Google is proving that good things can come in small packages with its Nest Wi-Fi Network Router ($269 for the two packages we looked at).
Compact network units have the power to fill the house with a strong Wi-Fi signal, and even have a built-in Google Home speaker for voice commands and music playback, giving homeowners the same kind of control.
Smart speaker with Netgear Orbi Voice, an expensive addition to our top pick for the previous best network Wi-Fi system, the Netgear Orbi.
The Nest Wi-Fi kit isn’t perfect; We’d love to see more customization options and a better range of individual units, but compared to the latest competing network systems, Nest Wi-Fi is smaller and more affordable than Netgear Orbi with an extension for Orbi Voice and more powerful than the latest Eero network system.
In other words, the two-part kit manages data and music delivery over a Wi-Fi network.
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Nest Wi-Fi Design
Nest Wi-Fi is made up of devices that look like large plastic marshmallows, the devices on the Nest Wi-Fi network are small and easy to hide. In addition to keep them on a shelf, they are placed on a window sill or a coffee table.
The router has a diameter of 4.3 inches and a height of 3.6 inches. In contrast, stitch extensions are slightly smaller, 4.0 inches in diameter and 3.4 inches in height.
Both have rifle-type cooling holes in their bases and are small compared to comparable Netgear Orbi devices, which are almost 10 inches taller.
Nest Wi-Fi devices should blend in with a variety of home decors using Google Home’s evolving organic design language, without harshness or delicate colours. The router is only available in white, but the extensions are available in fog (light blue), sand (yellow-brown), or white.
The concept of Nest Wi-Fi is similar to Netgear’s Orbi Voice: the router is the hub of home networks, while Nest Wi-Fi hotspot extensions have a dual function: they push the Wi-Fi signal further. At home and can respond to voice commands and reproduce sound. Extensions are a combination of a network repeater and a Google Home Mini smart speaker.
According to Google, the router sells for $169 and can cover 2,200 square feet. A router and a two-extender plan, enough to carry up to 3,800 square feet, costs $269. By comparison, Google’s three old Wi-Fi devices were supposed to occupy roughly the same space.
Three Nest Wi-Fi plans increase coverage to 5,400 square feet by $349. After that, each additional extension costs $149, a saving of $50 compared to the Netgear Orbi Voice speaker extension.
Nest Wi-Fi can accommodate up to 33 extensions, and all homes except the smallest will need an extension or two. The important news is that the previous generation of Google Wi-Fi devices can be used as an extension with Nest Wi-Fi to extend network range but without audio capabilities.
Nest Wi-Fi Specifications
- Wi-Fi Specifications – Dual Band/802.11ac Network Kit with Speaker Extension
- Number of antennas/removable: 4/no
- Connections: router: two Gbps Ethernet, power supply; Extension: none
- Processor: 1.4 GHz quad-core
- Memory/storage: router – 1 GB/4 GB; Extension: 768 MB/512 MB
- Wi-Fi chip: Qualcomm QCS 400 family
- Size: Router: 4.3 inch x 3.6 inch in diameter; Extension: 4.0 inches in diameter x 3.4 inches in height
Nest Wi-Fi Performance
Nest Wi-Fi is built around a customized version of Qualcomm’s QCS400 family of chips, the Nest Wi-Fi router and extensions use a 1.4 GHz quad-core processor and a pair of digital signal processors (DSPs).
In contrast, the attachments feature remote voice detection technology. The router has 1 GB of RAM and 4 GB of flash memory for firmware and settings, while the extensions have 768 MB of RAM and 512 MB of storage space.
Fortunately, the router uses a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) to authenticate its automatic firmware updates. This means that software changes made to the system are secure and accepted only if Google digitally signs them.
The design incorporates Wi-Fi Protected Access Security (WPA 3), but only a few network devices support this new standard. You can still use standard WPA 2.
To measure the performance of the Nest Wi-Fi device, it was tested with the Ixia’s IxChariot version. The best performance of the router came within a five-meter radius of the Nest base unit with the ability to move 653.2 Mbps.
It’s a huge step up from the original Google Wi-Fi (464.3 Mb/s) and far ahead of Eero 2019 (342.2 Mb/s). The former category leader, the Netgear Orbi RBK50, achieved an average bandwidth of 552.1 Mbps at 5 feet.
Nest Wi-Fi performance dropped to 612.0 and 455.1 Mbps at 15 and 50 feet, 11-15% ahead of the Orbi RBK50 network system. At 50 feet, Orbi rounded the board and took the lead with 478.3 Mbps versus Nest’s 455.1 Mbps. At 30 meters, Nest regained the lead with 394.0 Mbps available versus 315.5 Mbps on the Orbi RBK50 system.
The Eero 2019 blew in our wall penetration test, where the signal has to pass through three walls and 40 meters of rugged construction. While Nest sent 400.6Mbps, Eero only managed to collect 84Mbps, which is less than a quarter of the throughput.
Nest Wi-Fi stood out when we tested a network system with a satellite unit 50 meters from the primary router. It was capable of transmitting 480.1 Mbps, unlike the Eero reaching only 169.1 Mbps in the same tests.
This is probably the result of your aspirations for lower performance. At the same time, Nest Wi-Fi devices are estimated to run at a maximum of 2.2 Gbps, the new Eero devices peak at 550 Mbps, which is a quarter of Nest’s maximum capacity.
In total, the router had a range of 80 feet, and the mesh extension added 50 feet. It could have been sufficient for most of the houses, but I was a bit short of filling the house, leaving some dead spots on the top floor and branches. Another extension would help.
Nest Wi-Fi is a big step forward towards Netgear Orbi with a much smaller footprint, higher overall performance, and simple and easy setup.
It also has a built-in Google Home smart speaker, giving it an edge over Orbi, which requires the purchase of Orbi Voice to add Alexa-like functionality to the home network system.
Sure, the range isn’t as comprehensive as we’d like, and the lack of a web interface means you’ll have to configure it using your phone. Still, it beats Netgear Orbi where it counts, giving you faster speeds every time. Your house. That’s enough to make Nest Wi-Fi our new choice as the best-networked Wi-Fi system available.
Compared to Orbi Voice, Nest Wi-Fi also offers better sound in a compact and more affordable package. The general volume is a bit low, but the functionality and design make Nest Wi-Fi available if you want to combine Wi-Fi and a smart speaker.