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Google OnHub Router review: Reliable, but way too expensive with limited functionality

Google's second attempt at the OnHub, with help from Asus, turns out to be almost the same as the first.

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Dong Ngo
10 min read

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.


Google OnHub Router

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.

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.

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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.


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.


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.

Like most mobile apps used for this purpose, however, it's also limited. As mentioned before, you can only make one Wi-Fi network for both bands. (Most routers allows for one network for the 5GHz band and another for the 2.4GHz band.) You can also only make one connected device the priority and it can be prioritized for no more than 4 hours.

There are also many popular router features that are not available with OnHub. Missing features include a guest network, parental controls, firewall, Dynamic DNS (dynamic domain name system), VPN (Virtual Private Network), content filtering and more. There's also nothing you can currently do with the OnHub's USB port.

In all, in terms of features and functionality,

the TP-Link WR841N, which costs less than $20, can do more than the Google OnHub.


Using Wave Control would mean you have to do more to prioritize a connected device, than using the Priority setting on the Google On app.

Wave Control: Totally redundant gimmick

What makes the new Asus OnHub stand out from the previous OnHub is the fact that it supports a new feature called Wave Control, which Asus says "boosts Wi-Fi on a particular device with a wave of your hand." This feature turns out to be a complete waste of time.

Initially, I thought that by waving your hand on top of the router, it would automatically boost the Wi-Fi signal in whichever direction I waved in, but that wasn't true. In fact, the hand-waving is just a mechanism to activate performance priority on a preselected device. First, you'll need to run the Google On app, choose a connected Wi-Fi device and add it to the "Wave control" list. After that, when you wave your hand on top of the router, that particular device will be prioritized -- meaning it gets first dibs on the Internet connection before other connected devices -- for two hours.

In my testing, there was no indication that this worked as the connection speed to the device remained the same. However, even if it worked, Wave Control is completely unnecessary. From any mobile device running the Google On app, you can easily make any connected client the priority for a period of time using just a few taps. Why would anybody want to first run the Google On app, put a device on the Wave Control list and then from time to time, stand up, walk to the router and wave over it to achieve the same result? I know I wouldn't.

Misleading built-in speed test

The Google On mobile app has a built-in speed test that doesn't work the way you might expect. When you're out and about, the app only tests the broadband connection (between the router and the Internet), which is quite straight-forward.

However, locally, when the mobile device connects to the OnHub's Wi-Fi network, the app first tests the broadband connection, and then tests the Wi-Fi speed between the router and the mobile device itself. After that, it rates how effective the Wi-Fi speed is in delivering the broadband speed to the device.

In other words, it tests how good the Wi-Fi connection is for Internet sharing and not necessarily for local services such as backup or media streaming from, say, a home NAS server. This means for homes where the broadband connection's download speed is 50Mbps or less, the app will almost always rate the Wi-Fi speed at 100 percent efficiency, as long as you stay within the effective range of the router. This is because a Wi-Fi connection, especially on the 5GHz band, is so much faster than even the fastest residential Internet speeds. So unless you have a super-fast Internet connection at home, this kind of measurement will show no difference between the OnHub or a cheap router.

Good performance

Like the original OnHub, the Asus version doesn't allow for naming its 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands as two separate networks. That said, I tested both bands as though it were a single-band router, and the results were slightly better than the original OnHub.

At a close range of 15 feet (about 4.6 meters), the router registered real-world sustained speed of 308Mbps; when I increased the distance to some 100 feet (30m), it scored 179Mbps. These were clearly faster than the scores of 288Mbps and 67Mbps of the TP-Link OnHub, especially in the range test. This is likely because the Asus router managed to connect to the test client on the 5GHz band on both tests, while the TP-Link router connected to the client on the 2.4GHz on the second test.

Generally, the 5GHz band has a higher data rate but a shorter range, the 2.4GHz has a lower data rate but longer range. In my experience, when you name a router's two bands the same thing, clients tend to automatically connect to the 5GHz band at close range and the 2.4GHz at long range in order to maintain stable connections. In the case of the OnHub, there's no way for you to tell which band the client is connected to at any given time.

CNET Labs' AC1900 routers' Wi-Fi performance

D-Link DIR-890L/R 601.7 160.9Linksys EA9200 577.8 242.7T-Mobile CellSpot 570.6 340D-Link DIR-880L 525.6 212.8Linksys WRT1200AC 522.6 246.8Asus RT-AC68U 521.4 336Linksys WRT1900AC 520.67 340.7Asus RT-AC3200 513.7 289Linksys E8350 511.1 304.6Asus RT-AC87U 504.4 278.6Netgear R8000 482.2 241.6Linksys EA8500 437.8 272.4Netgear R7000 432.1 295.4Netgear R7500 381.7 242.4Amped Wireless RTA2600 377.6 250.2Asus RT-AC66U 339.2 178.5Google Asus OnHub 308.3 227.8Google TP-Link OnHub 287.5 67.2Securifi Almond+ 277.6 173.4D-Link DIR-868L 271 221Amp Wireless RTA15 205.5 165.5
  • Close range
  • Long range
Note: Measured in megabits per second, longer bars mean better performance.

Still, compared with other AC1900 routers, the new Asus OnHub was still quite far behind in terms of speed. The Asus RT-AC68U, for example, scored 521Mbps and 336Mbps for short- and long-range tests, respectively, and it wasn't even the fastest on the charts.

The new OnHub's range wasn't the best either (it was about the same as that of the original OnHub), maxing at about 130 feet away. Further out, I was able to detect the signal on the client but couldn't always hold a steady connection. The router did pass my three-day stress test with flying colors, though, without even a single disconnection.

Note that I tested the router at CNET's offices, where there are plenty of walls and many Wi-Fi devices, including those from adjacent buildings, that are out of my control. Generally, walls shorten the reach of a Wi-Fi signal and other Wi-Fi devices create interference. As with all Wi-Fi routers, your results may vary depending on where you live.


Three months ago, I considered the first Google OnHub a wait-and-see device; with the new Google Asus OnHub, it's quite clear that Google's OnHub series is one of the most expensive ways to get Wi-Fi in your home, and it's not even the best Wi-Fi.

The new router is still painfully lacking in its hardware, with just one LAN port and a non-working USB port (for now), and it has fewer features and functions than routers that cost way less than half the price. Basically, almost any other home router can do more than the OnHub, in terms of serving a home network. On top of that, the new Wave Control feature is laughable because it

makes more difficult to do something that can already be done with a phone.

I recommend skipping this version, at least until Google adds more features. Despite its sleek look and ease of use, the Asus OnHub is just too expensive while not offering enough to make it a compelling purchase. Instead, there are plenty of good, reasonably priced AC1900 routers, such as the Asus RT-AC68U, or the Netgear R7000 or the Linksys WRT1900AC. You'll get a much better home network experience while paying significantly less.


Google OnHub Router

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 5Performance 7Support 7