Google’s Nest announces new smart thermostat with simpler design, lower price

The new Nest Thermostat has a mirrored front and comes in four different colors Image: Google

The new Nest Thermostat ditches the signature rotating dial

Google’s Nest smart home division has a new smart thermostat available to order starting today. The new Nest Thermostat is a simpler model than the Nest Learning Thermostat or Nest Thermostat E and comes with a lower price, just $129.99. That’s $40 less than the Nest E and $120 less than the top-of-the-line third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat. It is available to pre-order starting today, and Google says it will be shipping in a few weeks.

Simpler is the theme with the new Nest Thermostat, and that starts with its design. Gone is the traditional rotating dial that’s been on every Nest thermostat for the past nine years. In its place is a touch sensitive strip on the right side that is used to navigate the interface and make adjustments. Instead of turning a dial to adjust the temperature, you swipe up and down and tap on this touch strip. This design eliminates all of the moving parts and allowed Google to bring the price down.

Instead of the automatic learning system of other Nest models, the new Nest Thermostat relies on a more traditional programmed schedule. Photo: Google

The front of the thermostat is a completely mirrored finish with a display that shines through the mirror when the thermostat is being used. Google is using the same Soli technology that was in the Pixel 4 smartphone underneath the mirrored finish to automatically detect when you are standing in front of the thermostat and wake it up. The company says that the Soli tech allows the mirrored finish to be uninterrupted, without an obvious window or cutout for a traditional motion sensor, as used on the other models. But that is the extent of the Soli use in the Nest Thermostat — there are no gesture-based controls outside of the touch strip.

Similar to the recently released Nest Audio smart speaker, the Nest Thermostat comes in a variety of colors: white, dark grey, light pink, and light green. A color-matched trim kit is available to cover up the holes left from your old thermostat for $14.99.

Nest has also simplified the software experience. The new Nest Thermostat does not feature Nest’s signature learning function, which attempts to automatically learn your living circumstances and adjust the thermostat for the best balance of comfort and efficiency. Instead, it runs off of a traditional schedule system, where you tell it when you’re home, when you’re away, and what temperature it should maintain for each scenario. In this way, it’s similar to how a traditional programmable thermostat works and should be very familiar to most people upgrading to a smart thermostat for the first time.

The Nest Thermostat does have some smarts built in. It can be controlled via the Google Home smartphone app just like any other Nest thermostat, and it supports voice control via the Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa. It can also prompt you to adjust temperature levels for more efficiency and can alert you to potential issues with your HVAC system or when it’s time to change your air filter. It will use the Soli motion sensor plus geolocation on your phone to automatically enable Eco mode to save energy when you’re not home. Google says that these features can save owners an average of 10 to 12 percent on heating and 15 percent on cooling bills each year. The Nest Thermostat is also Energy Star certified, just like the other Nest thermostat models.

The Nest Thermostat lacks some capabilities compared to the more expensive versions. It doesn’t support Nest’s remote sensors for balancing the system off of a specific room, for example. Instead of a built-in rechargeable lithium battery, the Nest Thermostat runs off of two standard AAA batteries. (Google says it should last for “multiple years” on a set of AAAs.) The Farsight feature that lets you see the current temp from the across the room with other Nest models is not here, either. Google says that the install process is similar to the other models and the Nest Thermostat is compatible with nearly as many HVAC systems in use. It can also support multiple zone systems by linking multiple Nest Thermostats together and running them together.

Google representatives say the Nest Thermostat does not replace its other models — the third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat remains available, though the Nest E will be only available to professional installers going forward. Instead, the company hopes that the lower cost and easier-to-understand system will be enticing to those that have not yet upgraded to a smart thermostat and are still using a traditional, programmable one.

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