helped with range extenders to fill in any gaps, mesh Wi-Fi spreads this out across discrete nodes, creating an interconnected web of blanket coverage that smothers any dead zones.

Similar to Linksys Velop or BT's Whole Home Wi-Fi, Google's solution is a modular network that allows you to simply add a new node to extend the coverage of the network. Unlike traditional range extenders, where the signal is stretched out, you get the same performance from every node. It also features a few advanced tools such as client-switching and band-switching, ensuring that the connection remains smooth and uninterrupted.

Design

Google Wi-Fi discards the tech-heavy design of traditional hardware that makes most routers look like stealth bombers rather than networking kit. Instead, it uses a minimal and understated design for each of its nodes - a squat, cylindrical body with an LED light ring that acts as the main indicator for the device.

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It's a clean and attractive look that will fit with most home decors, and its small size means it can sit on a shelf without drawing too much attention. It's a far cry from the large, blinking boxes that you may be used to.

In terms of hardware, each node has two Gigabit Ethernet ports for hardwired connections, as well as support for dual-band 802.11ac wireless connectivity and 2x2 MIMO, with a theoretical upper limit of 1,200Mbits/sec.

Setup

If you've ever set up any of Google's Chromecast devices before, you'll be familiar with the process of getting Google WiFi up and running. The setup process is entirely app-based, in contrast to the browser-based configuration tools used by most routers.

As you'd expect from a Google device, setting up your network is simple and painless, the device taking you through each step with clear and easy-to-follow instructions. Getting the first node in your network set up should take less than 15 minutes from start to finish, with each subsequent node taking less than five minutes to add.

Maintenance

The beauty of Google WiFi is that it's a 'set it and forget it' system, meaning that you should never have to mess around with it again. That's courtesy of Google's intelligent software, which uses machine learning and dedicated sensors to determine which channels and bands to use, automatically switching between them to give you the best signal possible. Client switching also means that your device will automatically connect you to whichever node offers a better signal without you having to do anything, which is seriously impressive stuff.

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That being said, however, there is a fairly substantial amount of additional settings and configuration options to sink your teeth into if you so desire. All the usual settings like UPnP, port forwarding, IP address management and DNS settings can be manually configured from within the app.

The router's firmware automatically updates itself in the background, which is an excellent feature, given that networking gear is frequently the thing that gets forgotten about in patching cycles and often gives criminals an easy way into your network. Regular updates ensure not only that your network is an secure as possible, but also that you've got a steady stream of new features and performance improvements.

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