Nest Thermostat E review: Nest's cheaper Thermostat E is still plenty smart

Fewer wire terminals means fewer options during installation.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Download the Nest app on your Android or iOS device to install and configure your Thermostat E.

Screenshot by CNET

Testing the E at CNET's Smart Home

If the Thermostat E didn't look slightly different from the Learning Thermostat and leave out the Farsight feature, I would have barely known I was testing a different product. 

Everything, from the auto-adjusting heating and cooling schedule to the app control worked in much the same way. 

The auto-adjusting schedule is Nest's way of saying it will rely on the thermostat's built-in sensors, as well as your and your family's phone locations to determine if anyone's home. If it senses that everyone is out, it will switch the temperature to an energy-saving mode. You can still set ranges, though, to make sure the temperatures never reach extremes in the warmest and coldest months. 

You can also manually override these settings whenever you want by adjusting the thermostat, using the app or with voice commands. For voice commands, you'll need an Amazon Alexa speaker or the Google Home. 

The installation is familiar too. You don't need a C-wire to run the E and the app guides you through the entire setup process. The Nest website can tell you whether your HVAC system is compatible with the Thermostat E. 

Note: Contact a professional if you have questions about your HVAC system and the installation process. 

Since we already had a Nest account for the CNET Smart Home, as well as perfectly-Nest-thermostat-sized holes drilled in our thermostat testing area, the installation took only 10 minutes. It'll take longer if you need to create a new Nest account, drill new holes or paint or patch areas the previous thermostat used to cover. The first step, though, is always to shut off power to your thermostat at the circuit breaker.

The verdict

Nest's Thermostat E is a late but welcome addition to the smart thermostat market. You get a lot for your $169, too, including auto-adjusting scheduling and remote access via the app, Alexa and the Google Assistant. 

You also get a pared-down, arguably improved design. No, the lighter plastic hardware doesn't feel as substantial, but I personally prefer the look of the minimal, off-white E. It's more likely to blend in with your wall, but it also manages to avoid the boring, white plastic aesthetic you find with so many standard thermostats.

But the E isn't perfect. To reduce its price to $169, Nest opted for a lower-res screen, scrapped Farsight and dropped the number of available wire terminals. If any of those things give you pause, but you want to spend less than 200 bucks, look to the Ecobee3 Lite or the Honeywell Lyric T5.

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