You can't talk about smart thermostats without talking about Nest: the company (which is now owned by Google) helped pioneer this category of device, and remains one of the biggest names in the business – some seven years after the first model went on sale.
If you've decided you want a Nest gadget to power your home, the next question is which one? Nest sells two thermostats right now, the (3rd-gen) Nest Learning Thermostat and the Nest Thermostat E, launched in 2017. Here are the key differences you need to be aware of.
- Here are the best smart thermostats you can buy right now
- Nest Learning Thermostat takes on Hive Active Heating
Nest Learning Thermostat vs Nest Thermostat E: design
When it comes to choosing a smart thermostat, you might not think the design of your device is all that important, but it's one of the main ways you can tell the Nest Learning Thermostat and the Nest Thermostat E apart.
The more expensive 3rd-gen Nest Learning Thermostat is made from metal, with a polished finish and a choice of four different finishes. It also has a clearer, higher resolution, more visible display, so you can check the time, the temperature, or the weather from a distance.
The cheaper Nest Thermostat E is made from polycarbonate, with a ceramic-feel finish: it's only available in white, and has a frosted display that doesn't stand out as much. Are you prepared to pay a little extra for slightly better build quality? That's the question.
When it comes to the Nest Learning Thermostat, you can mount it on the wall or on a stand – but Nest recommends you get a professional to install it. The Nest Thermostat E only gives you the stand option, with a separate Heat Link E taking the place of your current thermostat on the wall.
Because both E products work via battery power, Nest says you can install them yourself in less than an hour without too much difficulty, so you don't have to pay the engineer installation fee (£80 in the UK and around $100 in the US at the time of writing).
Nest Learning Thermostat vs Nest Thermostat E: specs and features
Let's start by telling you what both these devices do in exactly the same way: they both manage the temperature of your home by interfacing directly with your central heating. They can both be operated via the Nest app, and they'll both learn your heating habits to introduce automatic adjustments that can save you money.
Both work with Google Assistant and (of course) other Nest products. They can be controlled from anywhere and do smart tricks like turn off the heating automatically when the system detects there's no one at home.
All well and good, so what are the differences, besides the design and installation variations we mentioned above? For a start, the Nest Learning Thermostat can control your hot water tank as well as your central heating, if you have a compatible system.
On top of that, the only other difference really is Farsight – extra information on the thermostat screen besides the current temperature. It can automatically detect someone's presence in the room and show the time, the weather forecast, and messages from other connected devices (like a Nest Protect).
So, in summary: the more expensive Nest is made from better materials, can control your hot water as well as your heating, is able to show more on its display, but needs to be installed by a professional (pushing up the cost even further).
Nest Learning Thermostat vs Nest Thermostat E: price and verdict
The flagship Nest here is quite clearly the Nest Learning Thermostat, because it can do more and it looks better. However, the lower price of the Nest Thermostat E and the fact it can be installed by pretty much anyone are very compelling reasons to go for the less expensive model instead.
Check the widgets on this page for the latest deals, but do remember to factor in the extra cost of installation – you're going to end up paying quite a lot more for the Nest Learning Thermostat, even though the initial difference in cost isn't that much.
Considering the central functionality of both smart thermostats is along similar lines – with remote control from your smartphone and the ability to intelligently adapt to your regular heating schedule – either thermostat is a good choice for starting your smart home setup or adding to existing kit.
Don't forget there's plenty of competition out there too, from the likes of Tado and Hive, so a Nest model might not be right for you. One advantage these thermostats do have is the way they work with Google Assistant and the other gear made by Nest, such as its security cameras and smart smoke alarms.
We'd say these are definitely two of the best devices on the market right now though – smart, reasonably affordable, and intuitive to use. It's just a question of the features you need and how much you want to spend.