Voice assistants have made it to our phones and our homes. If you have an Android smartphone, chances are that you are already using the Google Assistant. Google designed the Home Mini and Home to be standalone devices with the Google Assistant built in. These gave people a thing to interact with, as well as a gateway to control other devices such as smart lighting or a smart TV. Amazon has also been rolling out Alexa-powered smart speakers which compete with Google's for a space in your home. To keep up, Google has now rebranded the Home lineup under its Nest subsidiary. The second-gen Home Mini is now known as the Nest Mini, and has been upgraded. It goes up against the Amazon Echo Dot 3rd generation, but does it have the chops to stay on top? We review it to find out.
Google has retained the core design of the Home Mini but has made a few small changes. At first glance, it is near impossible to distinguish between the old Google Home Mini and the new Nest Mini. Google could have given it a distinct design like Amazon just did for the Echo Dot 3rd Gen.
The speaker still has a fabric top which is made out of recycled plastic bottles. Google offers the Nest Mini in four colour options: Chalk, Charcoal, Coral, and Sky. We had the Coral colour variant for this review. The capacitive controls for this speaker are hidden beneath this fabric layer. There are four LEDs that light up when you power the device on, and when you summon the Google Assistant.
Just like the old Google Home Mini, the play/pause button is in the centre. The volume control buttons are on either side, and are now backlit to make them easier to hit. These buttons light up when you bring your hand near the device and stay off the rest of the time, giving it a clean look.
There's a physical toggle on the side to disable the unit's microphones. Google has switched to a DC jack compared to the Micro-USB port the Google Home Mini had, so while you could power the original Google Mini off a power bank, you can't do the same for this model.
What is interesting is that the Google Nest Mini now has a recess on the bottom that lets you wall-mount this device on a hook or peg. Unlike most other smart speakers that sit on a flat surface, you can instead place the Nest Mini on a wall, though its power cable will then dangle downwards.
The Google Nest Mini has a top-firing 40mm driver which is similar to older Google Home Mini's design. Google has now gone with three far-field microphones which are an upgrade over the two-mic array of its predecessor. There is support for dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5., The device also has Chromecast functionality built in, which means you can cast music or a video straight to a smart TV or any device with a Chromecast dongle plugged in. The Nest Mini has a quad-core 64-bit ARM CPU clocked at 1.4GHz, but Google hasn't given out any details about its make or capabilities.
The Nest Mini can be controlled completely using just your voice. The three far-field microphones picked up our voice without any issues. It also supports voice match technology which is supposed to let it identify the person asking questions or giving commands, and respond with individualised context.
Using our voice, the device could recognise us and fetch details from our calendars. It could also add entries to our calendar, and gave us navigation directions to the place we inquired about. That's not all, it can also send navigation directions straight to a user's Android smartphone, which is a neat touch. Continued Conversations is the name for Google's way of letting you have a conversation with the Google Assistant without having to use the “Ok Google” wake phrase for every follow-up question you ask.
You can link your YouTube Music, Google Play Music, JioSaavn, Spotify, Gaana, and Wynk Music streaming accounts, and you can instruct the Google Nest Mini which one to use when requesting a song. The Google Assistant also has a few voice-based games such as quizzes that you can play on this speaker, but the options are limited and you can't add new skills like you can with Amazon Echo devices.
A quick “Ok Google” command is enough to wake the device up. We did not notice any significant lag when waking the device up from idle. Speech recognition is quite good, and it could pick up our commands accurately even in a crowded room. Thanks to Voice Match, the Nest Mini can recognise the person speaking and return personalised responses, such as appointments from their calendar. However, the overall functionality of the device is pretty limited to the abilities of the Google Assistant.
We used the Google Nest Mini for listening to a lot of music and playing a few quiz games. We found the new Nest Mini to be louder than the device it replaces. Audio quality has also improved, and the speaker does not sound tinny.
At lower volumes, you will notice some bass, which makes the audio sound somewhat full, but this is completely missing at higher volumes. In fact, it isn't pleasant to listen to the Nest Mini at full blast, as the highs overpower the mids and the bass almost disappears. We restricted ourselves to playing music at lower volumes.
The Google Nest Mini does not have a 3.5mm audio jack so you can't connect external speakers to it directly. However, you do have the option to link it with a Bluetooth speaker which will give you better sound quality. When we tried this, the Nest Mini smartly used the paired speaker only for music playback, while continuing to use its own internal speaker for Google Assistant responses.
The Google Nest Mini is priced at Rs. 4,499 in India, and is a mild upgrade over the Google Home Mini in terms of audio quality and voice recognition. Google has made wall mounting possible, which is the biggest physical change.
If you already have a Google Home Mini, it wouldn't be worth replacing it with a Nest Mini, but if you are looking to buy a new smart speaker, you should definitely consider the newer model. Audio quality isn't the best, but smart speakers at this price don't sound great anyway. The Google Assistant is what helps it stand out thanks to great voice recognition, and integration with the Google Ecosystem.
Google Nest Mini
Price: Rs. 4,499