Building a smart home around most routers can feel like trying to run a spaceship on AA batteries.

Like its close domestic relative, the boiler, the router is synonymous with pain, suffering and weird computer-speak like 192.168.0.1.

Google’s Wifi is here to change that. Rather than an old drunk shouting across you whole house, its mesh system acts like a harmonious group of barbershop singers. Smaller flats can benefit from just one of its charming pucks, but Wifi really comes into its own in larger houses.

That's because mesh systems like this consist of multiple routers that all work in tandem. The more units you add, the more robust your Wi-Fi becomes. If you’ve got a big house with a number of black spots, Google Wifi could be the answer to your prayers.

 

Google Wifi design: pucker up

First, the bad news: you won’t necessarily be able to chuck out your old, ugly router. That's because Google Wifi doesn’t have a built-in modem.

If, like me, your ISP has given you a black box that houses both a router and modem, you’ll need to plug one of Google Wifi’s lovely, circular pucks into that, then disable its wireless powers. This worked fine when we tested it with our Sky broadband router (more on that in setup, below). 

It's also worth clarifying that this isn't to be confused with Google Fiber - in internet terms, Wifi is like upgrading to a multi-room sound system, but it can't do much if your broadband is feeding it the equivalent of chewed up cassettes. 

But that’s enough talk about modems and broadband – let’s just admire Google Wifi's industrial design, which is pretty stunning. The white cylinders are incredibly solid, and the build quality genuinely excellent.

These routers (and they're all individual routers, not Wi-Fi extenders) have a similar footprint to Google Home, which means they can hide away discreetly on bookshelves, desks or anywhere there's power available.

Like Google Home, the design is non-descript yet stylish. The light strip in the centre adds to the appeal, glowing a contented teal when all is well with your connection. If you want to place one in the bedroom, you can also lower the brightness. 

 

Google Wifi features: routers are the new TV remotes

 

Google Wifi performance: the model of consistency

If your internet connection is slower than a tortoise on Valium, Google Wifi isn’t going to improve this – it can only work with what’s coming in through the pipes. But if, like us, you’ve got a reliable fibre connection, Google Wifi excels.

As we’ve mentioned, setup is a breeze, but network coverage is really strong – our home blackspots being eliminated. Even in the garden we were getting a strong signal - and now it's getting sunny, that really is a boon.

Download speeds were around the same as our Sky Q Hub (our Sky Q system is a mesh network itself), but we were definitely getting better coverage with Google Wifi.

Network Assist is where Google Wifi just kills it. If you’re on a mobile device and moving around your home, the Network Assist feature will work out which Google Wifi unit is closest to you and offer you the best bandwidth by switching channels.

It’s the beauty of a mesh network – wherever you are, you’re going to get the same download speed. In our tests, Wi-Fi on our iPhone was at full strength throughout the whole house, something that just didn’t happen before.

Of course, if you’re in a flat or a small house then a pair of Google Wifi units may be overkill – one is probably enough (and you’ll still get the benefits of the app and extended range). But for me, in a three-bed, old house with thick walls, a pair of them is fantastic. It would be even better if we had three or four, but then you’re looking at an investment upwards of £450.

Google Wifi: the competition

So far in the UK, Google Wifi's only real rival is Netgear's Orbi. It shares many of the same mesh-based boons, including strong Wi-Fi coverage across your house, but is more expensive at £370 for a twin-pack (compared to £230 for Google Wifi's equivalent). It also has an inferior app, and the units themselves are bigger and much less discreet.

Beyond Orbi, there's also Eero and AmpliFi, neither of which are available in the UK yet (though the latter is coming soon). If you have a Sky Q setup with a number of boxes (perhaps a Sky Q silver and a couple of Minis), these do also act as a mesh network, although you’re of course limited to placing them where your TVs are.

This means that, right now, Google Wifi is your best bet for a mesh system - and from what we've seen, it's going to take some beating. 

Google Wifi verdict

Google Wifi not only looks the part, it performs. Not everyone necessarily needs it – if you live in a small flat with generally good Wi-Fi, you're not going to gain much for your £129 apart from improved network handling and a nice app.

But for families living in a larger house that's home to a increasing number of internet-thirsty gadgets, it's just the ticket. Google Wifi helps get rid of annoying blackspots, and the app is brilliant for parents, thanks to features like Family Wifi pause for scheduling 'internet free' breaks in the day.   

Competitors are coming from across the pond, but right now this is the best-looking and most user-friendly Wi-Fi system I've seen. There's no going back to my old black box now.    

Buy Google Wifi here from Amazon

Stuff says... 

Google Wifi review

A Wi-Fi wonder that'll make your old router look like a tech dinosaur
from
£129
Good Stuff 
Incredibly easy to set up
App offers comprehensive control
Parental controls are ace
Very consistent Wi-Fi coverage
Bad Stuff 
Might be overkill for smaller flats
Lacks the deeper control of nerdier rivals