OnHub by Google & TP-Link Review


Routers are generally not sexy products – they’re high utility, typically lack any groundbreaking features, and most people probably only think of them as machines that make the internet happen everywhere in their house. For the most part, I’d agree, because routers are the pragmatic backbones of household internet, and aside from new wireless networking standards that increase the performance of routers, nothing really changes about this year’s model and last year’s model.

This year, Google announced, and released, the OnHub. Billed as a new type of router built and optimized for wi-fi. This review discusses the TP-Link version of OnHub.

What is the OnHub?

OnHub by Google and TP-Link Review

OnHub looks and sounds different on paper, and does it ever look and feel different in person. After the very pleasant and simple unboxing experience, you lift, what seems to be, a conical obelisk from a very snug and secure box. It has no real instructions, just a quick start guide that tells you to plug it in and download the app, and the app handles the rest, but more on that later. If you have ever setup a router before, you’ll quickly notice that there are no ports for wired connections, just connections for the power cord, USB, and an ethernet cable from your modem. If you have existing wired connections for your mode, like I did, you’ll have to find another way to have a wired connection, or remove them from your network altogether.

You might also find it a tad odd to plug the cords into the back, because there’s a small cutaway that lets you fit in the cords that you might need, but it was difficult to really get inside and make sure the connections were secure, so I used a bit of additional force and hoped they were good and secure.

The OnHub App

OnHub by Google and TP-Link Review

Setup of the OnHub was very simple. I am quite certain that less technically-savvy folks, like my parents, would have been able to set it up without any issues. The OnHub app walks you through absolutely everything you need to get OnHub up and running. No need to type in mysterious IP numbers into browser address bars, no need to know the default admin login credentials for the setup page, and no need to understand that your firmware is completely out of date. Not to mention that there’s no need to understand all of the nitty gritty details for your router that would require spending time poring over technical details in the manual to understand, never mind being able to configure those details properly.

OnHub by Google and TP-Link Review

In addition to fast and friendly setup, the OnHub has the usual operating frequencies (2.4GHz and 5GHz) and automatically selects which frequency that each connected device operates on. In case it’s not obvious, the OnHub brings a lot of “automagic” features in order to make it easier than ever before to set up and maintain a router for your home network, and even better, the OnHub will automatically download and install software updates for itself. Now, if only it also made coffee…

OnHub by Google and TP-Link Review

However, if you’re a power user, the OnHub app may seem lacking: you can port forward, set static IPs, and turn on universal plug and play. That’s it. You’re able to change hardware settings (status light brightness) and change who can manage the OnHub, and a few other cosmetic and management related settings. This really hammers home the “automagic” aspect of the OnHub, but the opinionated approach that the OnHub brings to home networking does mean that minor tweaks and fine tune adjustments are not possible. In my opinion, this can be both a good thing and a bad thing, with my personal opinion that it is more good than bad: the less control the average user has over their home network, the less trouble seems to present itself.

Price and Performance

OnHub by Google and TP-Link Review

The OnHub is quite pricy, so how does it perform compared to the other routers in its class?

To be frank, it’s quite outside of the price range that I would pay, speaking as a power user. It has no wired ports, performs about the same as a more affordable router, and lacks the ability to fine tune its capabilities using router-specific hardware and software settings. However, we must keep in mind that power users, like myself, are not who this is for. The OnHub is for the masses who no longer use wired devices, who want the performance of a similar router, but without having to fine tune its capabilities to get the most out of it.

Users will love and enjoy the OnHub because it works, so that you won’t have to.

The Bottom Line

OnHub brings something new and exciting the world of routers: simplicity. It removes much of the scary aspects of setting up and maintaining a home network, which removes a lot of the barriers of entry that most non-technically savvy people face with routers. With most of the work taken care of, and setup and statuses done via the OnHub mobile app, it’s about as close as you can get to “set it and forget it” in the world of routers, and that could be a very good thing. Power users may not enjoy the oversimplification of settings, but it’s a great offering for wireless home networking.

This product is perfect for: People who want a home network that just works, with friendly status pages that let you know the status of your network.

Key things to be aware of: You will be paying a premium for having simplicity at home, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Final review score: 4. It’s a great product, and it does its job well, but it still feels more expensive than it should be for what you get.

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OnHub by Google & TP-Link
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Jon Lim

Jon Lim is a professional developer, writer, and an avid technologist. He has written creatively for the past 16 years, and professionally for 4 years.

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