Nest Learning Thermostat (2015) review:

Same great Nest, now with even better looks

But Nest is missing one thing: remote temperature sensors. Ecobee's $249, £155, AU$285 Ecobee3 thermostat comes with a remote temperature sensor and you can buy additional two-packs for $79 each. This allows you to closely monitor temperatures on a room-by-room basis. Say you set your thermostat to 72 degrees, but the remote-temperature sensor in your bedroom says it's 75 degrees -- you can then adjust your thermostat so that it cools until your bedroom actually reaches the target temp.


While there are some clear design and feature differences between this Nest and previous iterations, version 3.0's installation, Wi-Fi and app configuration, performance and overall usability remain roughly the same.

Of course, installation will vary widely depending on your heating and cooling system, but the third-gen Nest Learning Thermostat is by far the easiest model I've ever installed. It comes with the same tiny, but functional screwdriver and built-in level as well as a basic rectangular baseplate for covering up any unsightly holes or patchy paintwork from previous installs and a steel plate for mounting your thermostat to an electrical box.

Nearly done with the installation. John Kim/CNET

It took me about 10 minutes to install my model from start to finish; here's a quick overview of the process:

  • Turn off the power running to your heating and cooling system.
  • Remove your existing thermostat.
  • Attach the new base plate (optional) and thermostat base. Screw them down with the included hardware (Luckily, I already had holes that lined up with the new thermostat, which saved me some time.).
  • Connect the wires to their respective ports. In my case, that included Y, G, W, Rh and C wires (Please note: Many older systems rely on a four-wire configuration -- typically just a Y, G, W, and Rh or Rc -- because older thermostats didn't need to power fancy LED displays. Confusingly, some four-wire configurations will actually work with this thermostat. Consult a professional if you have any questions or concerns. Nest has experienced some friction since its four-wire setup relies on a process HVAC professionals refer to as "power stealing." This method can damage your HVAC system if not done correctly. I had a second-gen Nest set up using just these four wires for years without any problems whatsoever.)
  • Pop on the face plate.
  • Turn the power back on. (Didn't work? Here's Nest's more in-depth installation tutorial.)

Now you're ready to configure your Nest. Your unit will power on and walk you through the process, which includes: setting your language; connecting to your local Wi-Fi network; updating any out-of-date software; setting your location; answering some basic questions about your HVAC system; inputing your preferred temperature ranges for heating and cooling; and performing a quick (optional) system test.

This sounds like a lot, but you can breeze through most of it pretty quickly; if you aren't sure what sort of HVAC system you have, you can select "I don't know" and return to it later on. And, if you don't already have a Nest account, you can now download the app on your Android or iOS device of choice and dive into custom preferences, such as Farsight, vacation modes and integrating with other Nest products and third-party smart devices.

Inside the Nest app. Screenshots by CNET

The smartest smart thermostat around

Creating a Nest IFTTT recipe. Screenshot by CNET

While models like the Ecobee3 , the US-only $249 Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart and US-only $279 Honeywell Lyric also have related apps and innovative smart tech of their own (Ecobee3 relies on a remote temperature sensor and built-in motion sensors to track your home or away status plus has its own IFTTT channel and HomeKit compatibility; the Wi-Fi Smart has a Nest-style learning algorithm; and the Lyric uses your phone's GPS location), Nest has the most comprehensive smart functionality of all three of its major competitors.

Like previous models, the third-gen Nest works with the Nest Cam and the Nest Protect for a variety of in-app automations and has its own IFTTT channel. I tried out an IFTTT recipe that automatically turned my Nest thermostat on when I got within a certain radius of home and it worked incredibly well.

It's also likely that we'll see new thermostat-related third-party integrations via Nest's Works with Nest initiative, as well as Google's Android-based Brillo operating system, which was announced earlier this year. And now that Nest will be operating as a more independent business unit within Google's new Alphabet holding company, we'll be curious to see if the newly unfettered Nest will be adding any more arrows to its smart-home quiver -- smart locks, anyone?

Nest now works with Amazon's Alexa, too, via the Alexa Skills Kit. Just go to the Alexa app and enable the Nest thermostat skill. Then you can ask, "Alexa, change the downstairs thermostat to 68 degrees," "Alexa, raise the downstairs thermostat by 3 degrees," and a whole lot more. This voice control integration goes a long way to help Nest maintain its stronghold in the smart thermostat market, as models like the Ecobee3 also work with Alexa as well as Apple's HomeKit.


The $249 third-gen Nest Learning Thermostat is no longer the revolutionary product it was in 2011, but the Google/Alphabet-owned brand has managed to maintain its status as a smart-climate-control leader in spite of the rapidly changing landscape. Its Alexa integration, larger display, improved resolution and new Farsight, Family Accounts and Home/Away Assist features only add to its already impressive performance and ease-of-use via the smartly-designed Nest app.

Ecobee may be closing the gap with its IFTTT channel, new HomeKit and Alexa integrations and remote temperature sensors, but Nest still wins my vote in terms of overall design and usability. If you already have a second-gen Nest at home, you don't necessarily need to splurge on this model, but folks shopping for their first connected thermostat should definitely look to the $249 Nest Learning Thermostat.

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