Google Wifi review: The best way to blanket your entire home with Wi-Fi

Ideal use case

Before you decide to get the Google Wifi, make sure your current internet setup is ready for it. Ideally you'll want it as the sole router in the house, directly connected to your broadband modem.

If you already have a router, remove it and use the Google Wifi in its place. If you have a combo box -- one that includes both a modem and a Wi-Fi router in a single package -- provided by your service provider, you should first return that box and get just a modem.

While you can connect the Google Wifi to an existing router and share the internet that way, certain advanced features, such as port-forwarding, won't work. Also in this case, devices connected to the network of the original router and those connected to the Wifi will not be able to communicate with each other -- you might not be able to beam your phone screen to an Apple TV or a Chromecast, for instance -- so make sure all of your devices are connected to Google Wifi.

You can also use Google Wifi in bridge mode, allowing devices connected to it to be part of the existing network. However, in this case, all of the features that make it cool and unique would be disabled.

A word of warning to advanced users

If you typically break out in hives at the thought of setting up a router, skip this section. This one's for those who feel at home with terms like "port forwarding" and "DDNS."

That said, Google Wifi has two major shortcomings that make it less than suitable for advanced, savvy users.

The Google Wifi app is easy to use but doesn't offer a lot of features or customization.

Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

Signal loss

First is signal loss. Wirelessly extending a Wi-Fi signal always results in some 50 percent signal loss because the extender has to do two jobs at once: receiving the Wi-Fi signal from the original router and rebroadcasting.

That said, if you use two units of the Google Wifi, devices connect to the satellite unit will need twice the amount of time compared with those connected to the main router unit to receive the same amount of data. And if you use three units, this could get even worse.

If you just want to use the internet, the signal loss won't matter much since Wi-Fi is so much faster than most residential broadband connections (if your internet speed is faster than 200Mbps, and you want to use that at full speed, you definitely don't want to use the Google Wifi or any wireless Wi-Fi systems). However, if you want to do heavy local tasks, such as backing up your Mac to a Time Machine server, or transfer a large file from one computer to another, the Wifi isn't the best choice.

Limited customization

The second shortcoming is the frustrating lack of customization and features. You can't do as much with the Wifi as you can with a regular router. To name a few, there's no MAC filtering, content filtering, or even support for Dynamic DNS (DDNS) which would allow you to map your internet address to an easy-to-remember name. DDNS is a must if you want to run any kind of online service at home, such as a VPN server or remote desktop. I couldn't even change the router's default IP address to match my existing network's IP pool. Basically, if you enjoy doing deep network setting customization on your routers, prepare to be frustrated by the simple but shallow options the Wifi has.

Also, the Wifi has just one LAN port. This means if you want to add more wired clients to your home, you will definitely need to get a switch.


Each unit of the Google Wifi has a reset button on the side to bring it back to factory default settings.

Josh Miller/CNET

Should you buy it?

Thanks to the price alone, it's easy to recommend the Google Wifi over other home mesh systems. That said you should definitely get it if:

  • Your internet speed is slower than 250Mbps, and most residential connections are slower than half of that (here's how to find out your true internet speed)
  • You have a large home (up to 5,000 square feet) and want to easily bring internet to every corner
  • You don't want to deal with setting up a network or trying to understand weird networking terms
  • You're only planning to stream movies and do other normal everyday internet stuff

Don't get Google Wifi if:

  • You want to deeply customize your home network
  • You have ultrafast internet speed (200Mbps or faster) or need fast local network speed (in this case, due to signal loss you might not get your full internet speed at far corners)
  • You don't want your home network to be connected to Google at all times
  • You have a lot of wired clients (servers, desktop computers and so on)

If you fall into the second category, consider something else, such as the Netgear Orbi, which will give you both speed and customization, albeit at a higher price, or a regular router like the Asus RT-AC88U, which will also give you more network ports.