Five years ago, the world of routers was dominated by names such as Netgear, Asus, TP-Link and Linksys. Google was not in the conversation and there was no router to buy (or even a real hardware division for that matter).
Fast forward to 2019, and Google is claiming the best-selling router thanks to the popularity of its Google Wifi networking system, which it introduced in 2016. It is even more popular than Eero, which first popularized the idea for a network router for better Wi-Fi coverage at home.
Now, Google is launching its next steps: the more powerful and capable Nest Wifi system. Available in a variety of configurations starting at $ 1
I tested the $ 269 kit, which includes a router and one eye point in my approximately 2,000 square foot home divided into levels. Google says this package provides as much coverage as three Google Wifi packages, and is suitable for homes up to 3,800 square feet and up to 200 connected devices. The $ 349 option provides a second point and can cover up to 5,400 square feet and up to 300 devices.
Like other networking systems, Nest Wifi is not a modem so you have to be plugged into the modem you already have (probably provided by your ISP) to work . For me, that meant plugging into my relationship with Verizon Fios, which is a gigabit fiber connection. (Unlike Eero and others, Nest Wifi does not work in bridge mode, making its setup with Fios more inverted than other routers. For more information on how to make Nest Wifi work with Fios connection, see this post on Verizon & # 39; s forums.) This link enters my home in the main floor living room. Then I placed the Point in my home office, a level below where the router is.
This arrangement was enough to provide strong Wi-Fi in every part of my home and give me enough bandwidth to transmit 4K video wherever I had the signal. It also manually controls the 50-plus devices that are connected to my Wi-Fi network at a time, and had no problem "jumping" devices from the router to the Point when I moved home.
Nest Wifi consistently delivers faster speeds on my devices than Google Wifi and similar speeds to those I get from Eero Pro and Netgear Orbi, provided the devices were connected to the main router rather than the point. When you connect to Point, the speeds were cut in half, probably due to the less capable Point antennas and the lack of a dedicated router back channel to communicate with the point, as Eero Pro and Orbi systems do. Since my internet service provided me with gigabit speeds, I still had over 100 megabytes of bandwidth for both uploading and downloading, no matter where I was at home, but this was far from the approximate 900 megabits that went into my house. The average US broadband speed is just under 100 megabits, so most people will be able to get the most out of their Nest Wifi provider.
In addition to the weaker radios, Point does not have any Ethernet jacks, so you cannot use an Ethernet backhaul to connect it to the router or connect devices directly to the point where it is placed.
But where Point lacks Wi-Fi capabilities, this is offset by the fact that it pulls double duty as an intelligent voice speaker. In essence, it is a Nest Mini spokesman, turned into an original Google Wifi washer. It sounds a lot like the Nest Mini, which is not bad, but at the base it has a glowing ring that glows white when you talk to it and orange when the microphone is muted. It even has the same touch controls as the Nest Mini to adjust the volume or stop playback. Google intends to put Point outdoors, which provides the best wireless and intelligent speaker performance so that it design looks better than a typical router. It also comes in three colors – white, pale blue or pale pink, while the main router is available in white only.
The Point supports all the same voice controls for Google Assistant as the Nest Mini, but also adds several router-specific voice commands, such as speed testing or disconnection to device groups managed in the Google Home app. If you have Nest Hub or Hub Max, you can also run speed tests from there or display guest network credentials
If you do not need another smart speaker in your home or prefer Amazo & # 39; s Echo, Google is selling two packages of router that has no points for $ 299. It also gives you a little better coverage than router and point and provides Ethernet jacks at both places where you place the nodes with cable support.
As mentioned, Nest Wifi does not have a dedicated wireless backbone. relying on the traditional 2.4GHz and 5GHz dual band system for both router and point connections and device connections. Sanjay Noronha, Google Nest connectivity leader, says the company has decided on this approach because it can manage traffic efficiently with software and does not need to add another level of hardware cost and complexity to the mix. But in my experience, a dedicated backbone provides faster speeds for devices that are connected to network points farther from the main router.
Similarly, Nest Wifi does not support the newly ratified Wi-Fi 6 protocol, which is designed to provide more efficient connections to devices that have Wi-Fi 6 capabilities. Noronha says that maintaining Wi-Fi 6 at this stage would add a lot of cost to the system with few benefits for the vast majority of customers, since the vast majority of Wi-Fi devices still do not support Wi-Fi 6.
Setting up Nest Wifi requires a Google Account and the recently updated Google Home App for iOS or Android. The Home app guides you through installing the router, setting up a new Wi-Fi network and password, and putting Point in the optimum place in your home. You can run speed tests through it, see how many devices are connected to the network and prioritize specific devices, create a guest network and plan Wi-Fi breaks for children on the network. You can also block adult sites on any device.
But if you want to access more advanced features, such as seeing which node a particular device is connected to or configuring port forwarding, you'll need to use the old Google Wifi application that was updated to support Nest Wifi . Google says it will continue to support both applications until the Google Home app has all the features currently available in the Wifi app.
Like Google Wifi and Eero systems, Nest Wifi relies on Google's cloud services for features such as automatic channel selection, remote network management, identifying connected devices, and providing statistics on data usage. You may disable cloud connectivity in the Home app, but Google says Nest Wifi will not perform well without them. Nest Wifi also uses Google's default DNS services, but the company claims that it does not associate Google's public DNS information with Google accounts and that the DNS provider can be changed through the Google Wifi app.
Unlike Eero, Nest Wifi has no & # 39; you do not have a subscription component for ad blocking, filtering, and other security features.
At $ 269, the Router and Point-Pack are just a little more expensive than the New Eero Three Node System for $ 249, but still provide better or better coverage and faster speeds than the Eero. It's also significantly cheaper than Eero Pro or the newer Wi-Fi 6 routers than Linksys or Netgear. This makes Nest Wifi, like Google Wifi before it, an enticing value that is likely to prove very popular. This is not the fastest network router system you can get, and if you have a very fast internet connection at home like me, you won't be able to access most of your bandwidth through Nest Wifi, though a little other Wi-Fi At this point, the routers can do much better.
So for most people, Nest Wifi performs well, looks good, provides some unique features, and doesn't cost a fortune. It looks like Google has another winning router on hand.
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. They do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. For more information, see our Ethics Policy .