In this article:
- A new, Nesty design
- Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi
- Speeds and specs
- App controls
- The bottom line
Back in 2016, Google made its first foray into mesh networking with the Google Wifi, a pucklike, three-piece mesh router system. Like other mesh routers, you connect one Google Wifi device to your modem and then scatter the others throughout your home to spread a speedy Wi-Fi signal from room to room. The system tested well and quickly earned a spot as one of CNET's top recommended routers.
Then, at the end of 2019, Google unveiled a follow-up. Rather than calling it the Google Wifi 2, Google called the system the Nest Wifi, which matched the company's efforts to rebrand the Google Home Mini smart speaker and Google Home Hub smart display as the Nest Mini and Nest Hub. While both the Nest Wifi and Google Wifi are ancient in router terms -- and use the older Wi-Fi 5 standard -- they still perform well for the price. If you're looking for a more up-to-date mesh system from Google, the company debuted its first Wi-Fi 6E router, the Nest Wifi Pro, at the end of 2022.
Though the Google Wifi and Nest Wifi make the same basic pitch -- steady, reliable, whole-home Wi-Fi -- they come with some key differences. And, with both still available from major retailers, you'll want to be sure you understand those differences before you buy in. Let's run through them.
Locating local internet providers
A new, Nesty design
With stout, cylindrical devices that pair together wirelessly, the Google Wifi and Nest Wifi both take the same basic approach to design -- but that doesn't mean that Google didn't spruce things up for generation 2.
For starters, the Nest Wifi softened the edges and ditched the blue LED lights to give the system a gentler look that's meant to better blend into your home's decor (and yes, they look a lot like marshmallows). And while the Nest Wifi router is only available in white, the range-extending Nest Wifi Points come in your choice of three colors -- white, blue and coral.
That brings up another key hardware difference. With the Google Wifi, each device is identical. You can connect any of them to your modem to serve as your network's router, and you can use any of them as range extenders in other rooms of your house. That's not the case with Nest Wifi, which features a dedicated router and smaller, separate range extenders -- those Nest Wifi Points.
Google Wifi devices each include an Ethernet WAN port and a separate Ethernet LAN port. That gives you the option of a direct, wired connection to any Google Wifi device in your home, and it lets you wire your Google Wifi devices together for faster speeds, too. The Nest Wifi router features those same two Ethernet jacks, but the Nest Wifi Points don't include Ethernet jacks at all.
Oh, and speaking of those Nest Wifi Points, Google built a microphone and a speaker into each one. That lets you use the things like smart speakers, with the full intelligence of the Google Assistant just a quick voice command away.
Along with the usual voice-assistant staples like asking for the weather, playing music and turning smart home gadgets on and off, you can also ask Google Assistant to run a quick speed test for your network, or to pause the Wi-Fi for a device or group of devices. Google also built touch controls into the top of each Point, which lets you pause playback or adjust the volume with a quick tap. And, if you'd rather disable the voice controls altogether, you can flip a physical switch to turn the microphone off.
Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi
|Google Wifi||Nest Wifi|
|Wi-Fi standard||Wi-Fi 5||Wi-Fi 5|
|Range||1,500 square feet per point||2,200 square feet per router, 1,600 square feet per point|
|Built-in smart speakers||No||Yes (Points only)|
|Capacitive touch controls||No||Yes (Points only)|
|Top wireless transfer speed, 5 feet (router only)||451 Mbps||612 Mbps|
|Top wireless transfer speed, 75 feet (router only)||201 Mbps||431 Mbps|
|Single router price||$65||$169|
|Additional extender price||$65||$149|
|3-piece mesh system price||$140||$349|
Speeds and specs
With three years of development separating them, the Google Wifi and Nest Wifi come with different hardware capabilities. For starters, the Google Wifi is an AC1200 mesh system, which means that the combined top speeds of its 2.4 and 5GHz bands is 1,200Mbps. With Nest Wifi, that speed rating jumps up to AC2200, so between the 2.4 and 5GHz bands, you're getting a more capable access point.
Just remember that your router can only connect you to one band at a time -- though both the Google Wifi and Nest Wifi will automatically steer your connection between the two bands to optimize speed and signal strength. That band-steering worked particularly well when we tested both systems, so this seems to be one of Google's strong suits.
Watch this: Nest Wifi puts Google Assistant into your router
Like with all routers, those AC1200 and AC2200 speed ratings are derived from optimized, lab-based speed tests that don't take factors like distance, obstructions and interference into account, so your actual top speeds will likely be a lot lower. In our own lab, we clocked the Google Wifi with top wireless transfer rates of 451Mbps at close range and 201Mbps at a distance of 75 feet. With the more capable Nest Wifi, those numbers jump to 612 and 431Mbps -- about average compared to other other mesh routers we've tested.
That AC bit tells you that both Google Wifi and Nest Wifi support Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac). Wi-Fi 5 has been considered out of date for several years, since the faster, AX version of Wi-Fi called Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) started rolling out in 2019. Google opted not to include support for it in the Nest Wifi, but the newer Nest Wifi Pro debuted at the end of 2022 with Wi-Fi 6E -- a name for Wi-Fi 6 devices that can broadcast in the newly opened 6GHz band.
That doesn't mean Google hasn't made any improvements over the years. It did upgrade the antennas in the Nest Wifi, boosting it up to a 4x4 configuration that's capable of simultaneous MU-MIMO transmissions that are more robust than the 2x2 Google Wifi. The Nest Wifi also supports the newest WPA3 encryption standards -- Google Wifi doesn't.
The Google Wifi comes with its own, dedicated control app that does a good job of walking you through setup and offering basic controls. It doesn't offer as many advanced features as something like a modern gaming router will, so it isn't ideal if you like having lots of advanced network settings at your fingertips.
The Nest Wifi relocated the controls into the Google Home app, so you'll control your router alongside things like Google Assistant smart speakers and compatible smart home gadgets. Along with parental controls and other user-friendly features, you can run a quick speed test from the app, and you can group devices together to quickly turn their Wi-Fi access on and off. It's more streamlined and simplified than the controls in the original Google Wifi app, but you can still use those Google Wifi controls with the Nest Wifi if you so choose.
The bottom line
The Google Wifi had a good run as one of the top mesh systems a few years back, but the best argument for it at this point is the price. It's a fraction of the cost of the Nest Wifi and other mesh routers, and still performs reasonably well. It also works with the Nest Wifi in full, backward-compatible fashion. If you've already got a Nest Wifi router and you want to extend its range to a back room in your house, you can save a little money and get the job done with a Google Wifi Point instead of a Nest Wifi Point. It won't be quite as fast, but it'll save you a few bucks, and might be the way to go if you aren't interested in the Google Assistant voice controls that come with Nest Wifi Points.
Read our Google Wifi review.
Wi-Fi Standard Wi-Fi 5Speed Rating AC2200Range Up to 2,200 sq. ft.Wireless Networking Security WPA3Bands Dual-Band (2.4 and 5GHz)
For almost everyone, I think the new Nest Wifi is the much better mesh system. It costs significantly more than the Google Wifi does at this point, but for the extra money, you're getting faster top speeds, stronger connections and access to more recent encryption standards. The lack of Wi-Fi 6 support isclose to a deal-breaker, though. If you're shelling out more than $300 for a mesh system in 2023, you probably want it to be Wi-Fi 6 or 6E. That said, you can often find the Nest Wifi on sale for much less, so it's still worth considering as a budget option.
Read our Nest Wifi review.
More on Mesh Routers
- Google Nest Wifi Review
- Google Wifi Review
- Best Mesh Routers for 2023: Top-Tested Systems for Whole-Home Wi-Fi
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