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Hands on with Nest's latest thermostat

It has a bigger screen

Nest's smart thermostat has been around for three years and was one of the first smart home devices to really gain mainstream attention. Since its original launch, the Nest Thermostat has undergone two hardware revisions, with the most recent coming out just a couple of weeks ago.

The third-generation Nest Thermostat is very similar to its predecessors, though it now has 40 percent larger display with 25 percent more resolution. It's still a round, hockey puck-like device that mounts in the same location as a traditional thermostat and connects to your Wi-Fi network. It still monitors your activity and adjusts itself accordingly, ostensibly saving money on wasted energy for heating and cooling when you're not home. And of course, you can control it from wherever you are with Nest's smartphone app.

The bigger display is easier to read from across the room, and you can have it automatically display the system's target temperature or a basic clock. It will wake up when you approach it automatically. If you already have one of Nest's earlier models, it's probably not worth spending the $249 it costs for the new one, but new customers will appreciate the improvements.

I've recently installed the new Nest Thermostat in my home, and will be using it to control my heating system. (My home was built in the 1940s and lacks centralized cooling, so the Nest can only control my forced-air, oil-burning furnace.) It's still quite warm here in the northeastern United States, so for now, the Nest is a pretty decoration on my wall until heating season arrives.

Installing the Nest was shockingly easy — it was simpler than replacing a lighting fixture. A lot of that has to do with my home's very simple heating system: all I had to do was drill the mounting plate into the wall and connect two wires. It took longer for the Nest to update its firmware after I plugged it in and got it on my Wi-Fi network than it did to actually install the device on my wall. (As my home is quite a few decades old, it's had a number of different thermostats, and the scarring on the wall from those earlier models isn't fully obscured by the Nest's mounting plate. Looks like I have some painting to do.)

Nest claims that the thermostat can save up to 10 percent on heating costs, so I plan to put it to the test once the true heating season starts. But for now, it's just sitting there, learning my family's comings and goings and hopefully improving its intelligence in the meantime.

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