Nest Learning Thermostat review: more than a pretty face(plate)


We’ve tested quite a few of the best smart thermostats, and while the Emerson Sensi Touch sits at the top of the rankings, there’s no denying that the Nest Learning Thermostat is wildly popular for a reason. It’s the thermostat I have on my wall, and in my years of using it every day, I’ve found very little to dislike about it. Let’s take a closer look.

About the 3rd-generation Nest Learning Thermostat

Credit: Reviewed / Sarah Kovac

You can specify whether the Nest shows you your current temperature or the desired temperature.

This Nest Learning Thermostat’s claim to fame is its unrivaled ability to learn your habits and adjust home temperature accordingly. Even beyond its scheduling functionality, though, its feature list is impressive. It works with both Alexa and Google Assistant, letting you control your home’s temperature by a simple voice command to a smart speaker. It integrates with the Nest app, where you can manage all Nest products, like security cameras and smart locks, in one place. In most cases, it doesn’t require a c-wire for installation, and it comes in an array of colors to match any space.

Here are the 3rd-generation Nest Thermostat’s basic specs:

  • Smart assistants: Alexa, Google Assistant
  • C-wire: Not required for most users
  • Colors: Black, brass, copper, mirror black, polished steel, stainless steel, white
  • Dimensions: 3.3 in diameter, 1.21 in deep
  • Connectivity: WiFi

This smart thermostat is feature-rich and beautiful, but there are a few features that can be more trouble than they’re worth, at times. After several years of using the Nest Learning thermostat, here are my impressions.

What we like

It’s a good-looking thermostat

Nest heat

Credit: Reviewed / Sarah Kovac

An orange background lets you know at a glance that your heater is running.

No exaggeration, I admire my Nest just about every time I walk down my hall. As I pass by, the screen wakes to show me what the current house temperature is, the temperature setting, and the background color indicates whether the A/C or heat is running.

A turn of the dial around the screen adjusts the temperature, while a press of the screen itself opens up the Nest’s settings, a scheduling interface, and even the local weather. This thermostat packs a lot of function into a beautiful and simple form factor.

It learns and anticipates your preferences

People either tend to love or hate this feature, and I admit I have it disabled on my own Nest because I’m always home and don’t want the temperature fluctuating much. But the “learning” part of this learning thermostat is pretty impressive.

When it’s first enabled, the thermostat pays attention to what times of day you tend to adjust the temperature, and it uses that data to create a custom schedule (which you can tweak or delete from the app or the thermostat itself). With your schedule set up, you can count on your home to be just the temperature you like.


Credit: Reviewed / Sarah Kovac

Early-On makes sure your house is the desired temperature by a specific time.

The Early-On function works beautifully with scheduling, as the heat or A/C will kick on early to warm or cool your house to the specified temperature by the time you’ve scheduled instead of at the time. So, instead of adjusting the temperature when you walk in the door from work, the Nest will make sure the temperature is where you want it already when you arrive. Nice, right?

It guides you to cost savings


Credit: Reviewed / Sarah Kovac

The leaf appears when your thermostat is set to an energy-saving temperature.

A main selling point of a smart thermostat is the promise of energy efficiency and hopefully cost savings. And it’s true, a smart thermostat can save you money on your energy bill, but only if you use it correctly. A couple of the Nest Learning Thermostat’s features do a great job of guiding you to smarter energy use.

Eco Mode is active when you see the little green leaf on the display. As you adjust your thermostat, simply keep moving the temperature until the leaf appears, and you know this is the optimal temperature for cost savings.

The Home/Away Assist feature can use the thermostat’s motion sensor plus your phone’s location to determine when the house is empty and kick into Eco Mode until you arrive back home again. Your house probably won’t be your ideal temperature when you arrive, but it will get there as fast as your HVAC setup will allow.

What we don’t like

Programming schedules is unnecessarily complicated

Though the rest of the Nest app is polished and a breeze to use, the scheduling section is inexplicably awkward. You add and delete timed changes to temperature across the entire week on one landscape screen. A dot has to be dragged very precisely on a horizontal axis to the desired time and then vertically to the temperature of choice. The only nice thing is that, once you get one day scheduled, you can copy that day and paste it into the rest of the week, one day at a time.


Credit: Reviewed / Sarah Kovac

The scheduling setup can be a bit cumbersome, but once it’s right, you won’t have to deal with it often.

Programming the schedule on the thermostat itself is also possible, but with only a dial to turn and one button to push, navigating this process is at least as obnoxious as it is in the app. How this hasn’t been improved by now, I have no idea, but once you get your schedule right, you don’t have to mess with it much, anyway.

Should you buy it?

For sure. It’s popular for good reason.

Using the Nest Learning Thermostat is as involved as you want it to be. Once the right settings are enabled, you can pretty much just forget it exists and let it do its thing. It’s sleek and comes in enough color options to blend in with any décor, and it can be adjusted via Alexa, Google Assistant, the Nest app, or the thermostat itself.


Credit: Reviewed / Sarah Kovac

The thermostat keeps a history of how many hours per day your HVAC system was running.

It’s smart enough to help you find the most efficient settings, and it can even remind you to change out your filters. This is an incredibly intuitive product, and it’s not even a complicated install.

If you need a smart thermostat that can work with HomeKit (Siri), opt for the Emerson Sensi Touch instead. Though it lacks the Nest’s good looks and learning feature, the Sensi performed better than the rest in our testing, and it is usually priced under $150.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

Meet the tester

Sarah Kovac

Sarah Kovac

Editor, Smart Home


Sarah Kovac is an award-winning author and smart home editor for Reviewed. Previously, she worked with a multitude of outlets such as Wirecutter, TIME, PCMag, Prevention, The Atlantic,, CNN, GOOD, Upworthy,, and SheKnows.

See all of Sarah Kovac’s reviews

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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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