What You Should Know About Google’s New “OnHub” Wireless Router
Five days ago Google released their new OnHub wireless router, which was designed to “speak your language,” as well as take away all the hassles and frustration of setting up and diagnosing a wireless router. I did my own research into this router and compared it with other routers of similar technological specifications as the Google OnHub. As I found some features that were uniquely fascinating about this device, I also wanted to share some information about what consumers should know about this device which makes it unique, and as well as justify its $200 cost.
#1 – The OnHub is part of Google’s involvement in the Internet of Things (IoT).
Along with Google’s Nest, Nest Cam, Chromecast, Wear Products, and the Nexus Player, the OnHub has been added to the devices section on the Google Play Store. All these ‘things’ communicate using local WiFi routers, and what better way to use these devices than with a new Google router? Networkworld.com was one of the first to release an article on this router, and placed it under their ‘Internet Of Things’ category. Though there is no mention of ‘Internet of Things’ from Google themselves.
#2 – The OnHub is designed to be in open plain site.
The nice look and sleek design of the router was intentionally made by the designers in order for the device to be placed in plain site. OnHub’s support page tells users to “Try placing it in plain view, like on a shelf or TV stand.” The reason behind this is not just for looks, but for the improved signal strength that devices receive when the router is placed in the open view, compared to placing it on the floor in the corner of a closed room.
As this may sound beneficial, it begs the question of how it can be placed in the open view when it needs to be next to the modem in the first place. This caused me some confusion since modems need to be next to cable line coming from the wall; while the OnHub needs to be connected to that modem. So the OnHub always needs to be near the modem, unless other technologies are used such as a repeater.
#3 – The OnHub is similar to Apple’s AirPort Extreme.
When I first saw the OnHub, it instantly reminded me on the Amazon Echo since they both look like a time capsule, both have a light ring on top, and both are dark, meant to be placed in plain site. In terms of functionality, however, they aren’t similar at all. Rather, the OnHub is closer to Apple’s AirPort Extreme wireless router, a router designed for complying with the new 802.11ac IEEE wireless networking standard.
Many of the wireless routers in the consumer’s homes today utilize the 802.11b/g/n standard, while few have the newer generation wireless routers, which includes the Apple AirPort Extreme. The AirPort Extreme and the OnHub both support 802.11ac standards, as well as support for media streaming and handling multiple devices. They both take capsule shape, both use 802.11ac standard, both price at $200, and both seem to be promoting media streaming.
#4 – The OnHub is almost a personal computer.
Not only does the OnHub have some great technical specifications for transmitting wireless internet, but also comes built with a USB slot, built-in speakers, a dual core central processing unit (CPU) @ 1.4Ghz, 4GB e-MMC flash, Bluetooth, and 1GB of DDR3L RAM. Perhaps the only thing that’s missing from making this device a personal computer is a display monitor. Though the unreleased OnHub Android and iOS app is designed for just that.
#5 – The OnHub has only 1 LAN port.
This device is obviously not designed to be directly connected to devices. This means all devices that connect to the OnHub are expected to use WiFi, and not direct connection, with the exception of one device for the one port the OnHub comes with. Forcing wireless allows for a nicer looking house using less wires for internet. As both the LAN and WAN (wired and wireless) ports on the OnHub router support up to 1000 Mbps, this can be a fallback for desktops or laptops that favor direct connection to the router; since direct connection is usually faster than wireless since there are no common interference objects, such as a wall or other wireless transmissions in the house.
Google does advertise, however, on the fast speed transmitted by the router, as well as the many antennas and algorithms running internally. And of course, the WAN does support up to 1000 Mbps as mentioned earlier. Though users must purchase wireless adapters if they want to use their desktops.
#6 – The OnHub has 13 antennas.
In order to utilize the new technology built into the OnHub, Google has designed the router to include 13 total antennas, each of them 120 degrees from the next. This is mainly to cover more directions in the consumer’s home. Six of the antennas transmit internet at 2.4Ghz, while the other six transmit at 5Ghz. The last antenna is a sensor to evaluate and switch the outgoing signal to the best channel available.
According to Matt Cutts, who was a guest speaker on this week’s This Week in Google, the last of the 13 antennas in the OnHub is used to switch the outgoing signal to the best channel it can sense in the air every five minutes, whereas regular routers sense the best channel only when the router first turns on, and keeps that channel until the routers are reset.