Google’s WiFi looks good and generally WORKS WELL but in this Google WiFi Review, we take a critical look at some of the pitfalls in a hopefully non-techy way.
For some people, Google WiFi may well be a waste of money. There are some rubbish bits to it as well.
For others…it could be the panacea to speedy house-wide internet access.
What Actually is Google WiFi?
It’s a generic WiFi home “solution” that you control from the Google WiFi app. Google WiFi entirely replaces your existing WiFi and can extend your WiFi to those hard-to-reach places in your house or even in the shed at the end of your (small) garden.
It supports Home Automation.
It has the techy potential to be really FAST. Faster than what you currently have…say 5x-10x faster (it depends).
It’s also able to work on any existing wired home network you might already have. Kinda. Maybe. Perhaps.
What Can Google WiFi do For Me?
It depends what you have now. But try these scenarios…
I have one modem/router thingy and use the WiFi from it in my house/flat
Google WiFi can probably help in this scenario.
- Google WiFi is probably faster than your current Wifi – but you might need a new modem/router with “Gigabit ports” to get the very best speeds from Google WiFi
if you live in a house (and have one modem/router)
- If you live in a house then the Google WiFi pods will, most likely, improve the coverage and speed in those hard-to-get-to places for your current WiFi. The bigger the house the more likely it will be that Google WiFi will be able to improve coverage, perhaps even into your garden and shed or garage. Of course, it will require more WiFi pods and hence more cost to do that.
if you live in a small flat (and have one modem/router)
- If you live in a small flat then Google WiFi will probably look nicer than your current modem-router. The Google WiFi app will probably work better than your current method of configuring & controlling your WiFi if, indeed, you even know how to do that. Google WiFi will probably be a tiny bit faster. But you probably should NOT buy it for your flat.
if you have reasonably high-spec devices you want to connect
- I have a mixture of new and old devices. Previously most conencted to my old WiFi at around 100Mbs. Upgrading to Google WiFi made no difference to the older ones that were slower than 100Mbs in any case. However a newish laptop I have now suddenly conencts at 300Mbs to Google WiFi. So if you have lots of new tablets, smartphone or laptops (or even PCs with a good WiFi card) you might suddenly enjoy a very welcome speed boost.
if you have LOTS of connected devices
- At the time of writing I have about 25 WiFi devices. I guess that’s a reasonable amount and many of them don’t do too much. But if you have LOTS of WiFi devices doing lots of stuff then several Google WiFi pods could very well help spread the load of managing and connecting these devices. Thus if you are planning to progressively transform your home into a ‘connected home’ then something like Google WiFi is going to be a good foundation upon which you can add those connected devices in the future. You build a house by starting with the foundatins, right?
I have a wired home network
Google WiFi can probably help in this scenario too.
- If you already have multiple WiFi points on a wired network at home, then Google WiFi will replace them and it will almost certainly be faster and, over time, will involve less maintenance as well.
- Even with lots of Google WiFi pods, you will only have to connect to one WiFi name (techy term: SSID) with your smartphones or tablets.
- Google WiFi will work with a combination of wired and WiFi connections. You just plug it into your existing network…or not…you choose. It “just works”, either way or both ways together. #ReallyCool
Other Stuff – the app
The Google WiFi app controls…errr…Google WiFi. It tests itself from time-to-time but more importantly also easily lets you do this.
- Add your kids’ smartphone’s to a special area on the app where you can, sort-of, restrict access to unwanted content AND create schedules where it is turned on or off automatically eg BEDTIME. This can be different for differently aged children. Although if your kids have mobile data then that’s a pretty pointless thing to do as mobile data will totally bypass ALL the security that you are clever enough to install (except on the phone itself)
- Note: using Google WiFi’s recommended setup will also mean that you will be able to limit access to the internet from wired desktop computers as well as from wireless devices. In fact it’s cleverer than that – even if the device is on a wired part of your network it can easily be restricted by Google WiFi, all you do is add that device to a schedule/label in the app.
- You can also pause connections for mealtimes or for on-the-naughty-step times with one tap of the app.
- You can easily create an additional guest WiFi network with a different name and password. That network can be anabled or disabled without affecting yoru regular WiFi.
- You can assign greater priority to your device so it works faster than the rest of the family’s devices 😉 Very handy when streaming the football. Very handy.
- You can let your partner manage Google WiFi too on his/her phone.
- Once you have Google WiFi in place then you have the potential to better enable ‘Google Home’ aka doing it properly…WiFi-enabled fridge freezers, light bulbs, doorbells, speakers and all that sort of stuff. I’ve started to do all that and it’s a great way to relieve boredom by buying some new gadgets that you don’t really need.
What Do I need to buy?
Again, it depends on what you already have.
- You will need to buy 1, 2 or 3 Google WiFi pods. Two pods should easily be enough for a standard 3 bedroom house. The more the merrier.
- Google WiFi comes with a special cable that attaches ANY ONE of the pods to your existing modem/router. This is a special speedy cable…(key words: 10/100/1000, Gigabit, RG45)
- There is a good chance that you will need a new modem/router from your internet service provider to get the support for the “1000” … as you’ve guessed, 1000 is faster than 100. For the sake of £/$30 that new modem would be worth it. The next techy section tries to give some insight to help you find out if y ou might have to do this (post your modem model below in the comemnts and I can tell you).
This is a bit techy. Sorry. I’ll try to keep it straightforward and I have simplified the scenario a little. You can skip this section and ‘hope’ the end solution will be faster, but if you want to know if your investment will really speed things up then you need to understand what speed your existing router (and other home network infrastructure) can support.
Your Kit: Let’s say you have broadband internet access and a Netgear WNR2000 router (specs here) which supports 300Mbps WiFi speeds and has 10/100 “Fast Ethernet ‘holes’ ” on the back.
Google’s Kit: Google WiFi supports ‘up to’ 2.3 Gbps (ie 2300Mbps which is supposedly 7x faster than your existing 300Mbps). However that 10/100, so-called, ‘Fast Ethernet’ connection is not fast and will limit Google WiFi to 100Mbps. ie Google WiFi will, sort of, run slower than it is able to as there is a bottleneck.
Recommendation: In this scenario, you would be wise to upgrade your router to one that has at least one 10/100/1000 hole on the back.
If you do upgrade your router, you will also need to ensure that you use the cable that Google supply. You can buy them cheaply enough (<$5) but that Google cable is effectively a 10/100/1000 cable and your existing cable is likely to be a slower yellow 10/100 cable. (Q: How can I tell? Actually, it’s quite tricky, you can check the STATUS/properties of a wired connection from a PC as I’ve shown in the annotated image to the right.
But let’s say you also have an Apple iPhone 8 (specs here) which probably supports speeds of between 1.7Gbps and 2.5Gbps. So all should be good here as that speed is “greater than 1000”. The iPhone 8 is already faster than your Netgear router so either a new router from your ISP or Google WiFi should see your Apple’s WiFi speed increase.
But don’t forget the further away you move from your Netgear router and the more walls the signal has to travel to your iPhone 8 then the slower WiFi becomes. By adding Google’s WiFi pods around your house then your iPhone will connect to the closest, fastest one. The pods then relay your WiFi information between themselves at high speeds. So Google WiFi can make your iPhone faster all over your house.
Why is Google WiFi Rubbish?
I probably got you to read this because of the title using the word RUBBISH. I will add in a case study link, below, to explain my woes.
These are the rubbish aspects of Google WiFi
- The setup and configuration of each WiFi point is slow. But it does work in a mostly foolproof way if you don’t try to be too clever.
- When you set up each device you need to precisely follow the instructions on the app to the letter eg when inserting any cable into a WiFi pod. The cable is inserted at a different time in the setup process for the first WiFi pod than for all subsequent ones, so proceed carefully.
- Google’s documentation online is techy, even when it’s trying not to be. Much of it will make a non-techy person’s eyes glaze over. Google TRY not to be techy but they just can’t help themselves.
- Following on from the previous point, the Google WiFi pods have two ports (holes) underneath them – these are a WAN port and a LAN port (or so the documentation describes them). If you plug your cable into the wrong hole then it will either not work or configure itself incorrectly. To make matters worse the ports are not labelled WAN and LAN. I mean, what is a WAN port? I know what one is but I’m betting the majority of people have absolutely no idea.
- If you already have an existing wired network then Google WiFi SHOULD be configured to take over the IP address allocation (techy term: DHCP server). This means that any hard-coded IP addresses you might currently have will simply not work – I had them for my printers for example. It *IS* possible to configure Google WiFi to use your existing IP address range…I tried but I gave up after 4 hours talking to Google support (they were very nice and helpful but didn’t know their product sufficiently well – and it literally was 4 hours). MORAL: Do it the Google-recommended way for a wired network.
I have quite a few old devices and they only seem a little bit faster than before. My smartphone seems a little bit faster. When I use the Google WiFi app to test the speed my smartphone was up to something like 140mbps and others in the house seemed to all be stuck at 70Mbps. Technically my smartphone IS twice as fast but the reality of actually using it is that it is only a bit faster. But, hey, that’s alright.
On that basis, it would not have been worth upgrading. But the reason I only have small improvements is that I already had a fast (1000) hard-wired network with multiple WiFi points around the house/shed.
However, I am happy with the purchase as my previous solution was ‘delicate’ and sometimes broke! So I am much happier with how robust Google WiFi seems to be AND how easy it is to maintain. ie SUPER EASY to maintain via the app. I’ll say it again…SUPER EASY TO MAINTAIN.
Also, I am now able to control the times when the WiFi is on. #ControlFreak
It’s also made me upgrade my router, similar to as described in the earlier case study. This is then going to lead into my next project which is to finally get cable/fibre broadband.
Google WiFi is a good solution to support the speeds that fibre will deliver.
What is Google WiFi MESH Network?
Don’t worry about it. MESH just means that there is more than one point which you access your WiFi from. All those points have the same name.
If you only have one Google WiFi pod then it is NOT a MESH network.
Google WiFi Setup Tips
- Exactly follow the instructions on the app. If you get clever and try to jump ahead of yourself you know what’s going to happen
- For a wired solution the instructions tell you to plug the primary pod into your modem. That’s correct. But for subsequent pods you set them up with only the power cable plugged in. Only after setup is complete would you plug the Google WiFi pod into your wired network (if you have one)
- You non-primary pods can either be at the end of a network cable or can be inserted into a current cable-run. eg if you have a printer connected to a switch then you can, instead, have the printer connected to the Google WiFi pod that is then connected to the switch. Or you could just plug it straight into the switch instead. But you need to plug the wires into the right hole on the back of the pod in these scenarios.
- Almost certainly you can use Google WiFi with existing routers. As we’ve already said, in some cases a ‘better’ router will work better AND allow Google WiFi to work faster.
- Google WiFi Bridge Mode is possible. I would not recommend this unless you are a network expert. eg I am COMPETENT but not an expert…I really didn’t want to do this and even Google had difficulties advising me.
- Google WiFi setup issues may well occur. The app is generally good at sorting them out automatically. But not always. If you have to start again you can factory reset the devices from the app OR by pressing the button on the pod as you power on (when the light flashes blue after about 5 seconds you release the button)
- Google WiFi Placement is an important but not critical consideration. A smallish 3 bedroom house will probably not experience losses of speed as you get further away from each pod. However fine-tuning the positions of multiple pods could keep you busy for a while. I have a medium-sized house and two pods seem to have covered all 3 floors of my house (one more in the shed). I spent very little time worrying about the exact positions. The app DOES tell you signal strength and DOES give you some guidance to help with positioning of the pods.
- Google WiFi support can be via forums or via the phone number given in the app. Just pretend you’ve just bought it and give them a call. They are EXTREMELY helpful.
- Buy a Google WiFi triple pack now or buy a Google WiFi Twin pack now and then one later? You can add pods as you go so either approach is technically fine. It’s obviously cheaper if you buy a 3-pack than a 2-pack plus a single pack.
- Google WiFi DHCP – Google Wifi needs to be a DHCP server and be in control of IP addresses. You can probably come up with an exotic way of avoiding that…Top Tip…don’t. Just give in to their way of doing it.
- The Google WiFi Forum is also fairly active and there are some people on there who really know their stuff. If you want REAL expert advice then go there. (Link to Google.com)
- try this for a Google WiFi Manual: (Link to: Google.com)
Caveat Emptor – Google WiFi Review
That phrase “caveat emptor” means “be careful what you are buying and do your research”. This Google WiFi Review is here to help as best we can.
Note: Google WiFi 2 can never be faster than your ISP’s internet connection.
Networks can be highly complicated. Google WiFi WILL probably simplify things for most people. However, do not expect miracles. With a bit of luck, you MIGHT get a seemingly miraculous increase in speed. Or not.
The key ting to remember is that your home network/WiFi will only be as fast as the slowest part of it that you use.The “slowest part” can easily be a simple cable or an incorrectly wired network socket.
So if you have a slow or poor internet connection then you can’t go faster than that. If your modem.router has slow network ports (holes on the back) then you will be limited by the speed of those. If you have old, slow cables then you will be limited by the speed of those.
Also, the further your WiFi signal has to go and the more walls it has to go through then the slower it will be. On this last point having more than one Google WiFi ‘Point’ should help.
Google WiFi is ‘sufficiently simple’. There is a LOT you can NOT do with Google WiFi if you are techy. If you are the sort of person that manually configures your router then you are going to be quite limited in what you can do.
Case Study – Google WiFi Review
I’ve waffled on too much. Here is a link to a case study of ‘my house‘. It’s a wired network scenario
Google WiFi is then a great place to embark on your connected home from. Of course, you don’t need Google’s WiFi nor do you need any of Google’s products but I’m guessing they are going to be one of the key players in the Connected Home Space for years to come.
I have Nest as well as various Google speakers dotted around the place.
GIFT TIP: Kids LOVE the ‘OK Google’ support from their own Google Home or Home Mini speaker. As you never let them out of the house you can buy them an imaginary friend that answers all their questions from the comfort of home 😉 They’re quite handy as kitchen timers too. Probably about a million other things as well. I’ll write about it one day
I’ve tried to write this article for a non-techy reader. I DO have a reasonable (but not expert) level of knowledge for networking and so I am happy to try to answer questions below – especially from Supporters of the blog 😉
For a simple, wireless home WiFi scenario then Google’s WiFi is great. There are probably slightly cheaper or slightly faster alternatives but Google is a trusted brand and, from my experience, google WiFi easily works in a straightforward scenario.
For a more complex, (part-) wired scenario I would recommend to follow the standard Google configuration and adapt to it. Rather than get Google WiFi to adapt to exactly how you want to do things.
There ARE speed and coverage gains to be had to handle the needs of multiple streamers and gamers at home. Ultimately, however, a wired connection will always be the best.
In this Google WiFi Review, I’ve only just started to consider Home Automation in a wider sense. If you are thinking of starting out with Home Automation in your home then I would imagine it’s a great idea to get your WiFi speed and coverage sorted out before investing in further gadgets.
Google WiFi Price Availability & Discounts
Google control the pricing. So, the price is the same directly from Google or via Amazon. A Google WiFi best buy price would be for a refurbished unit on Amazon, these are worth considering as they are most probably simply unused customer returns.
The normal price for a 3-pack is £329/$368/Eu359 but, as you can see, there was a special deal in Nov2018 on Amazon and I got 3 of them for £269. #NoPRFreebies
Google WiFi Review for Home
- Ease of Setup
- Versatility of App
- Works with stuff
Fast, extendible home WiFi. Generally Awesome but be careful
Speeds up your Home WiFi…for a cost. Generally easy to implement unless you have complex requirements