Google WiFi review

WiFi just evolved and made everything that came before it look outdated

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Google WiFi
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  • Expert Rating

    5.00 / 5

Pros

  • Simple setup
  • Excellent long-range performance
  • Simple & effective features

Cons

  • Negates advanced router features

Bottom Line

The first mesh WiFi we've tested makes everything that's come before it look out of date. A simple and reliable way to genuinely spread WiFi throughout your home.

Would you buy this?

We’ve been testing WiFi products for more than ten years and it’s always been a total nightmare. These days at least updating firmware is automatic and products tend to actually work out of the box. But there’s always been the requirement of setting up a network that starts with a wired connection to a router and involves multiple tests to account for the fluctuating environmental conditions and unknowable factors that mean running the same test multiple times leads to wildly-different results. But now Google has sent us its mesh WiFi system. And everything has changed.

Our last WiFi group test revolved around examining the benefits of MU-MIMO technology - something that was supposed to revolutionize speeds (but didn't). We also reviewed WiFi extenders which re-broadcast the existing network seamlessly using the same name. Once everything was all up and running it generally worked well, but the technology still, well, shat the bed on occasion and lost sync or stopped working for short periods with no warning.

Setting up

Google WiFi's setup involves taking the three hubs out of the sophisticated, Apple-like box. Each has a USB power connection and two Ethernet ports (one on the primary node doubles as a WAN port). They all sport the same, stylish industrial design and have a blue, Cylon-like light at the front (you can adjust the brightness if it’s annoying).

Setting up WiFi networks and extenders is not supposed to be this easy.
Setting up WiFi networks and extenders is not supposed to be this easy.

We plugged the first into our router and set it up as normal and, sure enough, it worked as a WiFi access point straight away. However, what we should have done is downloaded the Google WiFi app and set it up using that. This is really easy and involves simply showing a QR code to your mobile device (the QR reader is built into the app). You then get to set the name, password and location before being asked to add the next two nodes.

After setting everything up and waiting a few minutes while updates were automatically downloaded and installed, we had our network running throughout our house.

It’s not supposed to be that easy.

Performance

We plugged our primary node into our top-rated Linksys EA9500 router and turned the router’s own WiFi off.

We simplified our testing as decent WiFi, these days, is almost always governed by signal strength and range rather than hardware and new technologies. So we simply used an iPad Pro to run OOKLA’s Speed Test at three points in our house: next to the router, one floor up in the bedroom and one in the attic (two floors up) – all three locations had a WiFi node very near to them so we expected it to instantly beat the scores we saw when we tested the last batch of expensive, high-tech routers. We were not disappointed. Our standard broadband speed is based on Telstra Cable - 114Mb/s download and around 3Mb/s upload.

Up close

One floor up

Two floors up

These results are much better and more consistent than the MU-MIMO routers and extenders that we tested last year. Mesh wins. Game over.

Key specs

AC1200 2x2 Wave 2 WiFi
Expandable mesh WiFi
Simultaneous dual-band WiFi (2.4GHz / 5GHz) supporting IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Two Gigabit Ethernet ports per access point. WAN and LAN on primary WiFi point; both act as LAN ports on additional WiFi points
WPA2-PSK

Next: Features and Conclusion

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Read more on these topics: WiFi, Google, range extender, routers, mesh networking, Google Home
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