Google’s range of smart speakers – the Google Home range – are great: they provide a large number of benefits and features for free, and you can also play loads of music through Spotify, YouTube music and more. But I seem to remember that Google sells an item that improves WiFi coverage throughout the house – is this technology available within a Google Home product?
Most Google Home products (including the Nest range) do not include WiFi extending capability, however the new Google Nest WiFi does include a speaker for Google Assistant smart operation. The Nest WiFi point (but not the router) therefore offers both smart home and WiFi extension capability.
Recapping’s Google smart products
Google have produced a range of smart speakers over the years – both of their own brand or under the ‘Nest’ brand. Many of which are direct competitors to a recently launched Amazon Echo product, too. The full range is:
|Google Home Smart Speaker
|Not for sale anymore
|4th November 2016
|Google Home Mini
|19th October 2017
|Google Home Max
|11th December 2017
|Google Home Hub
|Not for sale anymore
|9th October 2018
|Nest Mini (2nd Gen)
|22nd October 2019
|7th May 2019
|Nest Hub Max
|Google Nest Home (gen 2)
|13th July 2020
One thing you might note there is the lack of any products with “WiFi” in their name! That’s because Google’s range of WiFi extenders (and routers) was typically separate to the ‘Home’ range, with the line-up being:
|Not for sale anymore, but originally:
$259 (router + 1 point)
|5th December 2016
|Google Nest Wi-Fi
|$269 (router + 1 point)
|4th November 2019
Okay, so it’s quite a limited line-up really! There was a 3 year gap between Google releasing their original Wi-Fi product and the ‘Nest’ version, but that gap led to a good development: the Nest Wi-Fi has a built-in speaker and microphone, giving it access to Google Assistant (and hence allowing control of your smart home, like the Google Home range). This is true for the Wi-Fi points but not the router.
More on this later, but for now I wanted to discuss why improving your house’s WiFi coverage (or at least, not relying on your internet provider’s basic router) is often a good idea!
Why improving your house’s WiFi coverage is important
We’ve probably all gone out into our backyard or checked on our car in the driveway, only to find that the WiFi sign on our phones has a line through it: meaning ‘no signal’.
This is despite the fact that the marketed ‘effective range’ of many modern WiFi routers is 160 ft (50 metres). However a mix of factors can reduce this effective range a lot, including:
- Each wall the signal goes through will reduce the range.
- This is especially true if the wall includes insulation or is a solid (brick) wall.
- If it’s a 5 GHz connection, since 5 GHz connections have up to a third less range than 2.4 GHz WiFi.
I live in a fairly newly built house and the external walls have really good insulation, which is good apart from the fact that my WiFi quality disappears when I’m more than 6.5 foot (2 metres) away from my house!
This means that I’m unable to get a WiFi signal in my garage, even though it’s only 10 foot (3 metres) from my house!
As a result, I’m unable to setup a home office in there, and I also wouldn’t be able to install a Ring or Nest security camera on it (unless it’s the ‘Elite’ power over Ethernet Ring version).
Hence if I had a WiFi extension point in the wall socket by my back door, I’d be able to get a much better WiFi signal within my garage (and my driveway and in my backyard).
WiFi extenders are useful inside a house, too – especially in bigger houses, or older houses with thick internal walls. Both of these will struggle with having a single internet router, especially since they’re usually located at the front or back of the house (as it’s easier for the internet supplier to run cabling into those points).
If your children keep complaining that their WiFi is unreliable when they’re in their rooms, or you notice there’s certain”WiFi deadspots” in your house where your internet connection dips, extending the reach of your WiFi network is a good idea to deliver higher quality WiFi access to all.
How the Google Nest WiFi works
Google Nest WiFi (and its predecessor, Google WiFi) has two or more parts to it:
- The Nest WiFi router, which is just 9cm (3.5″) tall and 11cm (4.3″) wide. This has to replace your existing internet router, since it has the capability to speak to your Nest WiFi points.
- The Nest WiFi points, which you can have multiple of around your house, and this is just 8.7cm (3.4″) tall and 10.2cm (4″) wide. These can plug into wall sockets around your house, and they help to improve the reach of your WiFi network. This works in a way similar to TV/radio tower relays, a way of repeating signals so they can last over longer distances.
Nest WiFi delivers 802.11s internet, which is a newer WiFi standard from 2011 that introduces WiFi mesh capability. It also offers a range of up to 120 square metres (1,292 square feet) from each router point, and 90 square metres (969 square feet) from each WiFi point. The router and points can support up to 100 connected devices, too, including multiple 4k streams. This is higher than many cheap internet provider routers, some of which can only support a 20-30 devices before they struggle.
The Nest WiFi points plug into a wall socket and they form a ‘WiFi mesh’, a bit like a spider’s web. Each connection point leads to a stronger overall ‘net’, with an increased reach. So the more WiFi points you have, the stronger your house’s WiFi coverage will be:
Google supports up to 100 WiFi points per Google account, so you should be fine if you want to have multiple Nest WiFi points in your home setup!
Finally, the WiFi routers contains two Ethernet ports but the WiFi points don’t have any. This is fine for many households which rely more on WiFi, but it’s worth calling out in-case you were hoping to quickly get a whole-house Ethernet network going!
Does the Google Nest WiFi point offer the exact same smart features?
The inclusion of a speaker and microphone on the Nest WiFi point – along with a privacy button as per the other Google and Amazon smart speakers – is a really nice feature, since it gives full access to Google Assistant, the AI behind Google’s smart home offerings.
What this means is that just like you can manage your smart home (and play music, set reminders, get weather updates etc) with your phone – via Google Assistant – you can now also do this via your Nest WiFi point.
In other words, many of the smart home features that we use a Google/Nest Home device for can now be offered through the Nest WiFi point instead.
Since the Nest WiFi point also supports Bluetooth streaming (same as the Google Home devices), I can’t really think of a smart home feature that you can achieve on your Google Home devices but not on the Nest WiFi points.
The only real flaw in Google’s smart home ecosystem is that none of their products contain a ZigBee chip, meaning that you still can’t control a wide range of ZigBee-based smart devices with Google’s ecosystem – unlike the Amazon Echo Plus and Amazon Show (full size) devices which do act as a ‘smart home hub’ due to containing a ZigBee chip.
In other words, you can control Philips Hue (and similar) devices with Amazon devices, but not with Google devices.
But the gist here is that: yes, the Nest WiFi point is practically just as good as a Google Nest Mini for managing your smart home. Naturally the larger speaker on a bigger Google/Nest Home device will deliver better sound quality when playing music, but this is true for any smart home devices.
Are there better rival products?
Some people prefer the following ‘whole house WiFi coverage’ products:
- Luma Whole Home Wi-Fi
- Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 Mesh Wi-Fi
- Amazon eero Pro
- Amplifi HD
- ASUS RT-AX92U
I haven’t used any of these products myself so I won’t go into too much detail on them, but the eero Pro is meant to be a really nice (and configurable) product, whilst the ASUS RT-AX92U features ‘smart home hub’ functionality since it contains a ZigBee chip and hence can control Philips Hue lights and similar devices.
Whilst these rival products don’t contain a smart speaker, some people have found that they can’t configure the Google/Nest WiFi systems as much (or easily) as they’d like. As a result, if having a built-in smart speaker isn’t too important to you, it could be worth doing a bit of shopping around before buying.