Google is gearing up to claim a big chunk of the smart home market. At their Pixel launch event today, the company also announced Google WiFi and Google Home, a router and smart home speaker. The router can be paired up with other units to create a mesh network, while the smart home speaker will compete directly with Amazon Echo as a hub that can control other smart home devices and services.
Google WiFi works similar to routers like Eero and Almond3, although it’s not as sophisticated as the Netgear Orbi (nor will it be as expensive). Following the lead of a lot of routers these days, the WiFi units have been made to look presentable. They’re short white cylinders that can be connected to each other wirelessly within the home to ensure that the whole home has access to a strong wireless connection. It’s a dual-band router, using 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz connections (the former has greater range, but is slower). The WiFi router can intelligently switch between the two as you move through the home, choosing whatever the strongest connection is. There will also be some limited parental control options, including the ability for parents to find devices connected to the home Wi-Fi network and pause internet access on them individually. Google says preorders for Google WiFi will begin in November, with shipping set for December. It will cost $130 for a single unit or $300 for a pack of three — which one you’ll want depends on how big your home is.
Google Home is the smart home hub, and has the same role as the Amazon Echo. Instead of Amazon’s Alexa, you’ll get the Google Assistant that Google talked about in more detail during the Pixel part of their presentation. When used with Google Home, Google Assistant can do everything it can on the phone (schedule calendar events, set reminders, and field voice searches), but can also cast content from Netflix, YouTube, or Google Photos from Chromecast or a phone to a television, all with voice commands. There will also be support for multi-room speaker systems, so you can create and control individual speaker groups and sync music to them like with Sonos. It’ll also work with a handful of streaming music services like YouTube, Google Play Music, and Spotify, along with smart home devices from the likes of Nest, Samsung SmartThings, and Philips, along with anything having IFTTT compatibility.
The device is round with a slanted top that doubles as a touchpad that can be used as a play/pause button. Google Home has two mics that use far-field sound filtering to hone in on human voices, so you can still interact with a Home unit from far away. But, if you want to use multiple Home units instead, the devices will be able to work together to ensure that only the unit that can hear you best responds (instead of three Home units all responding to you at once). The speaker unit is nothing too special — a single forward-firing driver and dual passive bass radiators.
Google Home is coming to the Google Store, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart, and will cost $130. You’ll also be able to buy interchangeable base units, including fabric and metal options. Purchasing Google Home will get you six free months of YouTube Red, YouTube’s music subscription service (it’s best used with phones to enable background play for YouTube).
Lastly, Google updated their Chromecast line of streaming media devices. They added Chromecast Ultra, which is capable of 4k HDR streaming with Dolby Vision. It’s about the same size and shape as the other round Chromecast units, but is 1.8 times faster and includes ethernet support. It’ll be available in November for $70, at which time Google will start rolling out 4k content on Google Play Movies.
This story was originally published at Google Announces Their Own Wi-Fi Router and a Smart Home Speaker