Google has a promising new router called the OnHub that may be a game changer for wireless routers in smart homes, and the reviews are now in.
Routers are typically difficult to set up, not as reliable as they should, and rather unattractive from an aesthetic point of view. With the OnHub, Google wants to tackle the biggest inconveniences and offer a more viable alternative to traditional routers on the market.
The Google OnHub Wi-Fi router is made in collaboration with TP-Link and comes with a $199 price tag, set to start shipping this week. The gadget has a neat design that's easy on the eye, as it looks like a sleek cylinder about 7.5-inch tall and 4.5-inch in diameter, with bottom side slightly tapered. The device comes in a matte black or blue finish for now, but Google says it will offer more options later.
The router has a single glowing status ring instead of the slew of blinking lights found on other routers, making it easier to see what's going on. The glowing ring changes colors depending on the status. If OnHub's ring is blue, it means the device is ready for setup. If it's orange, it means that you should check the accompanying app because something is wrong. If the light is green, it means everything is up and running just fine.
Under the sleek shell, the OnHub actually packs impressive processing power, rocking a Qualcomm IPQ8064 dual-core 1.4GHz processor on the Krait 300 CPU architecture, paired with 1GB of RAM. OnHub further comes with 4GB of internal storage capacity. For a router, these are some pretty impressive specifications.
On the downside, OnHub has only one gigabit LAN port. Otherwise, the gadget features the standard power and WAN ports, a reset button, as well as a USB 3.0 port that doesn't work for now, but may get some neat functionality in the future.
Similarly, one of the ventilation holes at the top of the device also serves as an ambient light sensor that is not active for now, but at some point it will adjust the status ring light based on the lighting conditions in the room. The device also features a speaker, and it's a loud one.
OnHub is further equipped with powerful antennas to provide strong wireless signal with a great range. A neat and easy-to-use app allows for convenient control, dramatically reducing the setup and troubleshooting process that's so cumbersome on other routers.
The accompanying app is called Google On and is available for Android or iOS. Google On will walk users through the setup process with incredibly simple instructions so everything goes well without any hassle. Once you plug in all the necessary cables, the router needs to pair with your phone to get everything up and running. This won't require any tapping on the router or entering passwords, the two will simply connect through sound. During setup, a message will instruct you to get close to OnHub, the router plays a little tune and it connects with the smartphone. It's as simple as that.
That's what Google mainly aims to do with its OnHub - simplify the setup process, improve the coverage a router can offer, simplify troubleshooting and pack plenty of horsepower into a sleek package.
Google has already sent OnHub units to various parties and the reviews are now in, painting quite a promising picture, albeit it remains unclear for now just what exactly Google has planned with its OnHub. It's clearly not meant to be just a router, as it hints at some neat smart home applications, but it remains to be seen. Meanwhile, here's what the reviewers have to say about it.
"With the OnHub, Google is trying to solve the three biggest pain points of routers - setup, coverage, and troubleshooting - and build a wireless portal for the future. Did it also happen to create the perfect router? After switching out my current router and using the OnHub for the past few days in my own home, I want to say that Google has come awfully close, with just a couple of downsides that may or may not matter to you," writes The Verge.
"Right now, the router doesn't seem like anything special. It's perfectly functional but not much else. No one should buy the OnHub as purely a Wi-Fi router. What will make or break this device is the upcoming smart home functionality, and right now we just don't know what that entails. We'll keep it hooked up and continue to monitor it though. We'll let you know ASAP if it starts turning from 'just a router' into... something else," concludes Ars Technica.
"Google's OnHub is missing some of the advanced features found in similarly priced routers, but it makes up for that with excellent, powerful hardware that looks good in your home and a great app that makes setup, maintenance and troubleshooting easy. The trade-off should be worth it for most consumers -- if you're tired of dealing with the horrible software and ugly hardware that most routers feature, the OnHub is an excellent option," notes Engadget.
"As weird a feeling as it is, letting Google take up a physical role in my household, it's hard to deny what I witnessed this week: The best wireless networking my home has ever seen," reads the Wall Street Journal review.
"The Google OnHub is a really cool idea that did a lot of good in my apartment. But for $199.99, with only one wired ethernet port, and no ability (yet) to use it as a digital assistant, a hub for connected devices, or even a Bluetooth speaker, it's hard to recommend. It's just a really expensive router," adds Business Insider.
In conclusion, the new Google OnHub is undeniably a good and powerful router, but its asking price is too high for just a router. It has the potential to become much more and it likely will, but for now Google hasn't shared more details regarding its plans for OnHub.