One of the biggest complaints about making our homes smarter is the need for faster and better Wi-Fi. After all, if you’re streaming TV, running lights, connected appliances, tablets, smartphones, computers and a host of other accessories, your Wi-Fi is bound to get bogged down. Not to mention getting decent coverage across the whole house can be a challenge. Making Wi-Fi better has often involved getting a new router, buying signal boosters, or chasing a signal by moving around the house. Mesh Wi-Fi emerged a few years ago to help improve speed and coverage and today the second incarnation of Google WiFi, now called Google Nest WiFi has taken the mesh concept and made some improvements. I had a chance to have a Google Nest WiFi kit in my home for a couple of months and I’ll tell you whether it changed things for me.
What is Google WiFi?
Google WiFi is a mesh Wi-Fi system consisting of one main Router pod and additional (and expandable) Points. It connects to your home’s modem or modem-router unit (also called a gateway) and spreads your Wi-Fi signal across the home (or business). Mesh Wi-Fi creates multiple connection points across your space so you don’t get dead spots.
This allows you to have multiple sources of powerful Wi-Fi throughout your home, instead of just a single router.”
The newer generation 2 version of Google Nest WiFi also converts the Wi-Fi pods into Google Smart speakers too, meaning you can listen to music, or talk to the Google Assistant for help.
One Nest Wifi router with one Wifi point is strong enough to handle up to 200 connected devices and fast enough to stream multiple 4K videos at a time and Nest Wifi router and Point are backwards compatible so they work with previous generation Google Wifi.
How does Google Nest Wi-Fi work?
Google Wi-Fi is not just a signal booster; it’s a whole new Wi-Fi system that takes the signal from your home’s modem, and spreads it all over the house. It creates multiple connection points in the house so under-serviced areas like the basement, top floor or distant rooms can get as strong a Wi-Fi signal as you can being near the router/modem.
Google Wi-Fi plugs directly into your modem. (The modem is of course the device that brings the internet signal into the home; it’s often hard-wired in to a cable in the wall.) Usually your modem is connected to or part of a router as an all-in-one unit, and the router is what allows your internet to become wireless. The trouble with a single router is that it can only cover so much and extend so far; traditionally user complaints have been that some rooms are dead zones, or that top floors and basements can’t get a strong enough signal.
Google Wi-Fi addresses that by creating a series of connection points all over the house, wherever you need them. You can have as many Google Wi-Fi points in the home as you need (up to 32 Google tells me!) and adding Google Wi-Fi eliminates the need for an additional router if you do have a separate one.
So what does it do? Since Wi-Fi is broadcast from each Google Wi-Fi point (and not just that lonely router in the basement laundry room), and each point connects seamlessly to each other, Google Wifi provides more coverage over a wider space.
What do you need to use Google Nest WiFi
For starters, you’ll need internet service from a provider. (For many of us, you’ll get your modem that will bring internet into the home from the outside, and your bill is paid to companies like Rogers, Shaw, Bell or Telus.) Google says its WiFi is compatible with all service providers and virtually all modems. You’ll also need a smartphone, or tablet (Android or iOS) and the free Google WiFi app.
Setting up Google WiFi
I was not looking forward to setting up the Wi-Fi. My experience getting things like routers set up in the past has been that it’s tedious, difficult, and often requires tech support.
I opened the box and right away marveled at the small card with set up instructions; just plug one of the Wi-Fi points into your modem with the ethernet cable, then use the Google Home app to connect. (The gen 1 WiFi used the dedicated Google WiFi app, though since the first generation you can also manage the Wi-Fi in the Google Home app.)
You’ll plug one of the pods into your modem to begin set up and the Google Home app should actually see you pods and prompt you to start set up.
The next step is to name your network and assign it a password.
The Google Home app will likely prompt you again to set up additional pods if you’ve bought a two-pack or more.
The app walks you through where to place them (no more than two rooms away from the modem is recommended) and in a location where you can talk to it… since the new Wi-Fi pods are actually also Google Smart Speakers. (More on that in a sec!)
It’s easy… so easy
I can’t say enough how simple this set-up process was. The app made it absolutely foolproof, and the whole set-up went smoothly with absolutely no snags. I test a lot of gadgets and seamless easy set-up is one of the features I give high marks to. In this case, I have no doubt even a child could get this hooked up in minutes. There’s no IP addresses to worry about, no calls to the internet service provider and no confusing instructions. I had the whole network up and running in under 10 minutes; it took longer to go up and down stairs and plug them in than it did to set up.
How fast is Google WiFi?
I tested our home’s Wi-Fi with the existing dual band modem-router unit. We are getting 318 Mbps for downloads and 15 Mbps on uploads. That’s fast enough to stream data-heavy 4K video without buffering.
Features: control your Wi-Fi
Set Priority Device
This feature is so important to those of us working from home now. The Priority Device setting allows you to prioritize Wi-Fi traffic to a specific phone, tablet, computer or device. This works great in a house with several family members where everyone is often online at once. By prioritizing mom or dad’s phone or laptop, the kids can keep using the Wi-Fi, but the majority of data will go to the person that really needs it. That way everyone’s devices aren’t slowing down or stalling. You can manage this setting in the original Google Wi-Fi App or in Google Home.
- Open the Google *Home* app .
- Tap Wifi .
- Under “Devices,” tap Set priority device.
- Select the device you would like to prioritize.
- At the bottom, select how long you would like to prioritize that device.
- Tap Save .
- Open the Google *Wifi* app .
- Tap Settings and actions tab Priority device.
- You’ll see a list of devices connected to your Wi-Fi network. Select a device and it will automatically be prioritized for 1 hour. To change the duration, tap the time frame. You can prioritize it for 1, 2, or 4 hours.
- Tap Save.
Family Wi-Fi – schedule pauses for dinner, homework, sleep
Family Wi-Fi setting allows administrators of the account, most likely parents, to control exactly who gets Wi-Fi time and when. Using this setting, you can schedule pauses in Internet use during homework time, dinner hours, or at bedtime. There’s no fighting over devices, or negotiating “just 10 more minutes”. You schedule the Wi-Fi to shut down, and it shuts down.
This setting also allows you to select specific devices and alter the times of use for those devices; your younger child’s tablet can shut down at seven, while the older children can keep on surfing until nine.
All of the settings and features are very easily controlled and adjusted in the Google WiFi app or the Google Home app.
Multiple account Managers
Another cool feature of Google WiFi is the ability to have multiple managers of your network. While the original account needs to be set up by one person with a Gmail account, it’s easy to add another person as an administrator simply by typing their Gmail address into the app.
Out of home connection
You can access your Wi-Fi settings, make changes, and otherwise adjust configurations even if you are not inside the home. The Google Wi-Fi app works no matter where you are. As you’re connected to the internet, you can manage things at home, and even see who’s online.
Help out without hopping in the car
Having an out of home connection also means that if you’re the one in the family who manages mom and dad’s internet network, granny’s connection, or you’re always on call to help the neighbour or your sister, you can manage and access all your settings and even troubleshoot those networks, all from your phone if you get those folks a Google Wi-Fi kit.
Another way to keep your home secure, is to enable the guest Wi-Fi feature. This allows you to create a separate network for guests, with its own password. This means that when kids have friends come over, or if you’re throwing a party, you can grant people Wi-Fi access without revealing the password to your private home network.
Security & Privacy
There’s been much written about Google and how much data the company has on each of us. Not surprisingly it raises the question for many potential customers about whether giving Google full access to your Wi-Fi, not just the Google search site, is opening the door for even more info to end up in the hands of a large corporation.
Google says it’s not getting any additional info from you by running your Wi-Fi.
Overall Review – Google Nest WiFi 2nd gen
Overall I had a great experience with Google WiFi. It improved my connection speeds, it was very easy to set up and manage and changing settings or adjusting the network for kids or guests was ultra easy.
Google WiFi is sold in a few different kits now: One router, which will cover up to 2200 square feet is $229. One router and one point covering up to 3800 square feet is now $299 (regular $349) and One router and two points to cover up to 5400 square feet is $459CAD.
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