David Gilbert asks whether to invest in these new piece of smart tech
Google is looking to revolutionize how our homes work.
They have a smart thermostat company, Nest, a security camera, Dropcam, and most recently its Home speaker which allows you control a range of actions with your voice.
However the one thing which all these devices have in common, and which makes them all work, is a wireless network, and Google is now looking to revolutionize that too.
Google Wifi is a modular wireless solution that promises to eradicate the black spots in your home by creating a mesh network using multiple routers dotted around your home.
While you can buy Wifi as a single unit, to get the most out of the system Google is selling the devices in multipacks of two and three.
The system plugs directly into your modem, or in most cases today, the single device which acts as a modem and router. The other units are then placed at various locations around your home where your wireless signal is weak or non-existent. All devices then connect to create a mesh which envelops your home.
Unlike many high-end routers on the market, which more closely resemble alien creatures, Google’s Wifi is a sleek device that will fit into most homes without standing out — which is a bonus as it needs to be in the open to work well.
The hardware inside Google Wifi is not exactly cutting-edge when it is compared to other high-end routers and mesh network systems, but for almost everything you will require from it — including streaming 4K video — it offers more than enough performance.
The cylindrical device features a USB-C charging port, and two gigabit Ethernet ports, one for connecting to your network, the other giving you the option to connect a networked hard drive or smart home hub.
Google says that a single unit can cover a home around 1,500 square feet in size, with a mesh network comprising three of the units covering up to 4,500 square feet.
In my testing of two units I found that the extra unit in my office at the top of the house certainly increased the speeds and reliability of the wireless network — though it was always good enough anyway.
The real benefit of this system is in homes where your normal router cannot reach certain areas of the house.
Where Google Wifi really shines however, is in its simplicity — both in setup and use.
With wireless networks, the biggest pain can be in setting the things up, but with Google Wifi, the system has been streamlined to the point where it took no more than 10 minutes to get the thing up-and-running.
The new Google Wifi app (available for iOS and Android) takes you step-by-step through the set-up process, where you name your new network, select a password, identify the device’s location and test the connection to your service provider.
Once that has been done, you can go ahead and begin adding additional units around your home. To do this simply plug in the Wifi unit (no need for an ethernet cable) and the app will find the device. Again you tell the app where the device is located, and once you have finished it will test the mesh network which has been created to establish if the device has been placed in a good location.
For most people all they want from a wireless network is reliability and speed. While Google Wifi cannot really address these issues (that’s still down to your service provider), it does make everything else a hell of a lot easier.
Do you constantly need to refer to a dog-eared sticky note on the fridge when someone asks for the password to your wireless network? With Google Wifi the password is easily accessible in the app.
You can see how many devices are hooked up to your network — just in case the next door neighbour is trying to stream Netflix using your network, or your child is using their tablet to play games online when they should be doing their homework.
Sick of sitting at the dinner table with everyone looking at their phones and tablets? Google Wifi allows you pause access to the network for all, or a subset of the devices, connected to it.
The app also allows you prioritize traffic to a specific device, meaning that if you want to stream a high definition film on your television, you can ensure a smooth playback by allowing it take the majority of the bandwidth.
There are a couple of drawbacks. Because you need to plug this into your modem, you are creating more cable clutter in your home, with each subsequent device requiring to be connected to a power point.
It would also have been nice to see Google integrate the Wifi system into another practical device, like Home or one of its Nest Thermostats.
But overall these are minor quibbles for a system which is easy to use and can easily solve the problem of Wifi black spots in a house.
A bundle of two units cost €299 while a single unit costs €169, meaning that while Google Wifi is cheaper than comparable systems on the market, it is certainly not cheap.
However, if you have a large home and your current system means that the signal in certain parts of the house is just not good enough, then Google Wifi is an ideal solution.