Wireless routers are a technological marvel. They can keep a dozen or more gadgets anywhere in your house connected to the Internet and each another 24/7.
Of course, as good as they are, they can always use improvements in speed, range, ease of use and other features. That's exactly what Google is trying to accomplish with its new router.
Google apparently isn't content with its vast online empire, the expanding Google Fiber network for Internet access, and its growing collection of end-user gadgets like the Chromebook, Chromecast or AndroidTV. It wants to have a stake in every stage of your Internet access, and your home network is one of the few remaining holes in the chain.
Google's world-dominating ambitions aside, its new router, called OnHub, does have some features that are worth a look. True to form, Google decided to start over and build a modern router from the ground up.
The first thing you'll notice is that unlike other routers, most of which are rectangles, OnHub is a cylinder. It does away with the usual status lights for a dimming color-changing light ring on the top.
The design is clean and sleek, even if Amazon might have some complaints about how much it resembles the Echo. However, the cylindrical shape isn't just for looks.
OnHub has 13 antennas placed in a circular pattern that Google says gives it a better signal coverage. Six antennas are for the 2.4GHz network, six are for the 5GHz network, and one is always checking the networks for congestion so OnHub can change its settings to maximize speed and coverage.
In addition to this bit of design and software smartness, OnHub has other friendly features. You can monitor your entire network, including troubleshooting slowdowns and other problems, using the Google On app.
The app shows you what gadgets are connected, how fast your connection is and how much bandwidth they're using. If you read our recent tip on finding out what gadgets are slowing down your Internet connection, you know how handy it is to have bandwidth monitoring built in.
The app helps you pick a password and share it easily with friends who come over. You can also monitor your network from outside of your home.
As you would expect, OnHub supports every current network standard, including Wi-Fi up to 802.11ac, as well as upcoming standards like Bluetooth Smart Ready, Weave and more. Google also included 4GB of onboard storage space for future updates that give it more features.
Interestingly, unlike most other routers that have four Ethernet ports, OnHub only includes a single Ethernet port. That's going to turn off buyers who have multiple desktops and Internet-connected entertainment gear who prefer the stability of wired connections. However, Google is obviously banking on most people preferring a wireless connection for their gadgets.
So, what does this router-to-end-all-routers cost? Hang on to your hats because it's $199.99. For a high-end router that isn't bad, but considering you can find routers for $70 or less that will work fine for the average person, it's quite steep.
As more early adopters buy it the price should come down, but it's going to be a while before it reaches what most people would consider affordable. And given Google's track record on privacy, there could be hidden gotchas in it that haven't revealed themselves yet.
Still, does it sound like something you'd want to buy? Let us know what you think of Google's foray into home networking in the comments.