Google Nest Mini Review

The Google Nest Mini is a minor improvement over the smart Google Assistant speaker it replaces

Verdict

A slight improvement over the original speaker, the Google Nest Mini is a gentle evolution. We love the new wall-mount option, giving you more options of where to place the smart speaker, but the new touch controls are only of minor use. Improved bass response makes this speaker sound better than the original Google Home Mini but it's still not ideal for listening to music and this is very much a smart speaker first. If you've got the original Mini there's little to warrant you upgrading here; for new customers, this is the best small Google Assistant speaker.

Pros

  • Wall mount option
  • Simple touch controls
  • Speech sounds better thanks to better bass

Cons

  • Few improvements over the original
  • No 3.5mm audio jack

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £49.99
  • Google Assistant
  • 98 x 98 x 42mm
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Volume, play/pause, microphone mute
  • 1x 40mm driver

While Amazon has refreshed its Echo Dot line three times, and more recently has added the Echo Dot with Clock, the Google Home Mini hasn’t been touched since 2017. Today, we finally have the successor, but it’s not the Google Mini 2 but rather the Google Nest Mini.

This follows Google’s current trend of rebranding its speakers under the Nest brand, such as the Google Nest Hub and Google Nest Hub Max. Aside from the name, there are a few little changes inside that make the Google Nest Mini a small evolution of the previous product, rather than something completely new.

Google Nest Mini Design – Pretty much the same as the old version with a few minor tweaks

Put the Google Nest Mini next to the Google Home Mini and it’s a game of spot the difference with both speakers measuring 98 x 98 x 42mm. From an initial glance, you’d be hard-pushed to see any real difference, bar that the old speaker was powered by a micro USB connector and the new model has a round power adaptor.

To be fair to Google, it’s not as though its tiny speaker needed much of a redesign. While Amazon has evolved from the plastic Echo Dot to the nicer-looking Echo Dot 3rd Gen and Echo Dot with Clock, the Google Home Mini was nice from the start, with a curved, material clad, hockey-puck-like exterior.

Google Nest Mini side view

It looks like its predecessor but that’s OK, as this is one good-looking smart speaker

It’s more of the same for the Google Nest Mini, with the speaker available in Chalk (white and grey), Charcoal (black), Coral (pictured) and Sky (blue). The big difference is that the material is now made from recycled plastic bottles.

Power the speaker on and there are some other subtle differences. With the Google Home Mini, you could tap the sides to change volume; you can still do that with the Nest Mini, only there are now LED indicators that show you where to tap. If you want to pause or resume music playback you can now tap the top of speaker. Of course, the original Google Home Mini was supposed to be touch-sensitive, however the sensor was broken and Google disabled it just after launch.

Google Nest Mini LEDs

LED indicators make it easier to see where you can tap

Around the back, you get the microphone mute switch, so you can stop the speaker listening in. Turn the speaker over and you see something different: a hanging hook so that you can wall-mount the speaker. That’s handy if you don’t have a lot of space and want to keep the speaker out of the way.

Google Nest Mini rear and mute switch

You can turn off the microphone if you want privacy

Internally, there’s a new machine learning chip, which is designed so that the speaker can respond to commonly-used voice commands faster.

There’s still no 3.5mm sound output for hooking the Nest Mini up to external speakers, which is a bit frustrating given the Echo Dot has this and there’s even the cheaper Echo Input. You can use Bluetooth to connect external devices to this speaker, though.

Google Nest Mini Features – Everything you can do on a Google Assistant speaker

As with Google’s other smart speakers, the Google Nest Mini is powered by the cloud-based Google Assistant. That means that this speaker has the same range of features as every other device, which I’ve covered in more detail in my Google Assistant Guide.

Generally, I find the Google Assistant a bit more conversationally adapt than Amazon Alexa, and as the personal assistant can look up answers from Google search and Google maps, it’s answers to general questions tend to be more accurate. There are still some frustrating issues, though, such as not being able to get calendar results if you use a G Suite account.

Smart home control has got a lot better, with the Google Assistant supporting almost the same range of devices (but not quite) as Amazon Alexa. It has to be said that Amazon Alexa routines are more powerful than the Google Assistant routines.

The three farfield microphones and new machine learning chip are supposed to make the Google Nest Mini quicker to respond and more accurate at distance. It’s hard to quantify this, especially as I never really had any issues with the original speaker. All I can say is that the Nest Mini generally picked up what I was saying correctly.

Related: Google Home vs Amazon Alexa

Google Nest Mini Sound Quality – More bass but still not a speaker you’d want for music

With the Google Home Mini sounding quite weak, the Google Nest Mini has been updated with more powerful audio inside. According to Google, bass is 40% stronger, and the system still has 360-degree sound with a 40mm driver.

Bass certainly is better, and it makes a difference when you ask Google a question, with the voice replies easier to hear than on the original. The extra bass provides additional warmth to the response. When it comes to music, I’m still not a fan, with the Google Nest Mini sounding a little harsh and a bit tinny at the high end. This isn’t a speaker that I’d listen to a lot of music on, although it is useful if you want to control your Sonos system.

Should I buy the Google Nest Mini?

With the new speaker offering only minor improvements over the original, there’s very little reason to upgrade your Google Home Mini speakers unless you really want to wall-mount the Nest Mini.

Google Nest Mini wall mount

The wall mount option is handy but it’s probably not worth upgrading for?

Does that make the Google Nest Mini pointless? Far from it. If you’re new to smart speakers and want to use the Google Assistant, or you’re expanding your home with additional Google speakers, the Nest Mini is a well-priced smart speaker. It’s not ideal for listening to music and you’ll want the Google Home or Google Home Max for those jobs, but if you’re after a speaker to answer questions or control your smart home, the Google Nest Mini fits in perfectly. The bigger competition is that the Amazon Echo range is far wider and its smart home control is more complete.

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