Google WiFi – Is It Worth It? Absolutely.
Our WiFi Router has been giving us a lot of issues lately. My wife’s phone, at times, just wouldn’t connect. The internet would be available, but none of my devices connecting to my router could access it. It would always be a random issue that would cause us to have to restart the router. I was looking at several different options when I came across Google WiFi.
All things considered, it seems like a pretty generic WiFi Router. Upon opening it up and starting to use it, though, I’m convinced that it is pretty far ahead of the rest of the pack. With features like Mesh Networking, Guest Network, Family Mode, and Device Priority, you get a lot of functionality for not a lot of cost.
Let’s start with one of it’s most unique features: Mesh Networking. Do you have dead spots in your home that your WiFi just doesn’t reach? Maybe your WiFi reaches it, but it’s just slow due to going through so many walls. This is where Google WiFi shines. Instead of being your traditional single-point WiFi Router, Google WiFi allows you to add multiple units and have them form a mesh network. That means that, similar to how Z-Wave works, all the devices can link together to provide high speed WiFi access using the same internet connection.
Read More: Understanding Home Automation Protocols
Google offers a 3 pack to help facilitate this. Simply spread the 3 devices throughout your home and you’ll have extremely fast internet all over. If you have a bigger home, you can add even more. Google states that most homes probably won’t need more than 3, considering the devices each cover about 1,500 sqft.
You don’t have to use this feature though. My home is about 1,800 sqft and the 1 pack was good enough for me. I’ll show you how I came to that determination in a little bit.
Like most Google products, the packaging is very clean. Inside, you’ll find:
- Google WiFi Router
- Wall Plug
- Network Cable
- Installation Instructions
Pretty lightweight, but there’s not much else you need for this. The device itself is roughly 4 inches wide and 3 inches tall. There’s a nice little ambient light in the middle that shows its status. Here it is sitting next to my Samsung SmartThings hub.
The intensity of the light can also be adjusted with the Google WiFi app. I have mine set pretty low.
To start, you need to download the Google WiFi app. This can be found on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. Once you’ve downloaded the app, you’ll want to start by turning off your modem. You need it to clear out the settings for your old WiFi router. While both your modem and your Google WiFi are off, connect the network cable from your modem to your Google WiFi. You can see my connections below.
In the Network Device connection, I have my Samsung SmartThings hub. After about 2 minutes of your modem being off, power it up. Your Google WiFi should still be off. We want your modem to regain its connection to your ISP before anything. This should take about a minute or two. Once the modem is connected, plug in your Google WiFi. At this point, you’ll also want to open the App in your phone.
The app will walk you through the rest. If you have any issues, the app also includes some troubleshooting steps. Lastly, if you still can’t get it to work, the app provides a connection to Google Support.
The only issue I had with setup was after all was good to go, the app seemed to think I was offline. I was able to use the internet just fine though. This went away after about 30 seconds and all has been well since.
Google WiFi App
This is the home screen of the app. If there were notifications, they’d show up here. When you first install your device, you’ll have some prompts telling you about different features.
Clicking on the 2nd tab up top shows you your network layout. It also provides a nice summary of the number of devices connected. If you had multiple Google WiFi devices connected, they’d show up here as well. Let’s click on Devices and see what shows up.
Here you get to see a listing of all the devices connected to your WiFi. What I also love about this view is it shows you real-time stats of who is actually using your internet and how much bandwidth they’re taking. The little button on the bottom right lets you select Device Priority (we’ll get to that in a few). Clicking on a device takes you to a Properties view.
You can see detailed device usage here. Clicking on Details will let you rename the device to something that makes sense to you and view general network settings, such as the IP address. Google does a pretty good job of figuring out what the device is on their own, but I did end up renaming my phone and tablet.
Next up is the Settings tab.
This is where you can start getting into some of the cool features that Google WiFi offers.
Do you want your SmartThings hub to have priority internet over your tablet? This is where you would set that. You can set the time limit for Priority to be 1, 2, or 4 hours. Google WiFi will prioritize traffic for that device above others to make sure it gets access to the internet faster. This also works really well if you have a gaming system such as an XBox and you want to play online games for a little bit.
Another really cool feature is Family WiFi.
This allows you to limit the amount of time that devices have to the internet. You can either set a schedule and only allow them on the internet between certain timeframes, or you can manually start and pause internet access. You simply create a Label, which in my case is called Grace (my daughter’s name). You then add devices to that label. I’ve added a tablet and an old iPhone that she uses.
You also have the option of automatically enabling Google SafeSearch, which I have done. This will force the device to try its best to filter out inappropriate websites.
Once it’s set up, you can control when the devices in the group have access to the internet. This is perfect when you want your kids to not be on the internet.
Test WiFi and Internet
Another excellent utility found in the settings page is the ability to test your internet connection and WiFi connection.
Testing your internet connection will connect to Google’s servers and determine just how fast it is.
The other test, which I find to be extremely helpful, is testing your WiFi connection.
I went to the different corners of my house and ran this test. It turns out that my WiFi connection is strong at all 4 corners. That’s how I determined that I don’t need a 2nd WiFi node. If your house is in a different layout than mine, or if it’s bigger, you will probably want to run this test to determine if you need another node.
My SmartThings hub and other WiFi Smart devices also had no issue hooking up to Google WiFi. To make it easy, I gave my new network the same name and key as my old one. This made it so I don’t have to update every single WiFi device. With the significant increase in speed, I should also see some speed improvements when I turn a light on or off from my phone. It was already pretty quick, but every little bit helps.
In short, I’m really happy with my Google WiFi purchase. It was extremely simple to set up and offers a lot of features. It’s low key design means it doesn’t stand out in my living room. It’s subtle and just does its job without fuss. You can’t ask much more than that.