The initial round of reviews for OnHub, Google’s fancified entry into the home router market, are out, and the consensus is that it’s a neat gadget, but possibly not worth the $200 you’ll fork over to get it.
At the moment, the OnHub is essentially a standard home Wi-Fi router that runs Google’s software instead of the bare-bones configuration pages common to home routers. You plug it into your Ethernet connection, download the Android or iOS app, and manage everything from your smartphone. Given that the average home user probably doesn’t know how to do much besides turn their usual router off and on again for troubleshooting, a robust, convenient and user-friendly configuration experience is a solid step forward.
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And it’s neat-looking, by all accounts. Engadget’s Nathan Igraham says that it’s “without a doubt, the nicest-looking router I’ve ever used.” CNNMoney’s Heather Kelly calls it “attractive enough to leave laying around the house.”
That’s part of the idea, according to the Verge’s Dan Seifert. “Google wants you to place the OnHub centrally in your home, which is the most ideal position for wireless coverage and range,” he wrote. “To get most people to do that, it can’t look like something that dropped out of an alien spacecraft.”
As many reviews noted, though Ars Technica’s Ron Amadeo highlighted it most prominently, the OnHub is a “Trojan Horse” that Google is hoping will become a nexus for connected home technology. It includes support for Google’s Thread networking protocol and the Weave IoT operating system, though it doesn’t support other common IoT frameworks like ZigBee or Z-Wave. And if you’re trying to push your own standards, why would you?
But how does it perform as an actual router? It’s not totally clear from the initial round of reviews – several said that OnHub’s ability to do some basic QoS was invaluable, but two who did more in-depth testing – Amadeo and TechHive’s Michael Brown – found that performance was lacking compared to other home routers in the same price bracket. Brown, in particular, thought that the “smart” automated channel-selection feature left a lot to be desired.
One thing almost no one liked – the OnHub only packs a single LAN port, meaning you’re out of luck if you have more than one network-attached device to connect, and the USB port is limited to “maintenance only” functionality at this point, according to Wilson Rothman at the Wall Street Journal.
In short, the OnHub is Google’s answer to the AirPort Extreme – an attractively designed premium home Wi-Fi router with some neat convenience features that still probably isn’t worth the $200 asking price for someone who isn’t specifically interested in the app-based management or its potential future as an IoT hub.