Nest learning thermostat provides mobile control and slick design (review and gallery)

Summary:I never thought I would say I was excited about a thermostat, but now that my Nest is installed I can't help myself from monitoring my heat patterns and tweaking the temperature.

The Honeywell thermostat in my house has ticked me off for years since it never seemed to stay programmed, the broken buttons forced you to open the cover to change the temperature, and it was ugly. I saw the Nest Learning Thermostat at CES in Vegas and immediately filled out the form to order one (they were already on back order). My Nest arrived last week and I've been having a blast managing my home's heating, which is something I never thought I would say. You can check out pictures of the Nest, my installation, and screenshots of the mobile apps in my image gallery.


Image Gallery: Check out some photos of the Nest Learning Thermostat and screenshots of the iOS app.
Image Gallery: Nest retail package
Image Gallery: Nest iPhone app

In the box and first impressions

The Nest comes with an attractive sleeve showing the lit up display and green Nest leaf on the front. Inside the box you will find:
  • Nest Learning Thermostat
  • Installation guide
  • Nest Start Here guide
  • Nest screwdriver
  • Mounting screws and wall anchors
  • Optional mounting kit

The Nest has sensors for temperature, humidity, near field/far field activity, and ambient light. It has an integrated 802.11 b/g/n WiFi radio and 24-bit color display.

The Nest design is beautiful and will change your impression of thermostats forever. I love the way it rotates so smoothly and presses in with ease. The display is bright and clear and really highlights the design of the Nest.

Installation and setup

The first thing you need to do before even considering the Nest is to check your existing thermostat setup and walk through the compatibility check wizard. I understand that the Nest works in most homes, but make sure to check first. You can also order professional installation if you are not comfortable with the installation process, available for $119 for one Nest with a fee of $25 for each additional thermostat.

Inside the package you will find an excellent installation guide that cover all the details and even includes handy wire label stickers. There are graphics that shows the steps and specific, easy-to-follow directions. My installation took just about 15 minutes and included these steps:

  1. Switch off the power to the heating system (breaker on my garage panel)
  2. Remove the cover off the existing thermostat
  3. Identify the wires and apply label stickers
  4. Disconnect the existing thermostat
  5. Screw the Nest baseplate into the wall
  6. Reconnect the wires to the Nest panel
  7. Attach the Nest display
  8. Switch on power and get setup

There are a few options along the way, but I went with the most basic and recommended setup. You can use the optional mounting kit (included in the package). Nest even includes a handy screwdriver with four different bits stored in the top of the screwdriver.

Setup was easy and a fairly simple wizard is presented to you after power is restored to the Nest thermostat. I show several photos of the setup procedure in my image gallery with the primary steps being:

  • Internet connection
  • Heating and cooling
  • Your location
  • Temperature

I have a secure WiFi network and entering the password was fairly easy as you rotate the outside of the Nest to the letter/number and then press in to select. You enter your ZIP code so that the Nest can connect via WiFi and determine what the outside temperature is for your area. You can have multiple Nest thermostats in your house, but I have just one that controls my home so went with the default Nest name.

After the initial setup the screen on the Nest will state that it takes up to a week to learn your temperature control patterns and then allow you to rotate to the temperature you wish to start with. You can press in on the outside of the Nest to access a control screen that gives you access to:

  • Home/Away toggle
  • Settings
  • Energy
  • Schedule
  • Off
  • Done

Settings include adjustments to the screen brightness, control to have the Nest display turn on when you get close to the Nest, and more.

Mobile apps and web access

You can find free mobile apps for the Nest in the Android Market and Apple App Store (iPhone/iPod and iPad versions). The mobile apps offer limited functionality, including viewing the current temperature and setting and the ability to adjust your thermostat. This can be helpful for situations such as when you are heading home and want to make sure the heat is turned up.

You can also access your Nest via a web browser by logging into your Nest account. From the web browser you can control the specific details of your daily heating/cooling schedule, view all the statistic of your Nest, toggle the temperature scale (F or C), and more.

Usage experiences and pricing

During these current winter months we have a fairly simple heating pattern and Nest learned ours within a couple of days. In Washington State there is little need for home cooling system so I only have a heating system to control in my house. The Nest documentation states that changing the temperature in your home just one degree has the potential to cut your energy use by up to 5%. The green Nest leaf appears when you choose a temperature that saves energy so it is sort of a reward to see that green leaf on the Nest when you walk by.

The Nest was a breeze to setup and I never thought a thermostat could be so easy to use. My wife and I simply walk by and adjust the Nest as needed and let it take care of itself after that. We have had several visitors since I installed the Nest and everyone asks what the slick looking device is on the wall. After a quick demo they ask me where they can get one so I can understand why they are so popular.

The Nest retails for $249, but is sold out so you need to fill out the contact form and wait for your personal store invite. I signed up while at CES on 9 January and was able to place my order on 29 February and get it the next day.

Topics: Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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