Nest Learning Thermostat vs. Nest Thermostat E: What's the difference?

Nest recently announced the brand new Nest Thermostat E a less-expensive smart thermostat with many of the same features as its more expensive sibling. The subtle, all-white design and simplified display of the Thermostat E stand in stark contrast to the flashier, heavier look of the Learning Thermostat. But look and feel are only part of the picture. If you're trying to decide between Nest's thermostats, this guide will give you an idea of what each brings to the table.


Other than pricing, the design is arguably the biggest difference between the Learning Thermostat and the new Thermostat E. Where the Learning Thermostat is meant to be a bold bit of industrial art for your wall, the Thermostat E is meant to blend in, almost disappearing into its surroundings.

The Nest Learning Thermostat comes in four colors — white, copper, black, and stainless steel — and the adjustment ring around the outside of the device is made of metal. The Thermostat E comes in one color — white — and its adjustment ring is made of polycarbonate, though Nest says it's made to feel like ceramic.

The Nest Learning Thermostat's 2.08-inch, 480 x 480 resolution display is sharp (229 pixels per inch) and bright. The Thermostat E's 1.76-inch, 320 x 320 resolution display is layered under a polarized covering that dulls the display, helping it to fade into the background and blurring the display's resolution (182 pixels per inch).


You could be forgiven for thinking the Thermostat E doesn't pack in all of the same "learning" features present in the Nest Learning Thermostat — the new name seems to suggest one "learns" and the other doesn't. Luckily, that's not the case!

Both the Nest Learning Thermostat and the Thermostat E pack in all the same functionality, save for one special feature: Farsight. Farsight uses the far-field sensor built into the Nest Learning Thermostat to detect when you walk by, lighting up to display the temperature, time, or weather.

If the Farsight feature is important to you, you'll want to get the Learning Thermostat. The Thermostat E — like the Learning Thermostat — has temperature, humidity, occupancy, and ambient light sensors, but it doesn't have those far-field "Farsight" sensors.

As for the rest of the feature set, both thermostats learn as you use them, both can be controlled using the Nest app, both can adjust the temperature based on your location (i.e. turning down when you leave your home), and both offer scheduling.

Compatibility with furnaces

Nest Thermostats work with a whole bunch of heating and cooling systems, but the Thermostat E can't boast the impressive compatibility rating of its more expensive sibling. Nest says the Learning Thermostat will work with 95% of heating and cooling systems. The Thermostat E, on the other hand, will work with "most" heating and cooling systems. What does that mean, exactly? It means most folks can expect the Thermostat E to work just fine with their setup. Still, if you've got a complicated setup with multiple humidifiers, dehumidifiers, fans, and other accessories, it's worth running a compatibility check before you decided to buy one of these models.

You can use Nest's Compatibility Checker to see which model(s) will work in your home.


At long last, the largest differentiator between two otherwise similar products: price!

So what's the takeaway here? If you can skip the far-field sensing feature and would rather have a thermostat that blends in instead of standing out, you can save about $80 by choosing the Nest Thermostat E. That said, premium materials, multiple color options, and Farsight might be worth the extra money for some. Whichever model you choose, you can count on Nest's nifty learning features that help you save on energy costs over time.

Which will you choose?

Now that you have a better idea of how the two thermostats compare, which one do you think you'll choose? If you already own Nest's current Learning Thermostat, is there anything about the Thermostat E that interests you? Give us a shout in the comments!

Mikah Sargent

Mikah Sargent is Senior Editor at Mobile Nations. When he's not bothering his chihuahuas, Mikah spends entirely too much time and money on home automation products. You can follow him on Twitter at @mikahsargent if you're so inclined.