FiveFive years ago, the router world was dominated by names like Netgear, Asus, TP-Link, and Linksys. Google wasn’t in the conversation, and it didn’t have a router available for purchase (or even a real hardware division, for that matter).
Fast-forward to 2019, and Google lays claim to the top-selling router, thanks to the popularity of its Google Wifi mesh system, which it introduced in 2016. It’s even more popular than Eero, which first popularized the idea of a mesh router for better Wi-Fi coverage in a home.
Now, Google is launching its follow-up: the more powerful and more capable Nest Wifi system. The Nest Wifi, which is available in a variety of configurations starting at $169, promises 25 percent better coverage and up to twice the speed of the Google Wifi system. In addition, the Nest Wifi’s Points, or secondary units that you place around your home to create a mesh system, double as Nest Mini voice-activated smart speakers.
I’ve been testing the $269 kit, which includes the router and a single mesh Point, in my roughly 2,000-square-foot, split-level home. Google says this package provides as much coverage as the three-pack of the Google Wifi, and it’s good for homes up to 3,800 square feet and up to 200 connected devices. A $349 option provides a second Point and can cover up to 5,400 square feet and up to 300 devices.
Like other mesh systems, the Nest Wifi is not a modem, so it needs to be plugged into the modem you already have (likely provided by your ISP) to work. For me, that meant plugging into my Verizon Fios connection, which is a gigabit fiber link. (Unlike Eero and others, Nest Wifi doesn’t work in a “bridge” mode, which makes setting it up with Fios more convoluted than other routers. For more on getting Nest Wifi to work with a Fios connection, see this post on Verizon’s forums.) This connection comes into my home in the living room on the main floor. I then placed the Point in my home office, a level below where the router is.
This arrangement was sufficient to provide strong Wi-Fi in every part of my home and gave me enough bandwidth to stream 4K video wherever I had a signal. It also handily managed the 50-plus devices that are connected to my Wi-Fi network at any given time and didn’t have any trouble “hopping” devices from the router to the Point when I moved about my home.
The Nest Wifi consistently provided faster speeds to my devices than the Google Wifi and similar speeds to what I get from the Eero Pro and Netgear Orbi, provided my devices were connected to the primary router and not the Point. When connected to the Point, speeds were cut in half, likely due to the Point’s less capable antennas and the lack of a dedicated backhaul channel for the router to communicate to the Point, like the Eero Pro and Orbi systems have. Since my internet service provides gigabit speeds, I still had over 100 megabits of bandwidth for both upload and downloads available no matter where I went in my home, but that’s a far cry from the roughly 900 megabits that gets piped into my house. The average home broadband speed in the US is just under 100 megabits, so most people will be able to take full advantage of their ISP’s service with the Nest Wifi…Read more>>