Simple, fast mesh internet and an excellent foundation for Google Smart Homes – CNET

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When I first opened the lid Nest wifi Box, the whole thing slipped out of my hands and the hardware inside tipped out. I was horrified to see Google's marshmallow mesh router fall to the floor and roll over the wooden floor of my living room.

Fortunately, this system is foolproof – not just when it comes to sudden, spontaneous drop tests. You plug it in, you do what the app says, and 10 minutes later your new mesh network is operational and spreads a WiFi signal throughout your home that is about as fast as you can reasonably expect. It's as easy as setting up a smart speaker because each Nest Wifi Point not only extends the range of the Nest Wifi Router, but is also a smart speaker. You get one each – the Nest Wifi Router and a Nest Wifi Point with built-in microphones and surprisingly enough bass – for $ 269 (£ 239, AU $ 399).

To the left is the Nest Wifi Router and a Nest Wifi Point that extends the range. The holes at the top of the point are for the far-field microphones to wait for your Google Assistant voice commands.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Between the presence of the Google Assistant and the fact that you can do everything from the Google Home app, Nest Wifi prompts you to set foot in Google's smart home garden if you haven't already. And it's not cheap. For comparison: The three-part mesh system of the third generation from Amazon Eero costs $ 249 or $ 20 less than a two-part Nest wifi setup. Now a brand new, two-part Netgear Orbi mesh system costs $ 129 at Walmart. That's less than half of what Google demands.

Still, Nest Wifi turned out to be fast, reliable and easy to use and was able to leave Eero and Orbi behind in my speed tests (yes, even after I dropped it). The latest and fastest version of Wi-Fi is not supported, named Wi-Fi 6But that's only really important if you expect an internet connection that is faster than 500 megabits per second in the next few years (Don't hold your breath).

It all adds up to the mesh router that most people should consider first when considering buying one. Our editorial team's winner, Nest Wifi, is a great upgrade for anyone who has already invested in the Internet ecosystem of Google services and devices, especially those who would appreciate the opportunity to have the Google Assistant presence in their home expand. If you are not yet committed to Google at this point, you should take a look around, as better mesh values ​​with comparable coverage are already available today.

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The Nest Wifi Router is only available in white, the Nest Wifi Points are available in three colors.

James Martin / CNET

Editor's note, November 29, 2019: We updated this review with test data from other products. Because of the performance of Google Nest Wifi, it is now a CNET Editors' Choice winner.


A new design

Google is currently working to focus all of its smart home offerings on a unified Nest brand. So what Google Wifi was now Nest Wifi. Google featured the event with a brand new design, faster top speeds and the addition of Google Assistant voice controls in every Nest Wifi Point. As a welcome addition to existing users, all of the new hardware is backward compatible with the WiFi devices of the previous version of Google.

Apart from nest branding, you control everything through the Google Home app, for which you need a Google account. The app is clear and fairly simple. It guides you through a simple setup process. You just plug everything in, instruct the app to connect to the router, and then use your phone's camera to scan a QR code at the bottom of each point. Your mesh network is ready for use a few minutes later.

With the Google Home app, you can create groups of devices on your network and interrupt internet access at any time. Fear unruly children.

Screenshots from Ry Crist / CNET

The app doesn't offer as many functions as, for example a dedicated gaming routerHowever, you still get some useful controls for your network. You can view and group the devices connected to them and then disconnect them at any time, even with a short voice command. It's basically a parental superpower, but it's not exclusive to Google – most decent routers currently have some form of device blocking functionality.

Nest Wifi can also prioritize traffic to all devices on your network. This is useful when streaming 4K video or playing online. Speaking of gaming, the system automatically prioritizes traffic for Google Stadia, the search giant's upcoming cloud gaming platform.

You only get a free Gigabit Ethernet port on the bottom of the Nest router – and the Nest Wifi Point has no Ethernet ports at all.

Chris Monroe / CNET

The hardware itself, the Nest Wifi Router and the Nest Wifi Point, are each characterized by a simple, harmless design that fits seamlessly into your home without having to stay out of sight where they don't work so well. For this purpose, the dots are available in three colors, but the router is only available in white.

Another problem: The router has only one free Ethernet socket, and there are no Ethernet sockets at the points at all. That means you only get a single cable connection for a game console or smart home bridge before you have to buy a separate Ethernet hub. This also means that you cannot lay a cable to the Nest Wifi Point to cascade a cable connection for faster network performance.

You can tap the Nest WiFi point at the top to pause, resume, or adjust the volume. As with the Nest Mini, indicator lights show where these volume controls are located.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Speaking of points, they are functionally identical to those of Google Nest mini smart speakers. They offer access to the same voice-activated Google Assistant features, as well as a microphone mute switch on the back and touch controls on the top. The sound quality is more or less comparable with the Nest Mini and with other small intelligent speakers like that Amazon Echo Dot – which means that it is ideal for casual listening, but is likely to be neglected at a house party.

Like the previous Google Wifi (and like most other mesh networks), the Nest Wifi does not separate the 2.4 GHz band from the faster 5 GHz band. Instead, it automatically "steers" you between the two on a single network as you move around your home. This worked great in my tests where I went from room to room and did speed tests after speed tests – me I didn't notice any hiccups in the signal, Although I dropped the thing, it was never appropriate to return the favor and end my connection.