If you’re a living, breathing human then you’re probably dying for another choice of internet & TV provider in your town.
Most cities only have two or three choices. I live in Atlanta and for the past several years we’ve had the choice of either Comcast/Xfinity or AT&T Uverse.
However, now we have a third: Google Fiber. I’ve been using it at my house for three weeks and I’m going to talk about my experience here.
Why Did I Get Google Fiber?
I work from a home office. I design and develop websites. I need to upload and download files all day and I don’t want to do it slowly. I need speed because I’m impatient. I hate waiting.
When AT&T Uverse was fairly new to Atlanta I began using that for TV and internet. The TV service is fine but the internet speeds you get there are garbage. My parents have it at their house. I hate doing work while I’m there because it’s so slow.
Because Uverse is such crap I switched to Xfinity and their X1 TV service & their 250mbps internet service. Comcast/Xfinity apparently is the worst company in America but I found their service to be pretty decent and problem-free. I actually like the X1 TV system quite a bit and 250mbps (about 100mbps on wifi) seemed just fine for me.
Last year I was looking for a new place closer in the city of Atlanta and found a town home I liked. The icing on the cake was they were planning on installing Google Fiber in all the buildings in the complex. I happily signed the lease and moved in. It wasn’t until seven months later I was actually able to start using Google Fiber.
The Installation Process
At some point last July I got a notice from my complex that Google Fiber would be coming to my house to install a wall jack for their service. Their guy showed up a couple days later, drilled a couple holes, ran a very thin cable along the crown moulding in my living room, and installed a weird looking jack under my TV. It took him about an hour.
Could I then order the service? No not yet.
I waited and waited. Finally just after New Years (!!) I got a flyer in my mailbox saying that Google Fiber service was now available to order. Months ago I signed up for Google’s “let me know when Fiber is available for my address” thing but I never got an email from them announcing the service. This mailbox flyer was the only notice I got.
I immediately went inside and scheduled my installation. Scheduling was very easy to do on Google’s website. They had a bunch of times available in 1 hour blocks which is a nice change from the usual “we’ll be there between 2pm and 5pm” that other companies offer. I could choose more or less an exact time for them to show up. Anywhere from 8:10am to 6:10pm.
Why 10 minutes after the hour? When my installer showed up, he called from my complex’s gate right at 10:00am and said he’d be at my door in 10 minutes. He needed to set up and take a look at the outside of my house to prepare. Right at 10:10am he was right there ringing my doorbell.
My installer was super friendly and quick. The installation took maybe an hour total. No drilling or any of that was done because the jack had already been installed 6 months ago. The only thing he had to do was go in the basement and run a cable connecting the living room box to the one in my master bedroom. That took maybe 10 minutes.
Once the installation was done the installer walked me through all the menus and guides, showed me how to use the remote, and walked me through setting up my wifi network. None of this was necessary because using Google Fiber is very similar to any other TV & internet service. The installer then sat and watched a rerun of a UFC fight on ESPN with me and took off.
Get to the point. How is it?
In short, mostly pretty good but not earth shatteringly great. There are things I like and some I don’t. Let me explain:
Ironically this is my biggest beef with Google’s Fiber service. Is it fast? Yeah when I’m hardwired to the modem. On wifi, not quite.
I live in a large complex of town homes and apartments. There are a TON of wifi networks here. Because of this wifi reception in my house is shit. That doesn’t mean that Fiber’s service is slow or not living up to its promise. But what it does mean is that their router does not compensate for my particular overcrowded situation.
The OnHub router that Google sells is meant to address reception issues like mine. I tried it out when I first moved into this place and it didn’t help much. It was a little better than the reception I get with just the Fiber router, but not much.
When I was using the Xfinity service, I was using my own modem along with two Eero routers and that worked wonders for my wifi reception. Well here’s the thing: Google Fiber routers don’t exactly work well with an Eero system. Right now in order to get wifi reception in my master bedroom (the main Fiber box is in my living room on the same level as the bedroom) I have my Eero hard wired to the Fiber router and running a second network from it (you can’t use your own modem and router with Fiber). Of course this ridiculous setup only creates yet another network for the Fiber box to fight with. But it’s the only way I can even get Instagram to load on my iPhone in my bedroom. Definitely not ideal.
Because of this dumb ass wifi set up I have, I have to turn wifi on and off on my Macbook and iPhone periodically because they lose connection a couple times a day. It kind of makes me wish I had just stayed with Xfinity.
In my office I have an iMac hardwired right to the Fiber box. That works great and the speeds are as advertised. Where this service really shines is uploading and downloading files which, like I mentioned before, helps me greatly with work.
However, loading websites honestly doesn’t feel any faster than with Xifinity’s 250mbps service. You can have 2 million mbps but if a website’s hosting company can’t serve it to you quickly then your in-home internet speed doesn’t make that much of a difference. That’s not Google’s fault of course but is nonetheless reality.
Ok. So how is the TV?
Honestly the TV service is the better part of the Fiber offering to me. There are a couple cool features I really like. There are also a couple minor issues here that are a little irritating.
The picture is clearer than Xfinity. I noticed this immediately. This was much closer to watching a blu-ray than I was used to.
I wasn’t really disappointed with the picture I got with Xfinity but it’s definitely markedly better here.
The Guides & Menus
Google Fibers TV system is visually very similar to Xfinity’s X1 platform except for one excellent difference: the channel organization. With Xfinity the channels are all over the place. You have a section of non-HD channels, a whole other section for HD channels. Channel types aren’t grouped together. If you’re watching something on MTV Live (an HD channel) and want to see what’s on MTV Classic (a non-HD channel) then you have to go on an excursion to a different part of the guide to even find the channel. It’s a mess.
All of this is solved with Google Fiber. There is no non-HD section of the guide. You only get the HD channels. If a channel is only available in standard definition it will be listed right along with HD channels, like with MTV Classic and MTV Live.
All sports channels are grouped together. All food channels are together. All the normal basic cable channels like AMC, Discovery, etc are grouped together. It makes it much easier to find a type of show to watch. Want music? Go to the music grouping. ESPN, FS1, ESPN2? All in the same spot.
Google Fiber’s DVR comes with 1TB of storage and the capability to record 8 shows at once. I live by myself and don’t record a lot of TV so this really isn’t something I cared much about. I do like though that when you ask the DVR to record a whole series it automatically starts the recording 5 minutes early and ends 5 minutes late. This was something you had to go in and set manually for every show with Xfinity. No more cut off endings.
Another thing I really like about the Fiber DVR is the ability to schedule a recording remotely using Fiber’s iPhone app. This came in handy when a couple friends and I were watching a UFC fight at Buffalo Wild Wings and wanted to leave and watch the rest of the fight at my house. I set it to record from my phone and picked up where we left off once we got to my house. Xfinity and Uverse also have this capability so it’s nothing new but I wanted to mention it anyway.
This is one area where Fiber could improve. What I do like about it is that it lights up when you pick it up which makes seeing the buttons very easy in the dark (Xfinity’s X1 remote does this too). It’s also white so it’s easy to spot in the dark.
What the remote is missing is the ability to control other components other than the TV.
I straight up hate built in TV speakers. All the TV’s in my house have a separate sound receiver. The Fiber remote can’t control these so I have to use the OEM receiver remote to turn the volume up and down. It’s pretty irritating.
Xfinity’s remote had no problem controlling my receivers. Neither did Uverse’s.
Fiber has all the usual on demand content. It’s not something I use but the experience is similar to Xfinity’s X1 setup.
One minor thing I miss from Xfinity’s remote was voice control. It seems like a dumb gimmick you’d never use when you see Xfinity commercials touting the feature. But it comes in handy when you have no idea where something is on the guide you can just say “UFC 205” and it’ll pull it up. It came in handy.
Fiber’s TV box has a few built in apps that I assumed were going to be garbage like the ones that come with smart TV’s. I was pleasantly surprised that the Netflix app and the built in Google Cast feature are pretty damn good.
The Netflix app works just like, and just as well, as the Netflix app I normally use on my Amazon Firestick. It’s laid out exactly the same and performance is the same.
The Cast (Chromecast) feature is great because I no longer have to cast Youtube videos to my first gen Chromast over the crowded wifi. I can cast to the Fiber box and it pulls the video right over the hardwired connection. I like it.
Conclusion – Should You Order Google Fiber?
If you can get Google Fiber in your neighborhood, do it. It’s not life changing but here are couple additional things that might convince you:
The Billing is Easy
Put in your credit card when you order the service and Google bills that credit card every month automatically. You don’t have to mess with paper statements or remember to login and pay the bill. It just happens. I like that.
The service is easy to change or cancel
If you decide you want to “cut the cord” and go without TV service, just login to your Fiber account (which is attached to your gmail account) and turn off TV service. No calling into some call center and getting the “are you sure? we’ll give a free month of HBO” pitch and having to say “yes I’m sure” 50 times. Just turn it off.
No complicated channel packages
If you get TV from Google Fiber then you get everything. Only premium networks (HBO, Showtime, etc.) are extra. No more dealing with the “pay $30 more a month and get 15 extra garbage channels just to get the one channel you actually wanted.”
NO DATA CAPS!
This is particularly important if you’re a cord cutter and only want internet service. Stream 24 hours a day. Download a million movies. It doesn’t matter. Xfinity has a 300GB data cap in Atlanta. You can blow through that very easily being a cord cutter.
The cost for Google Fiber at 1000mbps internet, full TV service (sans annoying channel packages), 1TB DVR with 8 shows being recorded at once, easy billing, easy installation, easy customer support, etc all costs just about the same as Xfinity. Except with Xfinity you get fewer channels, slower internet speeds, and Comcast’s reviled customer support.
Again, if you can get it, get it. It’s not going to blow your mind. But it will definitely breathe a good bit of fresh air into your TV and internet life for the same price as the horrible experience you’re probably getting now.