We’ve already got a pretty good taste of what’s going to happen at this year’s Google Made case, between official Pixel 4 teasers, Pixelbook 2 leaks, and early Google Home revamp proof. At least one more phone, new Google WiFi hardware with WiFi 6 support, appears to be on the horizon.
Three years ago, the company published its mesh networking equipment, Google WiFi, at the 2016 Made by Google case. You may remember that this wasn’t Google’s first router hardware foray, as the year before, two “OnHub” WiFi routers co-releasedby Google with TP-LINK and ASUS. You may or may not be surprised to know that all three of these devices are deemed part of one project, “Jetstream,” strongly linked to Chrome OS under the hood.
Google started working on a new addition to the Jetstream / Google WiFi family last July under the windy codename “Mistral,” first spotted by Chromebooks ‘ Kevin Tofel, who thought it was a smart display. The windy codename alone is nearly sufficient to tip off that this is a Google WiFi device — provided the history of “Storm,” “Whirlwind,” “Arkham,” and “Gale” — but this remark settles any discussion (mine emphasis).
The folks at Chrome Unboxed are making an even greater case for a refresh of Google WiFi, as a change of code related to Mistral refers to “prior Google WiFi products,” suggesting quite obviously that Mistral is also a Google WiFi product. We also discovered a Google WiFi hardware discussion between developers that immediately refers to both the initial Google WiFi (Gale) and Mistral.
Assistant Smart Speaker ?
What’s interesting about this new hardware is that Mistral is based on the Qualcomm QCS405 chip, designed for intelligent speakers, unlike the OnHub and Google WiFi routers that used the Qualcomm IPQ “Internet Processor” series chips. It has advanced audio playback and input possibilities for this purpose, including “multi-mic beamforming noise suppression.”
If Google takes complete advantage of the capabilities of the latest hardware, we might look at a two-in – one WiFi router plus a intelligent speaker device. This would be highly smart on Google’s part, because both types of product require excellent strategic positioning to be most efficient in different areas of people’s homes.
Unfortunately, there is no additional proof to indicate that a microphone or any other audio hardware is in use on Mistral. Google may have chosen to use the QCS series chip instead of an updated IPQ chip for another unrelated reason.
While we can’t be sure of any Mistral Assistant integration yet, we understand it will have at least one clear benefit over Google WiFi today. Google’s current WiFi hardware generation is capable of WiFi 5 (formerly known as 802.11ac), while the QC405 discovered in Mistral is obviously capable of WiFi 6 (802.11ax).
If you’re unfamiliar with WiFi 6, there’s a big breakdown in 9to5Mac, but the primary changes to look forward to are higher prospective link speeds and better handling of more devices on the same network. For most, these benefits do not make WiFi 6 an instant necessity, but as we continue to fill our homes with more phones and IoT gadgets, WiFi 6 will only become more helpful on devices such as Google WiFi.
More hardware from Google WiFi?
Google may also have several products in mind to build on this Mistral hardware. Within the Chromium code, we found a name for the board, “Mistral Qualcomm QCS405 reference board.” Using the phrase “reference board” implies that it may be a basis for other products to be built on instead of being just a product.
By way of contrast, the Google WiFi board, Gale, is referred to in this same fashion as merely “Gale.” A closer comparison is actually the “Storm” board, which served as the basis for both OnHub routers and is referred to as the “Storm Qualcomm IPQ806X board.” Given the different type things that Google Assistant systems have taken over the past few years, Google could easily give some Google WiFi hardware.
Whatever the case may be, some sort of Mistral hardware is pretty close to release, as Chrome Unboxed has found it to be in the PVT phase (production validation test) just before a product hits the market. Until the 2019 Google Made event rolls around, we’ll keep our eyes on what exactly Mistral is meant to be, beyond a Google WiFi-equipped WiFi WiFi WiFi 6.