Gigabit Ethernet For The SmartHome

The Starry Station For Better WiFi

The internet has come a long way in the last twenty years. And now it’s time for our internet hardware to keep up. One of the biggest issues we come across is in configuring and troubleshooting home routers, modems, Wi-Fi and other internet access devices. These were designed to be hidden away in a closet, behind the television / monitor or in some other out of the way, out of sight place. As long as the internet is working, we don’t give these devices much thought. But when there is a problem, then it’s a challenge to figure out what the blinking lights are trying to tell us.

Chet Kanojia, the former CEO of Aereo, has joined up with Joe Lipowski (CTO) and Alex Moulle-Berteaux in a new startup (“Starry“) delivering a better way to interact with your Wi-Fi and a new service to bring Gigabit Ethernet speeds to everyone, everywhere. Let’s start with the hardware, the Starry Station – Touchscreen WiFi Router ($266.98).

The “Starry Station” looks like something that was designed by Apple. It’s a sleek white unit with a vibrant, easy to use touch screen on the front face, along with a microphone. The rear side has a metal grid with a speaker underneath, and connections for the power plug, the Internet Service Provider in and a wired Ethernet out.

Currently, the speaker is really there only for interacting with the Starry team – it can’t be used to stream music like an Echo. Unfortunately, at this time that isn’t an option.  Starry has a new approach for answering questions and general support. Starry promotes this feature as “Never Wait On Hold”. Users simply request a call directly from the touchscreen or message via the app. Yes, just touch the support button on the screen and if you are connected to the internet, you can have a conversation with a customer support person directly through the Starry. If you aren’t yet connected you can request the call-back and an actual, live person will call you back to help with any issues.Of course, there may be a wait for the call-back, but that’s much better than waiting on hold until someone becomes available.

In addition to customer support, they have addressed another of the most common problems with existing routers – allowing other people to access your internet. With one click, you can enable a Guest Network on your Starry Station’s display. And it’s just as simple to disable access. The WiFi Parental Controls work in a similar fashion, where you can block usage on certain devices with just one tap.

Inside the unit is a very quiet fan, associated CPU and electronics and a MU-MIMO antenna array.

Most routers are hard-to-decipher utility boxes that communicate through flashing lights. Starry Station redefines the in-home WiFi experience. The touchscreen lets you see what’s happening with your WiFi, the learning features suggest ways to improve your performance, and the design speaks for itself: There’s really nothing on the market like it. Starry Station is a WiFi router designed to be the core of the connected home. – Joe Lipowski, CTO

So it’s a great looking device that is easy to use with lots of features not found on the standard routers. However, it does have some problems if you need more than just good Wi-Fi.

One detraction is that Starry is not yet available with a built-in modem. So if you are getting your internet through your cable provider, you will still need their box.

Another drawback is that if you need more than one wired connection, you’ll need to buy an external switch to get more ports. Below are some recommendations for splitters / switches:

NETGEAR ProSAFE FS105NA 5-Port Fast Ethernet Switch (FS105NA) ($17.95)

NETGEAR GS105NA Prosafe 5-Port Gigabit Switch ($29.88)

NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108 8-Port Gigabit Desktop Switch (GS108-400NAS) ($46.98)

Our last complaint is that there is no USB port connection, which means the USB back-up drive and external-data-drives need to be attached to another piece of hardware.

To address requests for expanded WiFi coverage areas, a follow-on product called “Starry Wing” will be their version of a Wi-Fi extender. Details are coming, and it’s expected to be out later in 2017.

If the Starry is a bit too pricey for your SmartHome or SmallOffice, we highly recommend the

NETGEAR N600 Dual Band Wi-Fi Router (WNDR3400) ($59.99)

and

NETGEAR WNDR4500 N900 Dual Band Gigabit Wifi Route ($84.99)

Let’s move on from the Starry Station hardware to the service side which gets the Gigabits of data to the device. Please continue reading in the next article: Gigabit Ethernet For The SmartHome, Part 2.

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See here for more information on the pricing.

 

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