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Lifewire / Andrew Hayward
Incredibly easy setup
Wi-Fi points are smart speakers
Limited Ethernet ports
Can be pricey
Google Nest Wi-Fi warrants its high price tag with super-smooth wireless performance throughout the home and incredibly easy setup and use.
For the average user, there’s nothing better for home Wi-Fi than a mesh network. Rather than have a single Wi-Fi router that you can optionally add separate extender devices to, mesh networks spread the signal across multiple small nodes to ensure smooth, seamless coverage throughout your home.
Google’s Nest Wi-Fi is one of the most prominent and alluring options in the game. Released in late 2019, Nest Wi-Fi improves upon the original Google Wi-Fi hardware with faster speeds and more refined-looking hardware that can blend into your home—rather than stick out like a sore thumb as most routers do. It’s one of the pricier mesh Wi-Fi systems out there, and you can definitely find a cheaper alternative, but Google Nest Wi-Fi excels at delivering whole-house coverage, impressive speeds, excellent hardware design, and a foolproof setup process. I tested Google Nest Wi-Fi in and around my house for several days using a two-router configuration.
Google Nest Wi-Fi’s router probably doesn’t look anything like the past routers you’ve had. It doesn’t have any antennas sticking up, or angular, techy design.
Instead, it’s like a big plastic marshmallow—a simple, inconspicuous rounded rectangle at approximate dimensions of 4.3 x 4.3 x 3.6 inches HWD). It has a very subtle “G” logo etched into the top and a single dimmed LED status light on the front. On the bottom is a rubberized base, as well as a little cutout space that has a port for the power adapter and two Ethernet ports: one for plugging in the internet from your router and another for linking in a wired device.
You can then pair in slightly smaller Wi-Fi points that look similar but also come in blue and pink, in addition to white (the router is only available in white). These points help extend the Wi-Fi signal throughout your house but also double as smart speakers (like the Google Home) with the spoken Google Assistant built-in. The Wi-Fi points do not have any Ethernet ports, however, which might disappoint anyone trying to hook in a wired device such as a game console or computer away from the main router unit.
You’ll feel the influence of Google in the setup process, which is incredibly simple and very difficult to screw up. After fumbling through clunky app-based setup processes for Wi-Fi extenders by other manufacturers, it was a breath of fresh air to set up a Wi-Fi system and have it feel absolutely foolproof.
It’s a breath of fresh air to set up a Wi-Fi system and have it feel absolutely foolproof.
Simply plug the Nest Wi-Fi router into the wall with the power adapter, and into your modem using the included Ethernet cable. You’ll need a smartphone or tablet handy to download the Google Home app (iOS or Android) if you don’t already have it handy, and then the app will sense the nearby device and guide you through the setup.
Once your Wi-Fi network is established, you can follow the steps shown to connect in a Nest Wi-Fi point or additional router, and the app will test the quality of your mesh network and let you know whether or not it’s good to go.
Traditional routers typically give you separate 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks, and you can connect to either and switch between them as you please. The 2.4GHz network tends to reach farther but at slower speeds, while 5GHz is faster but typically offers less range. However, Google Nest Wi-Fi combines the two bands into a single Wi-Fi network and automatically chooses which brand is most likely to give you the strongest performance for your device. According to Google, each router and Wi-Fi point can support up to 100 simultaneous devices.
Nest Wi-Fi is built for simplicity, which it excels at—although it’s possible that you could run into issues with devices that only support the 2.4GHz band, such as some smart home devices (especially older ones). I didn’t encounter any problems on that front, but it’s a semi-common complaint that also affects other mesh networks, such as Netgear Orbi.
The Nest Wi-Fi router delivers up to 2,200 square feet of Wi-Fi coverage, with each Wi-Fi point adding up to another 1,600 square feet to that tally. I used a dual-router setup that could cover up to 4,400 square feet—which is a lot more square feet than my house actually spans. It also uses MU-MIMO (multiple user, multi-in multi-out) to accommodate numerous connections at once and beamforming to maximize the quality of the signal to your device.
The Nest Wi-Fi router delivers up to 2,200 square feet of Wi-Fi coverage, with each Wi-Fi point adding up to another 1,600 square feet to that tally.
Needless to say, my whole house was blanketed in connectivity with the Nest Wi-Fi setup. I tested reception in every room of the house and saw consistent performance across the board with only modest differences in speed. On top of that, I hit new peak speeds in my home with Nest Wi-Fi installed. I measured a 616Mbps download speed on my OnePlus 7 Pro smartphone on one occasion, which was higher than the average. In fact, speeds were consistently above 100Mbps and much higher than I’d seen with my old TP-Link router installed.
Even in my large backyard, I saw decent Wi-Fi speeds all the way to the back—approximately 75 feet away from either router. During one test at a peak time during the day, I saw 80Mbps download speed near the second router (used as a Wi-Fi point) and then 59Mbps at 25 feet, 46Mbps at 50 feet, and 44Mbps at 75 feet. Like any extender or mesh network, the speed will drop the farther you get away from a Wi-Fi point, but I could still comfortably stream video and use my phone and laptop even at a fair distance from the house.
I hit new peak speeds in my home with Nest Wi-Fi installed—I measured a 616Mbps download speed on my OnePlus 7 Pro.
The lack of Ethernet points is probably the biggest downside of Google Nest Wi-Fi, at least for people who want to use multiple game consoles or other hardwired devices. The Wi-Fi points don’t have any Ethernet ports at all, while each router only has one that you can use for connecting in devices. You can use a splitter to link in multiple devices to that single router port, but it’s one area in which Nest Wi-Fi’s overall simplicity may prove annoying for some users.
Luckily, gaming performance was strong in my testing across both the wireless network and the Ethernet port. I saw low ping (25-35ms) from the Ethernet port and about 10ms higher from Wi-Fi in Rocket League on PC, and it was smooth across the board.
Google Nest Wi-Fi is definitely an investment. The router itself sells for $169, or you can get a router and Wi-Fi point bundle for $269. The two-router pack we used for this review sells for $299 on Amazon. A pack with a router and two Wi-Fi points (up to 5,400 square feet) sells for $349, and you can purchase a single Wi-Fi point for $149 to expand upon any of those systems.
Given the performance and ease of use, I’d happily spend $269 or more to outfit my house with Google Nest Wi-Fi. It’s much smoother and faster than my old router setup and seamless. Plus, it can deliver the speeds you deserve if you’re paying for a high-speed broadband connection and have a modem capable of handling them.
Netgear Orbi currently ranks as our favorite mesh Wi-Fi system. Pricing is similar between the two (see on Amazon) and both will give you great range and speed, but each has its own advantages. The Orbi hardware is loaded with Ethernet ports, with three each on the router itself and the extenders, making up for one of Nest Wi-Fi’s biggest weaknesses. However, the Nest Wi-Fi hardware is much less conspicuous and does a better job of hiding in your home surroundings. You’ll have to decide which is more important to you on that front.
Add it to your own nest.
If you’re on the hunt for a premium mesh Wi-Fi system that’ll cover your whole home and deliver stellar speeds, then Google Nest Wi-Fi definitely fits the bill. It feels like such a step up from my older router/extender combo—and if you’re in the market for a new router today, then you’re probably best off investing in a mesh network to overcome dead zones. Google’s option is one of the best around if you can swing the investment.