Nest Wi-Fi merges mesh Wi-Fi points with the Google Assistant

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Tue October 15, 2019

Google entered the mesh Wi-Fi market in 2016, a category that aims to replace a traditional router with several Wi-Fi points that do a better job of casting the network throughout the home. Three years later, we're getting a rethinking of Google Wi-Fi.

Introducing Nest Wi-Fi, which combines a mesh router system with the Google Assistant. Yes, you still get a core router that acts as the main Wi-Fi point, bit the additional Wi-Fi pucks now double as Google Assistant speakers. And there are several ways to get Nest Wi-Fi, as each home setup is different:

  • Nest Wi-Fi 1 Pack, which contains a router, is $169 and provides 2,200 square feet of coverage.
  • Nest Wi-Fi 2 Pack, a router and a Wi-Fi point, is $269 and covers 3,800 square feet.
  • Nest Wi-Fi 3 Pack, a router and two Wi-Fi points, is $349 and covers 5,400 square feet.
  • Nest Wi-Fi Point is $149 and covers an additional 1,600 square feet.

For most people, the $269 bundle should be plenty to cover a whole home. It's not only cheaper than the current Google Wi-Fi three-pack, but it also covers more square feet. And this coverage improvement is due to the technology inside Nest Wi-Fi.

The core router supports both a 2x2 and 4x4 Wi-Fi standards, which allows for both a 2.5GHz and 5GHz networks to be cast at the same time. It also expands the bandwidth for it to push the connectivity out to the pucks. And this will deliver a stronger backbone to cast a wider network to devices and to other Wi-Fi points. Nest Wi-Fi doesn't support Wi-Fi 6, though.

Between the main Nest Wi-Fi router and the Wi-Fi points, it will intelligently let devices roam from 2.4GHz to 5GHz bands while also connecting them from point to point, depending on the location. This ensures a smooth and stable connection, no matter where you are. And with the two-pack setup, you'll get nearly 4,000 square feet of coverage. Each point can support up to 100 connected devices and can power multiple 4K streams at the same time, so these are high performing.

If you're looking to connect a Philips Hue Bridge or a storage device for backups, you'll find two ethernet ports on the core router — the Wi-Fi points have no external ports, except for a barrel power jack. On the flip side, the Wi-Fi points basically have a Nest Mini inside, complete with a down-firing speaker and three far-field microphones for using the Google Assistant. There's also an LED ring around the bottom for Wi-Fi information and to tell if the microphone is muted. The Nest Wi-Fi router just has a simple white LED indicator.

Wi-Fi is getting fashionable

On top of the big hardware and feature changes, Nest Wi-Fi is making moves in the fashion department. The Nest Wi-Fi points will come in snow, mist and sand. And yes, this is a first — you can get a mesh Wi-Fi point in a calming blue color or in millennial pink. I'm pretty excited about this, but I wish that the Nest Wi-Fi router also came in fun colors. It's only shipping in snow, a shade of white.

All in one app and it's backward compatible

Instead of using a separate app for Wi-Fi, Nest Wi-Fi will live in the Google Home app, giving you easy access to set up and monitor the network. You can prioritize devices, run a speed test, see which access point has the most connections and much more. Even better, you can access this information from a Nest Hub or Nest Hub Max.

If you have Google Wi-Fi, fear not, as it is fully compatible with Nest Wi-Fi. You'll be able to migrate into the Google Home app and can even get a Nest Wi-Fi router to boost your current system. Google will also sell stand-alone Google Wi-Fi pucks for $99.

For now, Nest Wi-Fi seems like a huge upgrade. You get a more powerful mesh network system and Google is finally turning the pucks into an Assistant Speakers. Nest Wi-Fi is available for preorder today and will launch on Nov. 4. Stay tuned for our full review.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.