Google NLS-1304-25 Wifi Home Mesh Router Replacement System is the easiest and most manageable router that we’ve ever set up, period. It might not be the most powerful or offer precise controls, but it more than makes up for any lack of depth in unmatched simplicity.
Devices like Eero and the Netgear Orbi have shown that the age of routers and range extenders has come to an end. The future is in tri-band or Wi-Fi mesh systems. And, surprising nobody, the smart-home obsessed Google has gone all-in with its Google Wifi Home Mesh System.
And, with this device, Google may have just made the best Wi-Fi mesh system in existence. From what we have read so far this year, Google Wifi looks like it is simply the best wireless router you can buy in 2018. Google has managed to create a system that comes with more mesh units than its competitors at a lower price, while still focusing on simple setup and management.
Video – Introducing Google Wifi
Google NLS-1304-25 Wifi Home Mesh Router Replacement System Features
– A new type of connected system for seamless Wi-Fi coverage throughout your home, helping eliminate dead zones and buffering.
– Replaces your current router and works your modem and internet service. It’s compatible with major internet service providers including Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon Fios.
– A single Wifi point covers up to 1,500 sq. ft, a set of three covers homes up to 4,500 sq. ft. Wifi points work together so you can add more if you need additional coverage.
– Network Assist technology keeps your connection fast by always selecting the clearest channel and fastest band for your devices. WiFi throughput: 1200 Mpbs.
– A simple app gets you set up quickly and allows you to see what’s connected, prioritize devices, and pause the Wi-Fi on kids’ devices. Family controls allow you to pause the WiFi on kids’ devices, like during bedtime or dinnertime.
– Available in 1 set or 3 set packs.
– 24/7 phone support from Google; 1-year warranty.
Our Google NLS-1304-25 Wifi Home Mesh Router Replacement System Review
If you want to extend fast internet to every corner of your home, the Google NLS-1304-25 Wifi Home Mesh Router Replacement System is one of the best devices to do it. You just need two things: An internet-connected iOS or Android mobile device, like a phone or a tablet, and a Google account, which you can get for free.
This is because, unlike most routers, there’s no web-based interface and the new Wi-Fi system can only be set up and controlled via the new Google Wifi mobile application. Once set up, the Google Wifi will stay connected to Google at all times and will log into your Google account each time you want to manage it.
Google says the Wifi doesn’t collect user activity data, like what sites you’re visiting. By default, it appears to collect only hardware-, app- and network-related information. However, you can turn this off in the Privacy section of the settings. Still, a constant connection to Google is required. That’s a deal breaker for some. Not all home mesh Wi-Fi systems, which use several “satellite” devices to extend the Wi-Fi signal, require a connection to the vendor in order to work — the Eero does while the Netgear Orbi doesn’t. Most home routers don’t require this at all.
But that’s not something most people will care about, plus it will keep the device secure from hacking via regular automatic updates. So, if you’re cool with this setup, Google Wifi has the best balance of ease-of-use, performance and price yet.
Google Wifi Price & Availability
For what’s on offer, Google isn’t really asking for much. Google Wifi will set you back about $279 (about £197, AU$360) for a set of three units – that’s one primary ‘WiFi Point’ (the one you hook up to the modem or gateway) and two secondary WiFi Points. In the UK, Google Wifi comes with a two unit set costing £229.
A single Google Wifi unit can be had for $119 (around £84, AU$153). Google promises that three Wifi Points can cover up to 4,500 square feet (418 square meters) in a home. If you’re in Australia, you’ll be happy to know that Google Wifi is now available. You can pick up the 1-pack for AU$199 and the 3-pack for AU$499.
Google offers more units for less money than any competitor, like the Netgear Orbi, with all others costing at least $400 (about £320, AU$520) for the same amount. Please note that the prices quoted above are at the time of writing.
Google Wifi Design & Setup
Not only does Google have the clear advantage of pricing on its hands, but it also has the best-designed individual units and easiest setup of any offering. Each Google Wifi unit, a tiny, unassuming cylinder with a simple white LED band in its center, is capable of the same functionality.
This means that any of the three units could function as the “router” of the system, while the others can bestow wired internet (which is beamed to the unit wirelessly) with their included Ethernet ports as well as wireless internet. All three units are powered via USB-C.
Setup is as sublime as Google’s hardware design, using a free iOS and Android app to facilitate the process. While we won’t belabor you with the entire procedure, but the app configures your Wi-Fi network by first scanning the QR code on the Wifi Points connected to your modem or gateway and power.
From there, the app tells you to name your network and set a password, then pair the additional Wifi Points and label them in the app for reference. Again, it takes seconds for the “router” to recognize the Wifi Points and for them to begin broadcasting. But, you’re not going to get the same depth of access as even Netgear Orbi provides, so no band switching for you. However, Google Wifi handles this in the background automatically.
Video – How to set up Google Wifi
However, the app offers plenty more useful features, like constant monitoring of your network, its Points and the devices connected to it. The app has an included internet speed test similar to that of Ookla’s, a mesh test that measures the health of your Points’ connections as well as a Wi-Fi test that measures your connection strength from within the network.
You can also prioritize bandwidth to one device for a time, control smart home devices and pause internet access to certain devices in a family setting – all from within this app. And, now Google has expanded Google Wi-Fi’s Network Check feature to test multiple devices, so that you can spot potential bottlenecks in your network and rearrange your Google Wifi access points in order to optimize network performance.
By far, this is the most complete and elegant suite of control settings we’ve seen from a Wi-Fi mesh system so far, despite its lack of dropdown boxes and toggles.
How Does this Google Wifi System Work?
In many ways the Google Wifi is the evolution of the company’s previous home routers, the OnHubs. The difference with the Wifi is that instead of just a single unit, you can have up to three. Each hardware unit is called a Wifi point. If you get a single unit, you have just one point, which can cover about 1,200 square feet, which is suitable for a small home or average-sized apartment. More points (up to six) scattered around the house will increase the area of coverage accordingly. A set of three units can easily cover a 4,000 square-foot or even larger home.
All Google Wifi units are identical. When multiple units are used in a home, the first unit works as the main router that connects to an internet source, like a broadband modem. The additional units extend the Wi-Fi coverage to create a single Wi-Fi mesh network. Depending on the layout of your home, you can put the Wifi points one or two rooms away from one another to maximize the Wi-Fi coverage. The Google Wifi app can help determine the best location by measuring the connection between units.
The app displays your entire home network in an easy to understand layout. You can use it to visualize your entire home network, quickly prioritize the broadband connection to any particular device, and pause the internet to one or a group of devices. You can also use it to find out which Wifi point a particular client is connected to and customize a few network settings that the Google Wifi has to offer, including guest network, IP reservation and port forwarding.
Everything can be done via a few taps on your phone’s screen. Google says it will continue to update the Wifi with more features, such as voice control (via your phone, Google Home and Amazon Alexa) and support for other appliances, like the Nest thermostat.
So yes, Google Wifi has a lot to love. It delivers both in ease of use and Wi-Fi coverage. It has great performance, too. And there’s more: If you already own one of the Google OnHubs, starting today, it will be automatically updated to be part of the Wifi ecosystem, and use the same Google Wifi app. This means, apart from being a standalone router like it has always been, any OnHub can also work as a Wifi point, the same as a unit of Google Wifi.
Google Wifi Performance
We’ve seen just as impressive, if not better, performance from the Google Wifi system as we have from the Netgear Orbi. Google Wifi draws the absolute most from your 100Mbps Wi-Fi service and can do so from every room of your house.
I have seen where people have been able to stream 4K video through Netflix to their Roku Premiere in the basement as well as they have been able to play Overwatch in the office where the modem is located: without issue. Wi-Fi mesh systems like Google Wifi aren’t focused so much about throughput as they are coverage, but this product seems to deliver regardless.
The traffic prioritization feature can ensure that your gaming session is getting more of that crucial bandwidth than the other devices in your house that are Facebooking and streaming HD video. Plus, the network can automatically repair itself should one or more of the Wifi Points be accidentally unplugged or otherwise lose power.
While we know that Google Wifi operates its mesh system over existing Wi-Fi bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz) over the 802.11s mesh protocol rather than Netgear Orbi’s tri-band system that communicates over a second 5GHz Wi-Fi band, we haven’t found a terrible difference between either’s performance. We do see slightly faster download speeds in MB/s on the 2.4GHz band from the Orbi over the Google Wifi, but that could also be an anomaly.
The true benefit of Google Wifi over others is, simply put, its coverage for the price. You can get equal amounts of coverage in pure square footage from competing systems with fewer units, but the versatility having more units gives you in terms of shoring up dead spots can’t be ignored.
Google Wifi Ideal Use
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 a stress rash 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.
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.
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.
Should You Buy The Google Wifi
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.
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.
Video – Is Google WiFi worth getting?
Don’t Buy 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.
Video – Review: Google Wifi. Still worth the investment?!
Google Wifi Tips
1. To get full WiFi speed, make sure your device (PC, laptop, tablet, phone, etc.) has both 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz bands. If you don’t you’ll be stuck at around 30 Mbps to 70 Mbps.
2. A SINGLE Google WiFi covers 1500 ft. Make sure you’re within that range or get more to create a mesh network so you fall within WiFi range. My home was 1300 ft. so I only needed one.
3. The Google WiFi router only has two ethernet ports, one of which is used to connect to the modem. If you need more wired ports, buy an ethernet switch and connect the router to the switch.
4. When WiFi first connects, it will likely connect you to the 2.4 Ghz band. Don’t freak out. If you have a 5 Ghz band and the signal is good, it will connect you within 24 hours. It connected me to 2.4 Ghz band the first time I connected for a long while, but the next day when I started my PC again, it was now using the 5 Ghz band.
Google NLS-1304-25 Wifi Home Mesh Router Replacement System Customer Reviews
“I was in the same situation as others who have reviewed this product. We have a 2-story home and a finished basement. Prior to googles mesh system I had to have two routers to get a “decent” signal throughout my home. I tried extenders, but they were worthless. I had to have several wireless networks setup. So, you would have to switch networks if you wanted a decent signal in the basement. Once I hooked up this system I had a strong signal from top to bottom of my house. You will notice the difference in internet speeds in my picture once I switched over to google wifi.
People have complained about loss of flexibility and tweaking since they have to use their phone to configure the google network. I have no issues with doing anything I did prior to using this. I work from home and connect to my employer via VPN with no issues. I can view network traffic, turn off internet for the kids and see how many devices are connected at the click of a button on my phone. No longing into the router from my desktop or my phones tiny browser. When you walk from one level to the next, I can see which google router I am connected to. It automatically switches to the closest one as advertised.” …. Read More
Video – Google Wifi: Unboxing, Setup & Review
Google NLS-1304-25 Wifi Home Mesh Router Replacement System Review Verdict
The Google NLS-1304-25 Wifi Home Mesh Router Replacement System is the easiest router that we’ve ever set up and that’s considering the two extra devices required to complete it. For a relatively affordable price, Google offers more units than most competitors and the best setup and management app by far.
For all of the finer hardware controls it lacks, Google considered every toggle and test it could present in an easily understandable way through its app. (There’s even bandwidth priority control.) Couple that with a hardware design that’s easier to hide in plain sight than any we’ve seen yet, and you’re looking at one of the best Wi-Fi systems that money can buy today.
Video – Google Wifi Mesh Router Review: 6 Months Later
Video – Google Wifi Update: Connect Remote Units Via Ethernet / MOCA vs. Wirelessly How To