Google Wifi brings mesh networking to your home

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      Google hopes to make your wireless experience at home better than ever with the Canadian release of Google Wifi. The company's mesh Wi-Fi product has been available since last Friday (April 28) from the Google Store and national retailers.

      A three-pack of Google Wifi nodes is $439, with a single device priced at $179. It's considerably more expensive than a standard router, but the promise of a "mesh" network, also referred to as a "connected system", is that it creates a blanket of wireless signals throughout an area.

      The idea is to make it easy for you to connect to your Wi-Fi no matter where you are, especially in environments that are cluttered with wireless signals.

      "The Internet comes into your home the way it is," Ben Brown said during a media event that was hosted on Google Hangout.

      "You shouldn't have to worry about that," added Brown, who runs the product team that developed Google Wifi. "The whole point of having a system is that you can place the devices wherever you need them to go."

      For the most part, Google Wifi delivers.

      Getting wireless connectivity without the hassle

      Google Wifi's connected system makes sure that you're using the channel that is most open and available and the band (2.4 GHz or 5 GHz) that will be fastest.

      And it connects you to the node that will provide you with the best signal as you move around your environment, because Google Wifi nodes pass you off to the node that will serve you best.

      You don't need a mesh networking system to get better Wifi throughout your home. You can use a router and extend your wireless network with access points. But they can be limiting, especially when it comes to moving around your home with a smartphone or tablet. If you're connected to the access point in the living room, for example, and you move to the kitchen, your device may stay connected to the living room access point even though there's an access point in the kitchen.

      The other issue with routers and access points is that they often require some degree of technical competency to configure.

      Setting up Google Wifi, on the other hand, is a breeze. Google sent me a Google Wifi three-pack to test out, and the system is nearly plug-and-play. You plug one of the nodes into your Internet modem and use your smartphone or tablet to set up and manage everything through the associated app.

      It's simple to navigate with just a few taps and the software takes care of all of the configuration for you.

      You can place the rest of the Google Wifi nodes anywhere you can plug them into power. The white cylindrical devices, which are missing the antennae that are typical of wireless devices, were designed to fit into any decor.

      As you set up the additional nodes, the software will run speed and connection tests and let you know if the location you've chosen is optimal. Each node has two ethernet ports. One can be used as an input, or they can both be used for output to wired devices.

      Brown said that a Google Wifi system, created with the Internet of Things in mind, can support up to 128 connected devices.

      He added that the software ensures an encrypted connection between your Google Wifi nodes and your devices that access them.

      Google Wifi's Canadian connection

      The Google Wifi app and elements of the hardware were built in Google's Kitchener-Waterloo offices, according to Brown.

      The Google Wifi system is managed completely through the app, which shows you which devices are connected to the Wifi network and provides you with real-time information on your speed of connectivity to the Internet.

      You can prioritize traffic to a particular device and can block access to devices at any time. You can even set schedules for when devices can access the Wifi, which is a welcome feature for parents.

      Wireless passwords can be shared through the app, and guest networks can be configured with a tap, giving you the ability to share specific devices so guests can share their video on your TV without getting access to your computer.

      Everything is managed in the cloud, which is both good and bad. It means I can troubleshoot and make adjustments to my network even when I'm not at home, but it also means that I need a connection to be able to manage the network.

      For those living in smaller homes or apartments, Google Wifi is not likely worth the expense. But if you are in a larger home or are frustrated with dropped signals and spotty Wifi, Google Wifi may be the solution to your problems.