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Nest Wifi wants to make mesh internet smarter and simpler

Google's new mesh router promises to spread stable, speedy Wi-Fi throughout your entire home, and the range extenders double as smart speakers.

Ryan_Crist2.jpg
Ryan_Crist2.jpg
Ry Crist
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
Ry Crist
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1 of 15 Chris Monroe/CNET

Meet Nest Wifi

Three years ago, Google entered the world of wireless networking with Google Wifi, a mesh router system aimed at spreading high-speed internet throughout your entire home. Now, the search giant is releasing its next-gen follow-up, called Nest Wifi.

The new multipoint mesh system sports a brand new, marshmallowy design, and relocates the controls for your home network to the Google Home app, where you can also control your Google Assistant-enabled smart home gadgets and smart speakers. And, wouldn't you know it, the Nest Wifi range extenders are smart speakers themselves. Spread a speedy signal throughout your home, and spread the Google Assistant's footprint with it.

Scroll through for a closer look at what Nest Wifi has to offer.

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2 of 15 Juan Garzon/CNET

What's in the box

The Nest Wifi Router costs $169 on its own and claims to cover up to 2,200 square feet. The smart speaker-equipped range extenders, which Google calls Nest Wifi Points, cost $149 on their own, and promise to add another 1,600 square feet of coverage each.

That means that a Nest Wifi Router paired with a Nest Wifi Point would cover homes of up to 3,800 square feet, which Google says is enough for about 85% of the homes in the US. You can buy the two bundled together for $269, as seen here. A bundle with the router and two Nest Wifi Points -- good for 5,400 square feet -- costs $349.

(See UK prices hereand Australian prices here.)

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3 of 15 Chris Monroe/CNET

View from the top

That's the Nest Wifi Router on the left next to a Nest Wifi Point. The router is slightly bigger, and doesn't include a built-in speaker like the Point does. To that end, you'll notice those four holes on the top of the Point -- those are the far-field microphones it uses to hear your voice commands. Just say, "Hey, Google," or, "OK, Google," to activate the assistant, then give it a question or command.

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4 of 15 Chris Monroe/CNET

A look underneath

The bottom of the Nest Wifi Router (again, the one on the left) features an AC port and two Ethernet jacks -- one to connect it to your modem, and another in case you want a dedicated, wired connection to something like a gaming console or a smart home hub. The Nest Wifi Point doesn't include any Ethernet jacks at all.

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5 of 15 Juan Garzon / CNET

Is one extra jack enough?

Here's a closer look at the bottom of the router. One spare Ethernet port isn't a lot in this day and age. If you have a lot of devices you'd like to wire directly to the router, then you'll probably want to consider something else.

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6 of 15 Juan Garzon / CNET

Wifi Point

Meanwhile, here's a closer look at the bottom of that Nest Wifi Point. In addition to the AC power port, you'll notice the speaker's telltale holes, as well as the switch that lets you mute the microphones.

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7 of 15 James Martin/CNET

Light ring

The Wifi Point also includes a ring of light around the base that shines whenever you're talking to Google Assistant to let you know that it's sending your audio to the cloud for processing. When the mics are muted, that ring of light will glow orange.

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8 of 15 Chris Monroe/CNET

Touch controls

Along with the same Google Assistant voice controls that you'd get with a Google Home or Google Home Mini smart speaker, the Nest Wifi Point also includes similar touch controls, too. You can tap the top to pause or resume music playback, or you can tap the sides of the top face to raise and lower the volume. You'll see two LED indicator lights to show you where to tap for those volume controls, just like you get with Google's newest smart speaker, the Nest Mini.

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9 of 15 Juan Garzon / CNET

Multiple colors

The Nest Wifi Router only comes in white, but the smart speaker-equipped Nest Wifi Points also come in coral and sky blue. Between that and the built-in smart speakers, Google's goal was to design range extenders that you'll actually want to keep out in the open, where they'll have an easier time relaying your Wi-Fi signal from room to room.

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10 of 15 Josh Miller/CNET

Backwards-compatible

Nest Wifi is fully backwards compatible with previous-gen Google Wifi hardware. You can use the old Google Wifi nodes to extend the range of the Nest Wifi router, and you can also use the new Nest Wifi Points to extend the range of an old Google Wifi router.

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11 of 15 Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Here's the Home app

You'll control your Nest Wifi from the Google Home app. Setup is pretty simple -- just follow the step-by step instructions to plug everything in and sync it all up with the app.

Once you're up and running, you'll find simplified controls, including the option to run a quick speed test right in the app. You can also just say, "Hey, Google, run a speed test," whenever you're within shouting distance of the Wifi Point, or any other Google Assistant-enabled speaker in your home.

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12 of 15 Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Grouped devices

The Home app also lets you view the devices that are connected to your network and assign them to groups. You can schedule when those devices are allowed to connect to the internet, or just tell the Google Assistant to pause their internet access whenever you like -- or, say, whenever the kids are being unruly. And, speaking of kids, you can also block a group of devices from accessing adult content.

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13 of 15 Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Prioritization

You won't find many of the sorts of advanced features that you'll get with a high-end gaming router, but you can prioritize traffic from specific devices for a few hours at a time. Nest Wifi will also automatically prioritize traffic used for its new Stadia online gaming service.

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14 of 15 Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Voice Match

As for the built-in smart speaker, it offers roughly the same sound quality as the Nest Mini, which is to say that it's fine for casual listening but probably inadequate at a house party. More importantly, it offers the exact same features as any other Google Assistant smart speaker, including Voice Match, which lets you train it to recognize your voice.

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15 of 15 Chris Monroe/CNET

Is Nest mesh best?

Nest Wifi joins a growing field of mesh networking options, including newly updated systems from Netgear Orbi and Amazon-owned Eero. Both of those alternatives cost less than Nest Wifi, but they also don't include built-in smart speakers or color options beyond white plastic.

To see more about how Nest Wifi compares to each of them, including top speed and range comparisons, be sure to check out our full Nest Wifi review.

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