Google and Amazon each have new mesh Wi-Fi systems up for sale this fall — the Google Assistant-equippedand the new . Both are new versions of existing mesh systems that have tested well here at CNET. They arrive at a time when multipoint mesh router setups seem to be gaining traction with people fed up with the dead spots in their home Wi-Fi networks.
It’s early days for these systems, and we’ll know a lot more once we’ve had time to put their performance claims to the test. I’ll update this post when we’ve got that data, but for now let’s take a look at how the specs, the features, the designs and the prices compare.
Google’s Nest Wifi is a refreshed, second-gen version of the Google Wifi mesh system that came before it. Available for preorder now and shipping this November, the rebranded Nest version adds in a new, marshmallowy design in your choice of three colors, faster top speeds and, most interestingly, microphones and speakers in each of the range-extending Nest Wifi Points.
That built-in audio hardware lets you use each of those Wifi Points just like any of Google’s other smart speakers, so you’ll spread the Google Assistant’s footprint throughout your home as you spread a stronger Wi-Fi signal with it. Along with the full spate of Google Assistant commands, you’ll also be able to ask the mesh system to run a quick speed test, or to pause the Wi-Fi for a device or group of devices on your network, which might come in handy for the parents of unruly children.
Between the voice controls and the focus on design, Google’s goal is to get you to keep these things out in the open where they’ll perform better, rather than hiding them out of sight on the floor or the back of a shelf. It’s also a markedly different approach than Eero’s, which stuck with plain white plastic and no extra functionality aimed at keeping you from stashing the things out of sight.
The Nest Wifi is an AC2200 mesh router system. The “2200” part tells you the combined speed of each of the router’s bands, which comes in at about 2,200 megabits per second. Your actual connection will be a lot lower than that since you can only connect to one band at a time. Still, it’s a noticeable top speed improvment over Google Wifi from three years ago, which was an AC1200 router.
The unchanged “AC” part merits a mention, too. That’s short for 802.11ac, the technical name for current-gen Wi-Fi 5 connections. The new, speedier version of Wi-Fi, 802.11ax, is just starting to hit the market under “Wi-Fi 6” branding, but Google decided to stick with Wi-Fi 5 to keep costs down. Then again, so did Eero.
Google did increase the number of antennas inside of the Nest Wifi router to four, though, which allows it to support 4×4 MIMO connections on the 5GHz band. If you’re using a device with multiple antennas of its own, like the 3×3 MIMO MacBook Pro, then you’ll be able to receive data from the router on multiple antennas at once. The new version of Eero sticks with a more limited 2×2 MIMO design, so give Google a point here.
The Nest Wifi Router is available as a standalone device for $169 (£149, AU$269), but you’ll almost certainly want to get it with at least one Nest Wifi Point to extend the range and take advantage of the smart speaker functionality. Google is offering a starter kit with the Nest Wifi Router and a single Wifi Point for $269 (£239, AU$399), and claims that the duo is capable of covering homes of up to 3,800 square feet. Additional Wifi Points cost $149 (£129, AU229) each.
Eero was a pioneer in mesh networking that made a name for itself with popular, multipoint Wi-Fi systems that sling a steady signal to every corner of your house. At $400 or more, those systems didn’t come cheap, but they tested well, earning solid reviews and also the attention of Amazon, which moved to acquire Eero early this year.
Now, just in time for holiday buying season, we have our first new Eero system since the acquisition. At $249 for a three-piece setup (one unit to plug into your modem and serve as the main router, plus two identical devices to place around your home), it’s half the cost of the existing three-piece Eero Pro system. That’s an aggressive bid to win customers at a time when mesh really seems to be catching on.
Eero doesn’t specify the exact speed of its dual-band mesh system on the product page, the product packaging or even the fine print on the product itself, but it claims that the system is best for homes with internet connections of up to 350Mbps. That seems to line up with our speed tests for Eero’s earlier-generation hardware, with average wireless speeds that never exceeded 200Mbps when we were connecting via one of the satellites and not to the core router itself.
Still, Eero uses a proprietary approach to mesh networking called TrueMesh. We found that it improved our average speeds when we tested it out in 2017. Eero also does a commendable job of providing a steady stream of automatic software updates aimed at keeping the system running smooth and secure.
I also appreciate that each Eero unit comes with two Gigabit LAN ports. That lets you wire two units together if you’d like, and it gives you plenty of places to plug in a smart home hub or a media streamer. Nest Wifi only includes two Gigabit LAN ports on the router itself. The Wifi Points don’t include LAN ports at all.
As for smart home integrations, the Eero system works with Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa, which lets you ask to pause Wi-Fi to a device, or to tell you which Eero unit your phone is closest to the next time you’re having trouble finding it. You won’t find Alexa living in any of the Eero units, though — these devices don’t double as smart speakers like the Nest Wifi Points.
Where Eero really shines — particularly at the new, lower price of $249 — is simplicity and range. Setup is quick and simple via the Eero app, and the three units in the starter kit promise to cover a home of up to 5,000 square feet. You’d need to spend $349 to get a three-piece Nest Wifi setup with the same coverage claim. (They’re not available in the UK or Australia.)
We’ll obviously know more once we’ve had time to test both systems out (and again, I’ll update this space once that happens). We’ll also be keeping an eye on competitors like Amplifi that might offer solid alternatives worth considering, too. Do stay tuned.and