Google Wifi routers arrive in Singapore and are a StarHub exclusive at launch

Google Wifi routers arrive in Singapore and are a StarHub exclusive at launch
PHOTO: Hardware Zone

Google Wifi, the wireless mesh router developed by the Mountain View company, has officially arrived in Singapore. This makes Singapore the eighth market in the world to get the product, as well as the first in Southeast Asia.

Google Wifi's debut in Singapore is also a StarHub exclusive, which is either great or bothersome news depending on where you are with your ISP.

Pay S$15 over 24 months for a Google Wifi three-pack when you sign up or renew selected StarHub plans

Photo: Hardware Zone

Starting Aug 31, StarHub customers will be able to get a three-pack Google Wifi at S$0 upfront cost when they sign up for or renew selected StarHub Broadband or Hubbing all-in-one plans. The plans include StarHub's 1Gbps Fibre Broadband plan as well as multi-service SurfHub, HomeHub 1000 and HomeHub Go 1Gbps bundles.

Customers opting for the Google Wifi three-pack can split the payments for the routers across 24 months at an interest-free S$15 per month through their StarHub bill, which brings up the total cost of the routers to S$360. Installment amounts will vary though, based on the specific plan you choose, so check that contract.

The Google Wifi three-pack originally launched at US$299 (approx. S$407) in December 2016, and is now available on Amazon for US$264 (approx. S$359) sans shipping, so StarHub's S$360 price is similar - except that StarHub is offering a one-year warranty, which you don't get when you import them yourself.

If you only want one, you can't have it. Although the power of a mesh router is really in having more than one.
Photo: Hardware Zone

Unlike in the US though, you cannot buy a single Google Wifi router (launch price of US$129) only, but StarHub customers with bigger houses can buy additional Wifi routers at S$199 each. Additional Wifi routers won't be available at StarHub stores for cash and carry, however, these are custom orders that you'll need to place after consulting with StarHub.

When asked why the decision to launch with StarHub as an exclusive partner, Martin Geh, managing director, APAC hardware partnerships for Google, said, "We always look for strong partnerships, partners who see problems the way that we do and they have a way to solve it very well. We're aligned on what we're trying to accomplish and we found that partner in StarHub."

If you don't plan to switch over to StarHub, you're out of luck at the moment if you want to get the product with official support and warranty. Unfortunately, Google refused to comment on long how the exclusivity for StarHub will last, but it's worth noting that other ISPs already have mesh router deals. Singtel has its WiFi Mesh and Linksys Velop bundles, while M1 has its Linksys Velop and Asus Lyra bundles, while this is StarHub's first mesh router bundle.

Why Google Wifi?

If you're savvy enough to be disappointed by what you see, then WiFi is probably not for you.​Photo: Hardware Zone

Google Wifi joins the growing selection of mesh routers available locally, from the Linksys Velop to the Netgear Orbi. Unlike a single router which tries to blanket your entire house with WiFi using a single source, mesh routers spread WiFi coverage by daisy-chaining multiple nodes throughout your home.

This is especially useful for homes that have dead zones that a single router just can't reach. Read our introduction to mesh routers to find out why they can be a better solution than adding additional routers or using range extenders.

The key feature about Google's Wifi routers is how they combine power features in an easy to use package. The built-in Network Assist will do things like dynamically change the router's channels based on the strongest signal at the time, and the router's app lets you do advanced things like giving devices priority as well as schedule connection pauses, with an easy to understand UI.

The Google Wifi routers also get automatic updates nearly every six weeks - which include security updates. That's practically a miracle in the world of routers, where firmware updates are few and far between, and they have to be manually configured.

Photo: The Business Times

The price is also attractive. The Linksys Velop had a launch price of S$749 for a three-pack, while the Netgear Orbi launched at S$749 for a two-pack. At S$360, the Google Wifi three-pack is less than half the price.

However, because of its simplicity, Google Wifi probably isn't for power users. You can't configure features like OpenVPN on it, for example, filter content or configure Dynamic DNS. Each unit only comes with a single LAN port, so if you have more than one wired client you'll need to supplement Wifi with a switch.

We've already had the Google Wifi routers for a few days now, so stay tuned for our upcoming review. In the mean time, if you're interested you can head over to StarHub's booths at Comex this weekend, or the nearest StarHub store to find out more about Google Wifi.

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