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Google OnHub Router review:

Reliable, but way too expensive with limited functionality

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The Good The Google Asus OnHub is a sleek-looking router that delivers reliable Wi-Fi performance. For mobile users, it's fun to setup and easy to use.

The Bad The expensive router has many hardware parts that can't currently be used, and it can only support a single wired device. It can't be set up or managed via computer or Web browser. And the router must be registered to at least one Google account and remain connected to Google at all times to work.

The Bottom Line The new Google Asus OnHub is a reliable, fun-to-use router that's grossly overpriced for its limited in functionality.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

6.7 Overall
  • Setup 8.0
  • Features 5.0
  • Performance 7.0
  • Support 7.0

Review Sections

Reviewing the new Google Asus OnHub is like reviewing the first Google OnHub (made by TP-Link) all over again. The new router is essentially the same as the old, with an eye-catching design, a single LAN port, not-yet-activated features and a required Google connection at all times. Also, the new Wave Control feature -- which allows you to prioritize the speed of a designated device by waving your hand over the router -- comes off as unnecessary and just plain silly. Appearance-wise, the new OnHub looks like the previous OnHub turned upside down.

In testing, the Asus OnHub's performance was better than its TP-Link counterpart, but it's still not fast enough to justify the current price of $220 (pricing would roughly convert to £145 in the UK and AU$310 in Australia).

In the end, like the first OnHub, the new one is a good router that just costs too much. The biggest takeaway: you can get much faster routers -- with longer range and features that actually work today -- like the Asus RT-AC68U, for much less.

Still, I will revisit it when a major firmware/software upgrade is ready. In the meantime, check out this list oftop 802.11ac routers on the market for one that meets your needs (and budget) better.

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The second compact OnHub router from Google, this time made by Asus.

Dong Ngo/CNET

Eye-catching design with limited hardware

The new Asus OnHub shares similar eye-catching cylindrical design as the previous version. The only difference is it now has a wider base and tapers towards the top, making it look like an upside-down version of the first OnHub. The new router's hardware remains the same: this is an AC1900 with just one Gigabit LAN port and one Gigabit WAN (Internet) port. The more LAN ports you have, the more wired clients (like a printer or a server) you can connect to the router before having to resort to connecting a separate switch to add more ports. Alone, the OnHub can host just one wired client.

Google says with the limited amount of ports, the OnHub minimizes the amount of cluttering wires coming out the back. That and its sleek look are supposed to entice users to put the router out in the open, such as on top of a desk (instead of under it), thereby improving its Wi-Fi coverage. In real-world usage, this is a half-truth. The main reason you don't put the router out in the open is not because of its look or the amount of ports it has, but because you can't, because the place where the broadband connection enters your house is almost always not under a desk in a centrally located room, but rather at a corner of the property. If you choose to put the OnHub somewhere in the open, you will need to run a long cable from the broadband modem to the router's WAN (Internet) port, which will clutter your living space.

Personally, I'd rather have a router with more ports than one that looks good. It's worth noting that most home routers have four LAN ports and there's a new trend of routers that comes with even more. The recently reviewed Netgear R8500, for example, has six LAN ports.

As a Wi-Fi router, the new OnHub is a true dual-band router that can deliver up to 1,300 megabits per second wireless speed on the 5Ghz band and up to 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. Unlike other dual-band routers, the OnHub won't allow you to make two Wi-Fi networks (one for each band). Instead it uses a single network for both, and that means there's no way for you to know which band a client is connected to at a given time.

The router has one USB port on the back but it doesn't work for now. Google says the port will be activated in a later firmware update. According to the router's specs, it also supports the Thread wireless standard for home automation -- but that's not activated yet, either.

Like the first OnHub, this one has a speaker on top. There's no built-in microphone, however, so you won't be able to interact with it the way you do with the Amazon Echo. Also, there's no volume control on the speaker. All it does is make this cool Matrix-y sound after you're done with its initial setup.

googleasusonhub-5.jpg

Like the previous OnHub, the new router only has one LAN port, in addition to the WAN (Internet) port.

Dong Ngo/CNET

A Google account is a must

Unlike most other home routers, the OnHub doesn't have a Web interface for accessing it through a browser. You need an Android or an iOS mobile device to set up and manage it.

No matter what device you use to set up the OnHub, you must first sign-in with a Google account and the router must be connected to the Internet before you can do anything. The first time you run the Google On app -- which is the app for both the setup process and on-going management of the router -- it will walk you through a few steps, including connecting the router's WAN port to an Internet source, such as a cable modem. After that, you'll choose a Wi-Fi network and password to complete the setup. The router will then make a cool sound to indicate that it's ready, which, as I said before, is (so far) the only time it makes use of the speaker. Nonetheless, this sound and the well-designed Google On app create an exciting and fun experience when you first setup the router.

The fact that the router's connected to a Google account allows you to manage it and your home network no matter where you are. But it also means that you can't use the router without Google potentially knowing what's going on in your home network.

Google says it respects users' privacy and that "OnHub does not track the websites you visit or collect the content of any traffic on your network. However, OnHub does collect data such as Wi-Fi channel, signal strength, and device types that are relevant to optimize your Wi-Fi performance." You can also use the mobile app to disable the data collection function of the OnHub, but there's no option to use the OnHub without a Google account at all.

Vendor-assisted remote management is not new. Linksys offers an option for a similar solution for its Smart Wi-Fi routers, in addition to the Web interface. Google's OnHub is the first I've seen, however, that forces users to connect to Google before they can make any changes to a router's settings.

To be fair, without the OnHub, most of us have already been connected to Google -- think of each time you use Google Maps, Chrome, Gmail and so on. The OnHub will bring that connection to other devices in your home, too, such as a printer or a NAS (networked attached storage) server. Basically, any devices in your home that connect to the OnHub will potentially connect to Google, even when you're not using them.

Beautiful app with limited features and functionality

As a mobile app for router management, the Google On app is second to none. The app is very sleek and has beautiful animations. It's also responsive and intuitive. The app allows for adding other Google accounts to manage a router, or for adding more OnHub units to an existing account. In other words, many people can manage one OnHub and/or a single person can manage multiple OnHubs at different locations. Basically, if you have a phone or a tablet, the Google On app makes the OnHub super easy to use.

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