Google Nest Mini review: Google’s smallest smart speaker keeps getting better
In 2016, Google showcased its first smart speaker, Google Home ($ 130 in QVC). A year later, its puck-size saw the Google Home Mini ($ 40 at Best Buy) reached. Small but powerful, this speaker came with the Google Home All Smart but at an affordable $ 49.
With Google and Nest under the same roof, the second generation of Google Home Mini is called Google Nest Mini. At first glance, it looks very similar to its predecessor, but some new features still make the $ 49 (£ 49, AU $ 79) Nest Mini even better.
The Nest Mini looks similar to the Google Home Mini, and is on purpose. Google was not able to do what was not right, eager to fix it, and you would find an almost identical aesthetic keeping the Nest Mini around your house. There are four colors, swapping home Mini’s mound, called Akash, for a dark, gray-blue shade. The coral, charcoal and chalk colors still remain.
Outside the speaker, you will find the same muting switch as before. However, there is now a DC power jack instead of Micro-USB that operates the Home Mini, so don’t assume that your old Home Mini will work with the Power Door Nest Mini.
The team at Google spent hours testing the audio transparency of dozens of clothes to create a more environmentally friendly wrapper for the Nest Mini. The speaker’s top fabric is made from 100% recycled plastic, and the outer enclosure is made from 35% recycled plastic. Google told me that a half-liter plastic bottle makes enough fabric to cover a little more than two speakers. This is a small design detail that can tip the scales for an environmentally conscious consumer trying to decide between a Nest Mini and an Echo Dot. ($ 40 on Amazon).
You’ll find a wall mount behind this new smart speaker, something that Google said was inspired by all the different ways users can place, mount, and attach smart speakers to surfaces in their homes. Ironically, the company that designed the right way to mount your smart speaker as a wall clock is not the company with a clock display on their smart speakers. That title goes to Amazon and the new.
While the Nest Mini is almost identical to the Google Home Mini, there are plenty of updates inside.
Google Home Mini has two microphones to recognize your voice throughout the room. Nest Mini has three improvements to explore that area. In my test, the third mic extended the range at which the assistant could hear me, and it did me particularly well at listening to music playing from other speakers nearby. Of course, a lot of this will depend on the acoustics and layout of your home.
Microphones are also using a new feature that Google calls ultrasound sensing. The speaker emits small inaccessible lamps, which bounce off objects in the environment, reflect back to the microphone and tell the device that someone is near. It turns on when the music is playing, but you can like it in the Home app. If your mobile device has Google Duo installed, there is also an option to call your home speakers from the Home app.
With ultrasound sensing enabled, the two LEDs will illuminate when you rotate your hand over the Nest Mini to show the volume adjustment touch points on each side of the speaker. This is a suggestive add that I’ve always had trouble finding touch controls on the Google Home Mini. Touch controls are at the top for playing and pausing music.
The Google team also redesigned the speaker inside the Nest Mini, making it larger and slightly heavier with more space around the components to create a fuller bass sound.
Inside the Nest Mini is a machine learning chip that has the processing power of a TeraOPS. This chip helps the speaker know which commands are repeated over and over, so it can respond to them without the need for a cloud. Suppose you turn on your kitchen light or ask to play a specific song at the same time every day of the week. Nest Mini learns the functions that store that data locally and processes those commands without sending any information to Google’s servers.
This pushes the part of Google into what the company calls “ambient computing”, the idea that your Google-powered smart home can begin to anticipate your needs. Ambient computing reduces how often you need to talk to your smart speaker to get information, making your assistant a more laid-back part of your home.
My favorite update for the Nest Mini is the Ambient IQ. When you’re listening to news, podcasts, or other audio streaming where people are talking (it doesn’t work with music), the Nest Mini can adjust for ambient noise in the background, such as one in the kitchen exhaust fan.