Reviews: PC

Google Wifi is here - bundled with StarHub broadband plan

Like most mesh routers in the market, Google Wifi is designed to be placed out in the open, not hidden in a closet.
Like most mesh routers in the market, Google Wifi is designed to be placed out in the open, not hidden in a closet.PHOTO: GOOGLE

Google's whole-home Wi-Fi system - Google Wifi - has finally landed on our shores, eight months after its debut in the United States.

And it is well worth the wait.

Also known as mesh routers, these devices work together to form a seamless wireless network. They generally offer better Wi-Fi coverage than a single router as they are spread out throughout your home. But their peak speeds may fall short of a good router.

There is a catch for its local launch: Google has partnered StarHub to sell it as a bundle, so you'll need to sign up for or renew an appropriate StarHub broadband plan. It costs $15 per month over a 24-month period for a pack of three Google Wifi units, good for homes of up to 251 sq m.

Like most mesh routers in the market, Google Wifi is designed to be placed out in the open, not hidden in a closet. It looks like a thick hockey puck, except that it is in pristine white and has an LED ring in the middle. It has just two LAN ports, instead of the four ports on a typical router.

If the LED pulses red, you have a problem, while an amber pulse indicates there is no Internet connection. Basically, you want a solid teal. The brightness of the LED can be tweaked using the Google Wifi app (for iOS and Android devices) or turned off totally.

In fact, Google Wifi is controlled entirely using its app. It does not have a browser interface. It takes roughly 10min to set up the main unit, which you link to your Internet modem. Repeat the process for additional units. The app also tests the connection between the various Wifi units to help you find the optimal location to place them.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $15 monthly over 24 months ($360) on top of a StarHub broadband plan for a three-pack Google Wifi bundle

    ETHERNET INTERFACE: 2 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit LAN

    STANDARDS: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac

    SECURITY: WPA2, NAT

    RATING

    FEATURES: 3/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The app has an intuitive interface, unlike most router apps. Your home network is presented visually, with the number of connected devices displayed in real time. Most mesh routers offer similarly intuitive and simple interfaces, and they have raised the bar for other router makers.

Advanced users, however, will find Google Wifi, like many of its rivals, lacking in networking features. For instance, it does not let you blacklist websites that are inappropriate for kids, though using its Family Wi-Fi feature, you can create a schedule to turn off the Internet connection to select devices at specific times. To be fair, Google has added features via software updates, such as IPv6 support.

As the tech support guy for multiple households, I like that you can invite other users to manage the Google Wifi units. I can easily monitor multiple Google Wifi networks from the app, while allowing others, who are in their homes using the network, to tweak settings when necessary.

I was pleasantly surprised at its performance. In my living room, which is where the Google Wifi unit connected to my modem is located, it managed download speeds of up to 432Mbps compared with 300-400 Mbps I have seen from other mesh routers.

This speed dropped to 219Mbps in the bedroom because my client laptop is now connected to the second, closer Wifi unit. But it is still slightly better than other competitors that are under 200Mbps.

•Verdict: Google is late to the local mesh networking scene, but its Wi-Fi solution is easy to use, offers good value and runs better than expected.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2017, with the headline 'Google Wifi is here - bundled with StarHub broadband plan'. Print Edition | Subscribe