Following a series of leaks over the past few weeks Google finally took the stage today to reveal — or confirm — several new hardware releases. As expected, a portion of the show was devoted to home devices. Specifically, a new Wi-Fi router, a new Chromecast, and a hybrid speaker/smart home assistant that’s intended to rival Amazon’s Echo.
First up was Google Wifi, a new router that’s designed to be modular and easy to setup, so you can just hook up a single unit or multiple of them as part of a mesh network that can cover larger homes with Wi-Fi. It’s similar to kits from Luma or Eero, but significantly cheaper at $129 for one router or $299 for a three pack. By comparison, the Eero will set you back $199 for one unit or $499 for three, and the Luma is $150 and $400 respectively.
Google Wifi supports AC1200 wireless speeds, as well as simultaneous dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks. It also has beamforming technology and support for Bluetooth Smart. Among its key features the company mentioned a network assist feature that will actively monitor and optimize your network, and the ability to automatically and intelligently transition devices to the best access point and the right wireless channel to avoid congestion.
The router itself is shaped like a hockey puck with a glowing blue light across the middle. There’s no mention of ports on the Google Wifi product page or advanced features like DLNA, port forwarding, QoS, VPN and others. There is a companion app, however, that will let you do things like pause Wi-Fi on specific devices, view which devices are connected and how much bandwidth they’re using and prioritize bandwidth per device.
Google Wifi will be available for pre-order in the U.S. in November and will ship in December.
Google also announced and update to its popular, inexpensive Chromecast media streamer — which the company claims has sold more than 30 million units so far. Rather than replace its existing entry-level model, the company introduced a new premium version dubbed Chromecast Ultra, that’s capable of delivering 4K and HDR content from YouTube, Netflix and Vidi — starting in November, Google Play Movies will also be releasing 4K movies.
The device itself has the same 2-inch circular shape of the standard Chromecast model but packs a faster processor and includes an Ethernet port for good measure.
Just like the original Chromecast, you can cast all of your favorite content from thousands of apps using your phone, tablet or laptop. Mirror any content from your Android device or from a browser tab on your laptop (using Chrome) to the TV.
The Chromecast Ultra will be available starting in November for $69.
Lastly, Google’s anticipated Amazon Echo rival originally announced back in May, was detailed at length at today’s event. This voice-activated speaker powered by the Google Assistant focuses on four key functionalities: playing music, getting answers from Google, managing your everyday tasks, and controlling smart home devices.
The device features a minimal design with no physical buttons and hidden LED lights on its top surface for visual feedback upon receiving a voice command. In case you do want to control it by hand, there are capacitive touch controls for music playback. Supported music services include Google Play Music, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn and YouTube Music, with additional services like iHeartRadio coming soon. Google Home lets you set your favorite service as default so you don’t need to specify which one should play your tunes every time.
Google claims that its microphones are “best in class” and that the speakers will deliver a full range with rich bass sounds and clear heights. For the privacy conscious, there is a mute mic button on the Home so you can control when the device is listening and when it isn’t.
Since this is Google we’re talking about there was a big focus on the Home’s ability to get contextually relevant answers from the Google Assistant. Don’t know the name of a song? Just give some additional information, like the artist and the movie it’s on, and Google will find it and play it for you. It can also give you real-time answers to things you want to know, translate phrases, do simple math calculations or convert units, fetch a recipe, get real-time info on the weather, the stock market, the traffic, or your favorite sports team.
Google won’t always have the best answer so its virtual assistant will tap into other sources like Wikipedia when necessary to bring you the best match.
It can also handle more personalized functions like briefing you on your day’s appointments, checking traffic conditions to work, keep track of shopping lists and more. The device is designed to be modular so if you have two or three units at home, you can interact with any and only the nearest one will respond, or you can play music on them simultaneously.
Like the Echo, Google Home can interact with supported devices, allowing you to control your lights, thermostats and switches with popular home automation systems like Philips Hue, Nest, Samsung SmartThings and IFTTT — with more coming soon.
Google Home will be available in stores starting in November or you can pre-order yours today for $129 from the Google Store, Best Buy, Target and Walmart.