Google Nest Mini Review
In the box:
- Google Nest Mini
- Power cable
- Quick Start & Warranty Guides
Put the Google Home Mini and Nest Mini side-by-side, and you’d be hard-pressed to find any significant difference visually. Like the older model, the new smart speaker is a round, almost-4-inch puck covered with fabric and outfitted with LED lights that light up when active.
One subtle difference is in the fabric – Google says the new fabric is made completely from recycled plastic bottles. The plastic base is also made partially from recycled plastic (at least 35%), reflecting Google’s commitment to creating more sustainable devices. Despite these changes, the device looks and feels basically like a Home Mini.
There’s also a new color to choose, a pastel blue called Sky. Speaking of color, the Nest Mini’s bottom is now the same color as the rest of the body, unlike the Home Mini. I’ve only seen the bottom of my speaker maybe three times, but the design is now more cohesive, should you have wanted that.
There are two more significant changes in the design, the first of which is the keyhole mount on the bottom of the device, which allows you to easily mount it on a wall. The second is the power cable, which is no longer a micro-USB but rather a DC plug. It’s a bit of a head scratcher but not super consequential.
Regardless, the Nest Mini retains a gently rounded shape and sensible colors that give it an approachable, minimalist aesthetic. It’ll fit in just fine in a living room, kitchen, or bedroom.
Of course, the whole point of having a smart speaker is to control your smart home and access a virtual assistant. Google’s ecosystem for smart home management is as robust as ever, and integrating the Nest Mini into my home took no effort. Google Assistant is also present, of course, and it’s always available with a quick “Hey Google”.
One change, though, is the Nest Mini’s new machine-learning engine, which apparently allows it to process your more frequent commands locally, so it can answer more quickly. To test this, I asked both the Home Mini and the Nest Mini about the weather in Minneapolis for three consecutive days – I’ve never been to Minneapolis, and I’m fairly certain I’ve never asked it that before. On the first and second days, both responded equally quickly after a brief pause. On the third day, the Nest Mini skipped the brief pause and launched straight into the forecast – so evidently the newer Mini’s brains learn quickly.
The Nest Mini also has an extra LED on each side to show you where to tap to adjust volume, which is a small but helpful touch. You can also tap the center to pause/play, as opposed to tapping and holding on the side of the older Home Mini.
The original Home Mini provided adequate but not amazing audio, but Google’s promised that the Nest Mini would outperform, with a new 40mm driver to provide clear sound and better bass. How does that pan out?
The Nest Mini reaches similar volume levels as the Home Mini, but it handles distortion a bit better, with decent clarity up to around 80% volume, whereas the Home Mini starts to get distorted around 65-70%. The sound itself is also noticeably fuller, and the bass has also gotten a definite boost. It’s not loud enough to fuel a party, but the volume is still good enough for most circumstances.
I’m not fond at all of the Nest Mini’s default EQ, however – the bass is too high, drowning out everything else and making the overall sound too muddy. Thankfully, this is easily fixed in the Google Home app. After bumping the treble up a touch and the bass down one notch, the sound profile is much closer to the Home Mini’s, except better – the mids and highs are a bit crisper, and the bass is balanced but more solid.
The Nest Mini also has a three-mic array instead of two, so it hears you better. I find this especially helpful when music is playing, as I no longer need to yell at it to skip a track or change the playlist. This is definitely one of the most useful upgrades it offers.
As expected, the Nest Mini has Bluetooth 5.0 and dual-band Wi-Fi, so it meshes seamlessly with your existing Chromecast devices and wireless speakers. Unfortunately, there’s still no 3.5mm audio port, which limits its potential a bit.
A lot of the Nest Mini’s improvements are subtle – slightly better audio, faster Assistant, better mics. For someone who’s satisfied with their Google Home Mini, there isn’t much new to warrant an upgrade. On the other hand, Google smallest smart speaker is better than ever, and it’s still a great place to start your smart home setup.