Routers aren't usually high on my list of exciting gadgets to review but I moved house recently and quickly discovered the Wi-Fi signal was poor. Of particular annoyance was the black spot in the bedroom but more on that later.
So out went the old paint splattered, slightly battered, ISP-supplied modem/router and in came a new Google Nest Wi-Fi, launched in New Zealand a few weeks ago.
The product has been adapted to New Zealand needs and supports our fibre network, but how well does it work and is it worth forking out hundreds of dollars?
After a few weeks of using Nest Wi-Fi, here are my thoughts.
Installation was easy. I unplugged the existing ISP supplied modem from the ONT (the Chorus box that connects a home's internal network to a fibre network) in the kitchen, opened the Nest Wi-Fi box and plugged the router straight in using the supplied ethernet cable.
It's worth noting here that for those still using ADSL and VDSL technology, a modem will still be needed to connect the Nest router to the old copper network. Some features on the old equipment may also need to be disabled.
To get the hardware up and running, I opened the Google Home App on my phone and followed some easy steps to create a home network and find the router.
The app is available to download for Android and iOS phones, but is rather tricky if you have a Huawei due to them not working with Google services.
After a quick scan of a QR code, setting up a new name and passwords for the wireless network, I was good to go. My device automatically updated too.
After standing back to admire how pretty the router looked out on the shelf (it's been carefully designed to be attractive yet unobtrusive), I returned to the app to check out some of the features.
It isn't as feature laden as a dedicated gaming router, but you can still do things such as view the devices connected to it, group them together and pause the connection to those devices. It can also prioritise traffic to any of the devices on the network, which is good for streaming 4K video or online gaming.
The parental controls are pretty simple, such as pausing connection to the devices, but that may not be enough for some households.
Nest Wi-Fi lacks features that many decent routers boast nowadays, such as limiting things like the number of hours a device can be used in a day. Others like the Asus Lyra Voice can sync with Google Assistant or Alexa to turn off connections with a voice command.
Nest Wi-Fi has a quad-core 64-bit ARM CPU running at 1.4 GHz which can handle up to 100 devices. That should more than suffice for even the techiest of households.
Google claims that just having the one router will provide coverage for approximately 204 square metres (on the box it states it works well for a two bedroom home), but adding more means you can greatly extend coverage.
So, back to that to black spot in our bedroom which is very inconvenient when lying in bed looking at our phones or on the laptop trying to watch a film. That's what beds are for nowadays, right?
I was thoroughly fed up with chewing through loads of mobile data. My solution was to use another Nest router to act as a Wi-Fi extender and create a simple mesh network.
Overseas it's possible to get Nest Wi-Fi access points that have speakers and microphones, but those haven't been officially released by Google here and when I asked, the company couldn't give a time frame as to when they would be.
Speed tests can be done through the app and I was pleased to see that after creating the mesh network, I could get good, usable speed throughout the house.
If you're thinking a Nest Wi-Fi might be what you need, consider the following:
- Easy to use and the ugly modem box can be done away with in most households that can get fibre. I'm with Orcon and found it worked straight out of the box with little fuss, but you may need to contact your ISP and get things like a PPPoE name and password to make it work
- Nest Wi-Fi is backwards compatible with Google Wi-Fi so people can create mesh Wi-Fi either using multiple Nest Wi-Fi routers or using Google Wi-Fi as their extra Wi-Fipoints
- The router is attractive and unobtrusive, so having them on display around the house to achieve the best signal won't be a problem.
- Nest Wi-Fi doesn't support the Easy Mesh standard used by many other devices, so only Google devices can be used for future expansions
- For people with lots of wired Ethernet connections, Nest Wi-Fi isn't very useful as it only has two Ethernet ports and one is already in use with the ONT
- Wi-Fi 6 isn't supported on Nest Wi-Fi unlike some other routers from the likes of D-Link - this isn't a big deal right now but could be in the future
- The lack of a web interface means set-up needs to be done via a phone.
I think Google Nest Wi-Fi will do very well in Aotearoa.
Though power users might not find Google Nest Wi-Fi beefy enough or with enough features, and may prefer what's on offer from the likes of Linksys or Netgear, it's likely to be fine for most everyday users and those already invested in Google's internet ecosystem of services and devices.
Google Nest Wi-Fi costs $299 for the one router from major electrical retailers. New Orcon customers on certain broadband plans will also get a router to use for free instead of the usual modem.
Emma was supplied a Google Nest Wi-Fi set-up for this review.