Your home internet is just like any other technical system: it is only as good as it’s weakest link. For example, if you have a 4K TV and the best Netflix subscription but your internet is too weak to stream that content, then your picture quality will be reduced to a measly 1080p or worse (sarcasm implied since 1080p is virtually indistinguishable from 4K on the size of most screens in homes).
The same applies to your home network. The big difference is that if your home internet isn’t quite working perfectly, the resulting frustration is real. Devices losing connection, buffering, connection time-outs, dead spots inside your home WiFi network… it can be maddening.
In the past, households without a tech nerd in the family have generally limped along with the modem & router from their internet service provider (ISP). Tucked away in some corner of the house or (worse) placed in some highly visible center area to try to get a wifi signal to blanket the whole living space. Some folks had upgraded to a wifi extender or a higher-end router. Unfortunately, setting those up is often just out of reach for the non-tech-savvy crowd.
Now, those (dark) days are over. Google has a Home Wifi System that has all of the power and technical capability necessary to completely cover your house with the best wifi your ISP can handle and you don’t need a computer science degree to set it up. It is so easy that literally anyone with a smart phone can do it.
How it works
The Google Wifi system replaces the wifi signal created by the router/modem provided by your ISP. One of the Google Wifi devices is connected to your router/modem with an ethernet cable (provided), and each Google Wifi device communicates with the other Google Wifi devices in your home to funnel all internet data back to your router/modem through that ethernet cable.
The biggest advantage of the Google Wifi system over a series of wifi extenders is that the Google Wifi system is constantly monitoring itself and surrounding networks and automatically making adjustments.
For example, home Wifi operates on two bands: 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz and each band has a number of different channels available. Those channels can get pretty crowded if you live in a densely populated area and the signals get degraded by interference. A normal wifi extender allows you to change those channels manually, but you would have to know what channel all your neighbors are broadcasting on for it to make any difference. Sure, you can download an app and regularly check the neighbors’ wifi to make sure you are on a channel that is relatively open. Or, you can have the Google Wifi system constantly monitoring the wifi networks in your area and automatically change the channel on your network to a channel that is not crowded.
The second huge advantage of the Google Wifi system is that it broadcasts the 2.4GHz and the 5.0GHz signals on the same network name. Tech savvy users will often broadcast both signals and be able to select the signal that works best for each device or each room. 2.4GHz generally works for larger distances, but 5.0GHz can handle higher speeds and more bandwidth. But, managing two networks and jumping back and forth between them is just not practical. With the Google Wifi system, these devices automatically work with your phones, smart tvs, streaming devices, and everything else and push those devices to the signal that works best. It is all seamless, invisible, and automatic.
How many Google Wifi points do you need?
The Google Wifi 3-pack from Amazon is perfect for homes from 1,500 to 4,500 square feet. If your space is less than 1,500 square feet, you can likely get by with one wifi point. Exceptions would be smaller homes that are unusually long and narrow or multiple stories with a small footprint. So, if your home is laid out like that or is larger than 1,500 square feet, the best deal would be to get the 3-pack.
Part of the reasoning is the price. A single wifi point is currently about $100. A 3-pack is about $250. So, why buy 2 for $200? Just buy 3. That 3rd device is only $50. So, you can use it to blanket your house in extra-awesome wifi coverage. Or, you could sell it to a friend of family member for more than you paid for it and less than a new one would cost. A win-win!
You’ll be able to determine if the 3rd device is necessary as you go through the set-up process.
What’s in the Box
The Google Wifi 3-pack from Amazon includes:
- 3 Wifi points
- 3 Power adapters
- 1 Ethernet cable – 6 feet
- Quick start guide
- Warranty and safety card
(note, the packaging is so simple & streamlined, I almost missed the quick start guide and the warranty and safety card – they are attached to the boxes that include two of the power supply cables)
The Google Wifi system needs two types of devices: a “Primary Wifi point” and “Mesh Wifi points”. The first device that you power on and connect will become the Primary Wifi point. It will connect directly to your modem/router with the ethernet cable that is in the box. This device will gather up all of the activity from all of the other devices on your home and use your ISP’s router to connect to the internet.
Since you will be using additional devices to blanket your house in wifi signal, this device does NOT have to be in a central location in your house. So you can place your ISPs modem anywhere you want: tuck it away behind a desk or under a bed. Those modems are generally not the most pleasing accessory to leave out for everyone to see.
Once you have your modem placed somewhere discreet, powered on, and connected to the internet, you’re ready to start building your wifi blanket. Plug any one of your Google wifi points into a wall outlet near your modem, and then connect it to your modem with the ethernet cable.
Then, download the Google Wifi app on a smart phone or tablet. You can get it on Google Play or from the Apple App Store. After it is downloaded, you can follow the super straight-forward instructions for setting up each device.
IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: You will be prompted to name your Wifi network and create a password. There is not much guidance on this step, but we have a few suggestions to make this simpler.
- Name your Wifi something simple and unique: like LastName_Wifi, or a bit of your address Number_Street_Wifi. Do not use the same name as the one broadcast by your modem/router from your ISP.
- Use a simple to remember password that you don’t use ANYWHERE else. You’re going to be giving this password to other people when they visit your house, so do not use your banking password. A simple, common password is your 10-digit mobile phone number with no spaces or special characters.
- Advanced tip: if you know how to access the admin settings on your router, go in and turn off the router’s wifi network. There’s no reason to broadcast a wifi signal from your router since all wifi will be funneled through your Google devices.
After the first device is set up as the Primary Wifi Point, follow the prompts in the app to set up the other two Google Wifi devices. You’ll want to have them pretty evenly spread throughout the house and as little interference between them as possible. If they are too far apart, or if one is placed too close to a bunch of electronics then they will have trouble sending data between each device.
Throughout the setup process and during normal use, you can expect the app to help you. It will monitor the devices’ connections and notify you if one needs to be re-positioned.
Ongoing Use & Maintenance
That’s it! You’re all set up and ready to stream, surf, and share away. Sure, you can (and probably will) go into the app and see how your network is doing, perform some speed tests, mesh tests, look at your devices, see how each on is performing. But, after a few days, these devices should disappear into the background.
There are some additional features on the Google Wifi system that many people will find valuable, but are completely optional:
- You can simply and easily set up a guest wifi network to let them have access to the internet without giving access to shared folders, printers, and devices on your network.
- You can use simple but sophisticated family-friendly wifi controls to limit screen time or block explicit parts of the internet.
- You can specify a “Priority Device” for a period of time.
Google Wifi is available on Amazon.com.