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Nest Thermostat review: Affordable, but less magical

This smart thermostat is less smart than others, but it’s also less expensive.

Nest Thermostat review
(Image: © Google Store)

Our Verdict

The Nest Thermostat is an affordable, but less magical, smart thermostat

For

  • Inexpensive
  • Attractive
  • Easy to use

Against

  • Lacks smarts of other Nest thermostats
  • Doesn’t work with remote sensors

If you were to take the learning — and some of the style — out of the Nest Learning Thermostat, you’d end up with the Nest Thermostat. In an effort to come up with a more affordable alternative, Google stripped a number of things out of its original flagship smart thermostat. The result is a still-attractive device that’s priced to compete with the multitude of the best smart thermostats that have come on the market since the original Nest. 

Nest Thermostat review

(Image credit: Google Store)

In this Nest Thermostat review, we’ll see if what Nest took out of its top-tier smart thermostat is worth the tradeoff in price, and if you should get it for your home.

Nest Thermostat review: Price and availability

The Nest Thermostat went on sale in 2020 for $129; that’s half the price of the Nest Learning Thermostat. The Nest Thermostat is available in four colors: white, sand, fog (a pale green), and charcoal. 

Nest Thermostat review: Design

The first thing that captures your eye is the Nest Thermostat’s mirrored surface; it’s a little larger than the mirror you’d find in a makeup compact, and probably as useful if you need to touch up as you’re walking by.

Nest Thermostat review

(Image credit: Google Store)

The temperature and other status updates glow from beneath its surface, but only appear when you walk close to the thermostat and it senses your presence. When you look at it up close, you can see that the actual display is a small square inside the circle.

Nest Thermostat review

(Image credit: Google Store)

While the Nest Thermostat has the same circular shape as the Nest Learning Thermostat, its outer bezel (made of plastic, not metal) doesn’t spin; instead, there’s a small touch strip along the right side which you use to navigate menus and select items. It’s easy enough to use — though I did accidentally tap when I meant to scroll — but not as classic, nor as satisfying, as the original.

Nest Thermostat review

(Image credit: Google Store)

For better or worse, you don’t have to touch the surface of the Nest Thermostat to select items — and mess up the reflective surface with your fingerprints — but years of using touch screens made me want to reflexively tap on the display.

Nest Thermostat review: Nest Thermostat vs. Nest Learning Thermostat

Nest ThermostatNest Learning Thermostat
Price $129$249
Color options46
Works with remote sensorsNoYes
Farsight sensorNoYes
Auto-schedulingNoYes
HVAC compatibility 85% of systems 95% of systems
Trim plate includedNoYes

Apart from the looks, the biggest difference between the Nest Thermostat and the Nest Learning Thermostat is their level of intelligence. While both can be manually programmed, only the Nest Learning Thermostat can sense your comings and goings and temperature preferences. It’s also the only one that can create a heating and cooling schedule on its own. 

The other major difference is that the Nest Learning Thermostat can work with remote sensors, so you get a better sense overall in your house of which rooms are colder or warmer than others, and can set the thermostat to keep your system running until those rooms are at the temperature you want. While not as good as the remote sensors that work with the Ecobee SmartThermostat — which can also detect a person’s presence as well as the temperature — they go a long way towards making sure you’re comfortable.

Nest Thermostat review: Smart home compatibility

The Nest Thermostat is the brand’s first thermostat that’s set up and controlled entirely within the Google Home app; all other Nest thermostats still require the Nest app. 

Nest Thermostat review

(Image credit: Google Store)

The only issue I had during setup was trying to connect the Nest Thermostat to my Wi-Fi: the Google Home app kept trying to find another Nest device so it could share my network’s name and password. I had to contact tech support first, which had me create a new “Home” within the Google Home app to set up the thermostat. Then, I had to move all my other smart home devices to the new Home. This might be an issue for other households that have other Nest legacy products, such as the Nest Protect smart smoke detector.

Nest Thermostat review

(Image credit: Google Store)

Google still hasn’t added all of the functionality of the Nest ecosystem to Google Home — one of the reasons why Google lags behind Alexa and Siri when it comes to smart home automation — but there is a Home/Away routine, which uses your smartphone’s location to know where you are, and adjust the temperature accordingly.

Nest Thermostat review

(Image credit: Google Store)

If you’re an Alexa user, you can also link the Nest Thermostat to Amazon’s assistant, which also enables you to create more complex and sophisticated home automation routines. 

Nest Thermostat review: Verdict

The Nest Thermostat is a serviceable, attractive, and affordable thermostat. At $129, it’s half the price of the Nest Learning Thermostat, and $40 less than the Ecobee3 Lite and Nest Thermostat E — the latter of which is now only available through contractors. However, the Ecobee3 Lite and Nest E can both be paired with remote temperature sensors, making them better suited if you have a house with some cold or hot sports. However, the Nest Thermostat is a fine option for those who have apartments, neither need nor want these features or just want a cheap — but still good-looking — thermostat.

Mike Prospero

Michael A. Prospero is the deputy editor at Tom’s Guide overseeing the home, smart home, drones, and fitness/wearables categories, as well as all buying guides and other evergreen content. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine or some other cooking gadget.