This morning as the snow fell in Boston I was delivered an eagerly awaited nondescript brown cardboard box containing my set of three Google Wi-Fi routers. This isn’t just a chance to play with some new technology but rather the latest in my attempts to finally achieve wireless networking success after years of merely adequate implementations.
All too frequently my network use is plagued with slow speeds, limited signal coverage and general network instability as I wander around my house so it is time to fix this. With the release of Google’s Wi-Fi offering and the promise of intelligent “mesh” networking I immediately took notice and added myself to the wait list to receive the 3-pack of routers.
My current Wi-Fi setup
I currently live in a single floor apartment that is quite long front to back. There isn’t a huge floor space to cover but it is spread over a long narrow area in an old thick-walled building. My current setup is an Airport Extreme base station (APX) connected to my modem in the middle of the house and two Airport Express (APE) extenders hanging off each side. This setup has worked OK but is far from perfect.
The Achilles heal is the extenders which don’t always have the greatest connection back to the central router (APX). The thick walls and congested bands around the house cause too many problems so devices can end up connected to nothing at times. It isn’t all terrible though and I’m certainly not saying that the Apple kit is bad but it cannot always cope with my setup so it’s time to try something else.
Why Google Wi-Fi
When Google Wi-Fi was announced in 2016 I was intrigued while maintaining a healthy degree of skepticism. Can an internet software company really produce a good wireless networking solution? Its product overview page promises a device that “creates a blanket of fast, reliable Wi-Fi ” with “no need to manually switch between points as you move from room to room” and this is exactly the problem I’ve been facing with my current setup.
Nobody in their right mind believes everything they read on a product description page so I start researching Google Wi-Fi to gauge the response (there is a certain irony that I went looking for corroboration of a Google product’s capabilities by Google’ing it). Reading through CNET, Engadget and The Verge, I knew I wasn’t making a huge mistake by giving Google Wi-Fi a whirl so I placed the order on the 2nd of Jan. They arrived this morning, the 6th, and I have wasted no time in getting them up and running to put the system through its paces.
Setting up Google Wi-Fi
Once unboxed I’m left with three Google Wi-Fi devices, associated power cables (USB-C) and a single ethernet cable for connection back to my modem. I’ve decided to replicate my existing network exactly with Google Wi-Fi to see how it compares to my existing network setup.
I replace my Airport Extreme Base station with a single Google Wi-Fi router and proceed to walk through the setup process using the Google Wi-Fi app on my iPhone (free from the app store). After approximately 4 to 5 minutes I am back online and proceeding to set up the two satellite routers while following the very simple step-by-step instructions in the app. All in all the 3 routers were in and configured within about 10-15 minutes.
One of the hugely differentiating aspects of Google Wi-Fi (so far) has to be the excellent monitoring and administration app. It is easy to use, clearly shows how your network is set up, what devices are connected and has a good selection of network administration tools such as port-forwarding, DNS setup and more. I’ll also be able to monitor and maintain my network while on the road which will be a nice addition for when my wife rings to say something isn’t right.
How it’s performing
It’s premature for me to declare success and that every other router I have had pales in comparison to Google Wi-Fi but the phrase “so far so good” comes to mind. I did some “before and after” testing at each end of the house and the results are looking really good with one area seeing an 8x bump in speed over the original network!
Over the next few weeks I’ll be monitoring the performance of the network to see how it stands up to real-world use and I’ll be sure to post an update at that stage – for now I’m suitably impressed by the ease of setup, excellent administration app and initial performance of Google Wi-Fi. Watch this space!