Simple, speedy mesh internet and a great foundation for Google smart homes – CNET

When I first pulled the lid off of the Google Nest Wifi box, the whole thing slipped out of my hands and the hardware inside toppled right out. I could only watch in horror as Google’s marshmallowy mesh router thunked to the ground and rolled across my living room’s hardwood floor. 

Fortunately, this system is idiot-proof — and not just when it comes to sudden, spontaneous drop tests. You plug it in, you do what the app says, and 10 minutes later your new mesh network is up and running and spreading a Wi-Fi signal throughout your house that’s about as speedy as you could reasonably expect. It’s as easy as setting up a smart speaker, because in addition to extending the Nest Wifi Router’s range, each Nest Wifi Point is, itself, a smart speaker. You get one of each — the Google Nest Wifi Router and a Nest Wifi Point with built-in microphones and surprisingly adequate bass — for $269 (£239, AU$399).

The Nest Wifi Router, left, and a range-extending Nest Wifi Point. The holes on the top of the Point are for the far-field microphones it uses to listen for your Google Assistant voice commands.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Between the presence of Google Assistant and the fact that you’ll run everything through the Google Home app, the Nest Wifi asks you to plant a foot in Google’s smart-home garden if you haven’t done so already. And it isn’t cheap. For comparison, the third-gen, three-piece mesh system from Amazon-owned Eero costs $249, or 20 bucks less than a Nest Wifi setup with just two devices. Meanwhile, a three-piece Netgear Orbi AC1200 mesh system costs $229 at Best Buy. That’s more than $100 less than the three-piece version of Nest Wifi.

Still, the Nest Wifi proved fast, reliable and easy to use, and it edged out the Eero and Orbi in my speed tests (yes, even after I dropped it). It doesn’t support the latest, fastest version of Wi-Fi, called Wi-Fi 6, but that only really matters if you expect to have an internet connection that’s faster than 500 megabits per second or so within the next few years (don’t hold your breath). 

That all adds up to the mesh router I would tell most people to consider first if they were thinking about buying one right now. The winner of our Editors’ Choice Award, the Google Nest Wifi, is a great upgrade for anyone who’s already invested in Google’s internet ecosystem of services and devices, particularly those who would welcome the chance to expand Google Assistant’s footprint in their home. But those who aren’t committed to Google at this point would be wise to shop around, because better mesh values with comparable coverage are already available today.

google-home-nest-wifi-points-1612

Editors’ note, April 8, 2020: We have updated this review with testing data from additional products. Google Nest Wifi remains one of our top mesh router picks.


A new design

Google is currently working to center all of its smart home offerings behind a unified Nest brand. Hence, what was Google Wifi is now Google Nest Wifi. Google marked the occasion with a brand new design, faster top speeds, and the addition of Google Assistant voice controls in each each Nest Wifi Point. And, in a welcome touch for existing users, all of the new hardware is backwards-compatible with the previous-gen Google Wifi gear.

Nest branding aside, you’ll control everything via the Google Home app, which requires you to have a Google account. The app is clean and fairly simple, and it does a great job of walking you through a setup process that’s easy to begin with. You just plug everything in, tell the app to connect with the router, and then scan a QR code on the bottom of each Point with your phone’s camera. A few minutes later, your mesh network will be up and running.

The Google Home app lets you create groups of devices on your network and then pause their internet access whenever you like. Be afraid, unruly children.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

The app doesn’t offer quite as many features as something like a dedicated gaming router, but you still get some useful controls over your network. You can view the devices connected to it and group them together, then pause the connection to those devices at any time you like, including with a quick voice command. That’s basically a parental superpower, but it’s not exclusive to Google — most decent routers some form of device-blocking functionality at this point, and several can sync up with Alexa or the Google Assistant to let you turn the connection on and off for groups of devices using a quick voice command.

The Nest Wifi can also prioritize traffic to any of the devices on your network, which comes in handy if you’re streaming 4K video or gaming online. Speaking of gaming, the system will automatically prioritize traffic for Google Stadia, the search giant’s cloud gaming platform.

You only get one spare gigabit Ethernet port on the bottom of Nest’s router — and the Nest Wifi Point doesn’t include any Ethernet jacks at all.

Chris Monroe/CNET

As for the hardware itself, the Nest Wifi Router and Nest Wifi Point each feature a simplistic, inoffensive design that’s built to blend into your home without needing to be hidden out of sight, where they won’t perform as well. To that end, the Points come in your choice of three colors, but the Router only comes in white. 

One other quibble: The router only includes a single spare Ethernet jack, and there aren’t any Ethernet jacks on the Points at all. That means you only get a single wired connection for something like a gaming console or a smart home bridge before you’ll need to buy a separate Ethernet hub. It also means you can’t run a cable to the Nest Wifi Point to daisy-chain a wired connection for faster mesh performance.

You can tap the top of the Nest Wifi Point to pause or resume playback, or to adjust the volume. Like with the Nest Mini, indicator lights will show you where those volume controls are located.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Speaking of the Points, they’re functionally identical to Google’s Nest Mini smart speakers. They include access to all of the same, voice-activated Google Assistant features, as well as a microphone mute switch in the back and touch controls on top. Sound quality is more or less on par with the Nest Mini and with other small smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo Dot — which is to say that it’s ideal for casual listening, but likely to underwhelm at a house party.

Like the Google Wifi before (and like most other mesh networks), the dual-band Nest Wifi doesn’t separate the 2.4GHz band from the faster 5GHz band. Instead, it automatically “steers” you between the two of them on a single network as you move throughout your home. This worked particularly well in my tests, where I moved from room to room, running speed test after speed test — I never noticed any hiccups in the signal whatsoever. Despite dropping the thing, it never once saw fit to return the favor and drop my connection.

The mesh category is getting crowded — and increasingly affordable.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Is Nest’s mesh best?

At launch in 2019, the Nest Wifi’s top two competitors were the Eero and Netgear Orbi, two high-profile rivals who each launched new mesh systems around the same time as Google, each of them is less expensive than Nest. With the Eero, you get a three-piece mesh setup for $249. With the newest Netgear Orbi system, a three-piece setup costs $229. For comparison, a three-piece Nest Wifi setup costs $349.

Since then, we’ve seen a number of new mesh systems hit the market, including several new systems that support next-gen Wi-Fi 6 speeds. They include a faster, fancier Netgear Orbi system and a more budget-friendly Netgear Nighthawk setup, as well as a new Wi-Fi 6 Asus ZenWiFi mesh system.

So, how does the Nest Wifi measure up?

Source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *