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Google is rarely satisfied with the status quo. Don’t like bloated operating systems? Meet Chrome. Want a mobile system that doesn’t have a lowercase “i” in it? Hello Android. Streaming media to your computer too problematic? Hi there, Chromecast. Google wants to run the world. At least the company is honest about it.
In Google’s constant re-invention of the wheel, you knew that sooner or later it would set its sights on home networking. And Google stepped up in spectacular fashion. Get ready to say hello to OnHub, Google’s new venture in routers. And like everything else Google does, it has its high points and it’s “mmm-hmmm” moments.
Lets’ start with specs: the OnHub comes in two flavors, the TP-Link variant, which was released a couple of months ago, and the ASUS version, which will be released sometime this week or next. The two versions are almost identical in specs—you’re going to hear a lot about the 13 antennas crammed into the smooth, aesthetically pleasing cylindrical shape, the bandwidth-prioritizing technology, which directs the signal to where you need it most, or the incredibly simple app. Check, check, and check—both versions have all of those features. They also both include 1900 MBs of 802.11ac total speed across the 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz bands. Both have congestion-sensing radios so they can change up which band can be used for which device, taking the guesswork (and just plain work) you would go through determining that on your own. Dual core (up to 1.4 GHz on each) processors with 1GB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage are also standard on both, as is Bluetooth Smart Ready technology and upcoming Thread compliance to connect smart appliances for home automation. It also includes Weave protocols that Nest developed for use with even more devices.
Both operate similarly with the aforementioned internal 13-antenna array set in a circular pattern for greater reach inside your home. This device includes advanced security protocols to keep things tight with security, and it constantly updates itself over the Internet without interrupting your Wi-Fi service.
A light ring glows to let you know when the device is on, and fluctuates to let you know when another device is being accepted to the network. You control almost every function via the Google On app, including adding devices, changing passwords, network status, and speed tests. You use the app to figure out where leaks in your signal may be occurring, or if your ISP or modem is down.
The ASUS is the complete opposite in design from the TP-Link versions. The base is bell-shaped and then thins as it gets to the top, and the light ring is built into the bottom of the unit.
The ASUS model also lets you boost the Wi-Fi signal for a particular device by waving a hand over the unit – we assume this happens when you pair the device with the unit, otherwise the ASUS unit would have to be a mind-reader (or hand-reader) to know which device is getting the boost.
The biggest problem with routers is that they don’t evolve. You buy them and wait until a better one comes out. Google promises that the OnHub will evolve as new software updates are released; one such update is already available for the TP-Link version, which also fits into Google’s dogma that updates make a device, and not hardware (which is painfully apparent to users who have updated their Android operating systems).
Look to these pages for a review of this unit soon. We’ll tell you if we think the blazing-fast speed and dashing good looks are worth the $200+ price tag.