Google's new wireless router arrives in stores today. Like the eero and Luma routers, the Google WiFi router is sold in a pack of three units that link together to create what's called a "mesh network," blanketing your home in WiFi. But, at $300 a pack, it's a bargain, at least compared with the $400 Luma and the $500 eero systems.

Netgear launched an Orbi two-pack (a router and one satellite unit) in August for $400. So pricewise, Google WiFi beats that one, too.

But how does the Google WiFi router stack up against its three rivals? Well, to answer that question, I decided to take Google Wifi home to my Brooklyn apartment for a trial run.

Let me begin by addressing the big privacy question. Google states clearly that the Google WiFi router system and the mobile app that accompanies it "do not track the websites you visit or collect the content of any traffic on your network."

The device also works in concert with the OnHub router that Google released in 2015, linking as a satellite via Google WiFi's mobile app.

And, yes, if you'd prefer not to buy the Google WiFi router three-pack, you can purchase the routers individually for $129 a piece.

The Setup

When I moved into a four-bedroom Brooklyn apartment with three roommates earlier this year, I immediately became the WiFi Czar. The bedroom I occupy was about as far as could be from the in-house Apple Airport Extreme router, cut off from the signal by a number of dense walls and heavy wooden doors.

So I purchased a second Airport Extreme for my room, connecting it to the one that already existed with a Powerline adapter—a device that essentially converts the electrical wiring into computer cables. And though this setup provided me with good WiFi service, the kitchen—midway between the two routers—still sat in a no man’s land plagued by inconsistent speeds.

My roommates, accustomed to poor connections and preoccupied with “real lives,” can live with this less-than-stellar connection. I cannot.

When the WiFi-connected speaker in the kitchen produced choppy sound a few weeks back, effectively ruining our Thanksgiving soundtrack, it nearly spoiled my meal. And so, I was eager to give the Google WiFi router a try.

Like the eero, Google WiFi has a mobile app (available for Android and iOS users) that makes the setup relatively easy. I did have to launch it a few times to locate the three routers, but once I accomplished that feat, the rest was painless.

After plugging in each unit, I switched between the setup procedure on the app to the network settings on my phone to plug in a network ID and password. I then returned to the app to select each router and connect it to the network.

The whole process took less than 20 minutes.

A Google WiFi router module with a smartphone

The User Experience

Using the app, I could then monitor the strength of the WiFi connection for each router, as well as the speed of the signal from my internet service provider. It also keeps track of each device connected to the network and how much bandwidth you're using at any given time. You can even program it to cut off access to certain family members at, say, dinnertime.

If one of the routers is outside the range of the others, the app alerts you to find a new spot for it. Google claims that each router can cover up to 1,500 square feet, but I did have to adjust the position of one of the units in my 800-square-foot home because of a weak signal. 

Once everything was in place, though, the system worked.

In the kitchen, where download speeds used to range between 7.38 and 12.9 Mbps, I got a consistent speed of roughly 32 Mbps. That wireless speaker? It no longer suffered dips in sound quality.

Like many of today's routers, Google WiFi can effectively handle 20 or more mobile devices, thanks to the 802.11ac WiFi standard. So I had no trouble streaming music or video files anywhere in the apartment, even with multiple users online.

In my old setup, I had to choose between two networks—the faster 5GHz band and the more long-range 2.4GHz band—each time I connected a device. The Google WiFi router eliminated that confusion, automatically connecting me to the band with the fastest speed based on my location.

That's not to say I have no complaints about Google Wifi. It doesn't have a USB port, for example, to connect computers, printers, and storage devices. And, like Google OnHub, the primary router has only one free Ethernet LAN port. (The second is connected to the modem.) But each additional router offers two LAN ports.

Still, for a home with lots of WiFi-connected devices that require a hub—think Sonos speakers and Philips Hue bulbs—you might want to consider purchasing a switch to resolve that issue.

Bottom Line

It's still up for debate whether these mesh networks are an absolute necessity for most consumers, especially given the lofty price, but those who do choose to invest in one will likely appreciate the utility and ease of use. I'll certainly be adding Google WiFi to my holiday wish list.

Home WiFi Mesh Networks

Can’t get a decent wireless internet connection in your home? On the 'Consumer 101' TV show, Consumer Reports’ expert Nicholas De Leon explains to show host Jack Rico how mesh networks provide faster speeds and better coverage.