Nest Wifi vs. Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien: Which mesh router should you buy?

Nest Wifi
Nest Wifi (Image credit: Android Central)

Nest Wifi

Google Nest Wifi router

Nest Wifi focuses on using multiple routers and mesh points to build a Wi-Fi network for consistent coverage. With multiple options for expansion, from Nest Wifi points to Google Wifi routers, it's easy to build a robust network even in a home with a lot of interference. Nest Wifi is extremely flexible and has plenty of speed for most people.

Nest Wifi

A great balance

Compact size
Features WPA3
Multiple expansion options
More affordable
Enough speed for most people
Relatively slow Wi-Fi 5
Less range than Alien

Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien

AmpliFi Alien router

The AmpliFi Alien from Ubiquiti is a truly impressive Wi-Fi 6 router with incredible speed capabilities and an attractive design that stands alone. Most people will be able to get away with just one of these routers but it can form a mesh with another Alien if you need even more coverage. This router compromises nothing in pursuit of performance.

Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien

Ultimate speed and coverage

Fast Wi-Fi 6
Four Ethernet ports
Great coverage
Touchscreen display
Large size
Not compatible with older AmpliFi mesh points

There's no doubt that the AmpliFi Alien from Ubiquiti is a great router with truly impressive specs and features but it, like many other Wi-Fi 6 routers, is likely more than most people need. The Nest Wifi aims for the sweet spot with its undeniably slower Wi-Fi 5 implementation but at AC2200 speed, it will be more than enough for the average user for a few years to come. Nest Wifi requires a greater number of points or routers to match the AmpliFi Alien's coverage but this approach means it will be able to deal with interference such as a home with concrete walls.

Nest Wifi vs. Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien The big difference is Wi-Fi 6

Wi-Fi 6 is the next big thing for wireless technology and is superior to Wi-Fi 5 in every way besides price. The main problem is that most of the wireless devices we use today only support Wi-Fi 5 and will get no immediate improvement from the Wi-Fi 6 upgrade. Wi-Fi 6 mesh routers do have the advantage of an improved backhaul though.

It's worth keeping in mind that in the next few years, new phones and laptops will support this new tech, so if you want to make sure you have the strongest possible network in the next few years, future-proofing with something like Ubiquiti's AmpliFi Alien is a great choice. The AmpliFi Alien also provides a fast Wi-Fi 5 connection for older devices.

For now, though, Nest Wifi will be more than enough for the vast majority of people and will come in at a lower price.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Nest WifiAmpliFi Alien
Wi-Fi generationWi-Fi 5 (802.11ac)Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
Ethernet ports2 (1 for uplink)4
Compatible mesh pointsNest Wifi routerNest Wifi pointGoogle WifiAmpliFi AlienAmpliFi Alien node
DimensionsDiameter: 3.56 inchesHeight: 4.33 inchesDiameter: 4.33 inchesHeight: 9.82 inches
SetupAndroid or iOS appAndroid or iOS appweb browser

The AmpliFi Alien is great and trades blows with some of the most powerful routers being made with a sleeker appearance and a very competitive price. If you are considering a high-performance Wi-Fi 6 router, AmpliFi Alien should be on your shortlist.

Nest Wifi is a much more compact unit making it easier to blend in with more rooms in your home and its greater mesh compatibility makes it much easier, and cheaper, to blanket your home in Wi-Fi.

Nest Wifi vs. Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien How much speed is enough?

Both Disney+ and Netflix only recommend needing 25Mbps for 4K video streams. While other factors like HDR and high-resolution audio can take this even higher, you'll rarely exceed 50Mbps for one stream. Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien will have no trouble providing these speeds to several users, but neither will Nest Wifi.

For most internet usage today, you just don't need that much raw speed and Nest Wifi's 4x4 Wi-Fi at 5GHz will be enough. A high-end phone will typically max out around 867Mbps on Wi-Fi 5 and around 1,200Mbps on Wi-Fi 6. There are still some situations where you may want the raw power that the AmpliFi Alien's 4x4 plus 8x8 5GHz MIMO setup can deliver (we're talking about 1,148Mbps plus 4,804Mbps on the 5GHz bands).

AmpliFi Alien's power starts to make sense for people who use more cloud computing, or as people use it more in the future, ranging from gaming to cloud storage. It will also be great for a home streaming server or even a home NAS with a lot of data. It's not like you'll ever be able to get 100% of the speeds on a download test but the extra capacity will keep speeds very high, even when the Alien is part of a mesh.

Nest Wifi vs. Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien Nest has the most expansion options

Nest Wifi

Source: Nirave Gondhia / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nirave Gondhia / Android Central)

With either router, you can add more in a mesh to expand coverage, but it will be much more necessary with Nest Wifi. A side effect of this is that you'll be able to tackle weak points in coverage more directly with additional nodes rather than relying on one central router to tackle the whole house. This is most significant when there are elements that can interfere with wireless signals such as concrete walls or HVAC units.

Nest Wifi covers approximately 2,200 square feet with one of its routers and 1,600 square feet with the mesh point. The AmpliFi Alien sticks to double the coverage of the previous generation AmpliFi HD router, which had a listed 10,000 square feet of coverage. In the real world, you won't get either of these numbers but AmpliFi's strong antenna array and larger size will be able to cover most homes with only one router. However, it'll be more imprecise.

Source: Ubiquiti Networks (Image credit: Source: Ubiquiti Networks)

Currently, the only mesh expansion options for the AmpliFi Alien are another Alien or an Alien node. If you know you'll need the speed you can buy another Alien or a pack with a node included to save some money. The older AmpliFi mesh points will not work as part of the AmpliFi Alien's mesh.

Alien can also connect more wired devices with its four Ethernet ports as well as easily extending your home network to remotely connected devices thanks to the AmpliFi Teleport app.

With Nest Wifi you have a few more options. You could simply buy more Nest Wifi routers for more coverage or you could get a Nest Wifi point that has a smart speaker built-in but lacks some coverage and speed. Google Wifi is also compatible and will be a decent option for filling in areas with a weaker signal more cheaply. Thanks to this compatibility, Nest Wifi is an excellent upgrade path for existing Google Wifi users.

Nest Wifi points add another 1,600 square feet of coverage while Google Wifi adds 1,200 square feet per unit. Both the Nest Wifi point and Google Wifi only come AC1200 speeds though.

Nest Wifi vs. Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien Which one works best for you?

It's worth considering if you even need mesh with some of the best wireless routers delivering great speeds without it. Still, both of these routers are great options but there's no doubt that the Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien is the more capable device. The main issue is its price and high cost of expansion but if you want the extra capabilities, it's a great option. Nest Wifi hits the mark in providing enough speed for most people with plenty of expansion options if you need more coverage. Nest Wifi provides an experience more in line with more people's needs at a very competitive price.

Samuel Contreras

When Samuel is not writing about networking or 5G at Android Central, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It's the Pentium 3.