A quick caveat up there. This is not a review. TechCrunch does reviews. It is not. There are several reasons for this. First, last week was Disrupt – I was busy on the other side of the country. Second, this week is my COVID week (round three, if not self-explanatory with limited release). Third, we very rarely review routers here, for many reasons, including resources.
Even so, the Nest Wifi Pro is available now, so I’m validating some of my initial impressions of the page, after setting it up and using it for a few days. Hope this helps if you’ve seen one since its unveiling last month. If you need something a little more substantial than what my doughy brain can offer right now, I completely understand. We have plenty of great reviews planned on the horizon.
Let’s start with what the Nest Wifi Pro is not. It’s “Pro” in the sense that it falls within the broader line of Google Wifi. It’s a home router, looks nice and is easy to set up. There are faster and more powerful routers. There are more customizable and flexible routers. If, however, you’re looking for a router with Wi-Fi 6E that works right out of the box, it’s hard to beat.
This is an important thing to note with products like this. At $199, it’s a solid entry into Wi-Fi 6E territory. If you’re looking for a quick boost for your home internet and the current dusty old router is starting to give up the ghost, you’d be hard pressed to find a better “working” system out of the box. I say this with the authority of someone who has spent his own hours on the phone with terrible ISP customer support, due to a ghost in the company routers machine. Amazing how often the solution is someone flipping a switch on their side.
I’ve been waiting a long time for a wireless upgrade myself, as someone who hosts a lot of podcasts and live video streams. There are more embarrassing things that can happen to someone on a live broadcast, but we won’t go into that here. Suffice it to say that a strong and stable internet connection is an important part of my job.
Another caveat I should mention before going any further is one I often make when testing smart home-related technologies: I live in New York. This means, among other better things, that I have a relatively small living area. Specifically, I’m in a bedroom. Google syncs the Nest Wifi Pro’s coverage area at 2,200 square feet (4,400 for a two-pack, 6,600 for a three-pack, etc.). One-bedroom apartments in New York tend to range from around 600 to 800 square feet.
With that in mind, one device was enough. Speeds can fluctuate throughout the day, but I found mine to be fairly consistent regardless of my proximity to the router. If you’re unsure if one device is enough, it should be more than enough for anything under 1,000 square feet. As you get closer to 2,000 square feet, the bundle starts to make more sense. And the upshot of the UX is that it’s easy to add Google mesh routers down the road (although you won’t get those savings bundled).
The setup process will be familiar to you if you have already setup most smart home products, especially Google/Nest, for obvious reasons. There’s not much to the device from a user perspective (again, this is intentional). The design is arguably even more minimalist than its predecessor. It is taller and thinner, the matte color replaced by a bright, plain work. Your mileage on that last bit will vary, but as with other Nest products, this one is designed – first and foremost – to blend in with its surroundings.
There are three ports: power and a pair of Ethernet – one for the modem, the other for wiring a single device. That last bit is a potential limiter, of course, as is the 1 Gbps upper limit on the built-in Ethernet (to help keep the system under $200, we imagine). This may or may not be a problem, depending on your specific plan. If you have fiber, for example, you’re going to have a bottleneck. Me, I’m stuck with Spectrum right now (I know, I know), so, uh, no problem there.
But obviously, you don’t want a device placed between you and the wall to slow down your internet speed. Either way, the service you’re on will determine your ultimate speeds.
Download the Google Home app to get started, and you’ll be guided through a simple, expedited setup process if you can snap a photo of the QR code on the bottom of the product. The paper getting started guide included in the box includes three basic steps (plug in the router, download the app, follow the on-screen instructions) and two images spread over two small pages. I’m not going to say that’s all you need, but if you’re having no problems (always a consideration with network devices), this should be enough.
Nest Wifi was a good system, and honestly, if you bought one, you probably don’t need to rush out and upgrade. Its combined speed for Wi-Fi 5 reached a claimed speed of 2.2 Gbps compared to Wifi Pro’s 5.4 Gbps. Keep in mind that these are both combined on all three bands. Let’s say they are very optimistic figures.
Here’s Wi-Fi Alliance CEO Edgar Figueroa from 2020 on the Wi-Fi 5 upgrade:
6 GHz will help meet the growing need for Wi-Fi spectrum capacity to ensure Wi-Fi users continue to enjoy the same great user experience with their devices. Wi-Fi Alliance is now introducing Wi-Fi 6E to ensure the industry aligns with common terminology, allowing Wi-Fi users to identify devices that support 6GHz operation as the spectrum becomes available.
Another important note here: the Pro isn’t backwards compatible with standard Nest Wifi. This means you cannot mix and match. It’s a shame, because you can find some really good deals on these old standard Nest Wifi devices right now. The other small detail to note here is that, unlike their predecessor, there’s no built-in smart speaker here. But as I type this, you can currently buy a Nest Mini directly from Google for $20, so go for it.
Google’s Nest devices bring other cool features, such as dedicated guest networks, parental controls and over-the-air security updates. For a quick and easy way to get your home Wi-Fi running at high speeds (including access to the 6GHz band), coupled with some family-friendly features, this is a tough bundle to beat. The Pro costs $200 for one, $300 for two, and $400 for three.