Google Wifi wants to kill dead spots

— 9:30 AM on October 5, 2016

The problem with home Wi-Fi, as Google sees it, is that many people use a single router to provide coverage for an entire house. For too many users, walls, odd construction quirks, and distance conspire to create dead zones and slow down connection speeds. Yesterday, Google announced Google Wifi (sic), an expandable system of mesh routers intended to simplify and improve home Wi-Fi connections.

The device has a simple, innocuous design. It's a white, 4.17"-diameter (10.6-cm) hockey puck with a thin band around the middle. The 2.7" (6.9-cm) tall unit houses a quad-core processor, 512MB of DDR3L memory, and 4GB of flash storage. Each system point has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, though wireless connections are the main attraction. Google Wifi offers 802.11ac connectivity with AC1200 speeds. Additionally, the units support beamforming and Bluetooth Smart.

Google calls these cylindrical routers "Google Wifi points" or, more generically, "system points." Google will sell Wifi points individually or in packs of three. The company indicates that one point should cover a small home or apartment of 500 to 1500 square feet, while two should be sufficient for a 1500-to-3000 square foot home. Larger homes or buildings with stubborn dead zones will want three or more Wifi points. Since the system points operate as a mesh network, Google's Network Assist technology constantly determines which band and channel are best for your device, making real-time changes as needed behind the scene.

To let users control their Wifi hordes, Google borrowed a trick or two from the OnHub routers that it designed last year. Similar to the OnHub system, users can control Google Wifi using a smartphone app. The app is available for Android and iOS and lets users track connected devices, prioritize certain devices, and pause the family Wi-Fi during dinner. (Judging from the number of times it's made a joke about this, Google's marketing team must have a lot of trouble getting children to come to the dinner table.) Additionally, the app allows users to manage security and privacy settings. The software will even help users determine the optimal placement for the system points.

Google will sell the system points for $129 individually or at $299 for a pack of three. These prices seem aggressive, considering that mesh-networking competitor Eero sells comparable units for $199 each. Google Wifi will be available for preorder in November for U.S. shoppers. Buyers should get their routers in December.

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