Nest WiFi review

Google proves that good things really can come in small packages with its Nest WiFi family of mesh routers (

With minimalist connections, the router has a pair of Ethernet ports, a power plug and a thoughtful cutout to route the cables. The router lacks a USB connector or a power switch, while the extensions do without any wired connection, so they can’t be used as cabled access points the way Netgear Orbi hardware can. 

Inside, the extension has a microphone array, a 4.8-watt amplifier and a 1.6-inch speaker that radiates the sound 360 degrees. They can hear commands from about 15 feet away, and can be individually used for music or grouped together digitally for a homewide sound system on the cheap.

(Image credit: Google)

Using Google’s Broadcast function, the extensions can be used as an intercom that can also link with other Google Home gear and Nest Hubs for audio calls. There is a switch on each extension to turn the microphone off and preserve privacy.

Surprisingly, based on its size, its sound quality is richer and sharper than Orbi Voice but lacks low-end bass response and doesn’t get nearly as loud as the Orbi RBK40V. It should be fine for a small room, but the music will likely get lost in the chatter of a party. Unfortunately, there’s no audio-out jack to patch into an external speaker, but I was able to wirelessly link the extension with a Bluetooth speaker in about 2 minutes. Alternatively, you can pair the extension with a Google Mini speaker as the right or left stereo channel for fuller sound.

The network ran without a problem, reliably distributing my internet connection and playing everything from the latest Kevin Gates track to the sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti to the latest BBC World News headlines. The incoming connection’s 235Mbps bandwidth dropped to 187Mbps at the router and 178Mbps at the extension, a 25 % decline.

(Image credit: Google)

The Nest WiFi not only lets you create a homewide Wi-Fi network, it also has Google Home built in, so it can also listen to your commands and play your favorite tunes.

Overall, the router had a range of 80 feet and the mesh extension added another 50 feet. This should be fine for most homes, but it came up a little short in filling my house, leaving dead spots on the top floor and at the extremities. Clearly, having a second extension would have helped.

The system’s throughput was more than enough to pass our informal saturation test, where I connected four different computers, including an Apple Macbook Air, a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, a Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ and a Lenovo Thinkpad T470, to watch videos and listen to Internet radio while moving data back and forth from a networked RAID storage array. I didn’t detect any data hiccups or lost frames, even when listening to music on the Nest WiFi extension.

  • Google’s Nest Wifi Router Doubles as a Google Home

While working, the router stayed cool, but the extension got warm to the touch. The used 3.7 and 4.3 watts of power, respectively, less than half the power an Orbi Router and Voice require. Together, they might cost $8.40 a year in electricity bills if they’re connected 24/7 and you pay the national average for electricity of 13 cents per kilowatt-hour. All told, it’s a small price to pay for Wi-Fi and music on demand.

 Nest WiFi review: Setup 

The installation routine for creating a Nest Wi-Fi network is easy and logical with simple illustrated step-by-step instructions. You will need a phone or tablet because, unlike Netgear’s Orbi, there’s no way to set it up or configure the Nest WiFi units with a connected web browser. All told, it took a little less than 20 minutes to install the router and extension in my home, a little longer than the 15 minutes it took for an Orbi Voice. For me, it started with installing the Google Home app on my Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ phone.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

After tapping “Create a home,” I tapped to set up new devices. Then, I gave my house a name.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

The software then scanned for and found the Nest WiFi router in a couple seconds. I snapped the QR code found on the underside of the router and allowed the software to connect with the router. A series of animated colored rings appeared around the router’s photo on-screen to show it connected.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

I then named the router’s room and entered what I wanted to use as the network’s name and password. At this point I agreed to have Google run networking tests, diagnose problems and create statistics.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

Once the router is set up, you’ll need to add the Point extension. I powered it up and the app scanned for and quickly found it. Once I named its room, the extension played a short tune to verify the successful connection.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

Next up, I created a voice print to identity me later; it took about a minute of saying various things and waiting on its processing. I then set the system up to play music using Spotify by logging in. I could have linked to my Sirius XM satellite radio account but chose not to.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

Nearly done, the Nest WiFi then updated its firmware. Once it checked the connection between the router and the extension, the extension played a short tune. Finished, the app showed all the setup details.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

With everything working, I was able to connect my trusty iPad Pro to the extension on the first try. I then took a test drive by asking Google’s voice assistant to tell me the time, weather and current traffic on the George Washington Bridge. Finally, I sat back and listened to some tunes.

 Nest WiFi review: Configuration 

The Nest WiFi equipment relies primarily on the Google Home app for making configuration changes, although the customization options are few and far between. In addition to adding extensions and setting up groups, the app can adjust how bright the router and extensions glow.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

At any time, I was able to run a networking test, remotely restart the network or show the Guest network’s password on a smart display. The Settings pages for the router and extension show some detail, like IP addresses and firmware version.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

What’s missing are traditional setting choices that most other routers have, like setting static IP addresses, managing ports or picking which Wi-Fi channel to use. Most won’t miss these items, but it might be a deal-breaker for those who like to tweak their gear.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

For accessing these more advanced features, use the older Google Wi-Fi app. There you can make DHCP reservations or manage the system’s privacy settings. That the two apps haven’t been integrated is a mystery.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

 Nest WiFi review: Smart-home integration 

Along with the Nest WiFi gear, Google’s Home app can be a one-stop shop for controlling a variety of home automation items, like any of the best smart light bulbs. To add a device, tap the “+” in the main screen’s upper left corner.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

Be warned, the Home app is a little picky and balked at using a Belkin Wemo ligh tbulb and an Go to Source