REVIEW: Nest Learning Thermostat

REVIEW: Nest Learning Thermostat

The smart home’s gateway drug.

When they first unveiled the Nest thermostat, I laughed.

Who would have guessed that such a strange, “niche” product would kickstart the modern smart home revolution. Even my nerdy little brain couldn’t wrap my mind around paying $250 for a random gadget with such limited appeal.

As it soon became apparent, Nest is absolutely brilliant. It didn’t take long for me to find myself reading glowing reviews on tech blogs, and spending lunch breaks pouring over purchase pages. Its siren song of simplicity and utility lured me in, until we finally made the splurge purchase a few summers back.

Two years later, it’s a core component of our daily routine and a part of the family I wouldn’t want to live without.

What Does it Claim to Do?

The Nest Learning Thermostat is simple in its focus: It’s a simple, smart phone friendly thermostat that learns your habits over time to save you money on your heating/cooling bill.

Programmable thermostats have been around for years, but they’re notoriously clunky to the degree that many users never bother with their extra features. Nest aims to remedy this by learning your schedule as you use it.

It also offers smart phone/web apps, giving you full control of your home’s temperature no matter where you are.


  • 320×320 1.5″ LCD Display
  • Temperature Sensor
  • Humidity Sensor
  • Motion Sensor
  • Ambient Light Sensor
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Compatible with almost all home wiring (check their online guide).
  • $249

Does it live up to the promises?

Look and Feel

The Nest is attractive, but it’s designed to blend in. Its round display glows pleasantly when you walk nearby (thanks to a built-in motion detector) or make an adjustment, but dims when not in use as it sits discretely on your wall.

Adjustments through the device are made by simply twisting its face and pressing to select an option. The related apps are pleasantly designed and intuitive to navigate, mirroring the options you’ll find on the thermostat itself.

Performance and User Experience

Adjustments through either method mentioned above take effect almost instantly. Advanced changes such as temperature scheduling are easy to navigate (especially through the app or website). Rarely is it difficult to find what you’re looking for.

The Nest iPhone App

As my wife works from home, our schedule doesn’t necessitate the use of its learning features to discover our habits; I actually disabled these after a few weeks, as our routine is pretty simple to program.

Perhaps our favorite feature is using the smart phone app to adjust the temperature when we’re in bed at night. Our thermostat is downstairs and across the house, so we used to just freeze before Nest under the protection of our covers. Now, all it takes is a tap on my iPhone to keep us comfortable.

Integration with Other Platforms

With the introduction of their “Works with Nest” program, lots of great integrations are beginning to flesh out the Nest ecosystem. I’m also encouraged to see nerdy partnerships with IFTTT, and compatibility with popular smart home hubs like Wink.

The one bummer is the lack of support with Apple’s upcoming HomeKit initiative. Being a recent Google acquisition, it’s unlikely that Nest will pop up on their partner page any time soon. That’s a big bummer for us, as we’re pretty much an Apple household; I wish they could just work it out with Google and be friends again.

Build Quality and Reliability

As for the device, the rotation mechanism shifts gracefully and is effortless in its simplicity. The display is low pixel density, but clear and easy to read.

In our two years with the device, I’ve only encountered two instances where it wouldn’t respond (via the app), both of which were brief network hiccups with Nest’s servers.

Software updates are a regular occurrence too, adding new features and even better efficiency through improved algorithms. A recent one added the ability to view the weather outside with a tap of the thermostat… Neat!


Here’s the question you’ve been waiting for… Is it actually worth the price?

Definitely. The act of programming our thermostat has saved us about 10-15% over the years, which is a significant savings over the winter months. It’s also saved us a bundle as we can remotely activate away mode from our phones after we’ve left for vacation (something we always forget in the rush of packing).

When you add those savings to the “cool factor” of changing the temp while you’re lying in bed, you’ve go the recipe for a fantastic little product. At only $249, it’s a steal. Pick one up today!

Look and Feel
Performance and User Experience
Integration with Other Platforms
Build Quality and Reliability

The Nest Learning Thermostat is an essential addition to your home that's pays for itself through energy efficiency and legitimately useful features.


Eric is the creator of At Home in the Future and has been a passionate fan of the future since he was seven. He's a web developer by trade, and serves as the Director of Communication and Technology for a large church in Nashville, TN (where he and his family are building a high tech home in the woods).


  • Wow, I had no idea Nest had so many features. This seems like the obvious first buy for someone getting started with smart home tech. Sounds like its come a long way since launch. I’ll definitely be curious to see what comes of integrations with other platforms.

  • I have zoned heating (upstairs/downstairs) and have a nest for each floor. I cannot sufficiently explain my love for those little devices, but I think you hit the nail on the head. The energy savings is probably real and a good ‘marquee feature’ but the primary reasons I love it are:
    • Turning the temp down/up from bed (or the living room, or wherever) using the iPhone app
    • Setting them to ‘away’ remotely after we’ve already left (since I usually forget) and then ending ‘away’ when we arrive at the airport on our return (when traveling)
    • it just freaking WORKS and it’s fun to operate

    • The updates seem to be coming at the same pace. I was worried about the acquisition, to be honest, but I haven’t seen advertisements or anything like that pop up yet 🙂

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