Google Fiber in Charlotte, NC

This week I changed cable and internet providers again.  I began the year with AT&T U-Verse with their upgraded internet plan of 18 megabit/s.  Of course 18 was the max and I was happy when I would get 10.  Then Time Warner upgraded their internet service and promised speeds up to 200 megabit/s, so I made the switch.  In order to get 200 you had to be directly connected to the router and all the planets had to align.  I was happy when I got 18 or 20.  Life was good until Google came to the neighborhood and offered 1,000 megabit/s with their state of the art fiber optic lines.  I had to make the switch since I could get great speed with new, state of the art equipment and pay slightly less.

 Google Fiber hardware compared to Apple TV. Apple TV, Google Fiber TV Box, Google Fiber Network Box

Google Fiber hardware compared to Apple TV. Apple TV, Google Fiber TV Box, Google Fiber Network Box

Installation

Installation went fairly quick.  They fished the fiber optic cable into my home using the same route as my old cable wires.  Then they installed a new outlet that converts the fiber optic signal to ethernet.  This connects to the Network Box.

Equipment

My plan includes TV, Internet and Phone.  I have 2 TVs so I need 2 TV Boxes.  Google doesn't rent the equipment.  After a year you own it so it should be interesting how equipment upgrades will be handled.

As you can see in the picture above there is a Network Box, TV Box for each TV and not pictured is a small Phone Box, about half the size of an Apple TV.

Network Box includes:

  • A 2 TB Hard Drive

  • Four Gigabit Ethernet Ports

  • One USB Port

  • One Coax connection 

  • Wifi supporting 802.11a/b/c/n/ac

The TV Box includes:

  •  A Bluetooth remote that can operate the sound for the TV as well as all the TV Box functions.  You can also program a Harmony Remote to replace it (contrary to what the Google installer told me).

  • One Coax connection

  • One 100 Mbps Ethernet Port

  • One HDMI Port

  • One Optical Audio Port

  • One Analog Video Port

  • Wifi access point

Network Box

The 2 TB hard drive is used for storing shows that are recorded with the DVR.  It also appears as a Network Attached Storage device (NAS) in the Mac Finder with folders for Photos, Music and Videos.  You can use it to store files and have them available to all your devices on your network.

One of the Ethernet ports is used for the TV Box.   I can use the other ports as I wish.  There is also a Coax connection on the Network Box.  If you have more than one TV and have existing Coax connections in your home, the Network Coax is used to connect to other Google Fiber (GF) TV boxes. The Coax connection also delivers the internet signal to other GF TV boxes that have wifi to help extend the network to other areas of your home.  

The Network Box broadcasts wifi using all of the 802.11 specifications including the latest 802.11ac enabling the fastest wifi currently available.  Unfortunately my 2011 iMac doesn't have an 802.11ac wifi but my iPad and iPhone do.

 2011 iMac wifi speedtest

2011 iMac wifi speedtest

 iPad Air wifi speedtest

iPad Air wifi speedtest

TV Box

One of the things I like about Google's TV box are the network functions included.  The box connects to your existing Coax cables to network with the main Network box.  This allowed me to remove a power line ethernet adapter and an Airport base station I was using to extend my network.  I use an ethernet switch to connect my BlueRay and TV directly to the network using the ethernet port on the TV Box.  The TV Box also has wifi that is designed to automatically extend the wifi network.  As you can see in my iPad speed test, I'm getting good results.

TV

So far we've been happy with the TV and DVR.  The TV Box includes 3 apps, YouTube, Netflix and VUDU.  I don't subscribe to Netflix so this app doesn't interest me.  The YouTube app interface is not the same as the Apple TV YouTube app.  I prefer the YouTube interface on Apple TV.  

Since this is Google you would expect a pretty good search function.  It works well allowing you to search for shows across all channels and apps including on-demand and movies available to rent.  However typing in search terms using the remote is not as easy as using Siri on the Apple TV.

The channel guide could use some refinement.  The font used is kind of small and hard to read from across a room.  Google has an iOS app where you can see the guide but we are kind of old school when interacting with the TV and prefer to use the guide.

 Google Fiber On-Screen TV Guide

Google Fiber On-Screen TV Guide

Miscellany

Google gives subscribers 1 TB of cloud storage on Google Drive.  I don't want Google snooping through my files so I will probably use this for encrypted backups.  

The phone service uses my existing land line phone number.  Users change phone settings such as call forwarding and voicemail with Google Voice (app or web).  Google Voice has been around for a while and rolled out as an alternative to land lines.  One nice feature is having voicemail transcribed and either emailed or texted to you.

Conclusion

I love the internet speed and the network features of Google Fiber.  This is not offered by other internet providers in my area.  I've had it for less than a week so it is probably too early to comment on reliability.  The TV guide interface needs some enhancement to make it easier to read but the TV service is on par with what I had previously.  Since our household seems to be relying on good and reliable internet service more and more I think that Google Fiber is the best service available and I'm glad I made the switch.