Nest Wi-Fi is a breeze to set up. Here are our first impressions

Jason Cipriani, CNN Underscored
Mon November 4, 2019

Last month, during the same event where Google announced the Pixel 4 and Pixelbook Go, the company announced Nest Wi-Fi, its second mesh Wi-Fi system for the home. The first one, Google Wi-Fi, was released nearly three years ago and was starting to show its age.

Mesh Wi-Fi systems leverage multiple access points placed throughout your home that work in tandem, handing off devices and ensuring that your house is blanketed in reliable Wi-Fi.

Nest Wi-Fi has upgraded internals and a completely new design. It's out now in a two-pack, which includes one Nest Wi-Fi router and a Nest Wi-Fi point for $269. A three-pack (one router, two points) will set you back $349.

I've only had Nest Wi-Fi set up for a couple of days, so I'm not ready to give it a full review quite yet. But here are some first impressions about Google's latest mesh Wi-Fi system.

Initial setup was a breeze

Setting up Nest Wi-Fi took, maybe, five minutes after unboxing the two-pack, containing one Nest Wi-Fi router and one Nest Wi-Fi point. The process consisted of disconnecting my Google Wi-Fi access point from my cable modem and power, replacing it with the Nest Wi-Fi router, and then opening the Google Home app.

Within a few seconds, the app prompted me to set up a new nearby device, decide on a name for my network (pro tip: use the same network name and password to save yourself from having to reconnect all your devices), and scan a QR code located on the bottom of the device.

With the main router set up, I plugged in the Nest Wi-Fi point and followed the same steps to extend my existing network.

Built-in Google Assistant makes so much sense

Part of the problem with most people's home Wi-Fi networks is that their wireless routers are often hidden in an entertainment center or a cabinet. Google's approach to Nest Wi-Fi points was to design something that people wouldn't mind leaving out on display.

Not only do the Nest Wi-Fi points have a sleek look, but they double as smart speakers, akin to a Google Home Mini. You can use them to control various devices around the home, send messages, or listen to music — oh, and they pump out Wi-Fi signal all at the same time.

You don't have to enable the Assistant functionality, and there's a hardware switch located on the back to disable the microphone.

Be patient after initial setup

The first 36 hours or so after I completed setup, I experienced some connectivity issues throughout my home. Tests in the Google Home app showed that everything was up and running as it should, but still, streaming videos would go from perfect HD quality to a pixelated mess and back every few minutes. And I kept getting kicked out of multiplayer games on my console due to bad connectivity.

But when I woke up on Saturday morning, all those issues were gone. I suspect the issues I was experiencing were due to the system optimizing itself and learning which devices should connect to which access point for the best experience.

Google Wi-Fi users, a word of caution.

If you currently use Google Wi-Fi access points, switching to Nest Wi-Fi will require you to factory reset your Google Wi-Fi network in order to switch to the new hardware. Right now, there's no way to transfer your current settings to the new system. So, any family groups or schedules you have created will need to be set up again. It's a hassle, but hopefully something Google will fix in the future.

The Google Home app is the path forward

Google Wi-Fi still exists and will continue to hang around, but Google plans to continue to integrate advanced Nest Wi-Fi management features (beyond naming your network, creating a guest network, etc.) into the Google Home app over the coming months. In the meantime, you can still use the Google Wi-Fi app for more advanced settings.

Using the Google Home app is a welcome change. It has a cleaner look and is easier to navigate, but until all features are migrated over, I'll have to continue to use both apps.

We'll have a full review of Nest Wi-Fi very soon.

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