12 Gadgets of Christmas: Google Wifi

This is a Sciblogs series running through until Christmas Eve highlighting some of the gadgets we’ve been using this year… gadget no. 3

Dead spots – when it comes to your wifi network, they are the most frustrating thing to deal with.

Being offline is bad enough, but worse is not being sure you are offline as your web page fails to load or the buffering symbol pops up in the middle of a Youtube video.

Despite living in an 80 square metre apartment, I’ve continued to be plagued by wifi dead spots. I blame the concrete and steel lift shaft that straddles a wall of my apartment and acts to block my wireless router’s signal.

Mesh vs Extender

To soIve the problem, I first turned to a fancier dual-band router, which helped a bit, then a Netgear wifi extender, which finally supplied a reliable wireless signal to my smart TV in the lounge.

But wireless extenders generally use the same frequency to both receive and then send that signal which reduces the network bandwidth speed by half. I also kept having to re-sync the Netgear device with the router.

My latest solution however, seems like a keeper – a wireless mesh network that involves three small devices spread through the rooms of my apartment, eliminating the dead zones once and for all.

Mesh networks have been around for a while, but only recently have hit that sweet spot of easy installation and high performance allowing them to go mainstream. The new Google Wifi set-up epitomizes what is possible with mesh networking.

Google Wifi forms a mesh wireless network in your home to fill in wireless coverage deadspots.

Within 20 minutes of unpacking the Google devices, I had my new wireless network set up – all via the Google Wifi app on my smartphone. One of the “Wifi points” sits on top of my expensive and now over-engineered router – Google Wifi doesn’t replace the router but feeds off it. The other Wifi points sit each in the lounge and master bedroom.

The Google devices talk to each other to create a network that connects your laptops, phones and other wireless devices to the Wifi point offering the strongest signal and gives seamless handover so you can stay connected as you walk around your house.

Easy set-up

All the Wifi points need is power, though they also have Ethernet ports so you can plug into wired broadband jacks, if you’ve been smart enough to install them around the house.

The smart stuff happens behind the scenes with the software that calibrates the network and invisibly manages network load and switches between bands (5GHz or 2.4GHz) as necessary.

The app also lets you easily set up a guest network for visitors and with one tap, you can “pause” the network – an easy way to give everyone some internet-free time. I have 6 – 8 devices running on wifi at any one time and haven’t had a drop out on Google Wifi in two weeks – speed tests show me getting 99 megabits per second across the network.

Google claims the three Wifi point set-up should cover a property up to 1200 square metres – palatial by my standards. This is wireless networking as it should be – simple to set up, easy to control and offering a reliable connection all over the house.

You can see why Google has invented this – wifi dead spots mean we spend less time googling and looking at adverts – time offline is literally money lost to the king of search.

Wireless mesh networks

  • Best way to fill in wifi deadspots caused by the architecture of your home and distance from your router.
  • Mesh devices talk to each other and send data along the most efficient path and least congested radio frequency band.
  • Maintain and extend wireless connections without degrading bandwidth.
  • Wifi points share the same SSID – no need to set up individual points and assign multiple passwords.
  • Let’s the network stay operating if a wifi point fails.
  • A range of mesh devices are on sale from the likes of Asus, Google, Linksys and Netgear, priced between $500 and $700.

Price: Google Wifi $599 (3 pack) $229 (1 pack)

 

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