Setting up WiFi for a ‘Smart Home’ around most routers (especially the ones given to us ‘Free’ from our ISP’s) can feel like trying to run a Formula 1 car on AA batteries. Like its close domestic relative, the pre-combi boiler, (complete with massive copper tank filled with limescale) the router is associated with pain, suffering and weird computer-speak; IP address 192.168.0.1, Default Gateway’s, Proxy’s, PPOA/E and stuff you don’t want or need to know.
Google’s WiFi is here to change that. Better than your old faithful trying to wheeze WiFi across you whole house, its mesh system acts like a practiced barbershop quartet. Smaller flats can benefit from just one of its charming nodes, but Google’s WiFi really comes into its own when acting as an internet ‘supergroup’ in larger, or older houses with castle-like walls. The revolutionary idea is reliability, simple operation and consistent Wi-Fi coverage. Which sounds like an old idea, but it’s akin to the idea of having a modern smartphone with a battery that lasts for a week between charges, when it’s switched on and being used – completely unheard of.
Before you get too excited, every silver has a cloudy lining… You won’t necessarily be able to chuck out your minging, old, ugly router. That's because Google WiFi doesn’t have a built-in modem, but you will be able to hide it. If, like me, your ISP has given you their idea of a chic, discrete(!) box that houses both a router and modem, you’ll need to plug one of Google Wifi’s lovely, circular pucks into that, then disable the modem/routers wireless ability, and hand them over to your new Google gadget. Google WiFi is like upgrading from your nan’s analogue radio to a multi-room High Definition Audio, but it can't do much if your broadband is feeding it cassettes. This particular cassette being ADSL – ‘Non fibre’ broadband - basically if you’re on Virgin or BT Infinity it’s amazing. If you’re on ‘Utility Warehouse’ broadband, then set up an eBay account and flog your Google nodes and use the money to bump up your broadband. The old adage of ‘Crap in: Crap out’ applies here.
Google sells a £229 two-pack for medium sized homes, and you can add as many extra ones as you like, the handy Android/IOS app will tell you where to place them..
Back to the stars of the show – let’s just admire those little white cylinders for a moment. My current abode, a large 4 bed house with an annexe will need more than one of them, but anyone living in a modern two-bedroom flat or reasonable two or three bedroom house won’t need to scatter them around the place. The routers (and they're all individual routers, not Wi-Fi extenders) have a similar footprint to Google Home, which means they can hide away discreetly on bookshelves, desks or side tables. The light strip in the middle is there to tell you about any issues, but if all's well it'll glow a relaxing zen shade of…..turquoise. Unless your cat’s been chewing on the Ethernet cable again. If you need more than one WiFi ‘point’ – Google sells a £229 two-pack for medium sized homes, and you can add as many extra ones as you like, the handy Android/IOS app will tell you where to place them. Once they're in situ, you're just a QR code away from adding them to the mesh network.
WT…….H is a Mesh Network? Google WiFi isn’t to be confused with WiFi extenders. Rather than simply rebroadcasting your router’s signal, a mesh network is a team of routers that work together to create a giant Wi-Fi bubble that encapsulates Chez Google. If you’re just looking to fix a small internet dead spot in your house, and otherwise have good Wi-Fi, then Wi-Fi extenders and boosters still have their place, but mesh networks ability to create a single, smart highway for your web is about more than just reliable WiFi - it also means more STABLE speeds and some nifty bonus features. If you ‘Netflik’ and your programme is stuttering because your entire family is watching 4K videos on twenty devices (and listening to the radio while on the phone at the same time…), you can tell Google WiFi to prioritise your device for a couple of hours via the app on your phone. Router apps, it seems, are the new telly remotes. You can go one up too. As well as making yourself King Ding-a-ling of the WiFi, in a menu called ‘Family Wifi’ you can set up a label and use it to group together any of your home's ‘internet of things’ connected devices. Time for dinner? You can now pause any consoles, Chromecasts or any other device in the group, temporarily freezing their internet. Prepare for war…
There are a few nifty gimmicks as well; When you need to share your WiFi password with a mate, you just share it to their phone with one touch in the app. You can already do this via QR codes and Samsung Tec Tiles (which use NFC) and are programmable and cool little gizmos – more about those another time. But this is quite handy, especially as you can also set up a ‘guest network’ in case you have visitors who are friends of friends, or just a bit sketchy looking...
There are cheaper alternatives out there, but they don’t look as nice, they are more difficult to set up and they don’t have at least two or three cool features that you’ll never use – the trifecta I insist upon before buying any new gadget.
For all but the most ‘Speed demon’, demanding, FTP, NAS, Static IP, Home Server users who only use WiFi to compensate for rubbish mobile signal indoors, most people surfing (streaming Netflix/Spotify/Amazon, gaming, web browsing, emailing or YouTubing), AC1200 speeds will be fine - and that's what Google WiFi offers. And you’ll love it. I promise