Google Nest WiFi Review: No-hassle mesh networking

Google Nest WiFi Review: No-hassle mesh networking

“Google's Nest WiFi is a great mesh networking system with a secret. It's also a smart speaker.”
  • Simple installation and setup
  • Google Assistant integration
  • Ability to expand coverage
  • Contemporary design fits any decor
  • Somewhat expensive
  • Single ethernet port

For the average Joe, getting internet service at home means either calling up a local service provider or surfing the web to find the best deals around. Once there’s something worth subscribing to, a technician comes out for the installation. You’re usually up and running in a matter of minutes. Most people don’t ever worry about replacing a router — unless they need to have more coverage.

That’s where the Google Nest Wifi comes to life with its whole-home coverage and consistency. Fundamentally, the Nest Wifi aims to accomplish the same task as most other Mesh Wi-Fi routers, but Google’s interpretation secretly offers a couple of notable features that continue the company’s focus on delivering multi-functional devices for the smart home.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to set it up

Routers can be overwhelming to set up, especially for those who don’t have a background in networking. Google makes the process painless and simple with the included quick start guide. I’ve had my fair share of frustration with overly complex router setups, but this one was without question the simplest to get up and running.

Using the Google Home app on my Android smartphone, I was guided to connect the Nest WiFi router to my existing Xfinity xFi Gateway modem using the included Ethernet port.

google nest wifi review 9 of 13
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Once I finished setting up the appropriate SSID and password for my network, connecting the Nest WiFi point required me to capture the QR code on the unit using the Google Home app. From there, it automatically communicated with the router to establish the mesh network.

While I do appreciate Google’s approach with the setup process, anyone who has configured other mesh networking systems won’t find it unique or unusual. For example, Netgear’s Orbi Mesh Wi-Fi system has a similar setup process. Mesh networking systems are all about ease-of-use, and Google’s competitors at Netgear and Linksys haven’t been caught off-guard.

The real key to Google’s approach is Google’s own brand. The Nest WiFi maintains the company’s software look and feel. If you use a Pixel phone, or own another Google Home device, the Nest WiFi will seem familiar from the start.

Finally, a smarter implementation

There’s little love given to routers in general. Once they’re set up, they’re typically left hidden behind a cabinet or entertainment system and forgotten unless a problem arises. Here, the integration of Google Assistant with the Wi-Fi point shows the company embracing the multi-functional aspect of its devices.

Not only is the Wi-Fi point helpful in expanding coverage in the home, but it can be used to do all the same things as any of Google’s smart speakers. It essentially doubles as a Nest Mini speaker, allowing it to play music, access Google Assistant, and even control other connected smart home gadgets through voice actions.

Speaking of music, it’s a slight step up from the Nest Mini’s audio performance with the pronounced bass it pumps out, making it a smidgen more substantial and pleasing to the ear. Similar to the Nest Mini, proximity sensors can detect when you’re close, and will light up the LEDs on top of the unit. Even better, I like how the LED ring around the body lights up whenever you command the Google Assistant.

Mind you, it’s pricier at $150 a pop, versus a meager $50 for the Nest Mini. The Nest WiFi access point is router first, smart speaker second. Still, it’s nice to see it function as more than just an access point for a mesh network.

The pricing is on par to its rivals, seeing that add-on satellites for Netgear’s Orbi and Amazon’s Eero mesh systems have a similar MSRP. Letting the hardware double as a smart speaker gives Google’s offering more value.

Blanketing dead zones

I live in a small apartment that’s around 1,100 square feet, so my existing xFi Gateway manages to cover most places, though outlying areas can be spotty. The worst spots are in my bedroom and bathroom, where I tend to see weaker Wi-Fi connectivity, usually at around one or two bars. The signal needs to pass through a couple of walls and other obstructions.

The Nest WiFi mesh system blankets those areas with sufficient coverage, without degrading speed in the process, by simultaneously leveraging the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands for optimal performance. I’m still able to get speeds of about 900 Mbps down and 40 Mbps up, which are similar to what I get when I’m in the same room as my Xfinity xFi Gateway. For those outlying areas that didn’t quite get blanketed previously, it’s great to see that my connection speed is now retained.

google nest wifi review 13 of
John Velasco / Digital Trends

The benefit here is the added reach of my Wi-Fi network. Even though it doesn’t drastically change my current setup, I can enjoy better Wi-Fi in the extreme corners of my home, which makes for a more reliable connection overall.

By itself, the router delivers upwards of 2,200 square feet of coverage, while each Wifi point adds another 1,600 square feet. The benefit here, naturally, is that you can scale the setup accordingly to deliver proper coverage throughout the home. Of course, this isn’t something you can achieve with most routers, unless they’re  designed with mesh networking in mind.

For comparison, the 2nd generation Eero Pro gateway covers 1,750 square feet, with each beacon capable of blanketing 1,500 square feet. Even more impressive, however, is the 3,500 square feet coverage with Netgear’s Orbi Router and the additional 2,000 square feet coverage with each satellite.

Overall, Google’s Nest WiFi is not the most technically capable option. However, the average American home is just under 2,500 square feet. That means a Nest WiFi router with one access point should be adequate.

Room for more expansion

Google’s approach to this is networking simple and easy, something I feel is achieved here with the Nest WiFi. However, those who crave advanced controls and features will be disappointed by the slim offerings here.

Sure, there’s access to features such as setting up a guest network, parental controls/restrictions, and even prioritizing traffic, but you won’t find other advanced features that serious networking geeks love about routers — like MAC address filtering, specifying static IP addresses, and dynamic DNS. There are mesh systems that do offer these features, but the cost attached to them is higher.

google nest wifi review 5 of 13
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Another thing that may disappoint people is that the Nest WiFi router only features a single Ethernet port. Meaning, you’ll need to purchase an Ethernet hub if you need to hard wire several devices to the network. The majority of mesh Wi-Fi routers tend to offer a single ethernet port, but then you have a few, like the Linksys Max-Stream AC2200 router, which are more generous with its four ethernet ports.

While I do appreciate the Google Assistant integration with the Wi-Fi point, it really would’ve been beneficial to have an Ethernet port as well — but sadly there’s none.

Warranty information

Since it’s stationary, there shouldn’t be much of a concern of it going bad. In the event it does, there’s a one year limited warranty that covers defects.

Our Take

The Google Nest WiFi may be on the pricey side at $269 for a router and Wi-Fi point combination, but it’s the easiest mesh system to configure and cover your entire home.

Are there better alternatives?

If you’re looking for something cheaper with the same expansive reach, then you’ll want to consider the alternatives — like the Netgear Orbi that costs $160 for the same configuration. While Netgear’s mesh system offers more range, it doesn’t have the smart assistant feature you get with the Nest Wifi point.

Another option is Amazon’s new eero router, which at $100 for a 1-pack, is a bargain ($250 for a 3-pack). These two option offer the same straightforward setup as Google’s Nest Wifi.

If you want more advanced setup options, consider the Linksys Velop MX5300 or Netgear XRM570 Nighthawk Pro Gaming WiFi Router. They’re substantially more expensive at $400 each for the routers themselves, but you get advanced networking controls and several Ethernet ports to hard wire devices.

How long will it last?

Given that the router and Wi-Fi point are going to be stationary, it should last quite a while undisturbed — much like any networking gear.

Should you buy it?

Yes. Not only will you be able to expand your Wi-Fi’s coverage, but the Nest Wifi system can be used control your home’s various connected devices. 

Editors' Recommendations