Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

A Meta Review of the Google OnHub

Glenn Fleishman looked at a bunch of the first reviews of Google’s new OnHub WiFi router for TidBits. Some were positive; others were a little more cautious. But not one of them clearly tested the OnHub’s most significant feature:

What I didn’t realize from Google’s announcement was that the OnHub’s 13th antenna and software check for network or signal congestion, and then dynamically switch the OnHub to a new channel without rebooting. There’s a huge problem with this approach. The basic Wi-Fi spec doesn’t let a base station tell a client adapter to change channels.

This could definitely cause issues across the spectrum of devices that could be connecting to the router, particularly if you don’t live in a household that always has the current product generation.

Even my beloved Wirecutter — who had, by far, the most comprehensive review — did not test the interoperability of this functionality, probably due to their inability to get it to work as advertised:

One of the OnHub’s 13 internal antennas is supposed to survey your wireless environment every five minutes and switch over to a less-crowded Wi-Fi channel if it exists. This didn’t work for us. When we set up the OnHub in the same room as our R7000 and switched the latter to use the same Wi-Fi channel as the former, the OnHub never deviated from the crowded channel—even after we ran it overnight and flooded the R7000’s Wi-Fi network with traffic.

Bizarre.