It’s been five years since people first started saying the phrase “nice thermostat”.
Before Nest, your heating was controlled by a beige rectangle that cost about £15 and just turned your radiators up or down. That wasn't the future! Then iPod impresario Tony Fadell arrived and executed his signature special move of adding a nice clicky digital wheel.
Thermostats became smart little internet-connected circles that people would actually notice and say things like "What's that? Is it a small, expensive clock? A thermostat, really? Huh."
Like the iPod, Nest's self-teaching boilerbrain has been widely imitated but, in our opinion, it's remained the nicest smart thermostat you can buy. The latest model is the same but, like most newer versions of most gadgets, it's thinner, with a bigger, better screen. It also adds some useful functions.
Not only is the display bigger and sharper, it’s also useful
First among these is hot water control. If you live in a big old house (congratulations on having the money to do that), you’ll know that older boilers have separate hot water tanks. These can be good – get a pump on there and you're looking at some pretty serious water pressure for your nice big shower – but they have their drawbacks. Namely that they waste energy needlessly keeping water hot, and that the hot water can run out.
Because Nest learns your habits - when you're in the house, when you're likely to need a lot of hot water and so on - it can control the boiler to save energy and keep that shower nice and toasty.
Not only is the display bigger and sharper, it’s also more useful. Switch on Farsight and when you pass your Nest it flashes up the time and date, as an analogue or digital clock. This will not change your life all that dramatically. Or maybe it will: maybe the time will pop up one morning and you won't miss that train you were going to miss, and you'll make it to the city centre just in time for the alien invasion, and you'll be teleported to a distant planet to work in the egg-mines of giant, spacefaring tardigrades.
Most likely, it'll just make the new Nest a slightly nicer thing to have on your kitchen wall.
Turn app the heat
Nest also says both the learning and temperature sensing functions have improved. We've tried to notice a difference in various different ways – looking at heating bills, putting it in different rooms, staring at it – but it's hard to say.
It's still good at knowing what the temperature is and setting itself to Auto-Away when you go out. A more noticeable change is that the new model seems a little more responsive, a little faster to carry out commands from the app.
The Nest app is simple and intuitive, and in over a year of use the connection has never been unavailable. If you have other Nest products they show up in the app. If you want to go Full Nerd you can use the Nest channel in IFTTT to set up more specific automations - combine it with your phone's GPS, for example, and you can instruct your heating to come on when you get within a mile of your house after 5pm (when you’re on your way home, basically).
Nest 3.0 verdict
The Nest 3.0 is not a dramatic reinvention, but it didn't need to be
As with previous versions, the Nest 3.0 runs on a USB power adapter – like a phone charger – so if you want it mounted on a wall you’ll need to do a little DIY. An easier but more expensive solution is to buy the optional stand (£30) and place it on a shelf or worktop.
The Nest 3.0 is not a dramatic reinvention, but it didn't need to be: this is still the best-looking smart thermostat on the market. That, paired with a nicely-designed app and some self-scheduling smarts, is enough to put the new Nest ahead of its competition.