New Google Nest Mini review

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Erin Lawrence

Google, Nest, Mini, review, smart home, speaker

Google announced a plethora of gadget updates at its recent product event. Nearly the entire Google smart home lineup got a makeover and plenty of upgrades. Among the devices that’s been refreshed is the Google Nest Mini, formerly known as Google Home Mini. I received a Mini to test out and review in my home and here’s what I found.

What is Google Nest Mini?

Google Nest Mini is a small, oval, puck shaped speaker that has a built in Google Assistant for getting hands-free voice controlled help for everything from recipe conversions, setting timers and alarms and listening to music and news. Nest Mini is a new version of the previous device, and it has some small upgrades.

How is Nest Mini different from Google Home Mini?

New wall hook on Nest Mini

There are a few key differences in the Nest Mini. For starters, Google added a mounting hole on the back so you can now hang it on a wall instead of placing it on a surface. I actually really like this and mounted it to the wall in my bathroom immediately.

Google, Nest, Mini, review, smart home, speaker

New capacitive controls, ultrasonic sensor

LED lights light up to show your volume controls whenever you approach the device.

Called capacitive controls, you can turn volume up, volume down, and tap the center for play and pause. Small lights on the left and right mean you can see where to tap for volume. The new Nest Mini also added an ultrasonic sensor that can tell when you’re nearby, and it will automatically turn on the lights.

Google Nest Mini has better hearing

Google says it’s also improved Mini’s ability to hear you in noisy rooms. And Nest Mini will automatically adjust the volume of the Assistant, or news and podcasts based on background noise. So when the dishwasher is running and you ask for the weather, you’ll hear the Assistant’s response at a louder volume.
Nest Mini is smarter and faster than the original Mini. Google embedded a dedicated machine learning chip, which lets the company move some Google Assistant experiences from their data centres directly onto the device. In the U.S., Google says Nest Mini can now learn your most common commands and process them locally for a much faster response time. Not sure if it applies to Canada yet.

How to move your music: Stream Transfer

I’m not sure whether this feature is new or not, but I hadn’t actually heard about it so I learned something. With stream transfer, you can move your music, audiobooks and podcasts from one speaker to another with just your voice. Getting ready in the bathroom and then want to head out and greet your guests? Say, “Hey Google, move the music to the living room speaker”.

Google, Nest, Mini, review, smart home, speaker

Using Google Duo

I tried Google Duo, Googles’ calling feature on Google Home and now Nest devices. I wasn’t wowed by it at the time. I’d rather use my phone, but I did enjoy the intercom feature, which lets you call room to room in your home.

With new Google Duo functionality on all Google Home and Nest speakers, you can call your devices from the Google Home app, use the intercom feature to talk from device to device or even call someone on the other side of the world, for free—all you need is a Duo account and/or a Google Home or Nest smart speaker or display.

What can a smart speaker/digital assistant do?

If you’re new to the whole smart digital assistant thing, you might be wondering what they can really do for you.

There’s an ever growing list of what the Google Assistant can do, and all you have to do is say, “OK, Google…”

What can Google Assistant do?

  • Do information searches and answer questions like you might otherwise type into google
  • Watch or listen to media like radio, YouTube, news briefs etc.
  • Get news, weather, sports, business, traffic info
  • Set timers, alarms
  • Translate
  • Do math & conversions
  • Control your home; thermostats, lights

Google Home is your own private DJ, too. Ask it to play you some music and it will automatically put something on thanks to Google Play Music. You can also ask for things like soothing ocean sounds as well as rainforest noise and the Assistant will deliver.

I’ve found myself talking to my Google devices constantly. It’s just so much easier to call out instructions for it to set a timer, or to jot down a reminder than to fuss with my phone.

Getting quick answers from the Google Assistant about things like measurement or recipe conversions, a quick check of the weather or other instant information was super handy. I was also surprised and impressed by how often the device was able to help me. I know sometimes with Siri you’ll simply get a, “sorry I did not understand your request” response. I would say 99% of my requests to the Google Home device were answered and resolved.

Google, Nest, Mini, review, smart home, speaker

Setting up Nest Mini

Initially I had trouble getting the speaker set up, but that’s likely because I have a pre-release version of the Nest Mini. I couldn’t get the speaker to connect, which in my experience is very unusual for a Google Nest device. I waited a day, then tried again, and notice the app demanded a software update too. With that done, boom, everything was great in Google land.

To set up your Nest Mini, plug it in and get the Google Home app ready. Once you’re signed up or in, you’ll probably see that Google wants you to add a device right away on the main screen. Tap to do it and the app should handle the rest for you. You’ll choose the device to connect to, connect to Wi-Fi and in a minute you should be connected and able to use voice controls and services.

I have several Google Home devices in my house, most notably the superb Google Home Max for great entertaining sound in the living room, and the Google Nest Hub in the kitchen so I opted to place the Nest Mini in the bathroom for news updates and note taking while I’m getting ready in the morning.

Google, Nest, Mini, review, smart home, speaker

As an aside, I stumbled on these very handy mounting brackets for the Google Nest Mini that can keep the device plugged in and on the wall with the cord wound up tidily. I hit Buy Now as soon as I saw it.

How is sound quality on Google Nest Mini?

Since this is a speaker you want the sound to be good, right? While you might not have much hope for such a wee speaker, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the quality.

Google says the new Nest Mini has a richer, more natural sound than the original Mini. They says there’s 40% stronger bass in this Mini. I haven’t tested the previous Mini so I can’t compare. I can say the Nest Mini sounds really great for a speaker of this size. It’s quite clear, and the bass is definitely quite good. It’s not as high fidelity as something like the Google Home Max, but it is quite impressive, and works great in small spaces.

Google, Nest, Mini, review, smart home, speaker

Overall review of Google Nest Mini

If you’re looking to get into the smart home speaker-digital assistant space, the Google Nest Mini is a relatively inexpensive way to do it. For those of you already using smart home assistants, the Mini is a nice way to augment your whole home system by placing this in smaller spaces. It sounds good for it’s size and comes packed with all the functionality of a bigger device.

Google Nest Mini comes in 4 fun colours and sells for about $69CAD.

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