Nest 3rd gen: what’s new, and is it worth upgrading?
Google’s third generation Nest hardware hit stores just in time for the 2015 holiday shopping season. Now that the dust has settled, let’s take a look at what’s new.
What’s new with the 3rd generation Nest?
Not a whole lot. The most noticeable updates over the second generation Nest model are:
- The display is noticeably larger and higher resolution than previous Nest generations. Pixels weren’t really noticeable on previous Nest displays, but the ppi update on the Nest 3 makes them all but invisible.
- It detects your presence from further away – about 10 feet instead of the previous 3 feet – thanks to a new hardware feature aptly named Farsight.
- Three ring colors to pick from: copper, white, and stainless steel.
Other goodies include:
- Support for the 5GHz wireless band, in case you’re experiencing a lot of interference on the usual 2.4GHz band and you have a router that gives you a 5GHz WiFi network (I use and recommend the Netgear AC1750)
- Slightly slimmer design – 20% thinner than Nest 1, a teeny bit thinner than Nest 2
- Furnace Heads-Up feature that looks for anomalies in your HVAC system’s operation (Nest promises this feature will be coming to Nest 1 and Nest 2 “later this year”) This is a cool safety feature that we are very excited about and very glad to see get rolled out to earlier Nest models, too
- Same $250 MSRP as Nest 2
- It does everything Nest 2 does (see our Nest 2 review here)
- Support for Nest’s new room temperature sensor accessory (read our review here)
- Same great app, same “learning” algorithm that made Nest famous
The true strength of the Nest Learning Thermostat (of any Nest thermostat, really) is its integration with an ever-increasing collection of home automation products. To buy a Nest is to buy into a family of products that can work together. For example, if your Nest Protect smoke/CO detector is triggered, your Nest thermostat will automatically stop sending signals to your furnace.
Is it worth upgrading?
It depends on what you already have and how badly you want the new features. There’s no killer feature in the Nest 3, and it’s a mild product refresh at best.
If you don’t have a smart thermostat already and you’ve always had your heart set on a Nest, this is the best Nest yet – go for it. It’s definitely not worth switching over from our top pick, the Ecobee 3, and if all you really want is a bare-bones WiFi thermostat (and don’t mind plopping down less than half as much cash), check out the Emerson Sensi.
If you’ve got a Nest 2, then you already have 90% of a Nest 3. (If you don’t have a Nest at all, then you have 0% of a Nest 3.)
|Nest 2nd gen||Nest 3rd gen||Difference:|
|Thickness (from wall)||1.26"||1.21"||20% thinner than Nest 1, same as Nest 2|
|Display dimensions, resolution||320x320px, 183ppi||480x480px, 229ppi||Larger and clearer display than Nest 2 and Nest 1|
|WiFi||802.11b/g/n @ 2.4GHz||802.11b/g/n @ 2.4GHz, 5GHz a/b/g/n||Support for wireless a in the 5GHz band|
For being the third generation of an industry leading piece of hardware, I (and some other reviewers) can’t help but notice the lack of whiz bang excitement in the Nest 3rd gen. It’s more like they’re just keeping it modern than revolutionizing the industry the way they did a few years back. Hey, that’s not so bad – I love when my favorite band releases a new album that stays true to the sound I love them for.
What would I love to see in the next Nest? Well, maybe…
Something to help you keep an eye on the “big picture” in your home. Ecobee introduced the concept of room-specific temperature sensors with their Ecobee 3, giving users a better understanding of room temperatures throughout their homes. These little sensors have proven essential to Ecobee 3’s enduring popularity. Some users find that their Nest has an unfortunate tendency to slip into “Away” mode at inappropriate times because it doesn’t detect anyone walking by it in its out-of-the-way location.
*2018 update* Nest rolled out an optional room temperature sensor accessory this year! This is great news for Nest owners with a bit of ecobee envy. The room sensors only detect temperature, so they’re best suited for homes where the thermostat itself is in a less-than-ideal location and you’d rather gather temperature data from somewhere else in your house. They don’t help with detecting occupancy.
More display options for the wake screen. The Nest 3 can be awoken from much further away thanks to the new Farsight feature, but many users wish they could see their home’s current temp (not the target temp) on this idle screen. And that limitation is by design, apparently (probably not for long, though, given the sheer amount of complaining on Amazon).
If your home lacks central air, you’ll be treated to a display of the word “Farsight” when you trigger the device from afar – that’s rather boring. (My home doesn’t have central air. 🙁 ) This isn’t catastrophic. You can see your home’s actual temp on the device up close or in the app at any time. I think it’s more likely that Nest’s RTFM-esque response to customer requests is rubbing customers the wrong way.
HomeKit & Siri support. Nest is owned by Google, so no surprise that Nest lacks HomeKit and Siri support, but this veteran of the 90’s PC vs. Mac wars is just super tired of this crap. I’d hate to see home automation (devices that presumably get sold and bought along with your home) get split into two competing proprietary camps. Boo, hiss!
The Bottom Line
It’s a marginal update but Nest is still an excellent smart thermostat. If you always wanted one, you have this anonymous Internet person’s permission to go get one. The best reasons to buy a Nest Learning Thermostat are to buy into the larger Nest family of home automation products and to take advantage of the “learning” algorithm.
More Nest 3rd gen reviews & resources
- 9 to 5 Mac’s in-depth review with photos and installation steps
- Tom’s Guide to the Nest 3 with installation steps
- Meet the 3rd generation Nest Learning Thermostat – official Nest.com announcement