I don’t live in a big suburban house, but my parents-in-law do. So while I reviewed the singular Google Wifi earlier this month, I wasn’t able to really see the full potential of using the routers together to create a mesh network. I knew where I could, though. I’ve long struggled with getting my work done when staying with my in-laws, because their WiFi has always been absolutely horrid. They’ve long stuck with the stock router that Comcast gave them, and said ISP foolishly placed it in the most secluded corner of the house.
When I got my Google Wifi unit(s) earlier this month, I knew this 3,000 sq. foot house would be the perfect place to test out Google’s trio of routers, and I couldn’t be happier with the results…
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After hard-resetting the router that I had configured back home (which actually took a while to figure out), the set up process was a breeze. The Google Wifi app walks you through getting the first Google Wifi router set up, after which it asks you if you have more that you’d like to place throughout the house. This time, I was glad to tell it that I did. After that, the app simply told me to go a room or two away and plug one in, after which it automatically detects and sets up the second one. The process is the same for the third.
It really couldn’t be any easier, and that’s where I think that the premium you pay for the three pack — $300 — is worth it. A lot of people ask how using these is any different than just daisy chaining a few cheap routers together, and this is one of those ways. It’s easy enough for a “normal” person to set up. My mother-in-law saw how I did everything and wasn’t scared away by having to load up any hidden configuration menus or WiFi settings pages. (If you, like most technologically savvy people, have used these, you know how unintuitive they are.)
Obviously there’s more to that with these, though. The routers intelligently bump your devices around if you’re moving around the house, so you rarely get stuck connected to one router on the opposite side of the house and unable to establish a connection. This did happen once with my laptop, but all it took was a quick toggle of WiFi on and off to resolve the issue. This shouldn’t happen at all, though, and in my experience, it was rare. Network Assist, Google says “transitions you to the closest Wifi point for the best signal.” And it did.
Speeds at my in-laws’ house from some areas went from 5 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up all the way to 60 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up (which is about what it should be), and in other areas the Google Wifi setup provided an internet connection where one didn’t exist — or barely existed — before. I usually stay in a guest bedroom upstairs on the exact opposite side of the house from the router. Previously, I had simply no connection there. Now, I have a full connection at nearly the speed it would be if I were wired right up to the stock router.
Another perk to these is that you don’t have to do any special set up on the hardware side of things to get them working. You don’t have to call your ISP. You shouldn’t have to do any special configuration of your modem or your router in most cases. In my use, I just wired the main Google Wifi unit up to the Comcast-provided modem/router combo and it worked immediately. The Google Wifi app tells you that this set could cause some problems with things like Chromecast since you’ll likely have multiple active WiFi networks in the house (which is nice of it), but as long as you change all your devices to default to the new Google Wifi SSID, you’re pretty much good to go.
Now, there’s a router right in the middle of my in-laws’ kitchen hidden behind a picture frame and a bowl of fruit. That’s what Google envisioned with its OnHub routers (the predecessor to the Google Wifi), and now that I see it in action, I’m definitely a believer. WiFi routers shouldn’t be hidden in the back corner of your home under a pile of wires — they should be out in the middle of the home.
While they haven’t yet set it up, my mother-in-law was particularly interested in the “Family Wi-Fi” feature. When I told her that she could use it to turn off her son’s Xbox at certain times of the day or kill the WiFi through the house after a certain hour, her mouth was agape. But I think that that’s how WiFi should be. It should be easy to set up, there should be a central and easy-to-access app to manage the network, and the routers themselves should be small, visually appealing, and discrete enough that you could place one almost anywhere in your home.
Everything else that I said about the Google Wifi in my original review stands. I’m happy with the app, I’m happy with the price, and I’m happy with the connection:
It’s just a good router, and my experience using it for a week didn’t raise any alarms — everything pretty much works as advertised so far as I can tell. Connectivity was consistent throughout the day without any noticeable fluctuations in speed, I didn’t have any downtime that resulted in me having to manually reset the thing (I’m looking at you, my decade old Netgear router that was long ago banished to the bottom of the closet), and it’s absolutely awesome having the ability to check up on the state of my home network by just opening the Google Wifi app.
Unfortunately you probably won’t be able to get these in time to gift them for the holidays, but I highly recommend them as a buy for anyone who has parents or parents-in-law with Wifi problems. Literally anyone can set them up, they’re a better value than the Eero by a decent margin (with mostly the same features), and they’re just plain solid routers all-around. You can sign up for the wait list for both the single and the 3-pack at the Google Store; the single runs you $129, while the 3-pack is $299.