Google has been working on creating the ultimate WiFi equipment for over five years, and the Nest WiFi is the company’s third iteration of that effort. Nest WiFi, like its predecessor, Google believes, will be attractive enough that you will not hide it in a cabinet or behind your television. As it turns out, functioning in plain sight is preferable to improving wireless performance. Furthermore, Google had mastered the simplicity of use and power the first time around. On the other hand, Nest WiFi is more than simply a rebranding exercise; it represents a significant break from the status quo. It also includes a built-in voice assistant, which you may use whether you want one or not.
The (old) Google WiFi system consisted of a series of interchangeable pucks that, when assembled, formed a mesh network surrounding your house. If you had a particularly bad blackspot or a residence that was far larger than the maximum range, you could simply add another unit to boost speeds or reception as needed. A major selling point for this and every other mesh WiFi system of its kind was the ability to be configured in a number of different ways. Nest WiFi, on the other hand, has taken its position.
Nest WiFi has been divided into two components this time: a specialized router (the Router) and an access point (the Access Point) (a Point). In its most basic form, the Router is a featureless dome that sits next to your modem and distributes WiFi throughout your home. A mesh repeater with built-in speakers and Google Assistant, the Point, on the other hand, performs the functions of both a WiFi point and the Google/Nest Home Mini in a single device.
There is a range of around 2,200 square feet for the Router, with each Point providing an additional 1,600 square feet to the total range. With two times as much power as Google WiFi and far greater support for multiple devices, the Router makes it easier to do things like stream Netflix on many devices at the same time. A quad-core 64-bit Arm CPU running at 1.4GHz, 1GB RAM, and 4GB of internal storage round out the specifications. It supports the 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac standards, but it does not support the latest WiFi 6 standard, which is a disappointment.
In addition to providing a performance gain over previous wireless technology, WiFi 6 makes it easier to run numerous devices at the same time on a single network. Additionally, its removal here bothers me because Google’s Chris Chan told VentureBeat that the issue was now a matter of cost and complexity. On the one hand, it’s true that WiFi 6 won’t be widely available for another couple of years, but that also means that your WiFi equipment will require yet another expensive update by 2021.
The first generation of Google WiFi pucks was clean and uncluttered, yet they were not horrible to look at. Nest WiFi has a softer appearance than the previous model, and there is no straight line anywhere on its body. In addition, the vent lights are rather attractive. Because the Nest is higher, it cannot be placed unobtrusively below my television, as the Google WiFi can, which is disappointing — at least for me.
Google takes great pleasure in the strength of its software, and its products require little to no setup at all to function properly. That should have been the case in this instance, and it almost was, but the system kept freezing throughout the last stages of configuration. However, for the time being, I will attribute this isolated occurrence to pre-release software, which is an eternity in Google’s eyes. I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you.
Those who are unfamiliar with Google’s WiFi initiatives may be astonished at how easy it is to get things up and running, especially if they are accustomed to messing with the equipment that comes with their cable service provider. The only tricky part here is configuring your cable modem to operate in modem-only mode and connecting it to the Nest Router.
Furthermore, if you’re considering making the switch from Google WiFi to Nest, it’s feasible to connect Nest devices to your current network, or the other way around. To get started, you’ll just need to perform a factory reset on all of your equipment and then configure the Nest devices by adding each Google puck one at a time.
Another option is the Nest WiFi Point, which is a Google WiFi puck with a Nest Home Mini affixed to its surface. That is gratingly reductive, but it is also absolutely correct. The duo has been altered to appear as though they are an one seamless whole. When playing music, you’ll notice a nice white shining light at the bottom of the device, which also serves as a volume indication.
The top of the Point has a touch surface that you can use to play/pause music and adjust the volume by tapping the middle of it or hitting either side of it. There are four cut-outs for microphones, and because of the symmetry, it’s difficult to tell where you need to touch when looking at the board. Fortunately, flashing lights beneath the gadget, which illuminate when you approach it, point you in the direction of the buttons you need to press.
It goes without saying that Google wants you to utilize the Assistant in this situation, and there’s not much new to say about the well-worn voice tool. For example, the business expects that you would use your voice to operate it rather than the app — for example, to engage Bluetooth pairing mode. If I have one criticism, it’s with the way Google’s platform handles music requests; it has a strange tendency for selecting unusual versions and remixes of songs from Spotify. In addition, it is a Google-specific issue: if you ask Siri for the same thing, you will be given the correct version.
When comparing the Point to the Home Mini that I tried next to it, there isn’t much of a difference in sound quality. Both have the same maximum volume and provide clear, but not particularly detailed, audio that is suitable for use as background music in most situations. When placed on a table, the Point has a punchier sound because of the down-firing bass speaker that is higher and has a deeper bass response. This, however, will not be able to substitute a professional speaker if you want room-filling sound in your space, even at the highest volume setting.
Of course, having a single gadget that can both distribute WiFi across your home and serve as an Assistant is really convenient. I’ve had mine in my kitchen for a while now and use it primarily to play music over breakfast, which it does well.
To its dismay, the Point does not have its own Ethernet connections, unlike the Router and all of the previous generation of Google WiFi pucks. Google appears to be aware of how many of its users really used those ports, and has decided to discontinue their use in order to save money. In Southern California, I’m sure that many of the homes have nice porous walls that enable all kinds of high-speed WiFi to get through. The unfortunate reality is that if your home is a bit older or was constructed of something other than wood and drywall, you will have a problem. I’ll go into more detail on performance later.
Google has moved control of its devices from the Google WiFi app, which has been around since the OnHub days, to Google Home, which was previously controlled by the app. At the very least, moving everything to the search engine’s all-in-one home and media center provides you with a one-stop-shop for all of your technology needs.
It also has the unfortunate effect of burying a lot of the more advanced things you can accomplish with Nest WiFi behind a series of menus. The objective is that you will rely on voice commands more than you did previously, such as asking your Point to enter Bluetooth connection mode, rather than digging into the settings of your device.
Those of you who remember my complaints about the lack of Ethernet ports on the Point may recall them. I live in a beautiful, if dilapidated, Victorian house in the city. I work out of a space that is approximately 2,200 square feet on two levels, plus a 300 square foot loft where I do my thing. There’s an issue, though: Victorian plumbing is famously difficult to connect to WiFi, so this should be well within the range of the Google and Nest WiFi offerings.
Between my living room, where my cable modem and router are located, and my kitchen, there is a line that divides them. Despite the fact that they are just 50 feet away and separated by a single wall, the connection between the two Google WiFi sites was poor. That single wall was no match for Nest WiFi, which managed to maintain an excellent connection between the two rooms.
For the time being, my present configuration makes use of four Google WiFi hotspots to get around the troublesome sections of my house. On the ground floor, there are two points: one in the living room and kitchen, one on the first-floor landing, and one in the rear bedroom. On the first floor, there is one point in the front bedroom. There is a lot of plumbing in the rear half of the house, as well as the bathroom, which makes moving anything to the other side of the house difficult at best.
I use a pair of Power over Ethernet plugs to provide WiFi coverage at the rear of the kitchen and garden. These plugs send data over the power cables in my home. It goes without saying that, in Google’s Ethernet-free world, the Point’s signal strength was insufficient to span the three or so meters that separated the kitchen from the rear bedroom.
Leaving aside this one little issue, there is a significant increase in both performance and dependability when compared to the previous version. For all of my criticisms, Google has managed to create a reasonably priced mesh network that accomplishes the majority of what it claims. It makes good use of technology to conceal some of its technical shortcomings, such as the lack of a dedicated backhaul channel, which most users will not notice.
For a real-world stress test, I ran two 4K streams at opposite sides of the house while a 1080p set-top box streamed live and recorded TV and YouTube streamed on my phone. With the exception of an early stutter, the video on all devices was crisp and in high definition, with no obvious dropouts. That should be adequate for a busy family with many adolescents who are addicted to their computers or smartphones.
In terms of total speed, I was frequently getting 211 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up when using earlier Google WiFi. With Nest Wifi, it frequently claims downstream speeds of 210 Mbps and upstream speeds of 19 Mbps, which are near enough that the discrepancy can be attributed to measurement errors.
The Nest Router will cost $169 on its own, while a set of two Routers and a single Point will cost $269. If your coverage requirements are more extensive, you may get a version with two Points for $349, with each additional Point costing $149 each year thereafter.
A three-pack of eero (owned by Amazon), which has a little shorter range (5,000 square feet against 5,400 square feet), will cost you $249 and has a range of 5,000 square feet. There are also choices for mixing and matching which eero hardware you use, ranging from the more expensive eero Pro down to the less expensive eero Beacon that plugs into a wall socket. In addition to the Beacons, each eero is equipped with Ethernet as standard.
Netgear is a well-known name in networking, and it was also one of the first companies to commercialize a mesh system that supported WiFi 6. The Orbi WiFi 6 system, like its competitors, will cover houses up to 5,000 square feet in size with just two units and offers greater networking and performance over the competition. There is one disadvantage, of course, and that is the high price you’ll be paying for the system: a two-unit configuration will set you back a whopping $700.
Plume’s subscription-based WiFi equipment is available for $99 per year, with an extra $297 for three SuperPod nodes available for purchase. That, on the other hand, maybe customized based on the size of your home, with each individual unit costing $99 per unit. If you’re the type of person who wants to convert WiFi into a utility, and you think the promise of support and safety is worth the money, then you might want to consider upgrading.
- AC2200 4×4 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi
- Expandable 802.11s mesh Wi-Fi
- Simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz/5 GHz) supporting IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
- Transmit Beamforming
- Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE)
- IEEE 802.15.4 Thread (2.4 GHz) – Functionality coming soon
- Automatic 802.11k/v client roaming
- 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports (WAN and LAN)
- Barrel jack power
Color and Material
- Color: Snow
- Material: External enclosure made from 45% post-consumer recycled plastic
- Can handle up to 100 connected devices*
- Multiple simultaneous 4K video streams
- WPA3 encryption
- Automatic security updates
- Trusted platform module
- 1 GB RAM
- 4 GB Flash
- Quad-core 64-bit ARM CPU 1.4 GHz
- High-performance ML hardware engine
- 15W power adapter
Dimensions and Weight
- Diameter: 4.33 in (110 mm)
- Height: 3.56 in (90.4 mm)
- Weight: 13 oz (380 g)
For individuals who are not interested in utilizing 192.168.1.1, the goal of Google’s mesh WiFi system is to relieve them of the burden of configuring their network. The Nest WiFi is a no-brainer if you don’t already have mesh WiFi and want to get started with it immediately. Setting up this system should be simple, and you should be able to forget about it for a very long period of time.
Google, on the other hand, is a firm that claims to take care of your internet needs on your behalf. It has a vested interest in keeping you connected and releases frequent software upgrades to improve the dependability, speed, safety, and security of its services. Nest WiFi is quicker, more stable, and has a built-in Google Assistant, which is a pleasant addition if you want to use the service.
The Point does, however, have certain limitations, such as the diminished flexibility that comes with the loss of its Ethernet connections. The problem will be more difficult to tackle if you have a black spot that can only be linked using a cable. Furthermore, if you’re seeking to purchase something that will last you for the next five years or more, the lack of WiFi 6 might be a dealbreaker. You may also be resentful of having to pay extra for a smart speaker that you may or may not want in your home — particularly given that Google’s own hardware leader has stated that he will warn guests to his home about them.
That shouldn’t take from some attractive hardware that is both fast and dependable, and which is sufficient for the majority of people. Most families spend their time playing video games and viewing movies on various devices, which is especially true if all they are doing is gaming and watching videos. Rather than settling for mediocre results for the majority of users, I wish Google would push the boundaries a little more aggressively.