Of all of the technology that proliferates in the connected home, the router is up there with the dullest. It may be crucial to the operation of, well, almost everything, but it is nearly always a pain to set up and a repeated pain point when your Wi-Fi goes wrong.
Or so I thought, until I tried the OnHub. Google’s answer to our router woes, this slick cylinder promises to be some kind of connected holy grail: simultaneously improving signal consistency throughout the home while making it easier and more pleasurable to manage your Wi-Fi network.
Initially, it does just that. Set-up is incredibly simple – simply pair your phone with the OnHub and follow the instructions. Users are prompted to set your own network name and password (which can be checked through the app at any time) so there is no need for physical notes on the fridge reminding you of how to connect to your Wi-Fi.
A user-centric device
For families that need more than one person managing the network, adding a new manager is as simple as adding their email. The only downside to this is that they need to have a Gmail account in order to do this, which ties you into Google’s ecosystem. Guest networks, with their own password and with access restricted to devices approved by the homeowner, are also incredibly easy to create.
On the technical side, there was a minor improvement in Wi-Fi connectivity – it delivered consistent signal from 5m further away than the existing network – but, for a single hub Wi-Fi, it offers a solid, dependable connection. Coverage was extensive, with no real points where the Wi-Fi suddenly dipped out.
The major selling point, though, is the user experience. Not only does the app interface look beautiful, but Google also provides plenty of clarifications in the app so even the technically uninitiated won’t feel out of their depth. Connected devices are shown visually on the homepage, allowing the homeowner to quickly check on the status of the network and see if anything is using an excessive amount of bandwidth.
While the OnHub didn’t initially have support for port forwarding, this has now been incorporated, so you can remotely access devices on your remote network. This is important for homeowners that have cloud-enabled IoT devices that need an open internet connection, but want the rest of their network to remain entirely secured.
For all of its positives, the OnHub falls some way short of perfect. If devices are connected to another network nearby then it can often become disconnected from one to the other. In our experience, the OnHub can also cause slight disruption to other nearby networks while running. This seems to be a common problem, as Google itself admits:
“If one or more wireless routers are also broadcasting Wi-Fi near your OnHub, this may cause interference. As a result, your Wi-Fi performance can suffer.”
While most of the devices that homeowners will want to run on their Wi-Fi networks will be wireless, the incorporation of only a single Ethernet port will be a serious flaw for some users. While this can easily be resolved by connecting the OnHub to a mini switcher, this somewhat spoils the elegant design aesthetics of the router.
Control is exclusively controlled through the app as it stands, which is fine, although allowing voice activation á la the Amazon Echo would be a solid addition if Google is serious about Google On being its smart home control platform, as rumours suggest. That said – and despite the router’s current weaknesses and elevated price tag – this is probably the most user-friendly router we’ve used yet.