Google Nest Wifi Pro review: Ready to go and good for the money - Stacey on IoT

Google Nest Wifi Pro review: Ready to go and good for the money – Stacey on IoT

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Google has finally introduced WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E to its router lineup with the new Nest Wifi Pro. This mesh networking system is relatively inexpensive with one, two, and three unit packs priced at $199.99, $299.99, and $399.99 respectively. I use a trio of Nest Wifi Pro units and expected an improvement in wireless performance over my Eero Pro 6 system, which supports WiFi 6 but not WiFi 6E. Maybe I should have kept my expectations in check.

That’s not to say the Nest WiFi Pro system is bad. In fact, it’s pretty good, costs less, and is simple to set up. And you get included features that require subscription fees from Eero. In terms of speeds, however, I didn’t experience a significant increase in wireless using my 1 Gbps fiber optic home internet connection. Latency, or the round-trip time for a signal to travel to and from the web, was slightly worse in some cases. Still, there are reasons to consider Google Nest Wifi in your home.

While Google says one unit can provide up to 2,200 square feet of coverage, that’s probably the best case on a single-story building. I tested a single unit in my three-story townhouse and the network was barely usable at one or two stories. I always recommend at least one mesh access point per floor.

Nice hardware with limited Ethernet ports

The units themselves are nice to look at, or at least they don’t look like routers and access points. They’re a little shiny for my tastes but they don’t scream “Look at me, I’m fancy tech!” », which I appreciate. Available in four colors, they blend in perfectly if you prefer a minimalist style. The front has an LED light that you can turn off or brighten in the Google Home app, while the back of each unit has a power jack and two Ethernet ports.

Google Nest Wifi Pro connected to Wyze base station and a standby Eero Pro 6. Image courtesy of K. Tofel

The latter is fine as previous Nest Wifi models only included these sockets for the main router; not for access points. I took full advantage of each unit’s ports by wiring up various smart home bridges. This includes a Wyze base station, a Lutron hub and a Philips Hue bridge. Note that Ethernet ports can only handle up to 1 Gbps. That’s not a problem for me, since that’s the speed I get from my ISP. However, if you have a multi-gigabit home internet connection and want that connection hardwired to a computer or other device, you won’t get it.

Of course, most of your devices will connect wirelessly to the Nest Wifi Pro units. And that’s where that “Pro” name comes in with tri-band support. You get 2.4, 5, and 6 GHz wireless frequencies to spread that Wi-Fi goodness throughout your home. Even if you don’t have devices that use the 6 GHz frequency for WiFi 6, you should theoretically see network improvements. This is for two reasons.

First, all WiFi 6 devices will free up 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency bandwidth. Thus, older devices may benefit from a speed boost due to traffic shifting from newer devices to newer airwaves. Second, the wireless connection between each Google Nest Wifi Pro access point uses 6 GHz. This means that any traffic flowing through your home network to or from the internet should be faster. But is it?

Speeds are good and stable

From my testing, it sometimes does, but even when it does, the speeds aren’t much faster. For example, devices that typically see 170 Mbps downloads and 190 Mbps uploads on my Eero Pro 6 network topped around 180 Mbps and the same 190 Mbps for downloads. I tested various devices on both networks in the exact same locations and it was typical. About half the time in my tests, the Nest Wifi Pro network also showed slightly higher latency. If you’re a gamer, that’s bad. And it could also impact video calls, though I didn’t experience any lag or stutter on Google Meet or Zoom calls.

Every house is different of course, so your results may vary. But I’m comfortable suggesting that you’re not going to see a large, noticeable speed boost if you already have a Wi-Fi 6 mesh network in your home. In testing, I noticed speeds were more consistent on the Nest WiFi Pro setup. And on the two devices I have that support WiFi 6E, I’ve seen a 15-20% increase in wireless transfer rates.

Smart home support and setup

Google also includes a Thread radio in the Nest WiFi Pro models, so the head unit can act as a Thread Border router. The others also extend this Thread network. Since Matter and Thread are still in the early rollout phase, I can’t say how well they work for Thread devices yet. I plan to test this in the coming months, however. Interestingly, when using the Eve app, which shows your Thread home network details, the Nest WiFi Pro units do not appear. This could be because Eve is an Apple HomeKit-only device manufacturer, which will change with the full rollout of Matter.

Image courtesy of K. Tofel

Note that WiFi 6E support really doesn’t add much to the smart home. Most light bulbs, switches, video cameras and the like still use older 2.4 or 5 GHz Wi-Fi radios. So there is no direct benefit.

On the plus side, the Nest WiFi Pro units are very easy to set up. Simply connect the first to your home router or replace your existing router and plug it into your modem. In my case, I connected a unit to the ONT, or Optical Network Terminal, for my fiber connection. Then wait for the Google Home app to find the router and configure it automatically.

This process took me less than five minutes, and to its credit, the Nest WiFi Pro set up correctly. You replicate the process using the Google Home app and additional units to set them up as access points. Google Home even tests mesh network speeds between units and suggests placement if there’s a medium or weak connection.

Since I used the same SSID, or network name, as on my Eeros, all my devices reconnected without any issues. Even those using a 2.4 GHz radio have joined the network. It can sometimes be difficult to connect these devices to a mesh network that combines 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies into a single network.

Additional features included

The Google Home app supports custom network configuration and a few other features. You can of course set up a guest network, but also use the “Family Wi-Fi” function. This lets you schedule internet downtime for the kids or the rest of the family. Also included is the ability to pause the network for anyone who presses a button or Google Assistant voice command and block all adult content sites. I like how you can group connected devices into the Family zone; just add all the child’s phones, tablets, and computers so their downtime doesn’t interfere with your TV streaming time. You can also prioritize the wireless connection of one or more devices in your home.

Image courtesy of K. Tofel

Remember that you must enable Google’s Nest Wifi cloud services, which are enabled by default, to use the “Family Wi-Fi” feature. This is under the privacy settings, as when enabled you allow Google to view network activity. If you do, you get this feature along with other cloud-based protections.

These include software updates to protect the unit from running unauthorized software and prevent router hacks. Google will also automatically install security and software updates.

Some of these features are add-ons to my Eero network through a $99 annual subscription. This Eero subscription also gives me other features such as a VPN service and password manager software for my family. So, for now, Google isn’t going the subscription route to include some of the advanced protections and features, which is fine.

An additional option allows you to provide the 5 GHz band with 160 MHz of spectrum. This may increase the speed of WiFi 5 devices, but may also cause issues for some devices that do not support this feature.

I didn’t experience any issues when it was enabled and saw a slight speed boost in testing, but most of my devices are only a year or two old. If you have older WiFi 5 devices that do not support this setting, you should be careful with this setting.

Should you buy the Google Nest Wifi Pro?

If you have an older WiFi 5 networking system in your home, then I would highly consider this mesh networking system. You should see faster throughput on your network at a relatively low cost compared to competing models. Yes, you can get extra features or faster connections with alternatives, but you’ll pay a lot more.

People like me who are happy with their current WiFi 6 system should drop by. I see no compelling reason to upgrade from WiFi 6 to 6E at this point. There just aren’t enough devices with 6E radios to make the investment when you probably spent several hundred dollars a year or two ago on your current mesh system.

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