Nest Wifi Pro review: better, faster, shinier

A big upgrade over its predecessors, Google’s Nest Wifi Pro adds Wi-Fi 6 and 6E, bringing faster speeds, and improved reliability. It’s not a ‘Pro’ router — for top throughput, look elsewhere — but it packs a lot into an affordable package.

Google’s new Nest Wi-Fi Pro is an excellent upgrade if you’re coming from an existing Google router. I saw significantly faster speeds, improved reliability, and better performance on the Nest Wifi Pro — which adds Wi-Fi 6 and 6E — compared to the previous Nest Wifi system and its Wi-Fi 5. It can’t handle multi-gig speeds, but that’s (sadly) not going to be a problem for most people. And while initially, I experienced slow speeds and high latency in the furthest rooms from the main router, a software update that arrived during my testing fixed this, resulting in consistent speeds throughout my home.

The Nest Pro is also one of the few routers that won’t look like a dead spider on your sideboard. And while it’s not a high bar, these are the best-looking Wi-Fi routers you can buy. As well as white, the Nest Pro comes in pale blue, beige, or yellow, which may blend in better with your home decor. While I am not a big fan of the shiny finish — it’s a bit distracting — they still look better out in the open (the best place for the best signal) than most other routers.

HOW WE RATE AND REVIEW PRODUCTS

As a mesh networking system, the Nest Wifi Pro’s closest competitor is the Eero Wifi Pro 6E. Like Eero, Google is targeting people who want something that’s nice-looking, reliable, easy to use, and that will work well with their smart home, rather than networking experts or people who want hands-on control of every aspect of their networking setup.

In testing, the Nest Pro has some advantages over the Eero. While its speeds were slightly slower, they were more consistent throughout the house, and Google offers for free some features that Eero locks behind a monthly subscription. But Nest’s fixed 6GHz backhaul can struggle to maintain consistent speeds on the nodes furthest from the router, and it only has 1Gbps ethernet ports, so it can’t handle multi-gig connections.

Design and features

Nest Wifi Pro routers on a table.
The Nest Wifi Pro looks better on a sideboard than most of its competitors.

The Nest Pro is a tri-band WiFi 6E router with one 2.4GHz, one 5GHz, and one 6GHz band. That last one is new. It gives the few 6GHz capable devices — mostly flagship Android phones and a few gaming laptops — a fat new, uncluttered band to speed along on.

But the 6Ghz band’s main job here is to act as a dedicated backhaul, turning multiple Nest Pro units into a mesh network. Each Pro router can support up to 100 devices, and the system supports theoretical maximum speeds of 2400 Mbps on 5GHz and 6GHz and a bit below 600 Mbps on 2.4GHz. That’s more than double the combined speeds of the last-gen Nest Wifi.

Those are theoretical maximums. In practice, you can only connect to one band at a time, you won’t see anywhere close to the maximum speed on any single device (especially not on 2.4GHz or 5GHz), and the Pro’s ethernet ports are capped at 1 Gigabit anyway. If you have multi-gig internet, you’ll be wasting money.

If you are upgrading from a Nest Wifi or another Wifi 5 router, you gain both Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E, plus the option to switch on 160 MHz channels on the 5GHz band, which can improve throughput at the risk of interference from neighboring signals. All this translated into significantly improved speeds and performance using the Nest Pro over the regular Nest Wifi in my tests.

Google sells the Nest Wifi Pro in sets of one, two, or three units. It says one router covers up to 2,200 square feet. In my 2,200-square-foot, two-story split-level home with over 120 devices connected to the Wi-Fi, I knew one wasn’t going to cut it.

Just to make sure, I set up a single unit in my living room next to the modem and saw speeds as low as 12 Mbps down and 7 Mbps upstream in my upstairs rooms, and 64/16 in my office, just down the hall from the main router. Once I added one node in my office and one upstairs to cover the bedrooms, the system was able to deliver more reliable speeds from my Xfinity service.

A Nest Wifi Pro router on a table next to a Nest Audio speaker.
The Nest Wifi Pro has a similar shape to the Nest Audio speaker, but instead of fabric, it opted for a glossy plastic that will at least be easier to clean.

Unlike the first-gen Nest Wifi, Google has done away with its lower-specced “Points,” and now all the nodes have the same hardware, including two Gigabit ethernet ports. I’ll miss the built-in smart speaker from the Points, but that’s an easy trade for two ethernet ports. (I’d like more, but these nicer-looking mesh routers tend to be limited to two.)

With those ports, the Pro system now supports wired backhaul, which might be necessary if you have a multi-story house since the only other backhaul option is the 6GHz band, which has shorter range and more trouble penetrating solid objects than 2.4GHz and 5GHz.

The Nest Pro is not a pro-level system, despite its name. You can enable some semi-advanced features, like WPA3, 160MHz channel width on the 5GHz band, and IPv6, but it doesn’t give you much granular control of your network. You can’t, for example, split 2.4GHz, 5 GHz, and 6GHz into separate SSIDs, create VLANs, force devices to connect to a certain access point only, change channels and transmitting power, or change the backhaul band. Most people don’t need or want that level of control; they just want something that works.

Mostly, the Nest Pro does just work. Setup is all done within the Google Home app, which guides you through creating your network and positioning the nodes. (If you are switching over from an old router, be sure to check out my article on how to swap out your router without disconnecting all your devices).

The Home app is also where you’ll find the somewhat limited parental controls, remote network management, guest network setup, data consumption stats, and an overview of your connected devices. Eero charges $10 a month or $100 a year for many of these features, whereas Google’s are free.

The app managed to correctly identify about 70 percent of my 100-plus devices, which isn’t bad, though I still can’t figure out which one is my Oculus Quest 2. Device identification is helpful for setting up a Family Wifi feature that lets you assign specific devices to family members and schedule Wi-Fi access, which is useful for managing screen time for younger children.

I love being able to pause Wi-Fi on my daughter’s tablet with a voice command to a Google Assistant speaker. While you can turn on Google’s SafeSearch to block adult sites, you can’t block specific sites or even categories (such as social media or shopping), a capability Eero offers — for a fee.

Another minor but useful feature is the option to display a QR code and / or SSID and password for a guest network on a Google Nest display. This makes it easy for friends and family to get online without bothering you while you’re stuffing a turkey.

Like Eero systems, the Nest Pro is managed by cloud software. Google says it automatically prioritizes critical activities, such as video calls, and “constantly optimizes network traffic by switching bands automatically if congestion pops up.” You can’t override any of these features, but you can at least disable them, which is not an option with Eero. Google warns you that the system won’t perform as well without them.

Nest Wifi Pro router on a table next to an Eero router.
The Nest Wifi Pro (left) and the Eero Pro 6E. The latter can get faster speeds and offers more robust parental controls, but costs more, and some features require a subscription.

Unlike Eero, Nest Pro offers the option to prioritize a single device on your network, which is helpful when you’re trying to get work done, and your kids are streaming Netflix and Fortnite simultaneously. In practice, I didn’t notice a significant difference on my work computer, but I also didn’t have issues before I enabled it. People with slower broadband speeds will likely see more benefit.

New with the Nest Pro is a Preferred Activities option that lets you prioritize video conferencing and / or gaming for “improved wifi performance.” Again, I didn’t see any noticeable change during my testing. These settings are very broad. It would be nice to see some more granular control here.

Performance

Overall, I was impressed with the Nest Pro. I got a strong, consistent Wi-Fi signal across the house and could stream 4K video, play VR on an Oculus Quest 2, and work on my laptop reliably in every room.

The wired PC in my furthest flung bedroom was able to continue my son’s online gaming habit efficiently — believe me, I’d hear about it otherwise — and my 100-plus smart home devices stayed connected and responsive (in particular, my Nest devices — more on that in a bit).

With an average wired throughput of just under 500 Mbps from my Xfinity modem – similar to other routers I’ve tested — I saw average Wi-Fi speeds of 350 Mbps down and 30 Mbps up throughout the house. Video calls also worked fine, hopping smoothly from one node to another as I moved around the house.

On average, single-device throughput from the main router was slower on the Nest Wifi Pro than the Eero Pro 6E, but the Nest system had more consistent speed throughout the house, while the Eeros did significantly better when the devices were closer to the nodes.

When I test mesh networks, I usually put a node upstairs on a desk in the rear bedroom so I can hardwire my son’s gaming PC. A straight line from there to the main router goes through a bedroom wall, a closet, another wall, a floor, and a couple of bathroom walls.

This is a lot to ask of the 6Ghz band, which already has a hard time with solid objects. But that’s where I needed the router, and the Eero Pro 6 and Pro 6E nodes I’ve tested performed well there (but the Nest Wifi point from the first gen system really struggled).

When I first set up the Nest Pro node here, the Google Home app said the connection was good, but in testing, both throughput and latency were bad, and the Home app eventually reported the mesh connection as poor.

A Wi-Fi analyzer app clocked the signal from the living room, measured next to the node, at -75dBm, which is too tenuous for a reliable backhaul. My laptop was getting wireless speeds of 165/5. However, a software update Google pushed during testing to address complaints from some users that their speeds were being capped at 50Mbps, significantly improved the performance of my test setup. Wi-Fi and wired speeds upstairs almost doubled, making them consistent with the speeds I was getting in the rest of the house.

Google says it uses the 6GHz band backhaul exclusively because there’s much more available airspace than on the 5GHz band, letting it run 160MHz channels without running into interference. Sanjay Noronha, Google Nest Wifi’s product lead, told me this gives it up to twice the speed and a more reliable connection than the Nest Wifi. “Even if you do not have a single 6GHz capable client device in your home, you’re seeing a much better level of Wi-Fi performance thanks to that 6Ghz backbone,” he said.

But as the 6GHz signal has lower penetration than 2.4 or 5GHz bands, it seems a less-than-ideal choice for backhaul. Noronha says Google has “designed the hardware” around this issue — in terms of the number of streams, the antenna design, and the power amplifiers. But, while speeds improved after the update, I still needed the three nodes to get a strong enough signal in every room of my house.

When connected via ethernet to the upstairs node, the wired PC averaged 228 Mbps on the Nest versus 366 Mbps on the Eeros. The Nest also had higher latency, likely due to that 6GHz backhaul. Eero claims its systems can dynamically adjust their backhaul band depending on signal strength, but the Nest systems are stuck on 6GHz unless you use a wired backhaul.

This inflexibility also means Wi-Fi 6E devices can’t really use the Nest Wifi Pro’s 6GHz band on the nodes without a performance penalty. When connected to the upstairs node, my Pixel 6 — which supports the 6GHz band — got just 191 Mbps down compared to 315 Mbps from the iPhone 14 on the 5GHz band. However, when it was connected to the main router, i got the fastest speeds I clocked on any device, at 622 Mbps.

If you have a multi-story house without ethernet in the walls and want top speeds on your top floor, you should probably look at a different networking solution or plan to use more than three nodes. The Nest Wifi Pro’s reliance on 6GHz backhaul seems like a limiting factor.

Remember that single-device throughput measurements are just a proxy for range and signal strength. Unless you’re downloading large files or transferring them between devices in your network, most devices won’t need that much bandwidth. For example, streaming 4K UHD video on a single device requires around 25 Mbps.

What’s more important is how reliable and stable your network is with lots of stuff on it running simultaneously: several people streaming, doing video calls for work, playing games, along with any smart home devices doing their thing. This can all add up. By this metric, the Nest Wifi Pro performed very well after the software update. I had no issues with slow speeds, unresponsiveness, or congestion, and I never needed to reboot the system.

The back of a Nest Wifi Pro router on a table next to a window.
The Nest Wifi Pro sports two Gigabit ethernet ports on each router.

Anecdotally, I found that the Nest security cameras and Nest Hub smart displays worked more reliably on the Nest Wifi Pro system than on the Eero Pro 6E network. They stayed on the 5GHz channel consistently instead of bouncing between 2.4GHz and 5GHz, which caused slow load times when I tested the new Nest Doorbell wired. The Nest Hub Max — which would frequently lose connection and reboot on the Eero system — didn’t do it once on the Nest network.

I asked Google about this, and Noronha said while they don’t prioritize Nest devices over those from other manufacturers, they do test their devices extensively with their Wi-Fi system and optimize them to perform as well as possible.

While I haven’t been able to test this yet, the Nest Wifi Pro’s hardware should make an excellent foundation for your smart home. Each router has a Thread radio built in. This will be key when support for the new smart home standard Matter arrives on Google Home devices, as it will turn Nest Wifi Pro routers into Thread border routers, capable of connecting Thread smart home devices, as well as Matter controllers.

This means when you buy any Matter smart home device — such as a smart plug, light, or door lock — you won’t have to worry about having a separate hub or whether it’s compatible with your Google Home app. If it’s Matter and / or Thread, it will work in your home.

Should you buy it?

If your internet speed is less than 1 gigabit per second, your home isn’t enormous, you don’t need advanced networking features, and you want something that’s simple to use and largely reliable even with a lot of smart home devices on the network, the Google Nest Wifi Pro is a good option.

If you have higher than gigabit speeds, the Eero Pro 6E will be a better fit, depending on price. When it launched, a three-pack cost $699 compared to $399 for the Nest Wifi Pro, but it’s recently been on sale for as low as $419. Eero also has Thread on board and will be updated to support Matter next year, plus it has a Zigbee smart home hub built-in.

Each Eero Pro 6E has a 2.5Gbps ethernet port as well as a Gigabit port, but you have to pony up $10 a month for many features that Google offers for free. But that price does include ad-blocking, a new internet backup service, and more robust parental controls that Google doesn’t have. Plus, you get annual subscriptions to a password manager and VPN service, among other features.

The Nest Wifi Pro is a good all-rounder that will set up your smart home for success and deliver solid, reliable Wi-Fi.

If you are less interested in speed and are more price-conscious, the Eero Pro 6 is a similarly specced gigabit system that’s cheaper than the Eero Pro 6E and only $30 more than the Nest Wifi Pro when not on sale. But it doesn’t offer Wi-Fi 6E, just Wi-Fi 6. Also, Eero systems can use Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers to extend Wi-Fi. So, you could buy one Eero router and use Echo devices for further coverage. In practice, however, the Echo devices cut speeds in half, so they aren’t as efficient as adding another node.

All this makes the Nest Wifi Pro my recommendation if you’re looking for the best budget 6E router. Wyze just came out with a Wi-Fi 6 option for $174, but I would wait for the reviews on that. It’s the company’s first Wi-Fi product.

Other options I haven’t tested include TP-Link’s $300 two-pack Wi-Fi 6E mesh system. But that doesn’t have Thread or Matter on board. Netgear’s Orbi Wi-Fi 6E system has plenty of bells and whistles but no Thread or Matter, and it starts at $400. Either of those will give you more access to the networking nitty-gritty than Eero or Google if you’re into that sort of thing.

If you have or are considering starting a smart home, the Nest Wifi Pro is one of the first three-in-one devices — Matter controller, Wi-Fi router, Thread border router — on the market. There will likely be more, and the Eero line is being upgraded to Matter next year. Going forward, it’s likely that Thread and Matter will be built into every Wi-Fi access point. But the Nest Wifi Pro will be a good fit today if you’re looking to future-proof your smart home, don’t anticipate access to multi-gig speeds, and want to avoid the dead spider aesthetic.

Photos by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

Source: The Verge Nest Wifi Pro review: better, faster, shinier

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