A Cisco branded consumer wireless router managed network traffic for all the devices in my house for the past several years. When I moved to a multistory house, I noticed that the signal was weak in some areas, but not weak enough to cause me to replace it. More recently, the wireless router required frequent reboots in order for me to reach the Internet. It also reached a point where anytime I uploaded a video to YouTube on one device, all other devices in the house were barely able to function on the network.
These days most cable and DSL providers include a wireless router as part of the package you pay for, but I’ve never been particularly impressed with them, which is why I had my own router to begin with. I also don’t like potentially leasing a device for more dollars than it cost for the company to purchase it, which is what happens with most of the hardware provided by Comcast.
Shopping for a replacement wireless router was filled with many false starts. Each time I read several good reviews of a router, I’d find conflicting information somewhere else. This basically meant I was putting up with rebooting my current router several times per week for months after I was already fed up.
I happened to mention my quest for a new wireless router during a visit to a friend’s house. He had the Google Wifi system installed in his house, which easily combines multiple access points into a mesh network to eliminate dead zones. It also has a simple Android or iOS app to manage the network, eliminating the typical requirement to connect to your wireless router via a web browser and navigate through a series of less than intuitive menus.
I was sold! I ordered a three node system the day after walking through all the features at my friend’s house.
Here are some of the key things that caused me to choose Google WiFi.
With a tap of the screen, you can prioritize any device on your network. This comes in handy when you have kids who are streaming videos from separate devices and you need to get work done. The app defaults to prioritizing for one hour, but you can adjust the time longer or shorter depending on your specific use case.
The app makes it easy to create device schedules. You can lock out specific devices at certain times of day. For example, if your kids are inclined to attempt to use devices when they should be sleeping, you can block their access to the Internet at bedtime.
There’s also a list of all connected devices that makes it simple to pause an individual device immediately. While I haven’t used this feature, there have been instances where “five more minutes dad” has gone well past the five minute mark. A device override like this is no substitute for good communication, but it’s handy to have as an option.
Many wireless routers offer a guest network at this point. This gives people who visit your house a way to connect to the network without giving them access to every device on your network. Google WiFi makes this feature incredibly easy to configure and later disable if you don’t want it on all the time. My previous router offered guest access, but the configuration was a nightmare.
The other key feature Google WiFi guest access provides is a way to make some devices accessible to guests. One key use case would be if you have a connected TV or something like an Apple TV or Chromecast. You can make that TV device available to both guests and devices on your network allowing guests to cast to the devices, which is handy for sharing pictures and videos in a group.
While I don’t currently have any smart lights or temperature control devices on my network, if I did they could be managed from this same interface. Google makes it easy for anyone on the network to control these devices while connected through a browser.
Active Development of New Features
One of the things I’m most impressed with is the consistent feature enhancements. Since installing Google Wifi at my house, bug fixes and feature improvements seem to roll out roughly every two weeks. I get notified when they are coming and unlike most routers, there’s no downloading something that needs to flash the firmware.
Even if you don’t need three access points like my configuration, you can start with one node and add more when it makes sense. I believe Google currently offers either individual units or packs of three. The three pack is definitely a better per unit price.