The WiFi router shouldn't be a shameful secret hidden away in a closet or completely forgotten until Netflix stops working. WiFi should be celebrated with users understanding just how their router works. That's the mission of Starry, the latest company founded by Chet Kanojia, whose last startup Aereo had tons of promise to revolutionize TV before it was sued out of existence by the broadcast companies.
The Starry Station is everything you may want from a smart router, but at a price that may have users decide to wait for something cheaper.
The Starry Station looked great sitting on a metal-and-glass bookshelf in the living room of my apartment. It's a white, triangular router with a large touchscreen and a built-in fan. Setting up the Starry Station is as easy as plugging the router in, hooking up the Ethernet connection and waiting for the Starry Station to spring to life.
Setting up the Starry Station may have been the most fun I had setting up my WiFi. There's a random name generator that's more silly than serious. The same applies for the password. With a ridiculous router name and password to match, it'll be hard to forget your password. If you excel at forgetting passwords, accessing that information requires just a few taps on the touchscreen.
Aesthetics aside, the touchscreen is the highlight of the Starry Station. Users can perform speed tests, see their internet health, data usage between devices and call for support from the screen. The information is displayed in an intuitive fashion, which furthers the overall appeal of the Starry Station.
It's easy and sort of fun to use, which aids in your understanding of how your router and home Internet works. Each connected device is represented by a floating blob that hypnotically move around the screen. Blue means the device is working fine whereas a red blob means there's an issue with the device. The larger the blob, the more data is being used by that device. An older laptop was quite the data hog that was perpetually represented by a red blob whereas a connected Samsung Galaxy S7 was a middle-of-the road blue blob.
Perhaps the only physical complaint is the somewhat loud fan, but that's a very minor distraction. The much larger issue is the $349.99 price. In an apartment without any weird dead zones, having complete control of my Internet was nice, but maybe not essential. The Starry Station handled all the heavy duty lifting of having several devices connected at once with varying degrees of demand for data.
But, at $350, it's an expensive device. For a family living in a house, the Starry Station could be a truly useful hub. Parents can monitor data usage, track their Internet at home or via an app. For users who are always suspect that, maybe, their internet is slower than it should be, the Starry Station could be a great solution. There are also alternatives, such as Google's OnHub ($199), that are cheaper.
In some ways, the Starry Station is a Trojan horse for the company's more ambitious plans. Starry plans to offer wireless home broadband with the Starry Station serving as a trusted ambassador for a smart router. "Make the Internet better for everyone," reads Starry's mission statement.
Kanojia's Starry Internet will use arrays in a small device positioned near a window to gather high frequency radio waves over the air. The service is expected to cost a fraction of what a person would normally pay a typical broadband provider. The first beta tests begin in Boston in July.