There's a multitude of streaming devices, bluetooth speakers, and other smart home devices out there — that's no secret. As an e-commerce editor, it's one of the questions I get the most from friends, family, and followers — is Google Wi-fi worth it? And how does Google TV compare to other streaming devices?
I set out to find out just how much we can change our lives by Google-ifying our homes, phones, and even connections with others. Since most of our lives these days are spent at home, it seems there's no better time to explore what tech has to offer it or even optimize what smart home systems you already have in place.
Since Google, tech, and the internet in general continue to improve, innovate, and grow, it's hard enough to keep up, much less choose from what's out there to find what's best for you. We're here to save you both time and money in the end by doing all the testing for you. Without further ado, here's what I've learned.
My location in Brooklyn has some of the worst service in town. Wi-fi connections are generally weak, and they're even weaker during quarantines, when everyone at home is trying to get online. After weeks of frustration and even a few tries with different wi-fi extenders from Amazon, I got my hands on Google Nest Wi-fi.
Let me tell you: since installing my Google Nest Wi-fi, which took all of ten minutes to do, I have not experienced a single connection issue in two months. Not only this, but my connection doesn't even waver when my housemate and I are both working long days at home, playing music, enjoying our Pura fragrances, feeding our cat with his automatic feeder, and using our phones (take stock of all the times you use wi-fi in your day — you might be just as surprised as we were).
To get started, I recommend the Google Nest Wi-fi 2-pack, which includes the router and an additional connection point (which doubles as a speaker). The router connects to your modem and works its magic to increase the speed and amount of wi-fi your home has running through it — just without the additional internet bills. The additional Google connection point simply plugs into the wall in a room on the other side of your home, blanketing your entire space with uninterrupted signal.
To buy: Google Nest Wi-fi 2-pack, target.com, $269
Once your wi-fi is set up, you're going to want to add on to your family of Google-compatible speakers (since your Google Nest Wi-fi extender is also a speaker), and the Google Nest Audio is the best for the job.
In my 500-square foot apartment, one little Nest Audio does the job and lets me listen to my mellow jazz while I work with no perceptible audio issues — the sound is crystal clear and the volume never even needs to exceed its halfway point. I added another Google Nest Audio to my small space, which made it capable of hosting some pretty serious dance parties (for one, currently) during quarantine.
To buy: Google Nest Audio, target.com, $100
Being the Our Planet junkie that I am, Google TV and I already have an excellent rapport. Google TV combines the Chromecast dongle you're probably already familiar with with Google's latest streaming device technology. Every one of your favorite streaming apps is readily available to download and sign into, but if you've already got Google accounts, signing in is easier than with most other streaming devices.
As a tech software company (versus a hardware-first company like Apple), Google's user interface is easy to navigate and pairs beautifully to your other Google products, from your smart phone to your home speakers and even the lighting you have.
By speaking to your Google Nest Audios or simply pressing the Google Assistant button on your Google TV remote, you can ask your TV to play your favorite show, give you background on that new actor in it, and check your calendar to make sure you've got the time for the deep dive you're about to take.
Speaking of your Google TV remote — it's the only one you need. That's right, no more switching between two to five remotes since your speakers aren't connected to your TV, which isn't connected to your streaming device. With Google, all your devices are friends and they actually want to work together.
To buy: Google TV + Chromecast, target.com, $50
Extra tip: I've found that Google TV and all my Google Devices benefit from being connected to an android smart TV like this one from reliable TV brand TCL. The additional boost of Android connectivity makes it surprisingly easy to set up your TV with you Google Home, with or without the Google TV dongle.
To buy: TCL 55" Class 4 Series LED 4K UHD Smart Android TV, bestbuy.com, $320
From alarm systems to thermostats, Google is doing it all. Here's where you consider what you're ready to loop into your Google family so you can save energy, money, and increase home security all while keeping track in the Google Home app on your phone.
The Google Nest Hub is for the visual learner. If asking your Google phone or speaker to list your day's agenda or to let you know the weather doesn't quite stick for you, you may be who the Hub was made for. At a glance, you can check virtually everything you've logged in your Google network, from to-do lists and reminders to directions and even making phone calls.
To buy: Google Nest Hub, target.com, $70 (originally $90)
Add some indoor home security to your network with Google's agile Nest Indoor Security Camera. It tracks both motion and sound and will send alerts right to your phone when activity is detected. If you live alone, have kids, or simply would love some additional peace of mind, the Google Nest Cam should be added to your network.
Connect your outdoor and indoor Google Nest Cams to this alarm system and discover an ease of security maintenance that you may have never experienced before. No more passcodes — you can arm and disarm your home however you choose with the Google Nest Secure Alarm System. You can even find out what's going on at home any any time with the Nest app.
With Nest Aware, you can connect your security system to your speakers, cameras, and even Hub tablet to always stay aware of what's going on in and around your home.
To buy: Google Nest Secure Alarm System, target.com, $400
Forget all that confusing programming — the Google Nest Learning Thermostat learns how you prefer your home's temperature over time and adjusts accordingly. Control your environment via your phone, laptop, or tablet since they're all connected to your Google Wi-fi, but also relax knowing your Nest Thermostat is already checking the weather to see what indoor temperature would be best for you and your family from moment to moment. It also helps you save money and energy by tailoring heat and A/C usage to your location.
These earbuds are a world traveler's best friend. With the ability to offer you live language translation as someone is speaking to you, navigating the globe has never been easier — and neither has learning a new language. Of course, this is just one of the many features that the wireless Google Pixel Buds boast, from adaptive noise cancellation to hands-free Google Assistant connection. Out for a jog? Simply ask Google to "turn up the music."
To buy: Google Pixel Buds, target.com, $180
Kendall Cornish is an e-commerce editor at Travel + Leisure. She's never lived anywhere longer than three years, but currently resides in Brooklyn with her cat and beloved Dyson vacuum. You can follow her on Instagram at @kendall.cornish.
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