The humble home router may not have the same kind of buzz associated with smartphones and tablets, but when you think about the role it serves, it's still a very important bit of kit. Google today announced its very own take on the router: called OnHub and built in partnership with TP-Link, it's designed to provide a secure, simple internet experience for everyone.
For a start, it comes with an accompanying diagnostics app for Android and iOS that means you don't have to interpret a series of blinking lights to work out what's happening with your internet connection. The app also makes password sharing much more straightforward – letting you view it with one tap and easily send it to friends. No more peering behind the router to look for the code that will let you connect a new device.
On the technical side there are 13 high-performance internal antennas (covering both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies) for a IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi connection, as well as support for Bluetooth and Weave, Google's smart home coding language. OnHub automatically senses network congestion in your home and will seamlessly switch to a different wireless channel if problems are detected, a troubleshooting technique you usually have to take care of yourself (that is, if you even know about it).
Google says its Amazon Echo-style looks are to encourage you to keep it out in the open where your devices can more easily connect to it, and the company claims a "unique antenna design" that blasts wireless connectivity in all directions. That should give you a good chance of getting connected, but for now we can only assess the device as it looks on paper.
Security plays a prominent role too. The router is protected with a verified boot system, so it won't start up if it's been modified or hacked in any way. Updates are applied automatically over the web, which removes another hassle of modern-day router maintenance: The firmware upgrade.
In short, Google's OnHub is built to offer faster, more secure Wi-Fi, straightforward management of your network, and a simplified experience all round. It's available to pre-order in the U.S. now for US$199.99 and will be coming to Canada soon; there's no word yet on international availability.
The only question is how many people Google can tempt to shell out $200 to upgrade the router they already own, irrespective of how great the technology might be – after all, Google isn't the only company pushing a next-generation networking device like this. Check out the video below to see some of the benefits of OnHub in action.