5 GHz Wireless Performance (Multi-device)

For a more stringent test, our Multi-device benchmark sees five wireless clients connect to the router simultaneously (a mix of 1×1, 2×2 and 3×3 devices). We then run a similar iperf3 test to and from the wired PC connected to the test device.

Here you can see a clearer range in performance, from the 298 Mbps average speed delivered by eero up to Google Wifi’s 416 Mbps, which wins this particular test. Again, to remind you, this test is also conducted at short-range, with clients connected directly to the router.

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To put these results in context, a result over 400 Mbps in this test is really good. The only routers I’ve tested this year that are faster than this are tri-band devices with a Smart Connect band steering feature. In the best cases, they’re able to reach up to 900 Mbps + but they’re also twice, if not three times the price of Google Wifi. For a $129 router, it’s impressive.

5 GHz Wireless Performance (Mesh – Wireless Backhaul)

So, on to the final test – mesh performance. As with previous home Wi-fi system reviews, I tested Google Wifi’s speeds in three locations. The first Wi-fi point is positioned in the bedroom, where our cable Internet connection is located. We run a first test here with a Surface Pro 4 on client duties. Then we move a floor up, to the Attic before a final test is conducted down in the basement.

In this first run, the Google Wifi points are connected wirelessly to each other.

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To date, no device has been able to get anywhere near the performance of NETGEAR Orbi at long-range. Its dedicated 5 GHz backhaul band delivers impressive speeds of 228 Mbps down in the basement, where a direct connection to my everyday router (a Google OnHub) musters just 18 Mbps.

Google Wifi isn’t going to upset the apple cart here. An average speed of 90 Mbps in the basement leads the chasing pack, but NETGEAR Orbi is streets ahead, with the least reduction in speeds at long-range. That said, when you consider the price of these systems – $258 for two Google Wifi points vs $400 for some of its competitors, Google’s system makes a strong value case. But Orbi remains the fastest home Wi-Fi system we’ve tested this year.

5 GHz Wireless Performance (Mesh – Wired Backhaul)

But wait! Google Wifi has one extra trick up its sleeve. If you have wired Ethernet points around the home (or coaxial points with MoCA 2.0 adapters) then you can take advantage of Google Wifi’s wired backhaul support. Here the access points in the system pass data to each other over Ethernet, freeing up the wireless signal to connect with your clients.

Not all of the systems we’ve tested this year offer this feature and while we may not be “comparing apples with apples”, let’s see how Google Wifi’s performance is improved when we wire it up.

google-wifi-wired-backhaul-two

Suddenly, Google Wifi becomes very compelling. Speeds of 233 Mbps and 343 Mbps in the basement and attic respectively are certainly faster than Orbi can deliver over its dedicated wireless backhaul. Google Wifi was also faster than Google OnHub in my test, the latter suffering poor upstream speeds, as we discovered in the first part of the review.

For completeness, I reset the test with a Google OnHub router as the first Wifi point and a Google Wifi device as the second point. The idea here was to understand the best combination of devices. Annoyingly, results were inconclusive with slower performance (273 Mbps) in the attic (compared to an all-Google-Wifi combo) and a faster result (260 Mbps) in the basement.

So, NETGEAR Orbi remains the fastest performing home Wi-fi system with regards to fully wireless mesh performance. But if you have the luxury of Ethernet points positioned around the home, Google Wifi’s performance and value is a winner.

Summary

I originally considered Google Wifi to be somewhat of a “me-too” home Wi-fi System. One that had the edge versus its competitors on price, but certainly not on performance. But the more time I spent with the system, the more I liked it. Great looking hardware combined with simplicity and expandability ensures it’ll do a fine job in mainstream homes.

It’s not the fastest wireless mesh you can install in your home – NETGEAR Orbi’s crown remains in place – but from a value perspective, Google Wifi makes a compelling case.

Wireless speeds at both short-range (directly to the router) or across the mesh are mostly in line with competitors (Orbi being the exception in the latter case) and its multi-device performance is really competitive. But the major advantage it has over most of its peers is Ethernet backhaul. If you have wired Ethernet ports around the home, then Google Wifi becomes a very attractive proposition for performance hunters too.

If you’re an existing Google OnHub owner wondering whether you should switch to Google’s latest hardware, my advice is to stick with the more powerful device you already own. Adding Google Wifi devices to your existing network, with OnHub at the heart, is the way to go.

For everyone else, if you’re seeking the best performing home Wi-fi system – pure Wi-fi, that is – NETGEAR Orbi remains at the top of the heap. But Google Wifi offers fantastic value and, if you can wire it up, will deliver speeds that few of its peers can touch.