The router is undoubtedly the ugliest thing in your living room, and the worst part about setting up your home WiFi network. All those wires and blinking lights! It's like having an airport landing strip next to your desk or TV — and don't get us started about how complicated the thing is to set up. But Google thinks it's got the solution to your router woes, in the form of a modern-looking alternative it calls OnHub. Google OnHub is just like any other router: It acts as a gateway, connecting your computer and other devices to the internet. But, it's special in two big ways: How it looks, and how easy it is to set up and maintain. For those benefits, the device commands a hefty $200 price tag. If you saw OnHub sitting at a desk, you might think it was a vase, trash can, or storage container. It's a navy or black cylinder (more colors to come later), with a domed, perforated top that's ringed by a gentle, teal, LED glow. Wires are tucked, compactly and discreetly, at its back. It's a little more than twice the size of your typical tall travel mug.
Setting up the OnHub device is practically magical. You plug it in: Ethernet cable, check, power cable, check. Then, you open the Google On Android or iOS app and hold your phone near the OnHub so the two can pair via an audio signal. Once paired, you set up the name and password for your network, and that's it. You're all done. Setup took exactly nine minutes for me. I plugged it in at 9:03 p.m., and it was up and running at 9:12. (And I actually spent most of that time ripping the old router and its power cables out from the wall behind a bookshelf.) Once it's set up, you can use the app to manage your network — to check or change its name or password, to see how many devices are connected, or to see if everything's working correctly. Just tap the circular icon in the lower corner of the main screen, and it performs a speed test for you, letting you know how good your connection is in "real" terms. (For instance, my current speed is 158 Mbps down, which the app says is "usually fast enough to stream Ultra HD video." Good to know.) Speaking of performance, the OnHub's cylindrical design is supposed to evenly distribute its WiFi signal throughout your home. For large abodes where WiFi barely penetrates bedrooms at the back of the house, this is great news. If something on the network side does go awry, the OnHub's teal glow switches to amber. Google found this color was less alarming than a strong red — it’s not like your house is on fire, after all. The app will then help you troubleshoot what's going on. As for privacy, Google is known for tracking user data, but that is not the case with OnHub. The company explicitly states that the "Google On app and your OnHub do not track the websites you visit or collect the content of any traffic on your network," however, it may collect anonymous information such as average download times. So, is OnHub worth the price? You can grab a typical cheap router for around $60. But, those are ugly and difficult to use. In 2015 and beyond, there's no reason why you should have to use an archaic, web-based form to set up your home internet when a smartphone can handle the messy work for you. That fact, combined with OnHub's solid performance and minimalist exterior, makes for a definitely worthwhile living-room upgrade. You can pre-order OnHub for $200, and it will ship in the next few weeks.