I suspect most of us had the same reaction when Google announced its OnHub wireless router: it sounds impressive, but could it really be worth $200? The early reviews are in, and the verdict seems to be that … it depends.
On the plus side, everyone agrees that setup is utterly painless (possibly a first for any router), and the performance is impressive. On the downside, techies may be disappointed at the lack of configurability, and the fact that you can get better performance for the money.
But as ArsTechnica notes in the final excerpt, the $64,000 (or $200) question is – what will it turn into in future … ?
The WSJ said that even those with high-end routers will be impressed by ease of use and bandwidth, but may be disappointed by lack of granular control.
With my wife’s older laptop, which doesn’t have AC, the difference was stark. Sitting a room away from the spot where we place our routers, she could get up to three times the bandwidth via Google’s router. That alone makes it a worthwhile upgrade for my house […]
Google trumps Apple’s easy app-based setup with cloud-connected network management and enhanced troubleshooting […] and I like the fact that I can easily text my Wi-Fi password to a friend, or become “Manager” of my mother’s network […]
[But] there’s a clear lack of networking tweakability, which is good for easily frustrated home networkers like me, but bad news for people who want specific custom settings
CNN noted that performance was a little better than Apple’s Airport Extreme, but said it really wins on ease of use.
Speed tests showed the OnHub was a bit faster than the Airport connection (a difference of about 6 megabits per second). OnHub did even better at long distances, up to three rooms away. Overall the difference in network performance wasn’t too huge, at least in this limited face-off […]
What really sets the OnHub apart is its app […] It displays how many devices are attached to the network, including how much data each is using. If you want to play favorites, you can set the router to prioritize Wi-Fi for a specific device for one, two, or four hours. Most helpfully, if there’s a problem, it helps find out where exactly things are going wonky and suggests fixes.
The app makes it easy to share your network. Instead of pointing houseguests to a piece of paper with your 12-character alphanumeric password scribbled on it, you can share the network name and password directly from the app.
Engadget praised the intelligent design, signal strength & range, simple setup and excellent mobile app – but missed some customization features.
Some consumers who typically spend $200 on a router are going to be looking for customization options and features that just aren’t offered here. (That’s not to mention the lack of Ethernet ports!) But for the majority of customers who don’t need advanced networking options, the OnHub presents a compelling vision for how simple managing your home’s wireless network could be. It’s an attractive piece of hardware that works well, is easy to set up and is easy to manage once it’s up and running.
If you’ve ever spent the afternoon banging your head against the wall trying to get your WiFi network up and running, the OnHub might well be the right router for you, despite its high price. Again, there are some power users who will need more than the OnHub offers, and this simply isn’t for them. If you place a bigger premium on design and simplicity, and don’t mind the cost, the OnHub is easy to recommend.
Business Insider described it as a ‘technical marvel’ but ultimately not worth the price.
It is a technical marvel that brings form and function together into something really cool and useful, which is a weird thing to say about a router.
The OnHub already saved me a ton of headaches in my San Francisco apartment, where thick walls and a weird layout had previously made getting online a real pain.
But at its $199.99 price point, it’s really hard to recommend. Especially when you can get a super-high-performance router from the likes of Asus RT-N66U for $108 from Amazon.
TechHive said that it’s probably not the router for techies, but is the one for techies to recommend to their friends and family.
If you want a router that just works and handles the basics well, with minimal intervention on your part, the OnHub is a good choice. It’s also a good choice for a power user to recommend to the tech-savvy family and friends looking to them for network tech support–the price and performance are good, and the OnHub will make troubleshooting easier. You don’t even need to worry about making sure the router always has the latest firmware—it will automatically download and install it for you.
Power users, on the other hand, won’t be as satisfied with the OnHub for their own use. It’s a strong performer, and it has some innovative features—including that TPM module to foil hackers—but its feature set is much too limited: The OnHub won’t let you share storage or a printer over your network; it doesn’t have DLNA, ftp, or VPN servers; and it has just one LAN port.
While I appreciate hardware that recommends settings it thinks will deliver the highest performance, I want the freedom to override those recommendations if I don’t agree with them. You can’t control which channels the OnHub operates on, you can’t choose the network your clients join; heck, the OnHub doesn’t even provide for a guest network.
The Wirecutter had one of the most technical reviews, and was least impressed – for now, anyway.
The OnHub’s performance at close range (with a laptop in the same room as the router) was 42 percent and 47 percent slower than the similarly priced AirPort Extreme and Netgear R7000, respectively. Our favorite router, the TP-Link Archer C7, was faster by a third and $100 cheaper.
At our trickiest long-range testing location, where the router’s signal has to pass through walls and furniture to get to our wireless-ac laptop, Google’s OnHub was a little faster than the AirPort Extreme but half as fast as the Archer C7 and Netgear R7000 […]
One of the OnHub’s 13 internal antennas is supposed to survey your wireless environment every five minutes and switch over to a less-crowded Wi-Fi channel if it exists. This didn’t work for us […]
There’s a lot of potential for Google to update the OnHub and pack it full of amazing features in the future. Wait to buy it then, if you must; don’t buy it now.
But ArsTechnica probably summed it up best, describing it as “a $200 leap of faith.”
You’re paying $200 for a Wi-Fi router right now. That’s not an unheard-of sum of money for the director of your home network, but the price certainly puts the OnHub in the high-end of the market. For that money, it has mostly the hardware you would expect: dual-band 2.4 and 5GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi that goes up to 1900Mbps. The big downside is that you’re stuck with only one LAN port instead of the usual four, and the typical router settings have been reduced from pages and pages of options to just a handful of tweaks. OnHub is much more than a router, though—or at least, it will be, someday […]
On the underside of the OnHub, there’s a label that reads “Built for Google On.” If we want to start wildly speculating (and we do), we’d say that “Google On” is the name of Google’s smart home platform, making “OnHub” the hub for all of your Google On stuff. “Built for Google On” would be the certification process that OEMs go through to ensure their products work with Google’s smart home ecosystem.
Right now, the router doesn’t seem like anything special. It’s perfectly functional but not much else. No one should buy the OnHub as purely a Wi-Fi router. What will make or break this device is the upcoming smart home functionality, and right now we just don’t know what that entails. We’ll keep it hooked up and continue to monitor it though.
Are you tempted? Are you reluctant to give up fine-grained control? Or do you see it as a ‘wait and see’ item? Let us know in the comments.
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