Google Nest Wifi vs Google Wifi: Should you upgrade your mesh Wi-Fi network?
Google has been slowly rebranding its smart home devices under the Google Nest moniker. One of the latest additions to the growing family is the Google Nest Wifi — the successor to the Google Wifi mesh router launched in 2016.
The original Google Wifi was widely praised for its simplicity in extending network coverage between rooms through multiple units. Google says the Nest Wifi is better in every way, with higher specs and some optional new smart home features.
Is it worth upgrading to the Nest Wifi if you already have Google Wifi? What are the differences between the two mesh routers? Find out in this Google Nest Wifi vs Google Wifi comparison!
Is the Google Nest Wifi faster than Google Wifi?
In a word: Yes
The Google Nest Wifi supports AC2200 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi with 4 x 4 antennas. This covers a theoretical maximum of 2,200Mbps with 400Mbps on the single 2.4GHz band and 1,733Mbps on 5GHz across two bands. It’s powered by a 1.4GHz quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM.
Meanwhile, the Google Wifi supports AC1200 with 2 x 2 antennas for a total maximum of 1,200Mbps across one 2.4GHz band and one 5GHz band. It’s also got half the amount of RAM (512MB) and a weaker quad-core 710Mhz processor.
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What that means in practice is that you’ll be able to connect far more devices to the Nest Wifi before your bandwidth starts straining.
Both routers hit the Wi-Fi 5 standard (IEEE 802.11ac) and support beamforming, as well as Google’s own special tech, which switches signal between bands as you move around your house to maintain the strongest connection.
If you’ve got an ultra-fast connection capable of 300-500Mbps speeds, there are technically better options out there, though very few routers are as user-friendly as Google’s. Also, the lack of Wi-Fi 6 support removes a bit of future-proofing from both models.
It’s also worth noting that the Google Nest Wifi Points are scaled back to AC1200 with the same antennas as the regular Google Wifi, though they are still a little more powerful in raw specs. If you want the fastest speeds throughout your home or business, you’ll need the Nest Wifi units, not the Points.
Has the coverage improved?
Andrew Grush / Android Authority
Again, yes, absolutely.
I’ve been using a Google Wifi 3-pack in my three-bed home for the best part of a year. Before switching over from a Virgin Media SuperHub 3 from my provider, the network signal barely reached my office upstairs, leaving me with a slow, unstable Wi-Fi connection with speeds below 10Mbps.
After installing a trio of Google Wifi units, I rocked around 60Mbps of the advertised 200Mbps upstairs, with the main unit downstairs hitting 200Mbps with ease.
Related:The 10 best Google products you can buy
In testing the new devices, I made the Nest Wifi my primary router, replaced one of the nodes with a Point, and reused an older Google Wifi router in my office. I’m now getting above at 120Mbps in every single room in my house, with each router in the same locations as before. That’s quite an upgrade.
Don’t believe me? Here are the before and after speed test results:
The improved connection results from the increased coverage from the base Nest Wifi, which Google says covers 2,200 square feet vs the 1,500 square foot coverage from the older Google Wifi. The Nest Wifi Points cover 1,600 square feet.
Design changes and Nest Wifi Point features
One of the biggest changes between the Google Nest Wifi and the Google Wifi is the design.
The new routers are taller, wider, and heavier than their predecessors. They’ve also gone through an aesthetic overhaul, with the Nest Wifi adopting a rounded dome-like shape and a smoother finish with options for snow, sand, and mist colorways. It’s certainly more appealing than the plastic, puck-like design from before.
Flip the routers over, and it’s a similar story on both devices — two ethernet ports and a power port. Strangely, Google has opted for a barrel jack power connector for the Nest Wifi. The original Google Wifi uses USB-C.
A particularly welcome change is the subtle LED indicator light, which is now a small dot instead of the large pulsing ring wrapped around the Google Wifi pucks. The Nest Wifi Points sit somewhere in the middle with a round LED around the bottom edge.
Of course, the biggest change to the ecosystem that comes with Nest Wifi Points’ addition is Google Assistant support.
Each Point essentially doubles up as a Google Nest Mini with all the voice commands, music playback, and smart home controls you get with any Google smart speaker. There’s also a mute button on the back in case you want some privacy.
The audio quality is surprisingly good for a glorified router. The 360-degree sound is on par with the Nest Mini and an improvement on the older Google Home Mini I was previously using in the bedroom where my Nest Wifi Point now resides.
As well as the drop in coverage and network speed, the Nest Wifi Points also lose out on the ethernet ports found on the regular Nest Wifi (and Google Wifi). That means you can’t backhaul your mesh network from a Point.
Can I use my old Google Wifi routers with Nest Wifi?
Yes, but it doesn’t come without a few headaches.
If you’re replacing Google Wifi nodes with Nest Wifi or Nest Wifi Points, it’s as simple as adding them to your existing network. However, if you want to replace your primary Google Wifi router connected to the modem with a Nest Wifi, you’ll need to factory reset your entire network and start all over again.
The process of setting everything back up took me around 30 minutes, so it’s not a painful ordeal by any means. Plus, the results are more than worth the effort.
You can technically add up to 200(!) Nest Wifi, Google Wifi, and Nest Wifi Points to a single network, though anything over three will be overkill for a reasonably-sized family home.
Unfortunately, there’s no Google OnHub support, so if you have one of the old TP-Link or Asus mesh routers, you won’t be able to include them on the same network.
Google Wifi app vs Google Home app: Which is better?
With the original Google Wifi routers, the bespoke Google Wifi app handled the setup and management. That app still exists, but you now have to use the Google Home app to create or add to your network for the Nest Wifi.
However, in a slightly awkward move, you’ll need both apps to get all the features for the Nest Wifi and Google Wifi routers.
The Home app, a one-stop-shop for all Google smart home devices, gives you options to add parental controls, create a guest network, enable a mode for optimizing traffic for Google Stadia to maximize performance, and toggle WPA3 security. Those latter two features are also backwards compatible with existing Google Wifi devices through the Home app.
However, if you want to tweak your network through the advanced options, you’ll automatically be re-directed to the Google Wifi app. Here you can alter your DNS, WAN, LAN settings, change your NAT type, control port management, and a bunch of other settings reserved for power users. The Google Wifi app also lets you manually prioritize specific devices on a network to optimize performance.
Google Nest Wifi: Where to buy
Google is selling through the last of the first generation Google Wifi routers, but you can still pick up a few bundles on Amazon and other major retailers.
For the Google Nest Wifi, there are a variety of router combos available. At Amazon, you can pick up a Google Nest Wifi router for $169 or a two-pack for $299.
Alternatively, you can buy a two-pack with the Google Nest Wifi and a Google Nest Wifi Point for $269 from Best Buy, or a three-pack with two Points for $349. A standalone Nest Wifi Point can be purchased for $149, but it should be noted you’ll need a Nest Wifi or Google Wifi to act as the primary router first.
Google Nest Wifi vs Google Wifi verdict: Should you upgrade?
If you want the very best router Google has to offer, then the Nest Wifi is a solid upgrade over the Google Wifi. The faster speeds and particularly the improved coverage ensure a smoother and more stable Wi-Fi experience. The Nest Wifi Points are also great options if you want a router-smart speaker combo.
If you’re buying a mesh router for the first time, then it’s an absolute no-brainer to go for the new and improved model. However, for existing Google Wifi users, it’s not quite as clear-cut. There’s not much future-proofing with the Nest Wifi, especially with the lack of Wi-Fi 6 support.
It’s taken three years to update the Google Wifi, so perhaps in 2022, we’ll see a new Nest Wifi model with the same, but until then, the Nest Wifi is a welcome addition to Google’s ever-growing smart home family.
Google Nest Wifi (2-Pack)
Not interested in the Google Assistant features found in Nest Wifi points? This kit contains two Nest Wifi routers, the perfect basis for a mesh network for those who don't want the smart speaker extras. You also get the advantage of more ethernet ports this way!
That’s it for our Google Nest Wifi vs Google Wifi comparison. Do you think the Nest Wifi is enough of an upgrade? Will you be picking up a Point for Google Assistant? Let us know in the comments.
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In 2016, Google made its first foray into mesh networking with Google Wifi, a puckish, three-piece mesh router system. Like other mesh routers, you connect one Google Wifi device to your modem and then scatter the others throughout your home to spread a speedy Wi-Fi signal from room to room. The $300 system tested well and quickly earned a spot as one of CNET's top recommended routers.
Then, at the end of 2019, Google unveiled a follow-up. Rather than calling it Google Wifi 2, Google called the system Nest Wifi, which matched the company's efforts to rebrand the Google Home Mini smart speaker and Google Home Hubsmart display as the Nest Mini and Nest Hub.
But don't let that fool you into thinking it's just the same system with a different name. Though they both make the same basic pitch -- steady, reliable, whole-home Wi-Fi -- Google Wifi and Nest Wifi come with some key differences. And, with both currently available from major retailers, you'll want to be sure you understand those differences before you buy in. Let's run through them:
A new, Nesty design
With stout, cylindrical devices that pair together wirelessly, Google Wifi and Nest Wifi both take the same basic approach to design -- but that doesn't mean that Google didn't spruce things up for generation 2.
For starters, Nest Wifi softened the edges and ditched the blue LED lights to give the system a gentler look that's meant to better blend into your home's decor (and yes, they look a lot like marshmallows). And while the Nest Wifi router is only available in white, the range-extending Nest Wifi Points come in your choice of three colors -- white, blue, or coral.
That brings up another key hardware difference. With Google Wifi, each device is identical. You can connect any of them to your modem to serve as your network's router, and you can use any of them as range extenders in other rooms of your house. That's not the case with Nest Wifi, which features a dedicated router and smaller, separate range extenders -- those Nest Wifi Points.
Google Wifi devices each include an Ethernet WAN port and a separate Ethernet LAN port. That gives you the option of a direct, wired connection to any Google Wifi device in your home, and it lets you wire your Google Wifi devices together for faster speeds, too. The Nest Wifi router features those same two Ethernet jacks, but the Nest Wifi Points don't include Ethernet jacks at all.
Oh, and speaking of those Nest Wifi Points, Google built a microphone and a speaker into each one. That lets you use the things like smart speakers, with the full intelligence of the Google Assistant just a quick voice command away.
Bring your home up to speed with the latest on automation, security, utilities, networking and more.
Along with the usual voice-assistant staples like asking for the weather, playing music and turning smart homegadgets on and off, you can also ask the Google Assistant to run a quick speed test for your network, or to pause the Wi-Fi for a device or group of devices. Google also built touch controls into the top of each Point, which lets you pause playback or adjust the volume with a quick tap. And, if you'd rather disable the voice controls altogether, you can flip a physical switch to turn the microphone off.
Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi
|Google Wifi||Nest Wifi|
|Wi-Fi standard||Wi-Fi 5||Wi-Fi 5|
|Range||1,500 square feet per point||2,200 square feet per router, 1,600 square feet per point|
|Built-in smart speakers||No||Yes (Points only)|
|Capacitive touch controls||No||Yes (Points only)|
|Top wireless transfer speed, 5 feet (router only)||451 Mbps||612 Mbps|
|Top wireless transfer speed, 75 feet (router only)||201 Mbps||431 Mbps|
|Single router price||$99||$149|
|Additional extender price||$99||$129|
|3-piece mesh system price||$259||$299|
Speeds and specs
With three years of development separating them, Google Wifi and Nest Wifi come with different hardware capabilities. For starters, Google Wifi is an AC1200 mesh system, which means that the combined top speeds of its 2.4 and 5GHz bands is 1,200 Mbps. With Nest Wifi, that speed rating jumps up to AC2200, so between the 2.4 and 5GHz bands, you're getting a more capable access point.
Just remember that your router can only connect you to one band at a time -- though both Google Wifi and Nest Wifi will automatically steer your connection between the two bands to optimize speed and signal strength. That band-steering worked particularly well when we tested both systems, so this seems to be one of Google's strong suits.
Now playing:Watch this: Nest Wifi puts Google Assistant into your router
Like with all routers, those AC1200 and AC2200 speed ratings are derived from optimized, lab-based speed tests that don't take factors like distance, obstructions and interference into account, so your actual top speeds will likely be a lot lower. In our own lab, we clocked Google Wifi with top wireless transfer rates of 451Mbps at close range and 201Mbps at a distance of 75 feet. With the more capable Nest Wifi, those numbers jump to 612 and 431Mbps, which is impressive for an AC mesh router.
That AC bit tells you that both Google Wifi and Nest Wifi support Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), which has been the go-to version of Wi-Fi for the past several years. A new, faster, AX version of Wi-Fi called Wi-Fi 6 just started rolling out last year (802.11ax), but Google opted not to include support for it with Nest Wifi.
However, Google did upgrade the antennas with Nest Wifi, boosting it up to a 4X4 configuration that's capable of simultaneous MU-MIMO transmissions that are more robust than the 2X2 Google Wifi. Nest Wifi also supports the newest WPA3 encryption standards -- Google Wifi doesn't.
Google Wifi comes with its own, dedicated control app that does a good job of walking you through setup and offering basic controls. It doesn't offer as many advanced features as something like a gaming router will, so it isn't ideal if you like having lots of advanced network settings at your fingertips.
Nest Wifi relocated the controls into the Google Home app, so you'll control your router alongside things like Google Assistant smart speakers and compatible smart home gadgets. Along with parental controls and other user-friendly features, you can run a quick speed test from the app, and you can group devices together to quickly turn their Wi-Fi access on and off. It's more streamlined and simplified than the controls in the original Google Wifi app, but you can still use those Google Wifi controls with Nest Wifi if you so choose.
The bottom line
Google WifiJosh Miller
Google Wifi had a good run as one of the top mesh systems of the past few years, and it's still on sale at some retailers. If you spot it on the shelf and see the solid reviews online, you might be tempted to buy in.
The best argument for Google Wifi at this point is that it works with Nest Wifi in full, backward-compatible fashion. If you've already got a Nest Wifi router and you want to extend its range to a back room in your house, you can save a little money and get the job done with a Google Wifi Point instead of a Nest Wifi Point. It won't be quite as fast, but it'll save you a few bucks, and might be the way to go if you aren't interested in the Google Assistant voice controls that come with Nest Wifi Points. Aside from that, I'd recommend that most people stick with Nest Wifi devices for a network that's fully up to speed.
For almost everyone, I think the new Nest Wifi is the much better mesh system. It costs a bit more than Google Wifi does at this point, but not by much -- and for the extra money, you're getting faster top speeds, stronger connections, and access to the latest encryption standards, which is good for future-proofing. The lack of Wi-Fi 6 support is a little disappointing, but not as disappointing as you might think -- especially if you're holding out for the arrival of Wi-Fi 6E routers in 2021.
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Google's latest mesh WiFi system hits an all-time low for a three-pack
Families who are still largely working and studying at home might find that their WiFi network is feeling the strain, especially if someone's setup is far away from the router. If you're on the lookout for an upgrade, it may be worth considering the . A three-pack of nodes currently costs on Amazon. That's the lowest price we've seen to date on the most recent model, which at a price of $199 for the three-pack.
Buy Google WiFi (three-pack) at Amazon - $149
The idea behind a mesh system is that, after you set up the nodes around your home, they can work together to provide a stronger WiFi network across a larger area than many single routers are capable of. Google WiFi supports speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps, the company says. It claims a single point can support multiple simultaneous 4K video streams, though the size of your home, building materials and layout can impact signal strength.
The system uses WPA3 encryption and dual-band connectivity, as well as security updates and parental controls. You can manage the network using the Google Home app.
It's worth noting Google WiFi isn't quite as fast as the Nest WiFi system. Each node can cover up to 1,500 square feet, compared with 2,200 square feet for the Nest WiFi router and 1,600 square feet for each additional point. The latter also has a built-in Google Assistant smart speaker. A Nest WiFi three-pack costs $350, though. If you're in the market for a solid mesh system that won't break the bank, Google WiFi might do the trick.
Five years ago, the router world was dominated by names like Netgear, Asus, TP-Link, and Linksys. Google wasn’t in the conversation, and it didn’t have a router available for purchase (or even a real hardware division, for that matter).
Fast-forward to 2019, and Google lays claim to the top-selling router, thanks to the popularity of its Google Wifi mesh system, which it introduced in 2016. It’s even more popular than Eero, which first popularized the idea of a mesh router for better Wi-Fi coverage in a home.
Now, Google is launching its follow-up: the more powerful and more capable Nest Wifi system. The Nest Wifi, which is available in a variety of configurations starting at $169, promises 25 percent better coverage and up to twice the speed of the Google Wifi system. In addition, the Nest Wifi’s Points, or secondary units that you place around your home to create a mesh system, double as Nest Mini voice-activated smart speakers.
I’ve been testing the $269 kit, which includes the router and a single mesh Point, in my roughly 2,000-square-foot, split-level home. Google says this package provides as much coverage as the three-pack of the Google Wifi, and it’s good for homes up to 3,800 square feet and up to 200 connected devices. A $349 option provides a second Point and can cover up to 5,400 square feet and up to 300 devices.
Like other mesh systems, the Nest Wifi is not a modem, so it needs to be plugged into the modem you already have (likely provided by your ISP) to work. For me, that meant plugging into my Verizon Fios connection, which is a gigabit fiber link. (Unlike Eero and others, Nest Wifi doesn’t work in a “bridge” mode, which makes setting it up with Fios more convoluted than other routers. For more on getting Nest Wifi to work with a Fios connection, see this post on Verizon’s forums.) This connection comes into my home in the living room on the main floor. I then placed the Point in my home office, a level below where the router is.
This arrangement was sufficient to provide strong Wi-Fi in every part of my home and gave me enough bandwidth to stream 4K video wherever I had a signal. It also handily managed the 50-plus devices that are connected to my Wi-Fi network at any given time and didn’t have any trouble “hopping” devices from the router to the Point when I moved about my home.
The Nest Wifi consistently provided faster speeds to my devices than the Google Wifi and similar speeds to what I get from the Eero Pro and Netgear Orbi, provided my devices were connected to the primary router and not the Point. When connected to the Point, speeds were cut in half, likely due to the Point’s less capable antennas and the lack of a dedicated backhaul channel for the router to communicate to the Point, like the Eero Pro and Orbi systems have. Since my internet service provides gigabit speeds, I still had over 100 megabits of bandwidth for both upload and downloads available no matter where I went in my home, but that’s a far cry from the roughly 900 megabits that gets piped into my house. The average home broadband speed in the US is just under 100 megabits, so most people will be able to take full advantage of their ISP’s service with the Nest Wifi.
In addition to weaker radios, the Point lacks any Ethernet jacks, so you can’t use Ethernet backhaul to connect it to the router or plug devices directly into the Point where it’s placed.
But where the Point lacks in Wi-Fi capabilities, it makes up for by the fact that pulls double duty as a voice-activated smart speaker. Essentially, it’s a Nest Mini speaker mashed into an original Google Wifi puck. It sounds very similar to the Nest Mini, which isn’t a bad thing, and there’s a glowing ring at its base that illuminates white when you speak to it and orange when the mic is muted. It even has the same touch controls as the Nest Mini for adjusting volume or pausing playback. Google intends the Point to be placed out in the open, which provides the best wireless and smart speaker performance, so it designed it to look nicer than the typical router. It also comes in three colors — white, pale blue, or pale pink — while the main router is only available in white.
The Point supports all of the same voice controls for the Google Assistant as the Nest Mini, but it also adds a couple of router-specific voice commands, such as running speed tests or pausing connections to groups of devices managed in the Google Home app. If you have a Nest Hub or Hub Max, you can also run speed tests from there or display the credentials to a guest network.
If you don’t need yet another smart speaker in your home or you prefer Amazon’s Echo, Google is selling a two-pack of the router that doesn’t have any Points for $299. This also gives you slightly better coverage than a router and a Point and provides Ethernet jacks in both places you place the nodes with support for wired backhaul.
As mentioned, the Nest Wifi doesn’t have a dedicated wireless backhaul band, instead relying on a traditional 2.4GHz and 5GHz dual-band system for both connections between the router and points as well as connections to devices. Sanjay Noronha, connectivity product lead at Google Nest, says the company decided on this approach because it can manage traffic efficiently with software, and it doesn’t need to add another level of hardware cost and complexity to the mix. But in my experience, a dedicated backhaul band does provide faster speeds to devices that are connected to mesh points farther away from the main router.
Similarly, the Nest Wifi does not support the newly ratified Wi-Fi 6 protocol, which is designed to provide more efficient connections to devices that have Wi-Fi 6 capabilities. Noronha says supporting Wi-Fi 6 at this stage would have added a lot of cost to the system with few benefits for the vast majority of customers since the vast majority of Wi-Fi devices do not support Wi-Fi 6 yet.
Setting up the Nest Wifi requires a Google account and the newly updated Google Home app for iOS or Android. The Home app guides you through installing the router, setting up a new Wi-Fi network and password, and placing the Point in an optimal location in your home. You can run speed tests through it, see how many devices are connected to the network and prioritize specific ones, create a guest network, and schedule Wi-Fi breaks for kids’ devices on the network. It’s also possible to block adult sites on any device.
But if you want to access more advanced features, such as seeing which node a specific device is connected to or configure port forwarding, you’ll have to use the old Google Wifi app, which has been updated to support the Nest Wifi. Google says it will continue to support both apps until the Google Home app has all of the features currently available in the Wifi app.
Like the Google Wifi and Eero systems, the Nest Wifi relies on Google’s cloud services for features such as automatic channel selection, remote network management, identifying connected devices, and providing historical data consumption stats. It’s possible to disable the cloud connectivity in the Home app, but Google says the Nest Wifi will not perform as well without them. The Nest Wifi also uses Google’s DNS services by default, but the company says it does not associate Google Public DNS information with Google Accounts and the DNS provider can be changed through the Google Wifi app.
Unlike Eero, the Nest Wifi doesn’t have a subscription component for ad blocking, filtering, and other security features.
At $269, the router and Point two-pack is only slightly more expensive than Eero’s new $249 entry-level three-node system, yet it provides as good or better coverage and faster speeds than the Eero. It’s also considerably less expensive than an Eero Pro system or the newer Wi-Fi 6 mesh routers from Linksys or Netgear. That makes the Nest Wifi, like the Google Wifi before it, an enticing value that will likely prove to be very popular. It’s not the fastest mesh router system you can get, and if you have a very fast internet connection in your home like I do, you won’t be able to access most of your bandwidth through the Nest Wifi, though few other Wi-Fi routers can do much better at this point.
So for the vast majority of people, the Nest Wifi performs well, looks good, provides some unique features, and doesn’t cost a fortune. It seems like Google has another winning router on its hands.
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In many ways, the release of Google Wifi was the one that flung mesh Wi-Fi routers into the mainstream market. It may not have been the first mesh router on the scene, with the likes of Netgear Orbi or Samsung Connect Home getting there first, but it has set the benchmark of what to expect out of mesh Wi-Fi routers.
Google Wifi offers better value than most of the competition, combining a robust feature set and an affordable price tag in a compact and minimalist design that looks good just about anywhere you put it. It’s set a high bar, especially because it’s effortless to install and set up via the mobile app.
Whether you’re doing that or trying to fix your network and connectivity issues, you’ll be impressed by Google Wifi price, performance and features. It’s an easy choice – and a great deal – if you’re trying to switch to a mesh router system.
Google Wifi price and availability
With what it has to offer accessibility- and features-wise, Google isn’t asking for much, particularly for what the Google Wifi can do. The first generation Wifi cost $259 (about £204, AU$399) for a set of three units, comprised of one main “Wi-Fi point” (the one you connect to the modem or gateway) and two secondary Wi-Fi points. Google promises that three Wi-Fi Points can cover up to 4,500 square feet (418 square meters) in a location.
The new generation of Google Wifi devices takes a full $60 off the price of the three-pack-system, on sale now in the US and UK for $199 / £189 (about AU$499). A single Google Wifi unit can be bought for only $99 / £89 (about AU$199), which is the same as the last-gen price. If you are working with a small apartment space, it's more than enough coverage and remains an unbeatable deal.
If you’re in the UK, you’ll also have the option of the Google Wifi in both a 2-pack and a 3-pack, which will cost you £229 and £329, respectively. Google Wifi has disappeared from Google's Australia product page, so there's no option to buy either the first-gen or the newly refreshed Google Wifi mesh router. This strongly suggests that while the Australian rollout is a bit further behind the US and UK's, it is likely imminent and will almost certainly see a similar price cut on the three-pack of networking points.
The Google Wifi is a phenomenal value – it provides more units for less cash than any of its rivals, like the Netgear Orbi, with other wireless mesh routers coming in at $400 (about £320, AU$520), at least, for the same number of mesh nodes.
Wireless Connectivity: IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, AC1200 2x2 Wave 2 Wi-Fi (expandable mesh; dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz, TX beamforming); Bluetooth Smart ready
Processor: Quad-core ARM CPU (each core up to 710MHz)
Memory: 512MB RAM
Storage: 4GB eMMC flash
Beamforming: Implicit and Explicit for 2.4 & 5GHz bands
Ports: 2 x Gigabit Ethernet ports per Wifi point (1 WAN and 1 LAN port each)
Dimensions: 4.1 x 2.7 inches (106.1 x 68.7mm; D x H) each
Weight: 12oz (340g) each
Google Wifi design and setup
Google not only has an edge in pricing on its hands, but it also has the sleekest designed Wi-Fi units and possibly the easiest setup of any offering. Each Google Wifi unit, a simple, little cylinder with a white LED band in its center, delivers the same capability.
This means that any Google Wifi unit can act as the core ‘router’ of the system, while the others can extend the wired signal, sent 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 completely smooth, just like the Google Wifi’s hardware design – using a free iOS or Android app to facilitate the whole process. We’re not going to dig into the nitty gritty of the process, but the Google Wifi App will allow you to configure your network by first scanning the QR codes on the Wi-Fi 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 supplementary Wi-Fi points you have, by scanning their QR codes – you’ll then be able to name individual nodes in the app. Again, it only takes a short time for the first Google Wifi node to recognize additional nodes and for them to start working.
You are not going to get the same depth of access as even Netgear Orbi offers, so band switching isn’t a choice. However, Google Wifi does handle this behind the scenes automatically.
The Google Wifi app does provide more useful settings, like continuous monitoring of your network, as well as the points and devices connected to it. The app has an included internet speed test as well, like Ookla’s mesh test that measures the health of your Points’ connections, alongside a Wi-Fi test that measures your connection strength from within the network.
This is the most complete and sophisticated suite of controls we’ve ever seen on a Wi-Fi mesh system to date, in spite of its lack of dropdown boxes and toggles.
Additionally, you can 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 the confines of this app.
And, now Google has expanded Google Wifi’s Network Check feature to test multiple devices, so that you’re able to spot potential bottlenecks in your network, as well as rearrange your Google Wifi access points when you’re trying to optimize network performance.
Here is how the Google Wifi fared in our brief suite of tests (conducted on a 100Mbps service):
Ookla Speed Test 5GHz (Download | Upload):
Within 5 feet/1.52 meters; no obstructions: 101.41 | 117.83 Mbps
Within 13 feet/3.96 meters; three plaster walls: 97.05 | 118.67 Mbps
Ookla Speed Test 2.4GHz (Download | Upload):
Within 5 feet/1.52 meters; no obstructions: 47.53 | 96.72 Mbps
Within 13 feet/3.96 meters; three plaster walls: 50.95 | 82.98 Mbps
1.5GB Steam download 5GHz (peak speed):
Within 5 feet/1.52 meters; no obstructions: 12.6 MB/s
Within 13 feet/3.96 meters; three plaster walls: 12.2 MB/s
1.5GB Steam download 2.4GHz (peak speed):
Within 5 feet/1.52 meters; no obstructions: 7.2 MB/s
Within 13 feet/3.96 meters; three plaster walls: 8.8 MB/s
Google Wifi performance
The Google Wifi is able to match, if not surpass, Netgear Orbi’s performance. Drawing the absolute most out of our 100Mbps Wi-Fi service, we have surely not seen any router be able to deliver the same service. But, the core difference here is that Google Wifi is able to bring this high performance to every room of our, albeit small, house.
We’re able to stream 4K video through Netflix to our Roku Premiere in the basement, as well as play Overwatch in the office where the modem is situated without any problems. Wi-Fi mesh systems like the Google Wifi aren’t focused as much on throughput as they are on coverage. Still, this product certainly delivers.
The traffic prioritization feature makes sure that your gaming session is receiving more of that critical bandwidth than the other devices in your house that are used most frequently for Facebooking and streaming HD videos. Additionally, the network can automatically repair itself should one or more of the Wi-Fi Points accidentally lose power.
Even though we know that Google Wifi operates its mesh system over existing Wi-Fi bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz) over the 802.11s mesh protocol instead of Netgear Orbi’s tri-band system that communicates over a second 5GHz Wi-Fi band, we haven’t seen a considerable difference between either’s performance. We do see marginally faster download speeds in MB/s on the 2.4GHz band from the Orbi over the Google Wifi. However, that could also be a possible anomaly.
Where the Google Wifi really excels over similar routers is in its striking price to coverage ratio. You can get similar coverage from rivaling systems with fewer units, sure, but the flexibility you get from having more units – just in terms of minimizing dead spots – is massive.
Google Wifi final verdict
The Google Wifi is the simplest and most effortless router we’ve ever set up, bar none. And, that’s considering the two extra devices required to finish the process. For a reasonably affordable price point, there are more units on offer than most of Google’s rivals, as well as the best setup and management app so far.
Despite the finer hardware controls it lacks, and the lack of AC3000 or AC2200 throughput, Google deliberated every toggle and test it could present in an easily understandable way through its app. There’s even bandwidth priority control. Pair that with a clean, uncluttered hardware design that’s better to showcase in plain view than any other routers we’ve seen yet, and what you have is one of the best Wi-Fi systems that money can buy in 2019.
Images Credit: TechRadar
First reviewed April 2017
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Joe Osborne is the Senior Technology Editor at Insider Inc. His role is to leads the technology coverage team for the Business Insider Shopping team, facilitating expert reviews, comprehensive buying guides, snap deals news and more.
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