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Google WiFi Review UK: Setup, testing and Google WiFi app review

5

The Good

  • Simple setup
  • Impressive range
  • Network Assistant smarts
  • Brilliant app

The Bad

  • None that we can think of!

Google WiFi has launched in the UK and our in-depth review takes a close look at the setup process, network performance and more. We also take a full look at the Google WiFi app, which allows you to manage your home network and monitor it in real time.

Google WiFi Review UK: Design

You can pick up the Google WiFi in one of two forms here in the UK. A single WiFi router will cost you £129 and comes with just the one WiFi hub, plus power cable and Ethernet cable. Meanwhile, a dual router package comes with an extra hub and power cable and costs £229.

The Google WiFi routers are certainly small and subtle, compared with many efforts out there. These squat cylinders are a beige colour, so will blend into most decors, and dinky enough to easily hide away if you want them out of sight.

A light strip around the middle shows their status at a quick glance. A solid white light means they’re currently working as expected, while flashing lights mean they’re trying to connect. Besides that, the only marking is a tiny Google ‘G’ on the top surface. On the bottom of the routers, hidden away out of view, is the Type-C power port and two Gigabit Ethernet ports.

Overall the design is great, beating more chunky rivals like the BT Whole Home WiFi and especially the Netgear Orbi. You can even pick up the Google WiFi with a funky stand (fabric for £18, metal for £36).

Google WiFi Review UK: Setup

Setting up the Google WiFi is a very modern and stress-free experience, as you’d hope from the tech giant.

After plugging your first Google WiFi router into your existing modem, the next step is downloading the Google WiFi app for your phone or tablet. This can be found on the Google Play store for Android devices, or the App Store if you prefer iOS.

With this downloaded and installed, simply open the app and you’ll be talked in plain English through the entire setup process. Your mobile device will connect wirelessly to your first Google WiFi router and then all you need to do is scan the QR code on the bottom of the station and enter your internet credentials (from when you signed up with your internet provider). With that done, the router should be ready to rock.

Of course you can name the network whatever you like and set a password, with full WPA2-PSK security protection. If you already have a WiFi network set up, just name this new network the same and give it the same password. In this way, your devices will all connect automatically with no need to configure each one individually.

Connecting secondary Google WiFi routers is just as simple. Just tell the app how many more you have to hook up and the process is pretty much fully automatic. All you need to do is decide on the best positioning for these routers. Of course, any rooms where you stream media or play online games are a good bet, especially if their view of the base station is blocked by a wall or ceiling.

Don’t worry about getting the perfect positioning for these Google WiFi routers on your first try. The app can be used to check your WiFi coverage and rearrange things, as we’ll see in a moment.

Check out our full Google WiFi unboxing and setup video below for a closer look at the setup process.

Google WiFi Review UK: Network strength and mesh WiFi

Google recommends a minimum of broadband internet to get the most out of its WiFi solution. For the purposes of testing, we used a Plusnet Unlimited Fibre connection.

We connected a computer to the secondary Google WiFi unit upstairs and ran a series of broadband speed tests across a typical weekday, to see what kind of internet connection we could expect. These tests offered an average download speed of 58.07Mbps and an average upload speed of 16.41Mbps. That’s a clear improvement on our previous network, using a single router based downstairs, which offered download speeds of 36.12Mbps (although upload speeds were almost unchanged).

Range is certainly a strength, even without the bonus routers. With just one Google WiFi router in place, we still managed a stronger signal in distant parts of our test home than we did with the gaming router previously installed.

Of course, the real joy of Google WiFi is the Network Assist feature, which chugs away in the background and intelligently manages your WiFi setup. If you’re using a mobile device and roaming around your house, Network Assist will figure out which station is the closest to your location and offering the best possible connection. Your device will them seamlessly swap between stations as you move, without disrupting whatever you might be doing; even streaming video or music. This is known as mesh WiFi and it’s bloody wonderful.

Read next: How to check your home is ready to stream 4K video

Google WiFi Review UK: Google WiFi app

Sure, you can expect a strong range, fast online connectivity and a smart little design. But what really elevates the Google WiFi home network above many rivals is the excellent app.

As well as offering a simple setup experience, the Google WiFi app offers full monitoring and management of your home network. It’s logically laid out and a breeze to use, but still absolutely stuffed with essential features.

The person who sets up the network becomes the 'owner', so any device using that person's Google account can perform administrative tasks. Of course, the owner can also invite other household members to be managers, with full admin rights also. 

The main Google WiFi app screen gives a basic view of your setup, to check everything’s okay. You can make sure your routers are connected to each other and the internet and also see how many devices are tapped into the network. From here you can even get a realtime view of how demanding each device is, including upload and download speeds. Need to prioritise a device for a set time, to stream 4K video or play a bit of Killing Floor online? You can do that here too, to ensure solid bandwidth.

Flick right from that main page and you get a Google Now-style stream of info. This is especially useful when you first set up Google WiFi, offering an overview of some of the best features buried away. Any update news and so on will also appear here, as well as performance alerts.

Swipe left from the main screen and you get all of the necessary settings. From here you can check your network performance in more detail, testing the internet connectivity as well as the mesh connection (the signal strength between the multiple Google Home routers). You can also run a signal strength test on your mobile device, to see if you’re getting a decent connection from specific points in your home. This is handy for working out the best positions for the secondary routers.

Got kids? Google WiFi offers a nifty parental control feature called Family WiFi, which allows you to cut their devices off from the internet whenever you like. This is a lifesaver if they love streaming YouTube into the wee hours, ensuring that their internet access is blocked entirely.

You also have the handy Guest WiFi feature, to set up a virtual WiFi network just for temporary visitors. And the Google WiFi app also offers direct control over certain smart home devices, including Philips Hue lights. Guests connected to your network can even cast their videos to your telly using the On.Here feature, if you allow them to.

We've compiled a complete Google WiFi tips and tricks guide, to show off some of the best features you might not know about.

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