Google Nest Wifi Review
Nest Wifi Review
Google’s Nest WiFi mesh networking kit makes a virtue out of being small, while providing enough mesh networking performance for the typical home and an interactive extension speaker. Easy to set up and use, it’s the best mesh Wi-Fi system we’ve seen.
Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi: Which mesh router should you buy?
Amazon offers the Google Nest Wi-Fi Router for $74.99 at $74.99
Composed of devices that look like big plastic marshmallows, the Nest WiFi mesh devices are small and easy to hide. In addition to stashing them on a shelf, they fit on a windowsill or on a coffee table. It measures 4.3 inches in diameter and 3.6 inches high. The Point extensions, on the other hand, are smaller at 4.0 inches in diameter and 3.4 inches high. Both have shotgun-cooling holes at their bases and are tiny compared to comparable Netgear Orbi devices, which are larger and measure nearly 10 inches tall.
The Nest WiFi is able to accommodate up to 32 extensions, and all but the smallest homes will require an extension or two. The good news is that the previous generation of Google WiFi gear can be used as extensions with Nest WiFi to extend the network’s reach but without the audio abilities.
The Google Nest WiFi mesh system is not based on the traditional triband network structure of Netgear Orbi systems. Instead, it uses a dual band approach without Orbi’s dedicated back channel to move data between extension and router. The system does feature proactive band steering, which sends data to the most congested channel or extension. The beamforming tunes the transmitted signal to suit the receiver and can connect with up to 100 clients per device; my two-pack has the potential to link 200 devices.
Google Home’s ever-evolving design language means that the Nest WiFi devices can be incorporated into many home décor styles.
Each Nest WiFi device has four internal antennas that work with the electronics to create a self-healing 802.11ac network. The router uses a 5GHz radio with a 4×4 design. However, the 2.4GHz band has a 2×2 configuration, which creates a maximum throughput rate of 2,200Mbps. The 2×2 extensions are capable of reaching 1,200 Mbps.
Both have Bluetooth and 802.15.4 thread mesh networking to connect to low-power home automation devices. The gear does not have the most recent WiFi-6 technology.
The extension contains a microphone array and an amplifier of 4.8-watts. It also has a speaker measuring 1.6 inches that emits sound in 360°. These extensions can receive commands up to 15 feet away and can either be used individually or collectively digitally as a whole for home sound systems.
Using Google’s Broadcast function, the extensions can be used as an intercom that can also link with other Google Home gear and Nest Hubs for audio calls. There is a switch on each extension to turn the microphone off and preserve privacy.
Surprisingly, based on its size, its sound quality is richer and sharper than Orbi Voice but lacks low-end bass response and doesn’t get nearly as loud as the Orbi RBK40V. It should be fine for a small room, but the music will likely get lost in the chatter of a party. Unfortunately, there’s no audio-out jack to patch into an external speaker, but I was able to wirelessly link the extension with a Bluetooth speaker in about 2 minutes. Alternatively, you can pair the extension with a Google Mini speaker as the right or left stereo channel for fuller sound.
To pause, or start the audio track again at any moment, tap on the extension’s extension and then run your finger across the extension’s surface to adjust the volume. Voice commands can be used to control volume. I love to say “Hey Google! Turn it up!” or “Volume level 4.”
Built around a custom version of Qualcomm’s QCS400 family of chips, the Nest WiFi router and extensions use a 1.4GHz quad-core processor and a pair of Digital Signal Processors (DSP), while the extensions have far-field voice-pickup technology. The router has 1GB of RAM as well as 4GB of flash storage for firmware and settings, while the extensions have 768MB of RAM and 512MB of storage space.
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These extensions can respond to any Google Assistant skill or command that any smart-speaker would use, including all Google Home commands.
The router’s automatic firmware updates are authenticated using a Trusted Platform Modul (TPM). The system’s software updates are protected and only acceptable if digitally signed by Google. WPA 3 security is built into the system, however only a few networking equipment supports it. You can still use the more common WPA 2.
We first tested the Nest WiFi gear’s performance at Tom’s Guide’s open office. Then, we set it up using Ixia’s IxChariot to gauge its performance. With 653.2Mbps of data transfer, the router had a maximum throughput of 653.2Mbps at five feet away from its base unit. That’s a big step up from the original Google WiFi (464.3Mbps) and well ahead of the the 2019 Eero (342.2Mbps). At 5 feet, Netgear Orbi RBK50 was the previous category leader and delivered a disappointing performance of 552.1Mbps.
Nest WiFi performance fell to 612.0 and 455.1Mbps at 50- and 150-feet respectively, which is between 11 and 15 percent ahead of Orbi RBK50 mesh systems. At 50-feet, the Orbi turned the tables and took the lead with 478.3Mbps versus the Nest’s 455.1Mbps. At 100-feet, the Nest regained the advantage with 394.0Mbps available versus 315.5Mbps for the Orbi RBK50 system.
It blew away the 2019 Eero in our wall penetration testing, where the signal has to travel through three walls and 40-feet of heavy-duty construction. While the Nest delivered 400.6Mbps, the Eero could only muster 84Mbps, less than one-quarter the throughput.
Our mesh system test was a success with the Nest, which used a satellite unit located 50 feet from the router. It was able to transmit 480.1Mbps. The Eero, however, managed just 169.1Mbps in the same tests. Its lower performance goals may be responsible for this. The Nest WiFi devices can operate at a maximum of 2.2Gbps. However, new Eero devices have a top speed of 550Mbps. This is one-quarter of what the Nest devices can achieve.
I set the Nest two-pack up in my three-story, 3,500-square-foot home, an older building with thick walls and lots of nooks and crannies. With the router in the basement and the extension a floor above, the two-piece Nest set ran without a problem for more than a week of testing. Because the router lacked the built-in smart speaker, I set up a Nest Hub nearby to provide that same functionality in that room.
The network ran without a problem, reliably distributing my internet connection and playing everything from the latest Kevin Gates track to the sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti to the latest BBC World News headlines. The incoming connection’s 235Mbps bandwidth dropped to 187Mbps at the router and 178Mbps at the extension, a 25 % decline.
Nest WiFi allows you to create Wi-Fi networks throughout your home. It also includes Google Home, which can listen to and play your favourite tunes.
Overall, the router had a range of 80 feet and the mesh extension added another 50 feet. It should work well for most houses, however, it failed to fill my home, leaving some dead areas on top and near the edges. Clearly, having a second extension would have helped.
While working, the router stayed cool, but the extension got warm to the touch. The used 3.7 and 4.3 watts of power, respectively, less than half the power an Orbi Router and Voice require. They could cost you $8.40 per year in electricity bills, if connected 24 hours a day. You pay 13 cents/kilowatt hour national average electricity. It’s an affordable price for Wi-Fi, music on demand and other services.
With simple, illustrated instructions and clear steps-by-step guidance, the installation procedure for creating a Nest Wi Fi network is straightforward. Because Nest Wi-Fi units cannot be set up with an internet browser, you will require a smartphone or tablet. It took me less than twenty minutes to set up the extension and router in my house, which was a bit longer than it took to setup an Orbi Voice. For me, it started with installing the Google Home app on my Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ phone.
Tap “Create home” to activate new devices. Then, I gave my house a name.
The software then scanned for and found the Nest WiFi router in a couple seconds. The software then connected to the router by scanning the QR code on the router’s underside. A series of animated colored rings appeared around the router’s photo on-screen to show it connected.
The router room was named and I entered the password and name of the network. At this point I agreed to have Google run networking tests, diagnose problems and create statistics.
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After the router has been set up you will need to add Point. I powered it up and the app scanned for and quickly found it. After I had named the room, it played a brief tune to confirm the connection.
Next up, I created a voice print to identity me later; it took about a minute of saying various things and waiting on its processing. After logging in, I set up Spotify to allow me to listen and play Spotify music. Although I could have connected to my Sirius XM satellite broadcast account, I chose to not.
The Nest WiFi updated its firmware almost immediately. After it verified that the extension was connected to the router, the extension performed a brief tune. Finished, the app showed all the setup details.
Everything worked and I was able connect my iPad Pro with the extension the very first time. I then took a test drive by asking Google’s voice assistant to tell me the time, weather and current traffic on the George Washington Bridge. Then, I just sat down and started listening to music.
The Nest WiFi equipment relies primarily on the Google Home app for making configuration changes, although the customization options are few and far between. The app allows you to add extensions or set up groups and can also adjust the brightness of the router and extension lights.
It was possible to remotely start the network, run a test or display the password for the Guest network on smart displays. You can find information on the settings pages of both router and extension, including IP addresses and version.
The router doesn’t have the traditional settings options that other routers do, such as managing ports, setting static IP addresses or choosing which Wi-Fi channel you want to use. Most won’t miss these items, but it might be a deal-breaker for those who like to tweak their gear.
For accessing these more advanced features, use the older Google Wi-Fi app. There you can make DHCP reservations or manage the system’s privacy settings. That the two apps haven’t been integrated is a mystery.
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Along with the Nest WiFi gear, Google’s Home app can be a one-stop shop for controlling a variety of home automation items, like any of the best smart light bulbs. Tap the + button in the upper right corner of the screen to add a device.
Google Home also includes Family Wi-Fi. It allows the grouping of devices so that the lights and thermostats are part of a different group than the computers. This let me pause the system’s Wi-Fi to stop the flow of data long enough for dinner or screen-free family time without affecting other devices that I want to run 24/7.
Google backs the Nest WiFi gear with a one-year warranty that includes full support with technicians on call to help 24/7. The Nest support site has several DIY items to help get the gear up and running as well as the ability to call, chat or email them for personal help. By contrast, Netgear provides only 90-days of support.
Nest Wifi Pro Review: What I Like
You will find a lot of things to love here. Google’s design aesthetics are not for everybody. Nest Wifi Pro looks can be polarizing. Personally, I don’t care much for the plastics and the colors Google chose but other people I’ve shown have liked the design and more surprisingly, the colors. I still like how the Nest Wifi Nodes feel, with their 595g weight and the grippy bottom.
Around the back, you get two Ethernet ports and a barrel plug for power. I do wish Google had stuck with USB-C like they used on Nest Wifi and later revision of Google Wifi. It is likely because Nest Wifi PRO uses 10v power, while most USB-C chargers require 5v. This would make it incompatible with other USB-C devices. It’s not like you’re frequently unplugging your router, but USB-C is a more universal standard and would have been easier to replace if needed.
These Ethernet ports can only be used at gigabit speeds, so multi-gig networks are not supported. They are labeled separately as WAN and LAN but either port will work as LAN on one of the remote nodes.
Moving on to the main attraction, Wi-Fi, Nest Wifi Pro has a tri-band AXE5400 connection. The 5GHz and 6GHz bands each receive a 160MHz band at speeds of up to 2402Mbps. The 2.4GHz band is more than sufficient for the smart home devices that will be mainly using it with 574Mbps of capacity. While 160MHz connections are supported, they must be enabled in the network settings in the Google Home app. Google says that enabling 160MHz could lead to incompatibility with some devices but I had no issues with mine. Your mileage may vary here.
WPA3 support is available, but it’s not enabled by default. It will likely take many years before most people can upgrade to these standards. It’s nice that Google has included these options, especially given the brevity of the rest of its settings. In testing I used 160MHz mode, but none of my 160MHz devices connected. A Zenfone 8 and a Zenfone 8 were both equipped with Wi-Fi cards. Nest Wifi Pro behaved as an 80MHz router to my devices.
In order to get some data on Nest Wifi Pro performance, I ran speed tests at three different locations within my house. Each location had a node positioned in the same room or one room over for the garage. Since this is a mesh system from a company other than ASUS, all WI-Fi bands were combined under a single name so I had no control over which band was used. In the end, every device used 5GHz in the speed tests.
A local fiber provider provides me with internet at 940Mbps. It is also available during off-peak times when I am testing routers. Ping times average between 2ms and 4ms to the nearest test server (within my ISP) with 15-25ms jitter on most tests. This is quite good considering that the mesh system does not have device prioritization.
The speeds were not remarkable, but they were steady. The cause of this speed variation can be observed by connecting to the node via Ethernet and performing a speed test. The base router was in our living room and saw almost perfect speeds compared to the slower nodes.
Unfortunately, to explain this, we need to talk a bit about physics. It will be light.
Radio waves, like those used on a router, have peaks and valleys which correspond to the signal strength in height. As frequency rises, the distance between these peaks gets smaller. Waves on 2.4GHz are wider than 5GHz which is wider than 6GHz. The more peaks you have inside an object, like a sheet of drywall, the weaker the signal gets. Signal strength for 6GHz Wi Fi can be severely affected by walls. This is exacerbated on Nest Wifi Pro which uses 6GHz to link the nodes.
Although 6GHz speeds are very fast, mesh Wi-Fi is limited by its inability of reaching walls at the same time as 5GHz. Netgear, for example, stuck with 5GHz for its quad-band Wi-Fi 6E mesh router. In my Orbi RBKE963 review, I saw lower speeds than are possible with 6GHz but with much more flexible node placement. This is one of the reasons why some customer reviews for Nest Wifi Pro are complaining about unexpectedly poor coverage and low speeds.
Nest Wifi Pro will help you determine if the nodes in your network are sufficiently close to the router. In fact, I needed to move one of my nodes closer during my initial setup despite there only being two walls (one at an oblique angle to be fair) and a door in the way.
You’re likely to need more Nest Wifi Pro devices than Google Wifi and Nest Wifi. Google has the pricing correct if you purchase a 2- or 3-pack. Each additional node costs $100. You shouldn’t expect your Nest Wifi Pro Nodes to replace the older Google Wifi and Nest Wifi.
The setup process was remarkably easy using the Google Home app on my Zenfone 8 with Android 12. Before doing anything, I was given the option to set up the Wi-Fi in the app. After that I just needed to scan each QR code at the bottom of each node. I set my SSID and password and the router handled the rest. You’ll also be asked to enable Nest Cloud services in order to use some features on your router, more on this later.
Once you have agreed to all terms, you will be able to access one of the most comprehensive and responsive connected devices lists that I have ever seen. You can see the current and past usage of each device as well as some basic connection quality information. You’re able to prioritize a device here as well with the choice to prioritize it for up to 8 hours at a time. You can use it to set your home computer to be the first one available for work, and not have any impact on streaming or gaming later in the day.
You also get some parental controls with profile support. Google SafeSearch allows you to set time limits and block sites that are not safe. As far as Wi-Fi settings go, you get some basic settings like port forwarding and DNS. This is also where you can choose to enable 160MHz Wi-Fi and WPA3.
If you already have Nest devices configured in your Google Home app, they’ll show up right alongside the new Wi-Fi options. I do not love Google Home for network management, and it is not something I would recommend.