Google Wi-Fi in the home means it’s bye-bye black spots

The Google Wi-Fi router system.

Your days of Wi-Fi black spots in your home are over, says Google. Last week I was keen to find out if this was true. I installed Google Wi-Fi around my largish apartment and experienced both its strengths and weaknesses.

Google Wi-Fi takes the form of little white disks that you place around your home to get a consistent Wi-Fi signal. It’s finally been released in Australia.

Google uses a newer type of networking called “wireless mesh”, which intelligently manages how data is routed around a home. If you have, say, three of these devices — three nodes — they will collectively decide which way data will be relayed to you via the nodes. Mesh networks also decide which of the nodes you connect to around a home.

Google Wi-Fi units come in boxes of three or one at a time. In theory, you could use three as separate stand-alone routers for three networks, as they are identical. They are not router extenders. But it makes sense to use them together on one network.

The units do not include any modem functionality. You need to connect your ADSL, VDSL, cable or fibre input to a modem and run its output into an ethernet port in one of the Google Wi-Fi units. If you haven’t got a modem, you can configure an older router to “bridge mode” to achieve the same.

Like so many Google products, you use a mobile app rather than a web browser to configure Google Wi-Fi and it’s straightforward. You use the phone camera’s lens to scan a barcode on the first Wi-Fi unit, plug it in and head to the Google Wi-Fi app to install it.

The app takes care of the rest. Once complete, the light on the Wi-Fi unit turns from blue to solid white and you’re good to go.

You then plug in and install other Wi-Fi units in various parts of your home, one by one. The only difference is that second and subsequent units are not connected to any modem. In this way they mimic, but are not the same as Wi-Fi extenders.

For optimal Wi-Fi coverage, Google says you should place these disks about two rooms apart. The app reassuringly checks the Wi-Fi signal in each spot as you go.

Like some other recent routers, Google Home does not offer separate 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. It uses both bands but, to the end user, there’s only one Wi-Fi signal. The system decides which band any particular device connects to.

If that’s an issue, some phones and tablets let you specify which band you connect to, if you must control this.

There were no black spots on a “Wi-Fi heat map” I produced. Wi-Fi speeds were at worst from 63 Mbps but mostly around 560 to 700 Mbps.

Google Wi-Fi offers features such as Guest Wi-Fi, and a family feature where you can “pause” devices. You create a label for the pause, select one or more phones, tablets and computers, and whenever you want, cut off Wi-Fi ­access, for example during meal times or at the kids’ bedtime. You can schedule cut-off times too.

Using the app you can prioritise devices’ access to traffic, and manage your home Wi-Fi network externally.

The advanced networking features covers router functions such as UpnP, reserve IP addresses, port forwarding, NAT mode and can enable IPv6.

But there’s no Dynamic DNS (a traditional way of accessing computers remotely), virtual private network settings nor multiple subnet support, for handling of multiple networks behind a router.

I also noticed that my Synology NAS box would not connect to this router without some reconfiguration.

I’m more concerned with cabling issues. First, each Wi-Fi unit has just two Ethernet ports, and on the first unit you install, one of those is for linking to a modem.

If you have lots of Ethernet connections, you’ll either have to swap to Wi-Fi, or use a Gigabit switch to add ports.

While I could get fast speeds, I couldn’t get the same throughput as with Ethernet.

Using Okla’s with an Ethernet connection, this PC returned a ping (latency) time of 16 milliseconds, with 69 megabits per second download and 25 Mbps upload — on a 100 Mbps plan.

Using a mesh link to the internet, and Ethernet between the local Google Wi-Fi hub and my PC, I got 35 to 50 Mbps download, about 20 Mbps less than with cable. So Ethernet ­cabling still reigns supreme speedwise.

It you want to keep your ­cabling, you can link a Google Wi-Fi system to the Ethernet output of a standard router. You get your current cable connectivity but with Google’s Wi-Fi set up. Just remember to turn off the standard router’s Wi-Fi.

Although Google prefers you to configure your network from a phone, there’s no substitute for being able to configure it on a big screen using your browser.

It’s a shame it’s not available here.

At $199 for one and $499 for three-pack, Google Wi-Fi is expensive, indeed more expensive than in the US where it is priced at $US129 ($163) for one and $US299 for three.

The “Australia tax” certainly kicks in but you might be able to reduce the cost by shopping around.

Whatever the case, you can get rid of black spots for good with systems such as this.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s