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Wireless Reviews

Features

Other reviewers have covered GWifi's easy installation and there is this nice installation video, so I won't be spending much time on setup. The only things I'll point out are that the app provides easy-to-use guidance for initially placing Wifi points and also for moving them.

Instead, let's focus on GWifi's features, or lack thereof. Like other "three-pack" mesh products, GWifi's feature set skews toward the basics that their target non-techie buyer needs. Setup is done via iOS or Android app (pictured below), which was easy to use. The three top-level screens are shown below. If you're a tweaker, you'll probably spend most of your time in the second and third tabs and their sub-screens.

Google Wifi app - Top Level Screens

Google Wifi app - Top Level Screens

First, let's cover the feature set, most of which are found under Network Settings > Advanced Networking. The screenshot below shows most of what you can do.

  • DNS
    • Automatic (default). Uses Google's DNS, but falls back to your ISP's in the unlikely event Google's fails
    • ISP's DNS
    • Custom
  • WAN
    • DHCP (default)
    • Static
    • PPPoE
  • DHCP reservations
  • Port forwarding (static single and port ranges, no triggered ports)
  • UPnP disable (default enabled)
  • Priority device (prioritizes uplink traffic for one device)
  • Guest network
  • Home control (Philips Hue bulbs only, requires Hue bridge)
  • Family Wi-Fi Pause (suspend internet access for device and device groups)

Google Wifi app - Feature Screens

Google Wifi app - Feature Screens

Key things not supported:

  • Outbound and inbound service and website blocking and other parental controls
  • IPv6
  • DMZ host
  • DDNS
  • Access Point mode
  • Ability to set LAN IP (fixed to 192.168.86) and DHCP range
  • Wi-Fi Protected Setup (due to security risk, according to Google)

The most significant missing feature is the ability to operate multiple GWifis (or OnHubs) in mesh mode as access points, i.e. with no routing features and bridged to your router's LAN. I was initially as confused as you may be by the Bridge option in the Network Mode screen. It took a few emails and eventually a phone call to nail down that only a single GWifi can be operated as an AP. If you want to add Wifi points to your network, you have to use NAT mode.

Google has made this choice because they feel their target buyer is neither interested nor prepared to deal with the complexity of running a router for routing features and a mesh network for Wi-Fi. They also point out that, as with any router operated in AP mode, you lose most of the nifty features of the product.

On a more positive note, the list of features above doesn't include the fact that ASUS and TP-Link OnHubs can now be configured as Wifi points either with or without Google Wifi. So this makes Google the only option if you want to create a mesh network using AC1900 class (3x3) mesh nodes vs. AC1200. Google has posted simple instructions in its support forum and this short article.

One of the common complaints about mesh systems is the lack of visibility into how well the mesh itself is working. Sure, it's nice to have a quick way to check your internet up and downlink throughput, but what about the connections between mesh nodes and the actual devices? This is where GWiFi shines and is way ahead of any of its competition. The app shows connection quality for each of the Wifi points and lets you run the test on demand.

Google Wifi app - Mesh test

Google Wifi app - Mesh test

While the result is neither actual signal level nor throughput, it's better than what competing systems provide (nothing). It's also turns out to be a good indication of actual performance, as I found during mesh performance testing. You also get the usual internet speed test, but can also check the connection quality of the device the app is running on.

Google Wifi app - Other tests

Google Wifi app - Other tests

Finally, for those who like to keep track of bandwidth use, Google has you covered too. You can select the timeframe, get an overview of bandwidth use by device and also drill down to individual devices. The little screen icon at the lower left of the middle and right screens below is used to set the Priority device. This function the same as in OnHub and prioritizes uplink bandwidth for the selected device for either 1, 2 or 4 hours.

Google Wifi app - Bandwidth use

Google Wifi app - Bandwidth use

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