How Google’s OnHub Helped Me Get Better Service from TWC

TL;DR – I’m a huge fan of OnHub. It isn’t without its concerns but to me none are deal breakers. Two months of heavy use and I’m very satisfied with the purchase. Fast, stable and low maintenance.

Earlier this year my Internet connection via TWC started to become extremely unstable with constant dropped connections, low upload speeds, high latency times and the usual problems that most people have with their traditional Internet connections.  I tried everything to figure out what the culprit was before having to jump through the hoops of TWC tech support because there are only so many times you can unplug and restart your modem without pulling your hair out.

During my testing, I started to realize that the problems mostly existed on the 2.4Ghz band of my Asus RT N66U router as the 5ghz band was performing better, with the occasional TWC problems, but overall better.  This was all the excuse I needed to go shopping for a new router so off to Amazon I went.

I read the reviews on Amazon, Reddit, and all over the web comparing performance of various routers and for the most part they’re all pretty close and suitable for what I need but with a gluttony of options in the WiFi router world I had to find a better way to choose. I’ve never had a problem with signal in my house (~2,000 sqft) in any of the rooms and my fairly old Asus RT N66U usually covered my half acre lot with solid WiFi without fail so that eliminated the need for a system like Eero (Amazon link) or Luma (Amazon link). That was a bit unfortunate as I was very interested in testing out their tech but since coverage wasn’t my concern, I found it hard to justify the price of either system.

That left me with mostly traditional routers as options and they are hard to distinguish one from another.  Over the years I’ve used Netgear, Dlink, Apple, and Asus routers and despite a few GUI differences they are mostly the same and I think that is generally the case for today’s routers.  It’s also the reason I settled on Google’s OnHub, it’s a new way to WiFi.

Now I’m a bit more of a power user than the average person as I work from home, stream everything, have an HTPC, multiple IP Cams, and have dynamic DNS setup so the limited menu of Google’s OnHub was a concern along with having only 1-Gigabit port on the router itself and no web GUI.  These are standard features on most other routers but Google was going for simplicity with its product and that’s what really appealed to me.  As a relatively new dad, one of the things you realize is your time becomes limited or at least reprioritized.  In the past, I might have had a few hours to sit down and tinker with the hundreds of options on a router’s GUI or load up DD-WRT and explore a new setup but it’s one of the last things I want to do these days.  I’d much rather use the time to play with my boy or do something productive for the family and that is Google’s pitch for the OnHub: It just works. That’s why I ended up with OnHub vs a fancy spider looking traditional router, in the end, I just want stable, fast WiFi w/o having to think about it.

FWIW – I went with the Asus OnHub vs the TP-Link OnHub because most reviews said it had a more consistent signal.

I will say having a subreddit for OnHub helps. I was able to dig through it and look at various issues so I knew what I was getting into and tell if any of the known issues were going to be issues for me. In addition to having the subreddit, one of the product manager is active on there and answering a lot of questions, check out u/MegaTrondW’s posts for more.

Having that activity shows to me that OnHub is under constant development and they are aware of the issues and addressing them. As a side note, I do love that OnHub automatically pushes software updates so I dont have to worry about going into the router’s GUI, checking for new firmware, downloading it, apply-it, restarting and hoping it doesn’t brick along the way. It’s another way that OnHub simplifies the WiFi experience.

Addressing the Concerns

  • Limited Menu Options – Really everything I need from a router is provided with the OnHub app. Sure it would be nice to have built in Dynamic DNS and VPN options but there are other ways to address those and really most people don’t need them [for DynDNS I use https://www.duckdns.org/ and have the client on my HTPC and it has worked well.]
  • No Web GUI – This one is occasionally inconvenient at first b/c its a habit to fire up the browser, go to 192.168.1.1 and reach your router but as with Google, everything is going mobile whether you like it or not.  Really this is a 1 on a scale of 10 in the issues world. I’ve quickly been able to adapt to using the app to do everything I need.  Occasionally I forget the click-path to get to things like the speed test but I’m sure the UI will get better as the app evolves. That is not to say its bad by any means, it could just use some polish.
  • 1-Gigabit Port – This was one I was concerned most about at first but after realizing a switch is only ~$20 on Amazon (here’s the one I got) I didn’t think twice about it.

The 1 Thing I Still Don’t Understand About OnHub

So Google has stated so often that they designed OnHub to not look like a normal router so that you can place it directly out in the open in your home in order to get a better signal.  Now that is great and all but you still have to connect it to a modem which for most people probably only comes into 1 obscure outlet.  For me, that outlet is upstairs in the loft pretty much out of view from everyone. So great design doesn’t really solve that problem and I’m not sure what the thought process here was. I have no signal issues so it’s not a huge concern but def. something I’m curious to learn more about their thought process around it.

On to TWC

So how did OnHub help me get better service from TWC? After numerous house calls and technicians trying the usual jibber-jabber and nothing happening TWC finally sent a Level 4 tech to my house. The Level 4 guys are the ones who know the most and are the last line of help before TWC sends your issue onto the Maintenance Team. The maintenance team is one who handles all of the area wide issues and equipment outside of your home. Since I know other people in my neighborhood are having the same problem, a statement which all other techs seem to gloss over, I was able to use the OnHub app to show the L4 tech what is happening with my inconsistencies. I did have to explain to him that OnHub does speed tests from the router rather than the device and demo this but none the less, he got it and was impressed.  If you run a speed test from your device on a traditional WiFi router the signal is sent from your device, over the WiFI, through the router, to the modem and out to the Internet.  Having that extra layer of WiFi in there could be the problem which is why when you call the TWC 800-number they always want you to plug directly into the modem to test the signal. The OnHub sends the signal from the OnHub and not the device but also does a separate WiFI test that they call “WiFi efficiency” and they measure that in %.

Screenshot_20160530-112653

In the app screenshot you can see how my upload speeds vary from in the 20s to the 1-6 Mbps range which is really unacceptable for a cable connection. Since OnHub runs this test every day without me having to do anything, I’m able to monitor the connection and stay on top of TWC to get it fixed.  It also helped me display to the tech what my issue was since they aren’t always able to recreate the issue in the short window they arrive.

I’ll spare you from all my speedtest.net screenshots and latency graphs because there are plenty of sites who will go into more depth there but my OnHub is faster, more consistent and has slightly better range than my old Asus but most of all easier to manage.

Pros

  • Great WiFi range
  • Less variability in signal strength
  • Automatic software updates
  • Useful App
  • Automatic daily speed tests & at the router level
  • IFTTT.com integration – See my IFTTT recipes for OnHub
  • No-hassle router management

Cons

  • Requires a separate switch if you have more than one device plugged into it.
  • No NAT Loopback (won’t be an issue for 99.9% of people)
  • No Dynamic DNS
  • No Router-level VPN

My Affiliate Links to Amazon if you want to buy one the OnHub or Switch. (Click on the picture)