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First look: Google jumps into crowded wireless mesh market

Keith Shaw | Dec. 7, 2016
Easy setup, Internet pausing and whole-home coverage among top features

Unfortunately, that's all you get to do in terms of parental controls. There's no whitelisting/blacklisting, or the ability to monitor/block specific apps or websites. There's no ability to schedule Internet on/off access either - it feels like this could be easily implemented in future app updates for Google (if anyone knows the Internet sites your kids are using, it's Google).

Google Wifi also lets you select one device to be the “priority device” – once you choose a device (a phone, laptop, gaming console), the system tells the other points to prioritize traffic to that device for the next hour. Other devices can still connect to the Wi-Fi network, but your prioritized device gets to enjoy better performance – like the FastPass at Disney World. It’s an interesting way to provide QoS capabilities – via a time limit – other systems I’ve seen let you implement a permanent priority status, which can be problematic when the device doesn’t utilize the network, it eats up the bandwidth that could be used for other devices.

Speed tests

The goal of the wireless mesh is meant for “whole-home coverage”, giving Wi-Fi access to spots in your home where a traditional Wi-Fi router might not have reached before (or required the purchase of a repeater or range extender). However, this does not mean that your overall speeds will improve (compared with newer, faster Wi-Fi devices like MU-MIMO routers)

The Google Wifi points are AC1200 2x2 Wave 2 Wi-Fi, which offer less theoretical data transfer rates than AC1900 or AC3200-branded products. The system includes simultaneous dual-band (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), supporting clients with 802.11a/b/g/n and ac.

Because Google doesn’t let you create a separate 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz network, I couldn’t do separate speed tests based on the frequency I was utilizing. The Network Assist technology within Google Wifi gets to “make the best decision” about speed. For example, if it detects a lot of traffic on the 5GHz segment, it can auto-switch to the 2.4GHz section for each connection. For my tests, I assumed the traffic would travel over the 5 GHz frequency band, as there was no other client connected to the network, and no other traffic on my second segment (to reduce frequency interference, which Google would bypass anyway through its dynamic channel switching feature).

I ran three tests from three different locations in the Cool Tools Testing House – one next to the router, one in a second room about halfway through the house, and a third on the other end of the house. In each case, I was close to a Google point in the mesh, and I reconnected each time (turned off the Wi-Fi on the laptop, then reconnected), to be sure I was connected (in theory) to the closest node/point.

 

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