Getting started with Nest: Your missing manual

Essential guide to Nest devices and the Works with Nest platform

Nest smart home essential guide

Your connected smart home is easier to run than ever, not only when it comes to getting set up, but also in getting devices from different manufacturers to play nicely with one another.

Platforms such as Works with Nest make it super simple to get your connected home devices talking without the need for third parties like IFTTT, and they give buyers a bit of reassurance too, with a 'Works with Nest' sticker on a box acting like a personal recommendation from Google.

Don’t forget – Nest Labs is owned by Alphabet, with the Mountain View giant splashing out over $3 billion for the Tony Faddell's company back in 2014. Nest is now actually being rolled back into Google, with integrations are going to get bigger and better - Google Assistant living inside of Nest Cams is just the start.

Nest, of course, is a huge player in the smart home game in its own right, with its range including security cameras and systems, smart thermostats, a connected doorbell and more. In this guide we’ll not only get you up to speed on these products, but we’ll also fill you in on just how easy it is to get your Nest products synced up with the rest of your smart home kit.

Sure, you’ll need to jump around in a few different apps to get it all set up (we'd like to see non-Nest branded products in the Nest app eventually), but it really is a doddle to get everything up and running.


Nest smart home devices

Nest has been in the smart home business since 2010, with the company’s first product – the original Nest Learning Thermostat – hitting the shops in late 2011. Nest Labs has since expanded into multiple smart home categories and there are now a range of slick connected devices on sale carrying the Nest name. Here’s the rundown…

Nest Thermostat

Getting started with Nest: Your Works With Nest missing manual

Nest dropped the Learning moniker when the third-generation Thermostat went on sale back in 2015. That doesn’t mean it’s stopped learning though. Not only will your Nest Thermostat create a schedule for you based on your heating behaviour, it will also encourage you to stay within certain temperature zones for optimal heating – saving you money and helping to reduce wasted energy. Nest currently estimates users can save between $130 and $145 a year.

Available in four different finishes (copper, stainless steel, black and white), for $249, the clever thermostat replaces your existing dial and adds a wealth of controls to your fingertips (or your voice).

Rivals: Check out the best smart thermostats

The 229ppi display can be customised to show a range of Farsight faces – think weather, time and the like – and the Thermostat even knows whether you’re home or not. That’s not just handy for smart heating (i.e. not heating the house when no one is home) but also means your smart security system can be better informed.

Getting started with Nest: Your Nest missing manual

As well as the flagship Thermostat, there’s also a cheaper model called the Thermostat E ($169). It’s still feature packed, you can control it remotely with your phone and it'll also turn off when it detects nobody's home. You miss out on the Farsight features though, and the display isn’t as sharp..

Nest Temperature Sensor

Getting started with Nest: Your missing manual

This little puck can be placed in any room and your Nest Thermostat will be able to adjust the heating or cooling to get the temperature in that room to where you want it to be.

In the app you can tell your Nest Thermostat which room should be a certain temperature , and you can even prioritise different rooms at different times of the day. You can have up to six sensors paired to your Thermostat (latest-gen or E only). They cost $39, or you can get three for $99. There is no launch plans for outside of the US.

Nest security cameras

Getting started with Nest: Your Works With Nest missing manual

Nest gobbled up Dropcam in 2014 and a year later the first Nest Cam went on sale – essentially a tweaked and rebranded version of the Drop. Since then, the Nest Cam has hit its second-generation and we’ve seen two Nest Cam Outdoor versions hit the market as well.

That second-gen camera is still on sale and is now called the Nest Cam Indoor ($199). It, alongside the Nest Cam Outdoor ($199), offers a set of features you’ll find as standard on all Nest security cameras: 24/7 live streaming, 1080p videos, three-hour snapshot history, night vision, motion and sound alerts, and a talk and listen function.

The Nest Cam IQ Indoor ($299) and the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor ($349), Nest’s top of the range camera duo, add HD Talk and Listen to the mix for clearer two-way conversations, person alerts (with Familiar face tech learning people over time) and a supersight 4K sensor with HDR, for close-up tracking. The Indoor version also has Google Assistant built in – effectively turning it into a Google Home speaker.

Home monitoring: The best smart security cameras

This feature, which is only in the US right now, takes advantage of the microphone and speaker that handles two-way audio to add Google Assistant functionality.

If you subscribe to Nest Aware, the cloud-based service that adds a heft of smart monitoring skills to the mix, you can include stuff like 24/7 recording, sharing of clips and timelapses, activity zones and more intelligent alerts. But more on that in a bit.

Nest Secure alarm system

Getting started with Nest: Your Works With Nest missing manual

Nest Secure is a comprehensive alarm system, made up of four different components – Nest Guard, Nest Detect, Nest Tag and the Nest app. Nest Guard is an alarm hub where you put in your security code, emitting a pleasant chime before your alarm goes off, turning to an ear-crunching siren when you need to be on alert. It works on your home Wi-Fi but also has backup cellular (optional $5 a month).

Nest Detect is a motion and door sensor you can place around your home, and Nest Tag is an NFC chip that you can use instead of your passcode to deactivate the system when you're leaving or coming home, and can be given to trusted relatives. There's a button you can press to activate and deactivate individual Detects, so it won't turn off all the other Detects if the alarm is armed – handy if you just want to take the rubbish out the back door, for example.

You'll get a Nest Guard, two Nest Detects and two Nest Tags in the Starer pack – $499 Stateside, not out in the UK yet – and you can buy additional Tags and Detects for $25 and $59 a pop.

The Nest app reminds you if you've forgotten to set the alarm when you left, or if you forgot to close a window or door. You can set the alarm to one of the three modes within the app, of course, and it integrates in with the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor and Indoor (more on that in a bit though).

Nest has also partnered up with Brinks for additional 24/7 monitoring, complete with police dispatch if needed. Plans start at $19.99 a month with a three-year agreement or $29.99 a month with no long-term contract.

Check out our Nest Secure review for more info. It's not launching in the UK until 2019.

Nest Hello doorbell

The Nest Hello doorbell, designed to take on Ring and the gang, has HDR, night-vision, a 4:3 aspect ratio and a 160-degree field of view – so you can see an entire person and whatever packages or pizza they might have on them. It's also got facial and person detection, and you can train it to alert you if it's someone you know – or someone you don't. For instance, if your granny is coming then Hello can let you know so you can get ready to meet her. You'll also get HD video and calls, and there's a mode called Nap Time – basically Do Not Disturb – that won't ring any sounds.

An interesting addition is Quick Responses, where you can simply click on a canned response. Your Nest Hello will will speak for you, tossing out something like "You can leave it here, thanks!" or "Just a moment".

It's wired only though - unlike Ring - you'll need existing doorbell wiring and a chime box to get full functionality. Google Assistant devices will also announce when visitors press its button (and announce who it is if Nest Familiar Faces recognises them).

It costs $229. Read our full Nest Hello doorbell review for more details.

Nest Protect

Getting started with Nest: Your Works With Nest missing manual

The second-gen Nest Protect, the smart smoke and CO detector, boasts a spilt-spectrum smoke sensor to detect both fast and slow fires, and a feature called app silence, which allows you to silence the smoke alarm from your smartphone when you burn the toast, say. Amazing. New algorithms also help the alarm to tell the difference between steam, from the shower for instance, and actual smoke.

Alternatives: The best smart smoke detectors

The new Protect has a mic that turns on once a month to test the horn and the speaker in a sound check. It's also possible to do a manual check within the app. It lasts ten years, has a faster, brighter pathlight, is easier to mount on walls or ceiling and is 11% smaller than the first-gen alarm. There are battery and wired versions – both cost $119.

Nest x Yale lock

Getting started with Nest: Your Works with Nest missing manual

Technically not a Nest product but as integrated as can be – it lives within the Nest app – the lock's features include the ability to lock, unlock and check if the door is locked, give visitors temporary access codes and see when they arrive at and leave the house.

Once connected to your Nest system and the Home/Away Assist feature, it can automatically lock when you're away. There's also integration with Secure so that it disables the whole security system when you arrive home as well as connecting to Hello so you can let people in. Plus, there's now Google Assistant integration.

It will set you back $249 in the US, no global launch details as of yet.

The Nest app

Getting started with Nest: Your Works With Nest missing manual

We've mentioned the Nest app a few times above and the good news is that it is, indeed, just one app – you don't need multiple apps for the spectrum of different Nest devices.

The app lets you add households (with multiple users so the whole family gets control) and spilts the house by rooms, giving you control over each device based on its location. You can change the settings for your various devices, add and move devices, see your video streams, silence your alarms… anything your Nest kit can do, you can control in the app, basically. Obviously, the Nest app can ping you notifications as well – such as motion detection, a smoke alarm in progress or somebody at the door – and it can even help to tell the system when you are home or away based on your location.

The main Nest apps are for Android and iOS – that's where you'll get full functionality – but there are also limited feature versions for smartwatches (Android Wear and watchOS) and Apple/Android TVs too.

One thing we would like to see is the Nest app playing nicely with the range of Works With Nest kit from other brands. In the same way that Elgato's Eve app does a great HomeKit impression, we'd like to see Nest taking its connected brethren under one roof. We're sure it's in the works.

Nest Aware

Getting started with Nest: Your missing manual

Nest Aware is Nest's 24/7 security service for its camera-based devices, like the Cam and Hello video doorbell. It uses the power of the cloud and Nest's algorithms to add a layer of smartness to the video that's captured.

For instance, Nest Aware adds a feature called 'familiar faces'. This allows your camera to recognize faces that pass by in front of them pretty regularly. So if your dad comes by every so often, your camera will recognize him. Then, you can label his face in the companion app, so that when he rings your Nest Hello it will announce him in an app notification (and on Google Home if you have one).

Nest Aware can also tell the difference between an animal and a human, and identify whether a sound is someone talking or an animal barking. If there's action in the frame, it can also zoom in, take a picture and send it to you.

Finally, you can also use the companion app to create activity zones. That way, your camera will only alert you if something happens in a certain part of the frame. For instance, say you have a camera-equipped room with a crib, maybe you only want to know what happens near the crib - you can then paint the crib with an activity zone in the app so that if anything is picked up in that area you'll be alerted.

Finally, Nest Aware comes with 24/7 video recording in three sizes. You can get 5-days of video history for either $5 a month or $50 a year, 10 days of video history for $10 a month or $100 a year, or 30 days of video history for $30 a month or $300 a year.


Works with Nest

Works with Nest is a seal of approval that Nest gives to other smart home brands to indicate that their kit will play nicely with the Nest products, without the need for third-party apps or skills such as Alexa, Google Home, IFTTT or Apple HomeKit.

Nest of course plays nicely with all of those platforms, but the Works with Nest platform means that you don't need to get additional software or hub hardware to connect up different sets of smart home kit. Your Nest products and your other-branded devices will interact if they're certified Works with Nest.

Read this: The best Works with Nest smart home tech

What that means in real terms is dependent on the Works with Nest device you select. For example, Philips Hue will talk with pretty much all the Nest kit – red lights when it's too hot, flashing lights for an alarm, blinking blue lights when someone is at the door – but the Almond router just gives you an additional way to control your Thermostat.

The Works with Nest store lists all the available devices and what Nest functions are included.

Nest versus the competition

Because Nest works across many different smart home genres, it's fighting rivals across multiple fronts. Ring, Netatmo, Canary, Somfy and Elgato are all doing similar stuff with multiple devices and on the Works with Nest front, it's obviously going up against HomeKit and Alexa too.

From a camera perspective, check out our guide to the best smart security cameras to see how Nest fares against its competition, and also check out our smart security systems hub for news, guides and reviews.

The one big thing Nest has against its competition is its tight integration with Google Assistant. Or, well, it's supposed tight integration with Assistant. As the company is still folding into Google, things still aren't 100%. For example, the Nest x Yale Lock only now got Assistant integration.

TAGGED   nest   smart home

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4 comments

  • amazed

    Badly needs a screen shot of the various operational settings on both the app and the desktop to explain the use of the the importance of sequence in use of the various icons and controls. Current docs deal with installation and setup. Enough already. It's set up and installed. Now to operation. Daily operation at a distance.

  • amazed

    Just some screen shots please...annotated.

  • amazed

    No more videos on installation!! No endless HTML links!!! Just some verbiage and a couple of screenshots. Please.

  • amazed

    Think of your non-Apple users, please. We also paid.

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