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Wireless Reviews

Wifi
At a glance
ProductGoogle NLS-1304-25 Wifi   [Website]
SummaryMesh Wi-Fi system with AC1200 class mesh points.
Pros• Least expensive mesh Wi-Fi product
• Mesh networks can include AC1900 class OnHubs
• Built-in ZigBee radio
• App shows internet connection, client connection and mesh connection performance
Cons• Does not support access point mode for mesh configurations
• ZigBee radio supports only Philips Hue bulbs

Typical Price: $129  Shop Amazon

Introduction

Updated 1/12/17 - Assorted updates

Google caused a stir in the emerging mesh Wi-Fi universe when it announced in October it too was getting into the game with Google Wifi. Google's first attempt -- OnHub -- didn't put much of a dent in the incumbent consumer Wi-Fi makers' market share. But since GWifi's key competition, eero and Luma, are much smaller fish, GWifi wouldn't have to do much to create some serious potholes in their road to long-term viability.

Google Wifi (yes, that's how Google spells it) takes an approach similar to Luma and eero in form and features. All three aim at the consumer who wants easy setup, as in plug-it-in-and-it-works. All come in small off-white plastic packages (Google refers to theirs as "Wifi points"), as shown in the group photo below, designed for high WAF.

Luma, eero, Google Wifi - front

Luma, eero, Google Wifi - front

All three also come with two Gigabit Ethernet ports and have AC1200 class radios. But GWifi doesn't have the (currently) non-functional USB 2.0 port that eero and Luma sport. Instead, it has a USB C connector that right now serves only to bring power in.

Luma, eero, Google Wifi - rear

Luma, eero, Google Wifi - rear

Google has priced GWifi aggressively at $129 for one and $299 for a three-pack. Luma apparently noticed and lowered its three-pack to $299 from $399, but kept its single-unit price at $149. eero has chosen to keep its premium prices of $499 for three and $199 for one, although you can buy a two-pack for $349. Although GWiFi is shipping, Google sold out its initial production run. So you'll have to join a waitlist until it comes back into stock, which should be in the next week or two, according to Google.

Updated 1/12/17

Shortage has been resolved. Order away!

Inside

GWifi's FCC documents are under wraps for now. So when testing was done, I opened one up for photos and component identification. The photo below shows the view after removing the bottom cover. It's a solid design, with the main board screwed onto a cast metal shell that serves as a heatsink and imparts a feeling of substance. The two Gigabit Ethernet and USB C connectors are on a small board that connects to the main board via what looks like a PCI-e connector.

Google Wifi inside

Google Wifi inside

Most components are on the other side of the board, shown below with RF can tops removed. The GWifi's heart is a Qualcomm IPQ4019, basically the same device as the IPQ4018 that powers Luma. It's a simultaneous dual-band AC1200 radio that also supports MU-MIMO, which neither Luma nor GWifi have chosen to support in their products.

Google Wifi board

Google Wifi board

The upper left RF can holds a surprise - a Silicon Labs EM3581 ZigBee / Thread SoC and Skyworks ZigBee front end. This is the same combo found in the TP-Link and ASUS OnHubs, but it's not mentioned in any Google Wifi documentation, per se. But OnHub has supported ZigBee-based Philips Hue bulbs since August and since GWifi also supports Philips Hue bulbs, Google Wifi's ZigBee radio is also functional. The device with a Qualcomm logo in the right side RF can is most likely the Bluetooth radio, but I couldn't find any reference to the part number marked on it.

The other surprise is the STM32F072 32 bit ARM Cortex-M0 microcontroller and Infineon STM9615 Trusted Platform Module. Neither of these were found in either OnHub.

Updated 1/12/17

Google reports that OnHub does have a Trusted Platform Module.

For comparison, here's Luma's board...

Luma board

Luma board

...and eero's. It's pretty obvious why eero needs to keep its price high compared to Luma and Wifi. But eero continues to be the only three-pack mesh product with two 5 GHz radios.

Updated 1/12/17

eero's second 5 GHz radio was a shared 2.4 / 5 GHz. This Reddit post describes that the 5 GHz components on the shared radio have been removed, along with the band-limiting filter on the separate 5 GHz radio. This makes eero the same as most other "three-pack" mesh Wi-Fi systems, with 2.4 and 5 GHz radios that are used for both backhaul and client connection. eero confirmed that the change was made "late spring, early summer" of 2016. Sources tell me that eero's superior performance (to Luma and Amplifi at least) is due to higher transmit power.

eero board

eero board

The component summary below shows the key components of Wifi, Luma and eero.

  Google Wifi Luma eero
CPU - Qualcomm IPQ4019 Wave2 2x2 a/b/g/n/ac SoC
- STM32F072 32 bit ARM Cortex-M0
- Infineon STM9615 Trusted Platform Module
Qualcomm IPQ4018 2x2 a/b/g/n/ac SoC Qualcomm dual-core IPQ8062 @ 1 GHz
Switch QCA8075 QCA8075 Qualcomm Atheros QCA8337
RAM 512 MB 256 MB 512 MB
Flash - 4 GB eMMC (IF5055?)
-4 MB Winbond 25Q64FV
128 MB GigaDevice 5F1GQ4UCYIG
2 MB GigaDevice serial flash 25Q16CS1G
4 GB / 8 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - In IPQ4019
- Skyworks SKY8530 2.4 GHz front end (x2)
- In IPQ4018
-Skyworks RFX8425 2.4 GHz RF front end (x2)
- QCA9982 2x2 MU-MIMO 802.11abgnac radio
- RFMD RFFM4204 2.4 GHz Front End (x2)
5 GHz radio - In IPQ4019
- Skyworks SKY85717-11 5 GHz front end (x2)
- In IPQ4018
- Skyworks SKY85716-11 5 GHz RF front end (x2)
- QCA9982 2x2 MU-MIMO 802.11abgnac radio
- RFMD RFPA5522 5 GHz power amp (x4)
Bluetooth Qualcomm 3003-CL3D (CSR102x?) CSR8510 Bluetooth 4.0 SoC Atheros AR3012 Bluetooth 4.0 SoC
ZigBee - Silicon Labs EM3581 ZigBee / Thread SoC
- Skyworks SKY66109-11 2.4 GHz ZigBee front end
N/A N/A
Table 1: Component summary and comparison

Note the dedicated monitor radio found in OnHub is not part of GWiFi. The gallery below has some more inside photos and commentary.

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