Google Unveils ‘OnHub’ Smart WiFi Router

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This post was published 5 years, 1 month ago. Due to the rapidly evolving world of technology, some material it contains may no longer be applicable.

More and more Google seems to be getting involved with hardware, what with the Nexus program, Chromecast, their acquisition of Nest and Dropcam and now this: a cylindrical smart router with home automation ambitions and a promise to make WiFi simple.

The OnHub is designed by Google, built by TP-Link and runs Brillo, Google’s lightened down version of Android for embedded Internet of Things devices. It can be controlled via an Android app and in addition to 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi it has support for Smart Ready Bluetooth 4.0 and several IoT protocols including Android’s own Weave protocol and I.EEE 802.154 protocols including Thread (used by Google’s Nest Labs and also Samsung) and Zigbee (another popular IoT protocol).

There are many competing standards for home automation device right now so it seems Google’s decision to support several was an attempt to future-proof the device. That’s a very good thing too because the device is up for preorder at a fairly hefty $200 (~£130) and so it’s not something you’d want to be forced to replace too quickly. It is however missing support for Z-Wave though, which could be a pain for some people because it is probably the most popular protocol for smart home devices right now.

In addition to being hub for your smart devices, the OnHub is a high-performance, easy-to-use AC1900 WiFi router with support for 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi from its circular array of 13 antennas (6 for 2.4GHZ, 6 for 5GHz and 1 for congestion sensing). It also includes a USB 3.0 port and Gigabit LAN and WAN ports so you can hook it up to your modem for broadband and an Ethernet switch if you wish to connect wired devices.

Google is clearly pushing the idea of this device being fast, smart and simple. There are no complicated setup procedures and they’ve created a design which is supposed to look much sleeker than most routers and so you won’t feel the need to tuck it away somewhere but will instead be happy to put out on display, positioned for optimum performance. They’ve also given it a Nexus Q-like multi-coloured ambient light ring which serves as a status indicator and a speaker which produces an inaudible tone to pair mobile devices (a bit like the Chromecast guest sharing feature).

In many ways this is a whole new generation of WiFi router, it breaks away from the dated concept of how a router should work and gives it the smarts and simplicity we’ve come to expect from modern computing devices such as smartphones and tablets. No longer will your router be a clunky reminder of the way computing used to be: frustrating, dumb and needlessly convoluted.

Google and TP-Link didn’t hold back with the internals of this beast either. The OnHub is packing some pretty powerful hardware for a WiFi router, such as a dual core 1.4GHz Qualcomm Atheros IPQ8064 chipset with 1GB RAM and 4GB of built-in storage. It is also equipped with congestion sensing technology which allows it to detect interference from other networks and adjust the antenna power and WiFi channels accordingly and well as beamforming technology which boosts in signal in the direction of the devices connected to your network.

The device is managed from an app called “Google On” for Android and iOS which in addition to setting up the device, also helps troubleshoot network issues, monitor internet usage and prioritise traffic to specific devices. More functionality is expected through regular automatic updates to the app and the device itself which should constantly improve performance as well as adding new functionality, much like the regular OTA updates to a Nexus device or the continual updates to Chrome OS.

OnHub is up for pre-order for $199.99 in the US and Canada in black or blue through the Google Store and TP-Link Store as well as Amazon, Frys, Newegg and Walmart where only the blue version is available. Google state that it will ship “in the coming weeks” with Amazon suggesting they could ship from the 31st of August.

Currently there has been no news regarding the sale of OnHub outside of North America but there doesn’t appear to be anything in the hardware specifications which would preclude it from being released internationally so it may well happen eventually. If you’re really keen to try one then an imported OnHub should work just fine.

It doesn’t look like this will be the only OnHub device though so you may wish to hold off for a little bit. A report from Wired says another OnHub device from Asus is in the works as well. We’ll be keeping an eye out for more news on this and we will provide an update as and when we hear any more.

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