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Nest Wifi review: A mesh Wi-Fi system and smart speaker mashup for Google Assistant fans


Google’s Nest Wifi is not breaking new floor by melding a wise speaker with a Wi-Fi entry level. Netgear did it higher with final 12 months’s Orbi Voice. However for those who don’t want the very excessive efficiency that Netgear’s high-end mesh networks ship, Nest Wifi will prevent some money. A two-node system (the router plus one entry level) prices $269, in comparison with $350 for Netgear’s RBK50V equipment.

The financial savings will proceed do you have to determine to develop your community down the street, since every Nest Level (Google’s title for its entry factors) will value $149 in comparison with $200 for every further Orbi Voice satellite tv for pc. However there may be extra to contemplate than simply value tags. When you’re all in on Google’s ecosystem and like Google Assistant, the Orbi Voice’s Amazon Alexa supply gained’t float your boat. But when cash is much less of a problem and also you haven’t dedicated to both digital assistant, Netgear’s product delivers a lot larger efficiency at distance. It’s additionally a far superior loudspeaker, though not essentially a greater sensible speaker; once more, that is determined by your digital assistant desire.

This evaluation is a part of our roundup of the very best mesh Wi-Fi routers. Go there for data on competing merchandise and the way we examined them.

Nest Wifi parts

The $269 system Google despatched for this evaluation consists of a Nest Wifi router ($169 if bought solo) and a single Nest Wifi Level ($149 if bought individually). The Level, which is barely smaller than the router, is each a Wi-Fi entry level and a Google Residence sensible speaker that’s roughly equal in audio efficiency to a Nest Residence Mini. I’ll get into audio later; for now, a very powerful factor to know in regards to the Nest Wifi is that it’s a Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) mesh networking system that helps each star and daisy-chain mesh topologies. In different phrases, knowledge can journey straight backwards and forwards between the router and a given satellite tv for pc, or it could possibly hop backwards and forwards from one satellite tv for pc to a different.

Each the Nest Wifi router and the Nest Wifi Level are outfitted with Bluetooth LE and Thread radios for sensible house connectivity, however the Bluetooth radio within the router is presently dormant, and the Thread radio is dormant in each units. Thread is a low-power mesh networking expertise initially spearheaded by Nest Labs, however now supported by a broad spectrum of firms concerned in growing Web of Issues (IoT) units.

nest wifi and wifi point back Michael Brown / IDG

The again of the Nest Wifi router (left) and Wifi Level. Be aware the absence of ethernet ports on the Level.

Thread is an up-and-coming sensible house expertise, but it surely’s not but reached mainstream market acceptance. Nest Wifi doesn’t assist the 2 sensible house applied sciences that have achieved that standing—Z-Wave and Zigbee—so it can’t function a wise house hub by itself. If that’s what you you want, look to a Samsung SmartThings Wifi router or TP-Hyperlink’s Deco M9 Plus, as an alternative. Samsung’s system helps each applied sciences, whereas TP-Hyperlink’s helps simply Zigbee.

The Nest Wifi router has only one LAN port accessible (the opposite is a WAN port that you just’ll use to attach the router to your broadband gateway), so that you’ll want to purchase an ethernet swap you probably have multiple machine that have to be hardwired to your community.

Greater-end routers sometimes have a four-port ethernet swap, however reality be instructed, that’s often not enough for superior house networks, both. The Nest Wifi Level, nonetheless, doesn’t have any ethernet ports. Which means it could possibly’t use hardwired ethernet for knowledge backhaul. However that’s essential solely you probably have the infrastructure to benefit from it, and most houses don’t. That stated, the Orbi Voice has a two-port ethernet swap, which makes it the higher alternative for superior customers.

When it comes to specs, the Nest Wifi router is a dual-band AC2200 mannequin supporting 4 spatial streams in every course (4×4) on the 5GHz frequency band, and two spatial streams in every course (2×2) on the two.4GHz frequency band. The Nest Wifi Level is a dual-band Wi-Fi 5 mesh entry level, but it surely helps solely two streams in every course on every frequency band. You’ll discover the distinction in throughput as quickly as you progress your shopper machine away from the router. When my take a look at laptop computer was in the identical room because the router and wirelessly linked to it, I measured spectacular TCP throughput of 528.three Mbps—that’s simply 10 % decrease than the dearer Orbi Voice RBK50V equipment.

nest wifi router and wifi point benchmarks Michael Brown / IDG

A complete-home community hosted by the Nest Wifi and one Wifi Level delivers very robust efficiency at shut vary and the shopper is linked to the router. It’s not almost as spectacular when the shopper is connecting to the Level.

However after I moved the shopper into my nice room, the place it linked to the Nest Wifi Level, as an alternative of to the router, TCP throughput dropped to 84.7Mbps—this regardless of the Level’s location only a few ft away from the shopper (consult with the floorplan exhibiting the places I positioned the router, the entry level, and the shopper). The Orbi Voice RBK50V delivered throughput of 335Mbps at that very same location. What explains the hole? The Orbi system comes with Netgear’s finest mesh router, the tri-band RBR50, which operates two unbiased networks on the 5GHz frequency band, and a 3rd community on the two.4GHz band. One of many RBR50’s 5GHz networks is powered by a 4×4 radio that’s devoted to wi-fi knowledge backhaul to the router.

Google says the router alone ought to be able to blanketing as much as a 2,200-square-foot house with Wi-Fi, so I made a decision to reset the router and benchmark it with out the Level. I needed to see if having the shopper hook up with the router at each location of my 2,800-square-foot house, as an alternative of to the Level when the shopper was in different rooms of the home, would yield larger benchmark numbers. It didn’t. TCP throughput was considerably larger with the Level operating together with the router than it was with simply the router, which tells me the router alone doesn’t have super vary.

nest wifi router benchmarks Michael Brown / IDG

Lest you suppose you don’t want the Nest Wifi Level to serve a 2,800-square-foot house like mine, test the decrease numbers on this chart after I benchmarked the router with out it.

Nest Wifi router options

Listed here are another essential options of the Nest Wifi router that I didn’t point out earlier: It helps multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO), so it’s able to sending multiple knowledge sign utilizing the identical radio channel. It helps beamforming, which allows the router to focus its transmission alerts in order that extra knowledge reaches the shopper, versus radiating into the ambiance. And it helps band steering, which allows the router to detect whether or not a shopper is able to working on both the two.4- or 5GHz frequency spectrum, after which to push the shopper proactively to its least-congested community.

Though the Nest Wifi router and Nest Wifi Level are backward-compatible with the sooner Google Wifi, you’ll use the Google Residence app, not the Google Wifi app, to arrange the system. That stated, the latter app does reveal one little bit of details about the shoppers in your community that the previous doesn’t: You’ll be able to see which entry level the shopper is linked to. That’s helpful data for troubleshooting functions.

nest wifi ethernet ports 2 Michael Brown / IDG

The Nest Wifi router has one WAN port and one LAN port (each are gigabit ethernet).

Rudimentary parental controls are grouped beneath the heading “Household Wi-Fi.” You need to use this setting to group units collectively and management all of them on the identical time. When you’ve created a bunch of units you wish to management, you may block these units from accessing “grownup” content material (precisely what constitutes “grownup” content material is just not outlined). You can even “pause” the web for the whole group with a voice command, or on the contact of a button inside the app.

nest wifi parental controls schedule Michael Brown / IDG

When you’ve established which units you need Nest Wifi’s parental controls utilized to, you may set up schedules for when these units shall be blocked from accessing the web.

A extra helpful function permits you to create schedules (from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on college nights—Sunday by means of Thursday—for instance) that forestall the units in that group from accessing the web. This could be much more helpful if dad and mom might create a white listing of web sites that the children are allowed to go to—ClassTrak or Aeries, as an illustration—to handle their homework assignments and progress. Even so, as with most router-based parental controls, this function’s effectiveness is determined by whether or not every member of the household has their very own machine. If the household shares a laptop computer or a pill, the web shall be paused for mother and pa utilizing a given machine simply as completely as it’s for the children.

You’ll be able to arrange a password-protected visitor community, and you’ve got the choice of displaying the password on demand on Google Assistant-powered sensible shows, such because the Nest Hub Max.

You can even contact a button within the Google Residence app and show the password in your smartphone or pill, e mail it, or ship it to anybody through textual content message.

Whereas most customers gained’t care, Google provides you the choice of granting friends entry to all or any shoppers in your community. You clearly wouldn’t need friends to have entry to your whole community, however this function might be helpful in order for you guests to have the ability to stream music or video to a wise speaker or Chromecast machine linked to your TV or house stereo. It’s an all-or-nothing affair, nonetheless; you may’t select which guests get such privileges.

nest wifi test locations Michael Brown / IDG

You’ll be able to see on this floorplan the place the Nest Wifi router and the Nest WiFi Level had been positioned, in addition to the 4 places the place the shopper PC was put for testing.

The Nest Wifi router is a really user-friendly machine, and superior customers can drill right down to configure particulars akin to reserving an IP handle for any given community shopper, manually opening ports and forwarding packets coming in from the web to particular shoppers, and so forth. Most shoppers gained’t care about these options, however I’ve seen different mainstream routers that merely ignore extra superior customers in pursuit of ease of use. Kudos to Google for pondering of these superior customers.

You can even assign precedence dealing with to any shopper on the community for one, two, or 4 hours. Curiously, the router comes from the manufacturing unit preconfigured to provide everlasting precedence to visitors related to Google’s Stadia on-line gaming service. It’s simple sufficient to show this off, and leaving it enabled shouldn’t influence your community for those who’re not a Stadia person, but it surely appears presumptuous of Google to do that contemplating how few persons are.

Nest Wifi Level options

nest wifi point top and back Michael Brown / IDG

The Nest Wifi Level has 4 far-field mics and capacitive contact controls on high of the machine.

Along with being a mesh node, every Nest Wifi Level is a Google Assistant-powered sensible speaker, with all of the options that include that expertise. That features a single 40mm driver for audio and music playback, 4 far-field microphones for summoning Google Assistant, and capacitive contact controls on high of the speaker for pausing music playback and controlling the speaker’s quantity.

The mics will be disabled with a small swap on the again of the router. An LED circling the underside of the Level lights up when Google Assistant is listening and responding to you. This LED glows orange when the Wifi Level’s mic is muted. You can even use the speaker and microphones to make VoIP calls utilizing Google Duo. The folks you name will see your telephone quantity of their caller ID, regardless that the calls shall be carried out over your Wi-Fi community and never your mobile account.

I’m a giant fan of getting a number of sensible audio system sprinkled round the home, particularly you probably have a whole lot of sensible house units to regulate. I additionally get pleasure from having audio system all spherical my house, so combining a wise speaker and a Wi-Fi entry level right into a single element is an incredible attraction. As you may think about, nonetheless, the only 40mm driver within the Nest Wifi Level doesn’t make for a high-fidelity audio expertise. It does a good job of reproducing mid and excessive frequencies, however its bass response is anemic at finest—it’s definitely lower than what the unique Google Residence sensible speaker places out, and it pales compared with the Orbi Voice.

nest wifi power adapter in a strip Michael Brown / IDG

The Nest Wifi comes with a properly small wall wart that gained’t block adjoining plugs in an influence strip.

The Nest Wifi Level, alternatively, presents a function the Orbi Voice doesn’t: You’ll be able to group it with different Nest Wifi Factors and different Chromecast-compatible audio system and stream the identical music to all of them. You’ll be able to independently management the amount of every speaker, however pausing the music on one pauses the music on all. I additionally detected a really small diploma of latency between the Google Residence speaker in my house workplace and the Nest Wifi in my nice room, resulting in an undesirable echo after I was in place to listen to each audio system enjoying that very same music. I wouldn’t characterize both of these observations as a deal-killer, however nobody can buy a Nest Wifi system anticipating to get a world-class multi-room audio system within the cut price.

The underside line

Nest Wifi is an effective mesh community system, however I wouldn’t characterize it as one of many greats. It’s very simple to arrange, and having a wise speaker built-in into its entry level is a good function—offered Google Assistant is your digital assistant of alternative, and you’re not anticipating best-in-class multi-room audio efficiency. It’s an awesome alternative for anybody already working a Google Wifi community that they want to develop.

The place the system falls brief for me is the pace of the Nest Wifi Level. I don’t have any complaints in regards to the system’s capacity to cowl my whole house, however as you may see from the charts on this story, I’ve examined a number of mesh community techniques which have delivered a lot larger throughput.

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Newton Allan
Newton Allan is an expert of Apple and has started as a journalist for us (Trevino). He currently contributes for Trevino by writing about the latest happenings in the Apple INC.

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