Google Wifi is the easiest and most manageable router that we’ve ever set up, period. It might not be the most powerful or offer precise controls, but it more than makes up for any lack of depth in unmatched simplicity.
- Super-simple setup
- Great value
- Excellent design
- Limited hardware control
- Lower AC rating
The age of the traditional wireless router has drawn to a close, replaced by wireless mesh routers like the Google Wifi. Devices like the Netgear Orbi and Samsung Connect Home are extremely popular these days. So, it shouldn’t be too surprising that google would jump on the bandwagon with the Google Wifi.
And, Google’s wireless router expedition has paid off. Not only is the Google Wifi the best wireless mesh router you can buy, but it may just be the best router, full stop. This is mostly thanks to the fact that it packs in more mesh units at a lower price than competing mesh routers.
This attention to value is then combined with simple setup and network management through a clean mobile app. Trust us – after using the Google Wifi, you won’t want to use any other wireless router.
Price and availability
With what’s on offer, Google isn’t asking for much, especially for what the Google Wifi can do. It will set you back $299 (£329, AU$499) for a set of three units – that’s one primary ‘Wi-Fi point’ (the one you hook up to the modem or gateway) and two secondary WiFi points.
A single Google Wifi unit can be had for $129 (£129, AU$199). Google promises that three Wifi Points can cover up to 4,500 square feet (418 square meters) in a home.
If you’re in the UK, you’ll find the Google Wifi in a 2-pack instead of the 3-pack, and it will cost £229. Australians will be happy to know that the Google Wifi is finally available – you can pick up a single node for AU$199 and the 3-pack for AU$499.
The Google Wifi is a massive value – it offers more units for less cash than any other competitor, like the Netgear Orbi, with other wireless mesh routers coming in at $400 (about £320, AU$520), at least, for the same amount of mesh nodes.
Design and setup
Google doesn’t just have an advantage in pricing on its hands, but it also has the best designed Wifi units and the easiest setup of any offering. Each Google Wifi unit, a tiny, unassuming cylinder with a simple white LED band in its center, is capable of the same functionality.
This means that any Google Wifi unit can function as the core ‘router’ of the system, while the others can spread wired internet (which is beamed to the unit wirelessly) with their included Ethernet ports as well as wireless internet. All three units are powered through USB-C.
Setup is also totally smooth, just like the Google Wifi’s hardware design – using a free iOS or Android app to facilitate the entire process. We’re not going to dive into the nitty gritty of the procedure, but the Google Wifi App will configure your network by first scanning the QR codes on the Wifi point connected to your modem or gateway.
The app will then ask you to give your new network a name and set a password, then pair any additional Wifi points you have, by scanning their QR codes – you’ll then be able to label individual nodes in the app. Again, this only takes a moment for the initial Google Wifi node to recognize additional nodes and for them to start working.
But, you’re not going to get the same depth of access as even Netgear Orbi provides, so no band switching for you. However, Google Wifi handles this in the background automatically.
However, the Google Wifi app features more useful settings, like constant monitoring of your network, its points and the devices connected to it. The app has an included internet speed test, like Ookla’s a mesh test that measures the health of your Points’ connections, along with a Wi-Fi test that measures your connection strength from within the network.
This is the most complete and elegant suite of controls we’ve seen from a Wi-Fi mesh system so far, in spite of its lack of dropdown boxes and toggles.
You can also prioritize bandwidth to one device for a time, control smart home devices and pause internet access to certain devices in a family setting – all from within this app.
And, now Google has expanded Google Wi-Fi’s Network Check feature to test multiple devices, so that you can spot potential bottlenecks in your network, and rearrange your Google Wifi access points in order to optimize network performance.
The Google Wifi was able to match, if not exceed, the performance of the Netgear Orbi. Drawing the absolute most out of our 100Mbps Wi-Fi service, we’ve never seen any router be able to do the same. But, the core difference here is that Google Wifi can deliver this high performance in every room of our, albeit small, house.
We were able to stream 4K video through Netflix to our Roku Premiere in the basement, as well as being able to play Overwatch in the office where the modem is located with no problems. Wi-Fi mesh systems like the Google Wifi aren’t focused so much on throughput as they are coverage, but this product definitely delivers.
The traffic prioritization feature can ensure that your gaming session is getting more of that crucial bandwidth than the other devices in your house that are Facebooking and streaming HD video.
Plus, the network can automatically repair itself should one or more of the Wifi Points be accidentally unplugged or otherwise lose power.
While we know that Google Wifi operates its mesh system over existing Wi-Fi bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz) over the 802.11s mesh protocol rather than Netgear Orbi’s tri-band system that communicates over a second 5GHz Wi-Fi band, we haven’t found a terrible difference between either’s performance. We do see slightly faster download speeds in MB/s on the 2.4GHz band from the Orbi over the Google Wifi, but that could also be an anomaly.
Where the Google Wifi truly excels over comparable routers is simple the fantastic price to coverage ratio. You can get equal coverage from competing systems with fewer units, sure, but the versatility of having more units gives you just in terms of eliminating dead spots is huge.
The Google Wifi is the most straightforward router we’ve ever set up, bar none. And, that’s even taking the two extra devices required to complete it into consideration. For a relatively low price point, there are more units on offer than most of Google’s competitors, and the best setup and management app by far.
For all the finer hardware controls it lacks, and the lack of AC3000 or AC2200 throughput, Google considered every toggle and test it could present in an easily understandable way through its app. (There’s even bandwidth priority control.) Couple that with a hardware design that’s easier to hide in plain sight than any we’ve seen yet, and you’re looking at one of the best Wi-Fi systems that money can buy today.