Google Fiber signups in Austin are now underway, and when installations begin, Austinites will be the first to try Google's new, improved hardware for its gigabit internet service. "We’re super excited to get the gig into creative Austinite hands," said Adam Smith, head of product management for Fiber, during a press event at Google's public showroom in Austin today. There, the company unveiled a pair of updated devices that are central to powering the Fiber experience.
The Network+ Box is the centerpiece of Google Fiber in the home, offering four gigabit ethernet ports and full support for 802.11ac Wi-Fi. It also includes 2TB of storage for your DVR recordings. Some Fiber customers in Kansas City and other existing Fiber markets have had to deal with a separate box for that disk space (which should store about 500 hours of HD content), but Google says the updated hardware will find its way to those cities in the coming weeks and months.
The TV Box itself is largely unchanged, but now offers more flexibility if you're the type of person who constantly has recordings going. You can now record up to 8 channels at once. And in case you've got a TV in every room, Google says that 6 TV boxes can now communicate with a single Network+ Box. The Google Fiber mobile app is also being updatedwith controls for Android Wear. Sorry, Tim Cook; it looks like Google beat you to the punch of controlling TV on your wrist. Right now, it's a pretty simple experience with your bare essential controls, but that's probably the right approach with a watch.
The TV Box also continues to double as a Wi-Fi extender if it detects a weak Wi-Fi signal. If wireless speeds aren't ideal, it'll automatically kick in and try to even out signal strength across your house. And Google is talking up Fiber's Wi-Fi performance more than ever before. It won't match the gigabit speeds you'll get through a hardwired ethernet connection, but we saw test speeds of around 480Mbps (download) at the company's Austin space. Uploads topped out at just below 200Mbps — so you'll definitely want an ethernet hookup if you're transferring a significant amount of data onto the web. Fiber installations in Austin are set to begin in the next few weeks, as some "Fiberhoods" in the city have already reached the required number of interested customers.