Google Nest Mini Review

The Google Nest Mini doesn’t re-invent the wheel – and leaves the original Home Mini design almost untouched – but upgraded audio makes this the new best Google Assistant speaker around

Earlier this year Google began slapping the Nest brand on (almost) all of its home products. And so the Google Home Mini is now the Google Nest Mini, and it’s been refreshed for 2019.

The Nest Mini is about the same hockey-puck size as its predecessor, but it’s a real step up in sound. Low bass and midrange tones are much clearer, with a level of separation in frequencies that didn’t exist in the original Home Mini. Music sounds a lot clearer, though podcasts can still sound muddy and washed out.

Given the sound quality of the old Home Mini, there was nowhere to go but up. The Nest Mini still isn’t a room-filling music speaker, but it sounds good enough to pull off a few songs if the need arises. Given the entry-level price, it’s a great way to see if a Google-centric smart home is for you, or a cheap way to extend your smart home into new rooms.

Design and Sound

Outwardly, the Nest Mini is very similar to the Home Mini. Google has changed the speaker cover material to a fabric made from recycled plastic bottles, but it looks and feels nearly the same. The Micro USB plug is gone—instead you get a round plug. It’s not a big change, but it means that any Home Mini accessories that used Micro USB plugs won’t work with the Nest Mini.

The big addition is wall mounts, but you won’t need those anyway, because the Nest Mini has a little notch for wall mounting built right into the back of it. We highly recommend taking advantage of it. It uses a wall as added resonance to somewhat transcend its size and provide decent-sounding music and clearer voice responses to your commands.

There’s also a new sensor under the fabric cover that detects when you’re reaching for the Mini. It lights up the volume control buttons on the side of the speaker when it detects your hand nearby.

Like Google’s other smart speaker devices, you interact with the Nest Mini by saying “Hey Google.” The LEDs in the middle of the puck then light up to let you know it’s listening, and you can give it a command like “Tell me the weather.” Google has added a third microphone to help the Nest Mini hear those commands.

The other big new feature in this update is a dedicated machine learning chip. This allows the Nest Mini to learn your voice better, and speeds up the response time, since in many cases it will be processed locally rather than sent to Google’s servers. You’ll still need a Wi-Fi connection, and all of your voice recordings are still sent to Google.

Other new tricks include the ability to broadcast your voice to other Google speakers throughout your house, call others through Google Duo, and become an alarm through Google’s Nest Aware subscription plan.

Verdict

One of the nice things about Google’s smart home devices is that they last. If you already own a Google Home Mini, there’s nothing here that screams “upgrade now.” Yes, the sound is better, but if you want to upgrade your sound, you’re better off making a more substantial investment in a smart speaker like a Sonos One.

Google updates its voice assistant across all devices, so the old Home Mini should continue to operate (and improve) well into the future. And when the next Nest Mini arrives in a year or two, this one will probably continue working, too.

On the other hand, if you want to extend your existing Google Assistant–based smart home into new rooms, or you want to try out Google Assistant on the cheap, the new Nest Mini is a great place to start. Now available on Smartspeakers SA for only R1599! Shop here.