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Google Fiber's new gear lets you watch more shows on more TVs

Sean Buckley, @seaniccus
December 3, 2014
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If gigabit internet isn't reason enough to tempt Austinites to sign up for Google Fiber, they can chew on this: Austin Texas will be the first Fiber city to enjoy the benefits of Google's latest in-home hardware devices. Today Google officially revealed its new Fiber router, a single unit that consolidates the existing network and storage boxes into one device. This is the same router that rolled out to Kansas City residents in Google's beta program earlier this year -- but there's a little more going on here than mere device consolidation.

It's true, the new Network+ Google Fiber box is an amalgamation of the service's existing router and DVR devices, but it's also a complete internal redesign. Google Fiber's Adam Smith (Director of Global Content & Platforms) says the new boxes are now being designed and developed entirely in-house. "This allows us to control every aspect of the experience," he says. "We're obsessive about making every detail better." One of the things Google Fiber needed to improve most, he said, was WiFi performance -- which led to the new routers being outfitted with 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac radios and some fancy new antennas.

In practice (and in the controlled environment of downtown Austin's official Fiber space), this translated to 400 Mbps over WiFi. That's a far cry from the gigabit upload / download speeds that can be had with a physical Fiber connection, but it's still nothing to sneeze at. That connection shouldn't degrade as you walk through your house, either -- Google Fiber's new TV Box also has a WiFi radio, which serves as a WiFi repeaters in rooms far from the house's main router.

We'll never scoff at better WiFi, but the new hardware setup is more focused on the television experience. The new Network+ and TV Box can simultaneously record eight programs (up from six) while displaying content on up to six televisions (up from four). Not enough? Fine -- an upcoming Fiber TV app will allow users to stream live TV to "an unlimited number of devices" anywhere in your home. Oh, and you can toggle DVR recording from mobile devices too, all of which will be stored on the Storage+ Box's 2TB HDD (room enough for 500 hours of HD content, according to Google). If you don't want to use a tablet, don't worry about it: every Fiber TV box comes with a simple, backlit remote.

The new Fiber hardware should launch in Austin first, but Google tells us it will also be made available to existing Fiber customers by the end of this financial quarter. Folks in Kansas City or Provo should be able to upgrade in early 2015.

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