The Google OnHub announcement led to a cacophony of polarizing views regarding this new, unexpected router. And now, after having deployed it within the Miarka house the past 24 hours, my thoughts fluctuate — I love the ease of setup and administration, but find myself perplexed by some of the performance I see throughout the house. Read on for more impressions of Google’s first router as it exists today.
Compared to other, typical routers, the OnHub looks great. Its outer casing has a soft matte feel and placing it out in the open won’t elicit weird stares. That’s not always the case if you look at some of the other routers out there. That’s part of the OnHub’s appeal. Having it simply present without drawing attention.
On top of the OnHub is a light ring that shows the current status of your network. A teal light means that everything is working well and there are no issues. Google outlines all the light statuses on the following support page. The top of the router also has a speaker, but I only heard that once – during the initial setup.
A major downside to the router is only having one additional Ethernet port on the back of the device. Even Dave questioned this decision as most people will want/need to plug in more than one device into the router. For me, the one port didn’t affect my existing network as I have the OnHub plugged into a network of powerline adapters. Most of my devices that require a wired connection are spread throughout the house. I simply plugged in the one port to my powerline and all was well.
I won’t get into nitty gritty of the OnHub specifications, you can read all about them on Google’s site. Just know that you are purchasing one of the newer AC spec’ed routers which basically means faster speeds and more antennas.
Initial setup was painless. The OnHub does a good job of walking you thru getting the router online. Because I am using an iOS device for setup, I could not use the audio signal to identify the OnHub and had to manually type in the default password. Not that big of a deal. Once connected to the internet, the OnHub downloaded a firmware update that took about 10 mins. After this update, you then proceed to setup your wifi network. There were a few devices (ecobee 3, Logitech hub, etc), that I needed to reconfigure the wifi credentials, but for the most part everything just reconnected and beautiful wifi signals were spread across the house.
The OnHub app is by far the easiest and most straight forward administration tool I have ever used for a router. Sure, other routers provide settings for the most minute details for your network, but how often are you actually changing these? The main screen shows the current status of the OnHub and how many devices are connected to your network.
Clicking on the device count will show you a list of all your devices. One thing I immediately noticed was the stats for devices. You have the ability to see in real-time how much bandwith your current devices are using. You also have the option to show the previous hour, 7 days, or 30 day timeframe. For those on a data cap from your ISP, this provides valuable information. I will be interested to see how much data we actually use over the next month.
The other aspects of the app are for the most part straight forward. You have the ability to change the default DNS settings from Google’s servers to your ISP’s or a custom server such as OpenDNS if needed. Creating port forwards was also easy. For our Tablo device, I needed to reconfigure the port forwarding. You first must set the Tablo with a static IP, then you can create the port forward rule. Trying to accomplish this on other routers would sometimes sometimes draw out the angry Hulk, but with the OnHub app, it was the easiest to setup. I appreciate that.
Non Scientific Performance View
Performance is the most perplexing part regarding the OnHub and my thoughts are inline with The Wirecutter’s first look at the OnHub. When you are on the right wireless band and channels, your speeds will fly. The problem is that you won’t know which is which as the OnHub only allows for one access ID for both 2.4ghz and 5.0ghz bands. For most people, this won’t matter, but for those who are looking to separate out their networks this is a problem.
The range of the OnHub seemed to be much better than other routers I have used, or so I thought. Throughout the downstairs, signal and speeds were excellent and stable. When moving to our upstairs area, my iPhone 6 indicated I should have full signal (even in the room furthest away from the OnHub), the speeds were atrocious or even nonexistent. I also tried an iPad Air 2 and Macbook Air and speeds were much better. Could it just be something with my iPhone 6’s antenna? My wife did not seem to have the same issues with this room as I did with her iPhone 6, so I don’t want to say it’s specific to an iPhone.
This was the maddening part of the OnHub. When you are locked on to a good band/channel, it was a great experience. If you happened to stray to far, the OnHub did not seem to adjust to the proper settings which would have given you the best bandwith.
Closing / Looking Ahead
Something I haven’t touched on are the included Bluetooth and Zigbee/Weave radios within the OnHub. Yes, they are there, but not enabled. I wanted to give first impressions as the device exists today, not what could be in the future. Of course Google will take advantage of these protocols in the future, we just don’t know how (Nest?) or when.
Google has done a great job on the software side of the OnHub, providing the most simple administration for any router I have owned, even Apple’s AirPort Extreme. Hopefully issues with changing bands/channels can be address with a future update. Deciding to purchase the OnHub today comes down to this. Do you think ease of use is worth $200 for a router. If you do, the OnHub will be a great router. If you are simply looking for the best possible price to performance ratio, you should skip the OnHub for now.