Google's Nest Mini is worth the upgrade—here's why
You'll soon enjoy faster response times from Google Assistant.
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Upon first glance, the Nest Mini looks a lot like the Google Home Mini. That’s because it’s the second generation of Google’s smallest smart speaker. But, despite their exterior similarities, there are a lot of differences between the two. The Nest Mini offers improved sound quality, faster response times from Google Assistant, and it’s made from sustainable materials.
What is the Nest Mini?
Released in October 2019, the Nest Mini is Google's latest compact smart speaker featuring Google Assistant. It includes a power adapter, so you can plug it into a nearby electrical outlet to get the speaker up and running. To set up the device, you'll need a steady WiFi connection, a Google account, and the Google Home app on your iOS or Android device. The set up process for the Nest Mini is simple and can be completed in just minutes.
How well does the Nest Mini work?
One notable upgrade for the Nest Mini is the improved functionality and faster integration of Google Assistant. With three far-field microphones built into the Nest Mini, it has no problem hearing you (correctly, for that matter) from the other room. But, keep in mind that where you put the speaker can have an impact on the sound. I left mine sitting on the kitchen counter and there were no issues.
It’s worth mentioning that Google designed the speaker to work best when placed no more than a foot from a wall. There’s also the option to mount the Nest Mini on the wall using the bracket on the backside of the device—just make sure there’s an electrical outlet nearby to plug into.
The Nest Mini also touts a faster Google Assistant, taking less time to complete common commands, like turning my office lamp (which I have on a smart plug) on and off, and adjusting the temperature of my smart thermostat. To speed things up a bit, Google placed a machine learning chip inside of the Nest Mini to help the smart assistant learn the commands you use most frequently and process them more quickly.
Whether it’s a smart display like the Google Nest Hub Max or the Google Home Mini, I’ve always been impressed by how well Google carries a conversation. Sometimes our smart assistants don’t always hear us the first time around, or they might misunderstand and get the command wrong, but the Nest Mini excels at getting it right the first time.
Nest Mini sound quality is impressive
Right away, one of the first things I noticed while getting to know the Nest Mini was the impressive sound quality. It’s clear and rich, but that’s probably because it has 360-degree sound with a 40 mm driver and two times the bass of the Google Home Mini.
However, the Nest Mini is lacking a 3.5 mm audio output port, which would allow you to connect the smart device to larger speakers. It’s not a make-or-break feature for me, but one that would be nice to have since Amazon's rival smart speaker, the Echo Dot (third-generation), includes an audio jack. That said, if you have multiple Google Home speakers, you can sync them together in the Google Home app to play music podcasts throughout your house.
Unlike the Google Home Mini, the Nest Mini will automatically adjust the volume of the speaker’s response when there’s too much noise in the background. So, if you have your speaker’s volume set low, around volume level 2 or 3, and you ask Google Assistant a question or tell it a command, it will respond back at a higher volume level to accommodate for the noise level in the room. (This feature is a godsend if you have loud children like I do.)
Additionally, the volume can be adjusted up by tapping on either side of the top portion of the Nest Mini. The sound can be tuned higher by tapping the middle right side of the speaker and lowered by tapping on the middle left side.
Tired of listening to the same ol' Google Assistant voice? Well, the Nest Mini includes 12 different voice options for Google Assistant. To change the sound of Google Assistant on your Nest Mini, open the Google Home app, tap your account in the upper righthand corner, and make sure you have the right Google account linked. Then, go back to the home screen of the Google Home app. Navigate to Settings > Google Assistant services > More Settings > Assistant > Assistant Voice. There, you can choose from one of 12 voices, including celebrity voices like Issa Rae and John Legend.
What does the Nest Mini look like?
One of the coolest things about the Nest Mini is that it's sustainably made. The fabric on the top portion of the speaker is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles and the bottom is made with at least 35% post-consumer recycled plastic. But, materials aside, the Nest Mini is basically a clone of the Google Home Mini in terms of looks.
And, like the Google Home Mini, the Nest Mini is also sold in the same four colors: Chalk, Charcoal, Coral, and Sky. It’s a little bit of a letdown that there aren’t any new color options.
Privacy concerns with the Nest Mini
With stories of hackers gaining entry into smart home security cameras, privacy concerns are at the forefront of many consumer minds these days, and rightfully so. And, if you have a smart home speaker in your home already, you may already be mindful of how your information is shared and your ability to control privacy settings on a particular device.
Major tech companies like Apple and Amazon have addressed privacy concerns over using audio recordings as part of their respective voice-assistant quality evaluation processes—and Google did the same in September 2019.
Google published a blog about how the company is working toward protecting user privacy as it relates to Google Assistant. But, the company underlined that they do not "retain your audio recordings" and have never done so.
So, what does it mean for you? As far as the Nest Mini is concerned, Google won’t automatically store your conversations with Google Assistant unless you give the Nest Mini permission to do so. You can opt into Voice and Audio Activity when setting up your Nest Mini.
On the bottom portion of the device, you’ll find a toggle switch that turns the mic on and off. So if you’re concerned about a sensitive conversation being recorded, just manually power off the microphone.
Should you buy the Nest Mini?
If you’re on the hunt for a Google Assistant-enabled smart speaker that offers clear audio, high quality sound, and fast response times, then the Nest Mini is worth the $49 upgrade. Additionally, if you’re short on space, then the Nest Mini is a no-brainer addition to your smart home, since all you need is a drywall screw to hang it up, freeing your credenza or kitchen counter of the compact smart speaker.
The Nest Mini has been known to go on sale every now and then. So, if you’re holding out for an even lower price, keep an eye out during major holiday sales. But, for under $50, the Nest Mini makes a helpful and affordable addition to any budding smart home.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.