Google ain’t but a search engine no more. Since 2016, the tech giant has flown into the smart speaker market with a new set of 'Nest' voice-assisted devices, from the large to small.
Its smallest offering so far is the Google Nest Mini, a compact gadget to rival Amazon’s Echo Dot. Released in January 2020, this small and affordable device is marketed both as your first voice-controlled assistant or as a simple way to widen your smart home network.
Although looking vastly similar to its predecessor, the Google Home Mini, the Nest Mini has been upgraded in several ways, from its speaker to processing power – and even a couple of new LED volume controls.
Just like the Home Mini and the more expensive Google Nest Hub (and Hub Max), the Nest Mini is a multi-purpose speaker fitted with Google Assistant, which responds to your voice. Simply say “Hey Google” or “OK Google”, followed by a command and you can control your smart home, play music, set reminders or timers, and much much more.
But how exactly does it perform in a busy household? What are its key features? And is it worth the price tag? Here’s our verdict on the Google Nest Mini.
To find out more about Google's smart displays, read our Google Nest Hub Max review.
Google Nest Mini review: summary
Despite its mechanical speech patterns, the Google Nest Mini comes with one of the most intelligent voice assistants on the market, recognising and responding to a colossal range of queries and commands. Sleek and stylish with a solid sound system to boot, it’s a future-proof smart speaker boasting terrific value for money.
- With a built-in Google Assistant, the Nest Mini allows you to control other smart devices, such as thermostats or lights.
- Compatible with music, radio and podcast services including Spotify, TuneIn, Deezer YouTube Music and Google Podcasts.
- Able to broadcast audio from other devices – such as laptops phones and tablets – using Chromecast.
- Durable fabric top made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.
- The Nest Mini is able to recognise a specific users voice even over loud music. Users can also adjust how sensitive the device is to its ‘wake words’ (“Hey/OK Google”).
- Music plays clearly, with double the bass power of the Home Mini.
- Simple set-up – even if you start without a Google account, it’ll take less than 10 minutes.
- Comes with a built-in wall mount.
- (Slightly) cheaper than its nearest competition, the Amazon Alexa.
- The virtual assistant can handle complex questions, such as “What was the UK population when Tony Blair was Prime Minister?”
- Only two UK language voices are on offer – both of which sound fairly robotic.
- Menus are difficult to navigate in the device’s accompanying app.
- Does not feature a 3.55mm aux lead slot.
- Max volume lacking when compared to other smart speakers.
What is the Google Nest Mini?
The Nest Mini is a compact smart speaker from Google, and a device to rival the best-selling Amazon Echo Dot. Able to recognise individual user’s voices, the Nest’s second generation (2020) comes with an improved voice assistant and excellent sound quality at its affordable price point
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What does the Google Nest Mini do?
A small pebble-like device, the Nest is a voice-controlled speaker that can play music, tell you the news, set timers, control smart devices, offer real-time spoken translations and scour the internet to answer any queries – and do plenty more besides.
- Using three far-field microphones, the Nest Mini recognises human speech and responds to commands and manage everyday tasks.
- Powered by state-of-the-art Google voice technology, it plays audio - from music to podcasts - through compatible apps such as Spotify.
- Can Sync with your Google account to access reminders, events and other items from your Google Calendar.
- Call other devices (including other Google Nests) via free web calling app Google Duo.
- Broadcast audio from other devices using Chromecast.
- Notify you when you’ve received an email (optional).
How much is the Google Nest Mini?
Is the Google Nest Mini good value for money?
Our verdict: absolutely. Although one of the cheapest smart speakers on the market, it also comes with some of the most intelligent voice recognition technology available. And with its speedy response to queries and respectable sound quality when compared to more expensive devices, you certainly get plenty of bang for your buck.
True, those using a Google account for their email and calendar needs will get the most value from the Nest Mini, but all are likely to be impressed by its voice match capabilities. Overall, whether you’re looking to welcome Google into more rooms in your house, or buy your first smart speaker, the Nest Mini is well worth the price.
Google Nest Mini design
There’s no avoiding the obvious: the Nest Mini largely looks like the original Google Home Mini. In our books, this is no bad thing when the design is so brilliantly simple. And don’t worry if the red shade design doesn’t fit in your home, the device comes in plenty more colours.
- Style: The Google Nest Mini is a small pebble-like unit fitted with a soft fabric top and plastic bottom made from recycled material. Touch-based volume controls can be found on either side of the device, alongside a pause/play button at the centre. All these buttons are backlit by white LEDs that light up even before you press them. The Nest Mini is available in four colours: black, light grey, coral, and light blue.
- Robustness: Although it looks rather flimsy (the bottom feels particularly thin), The Nest Mini is still solid and feels like it could survive a reasonable drop if you accidentally knock it off its wall mount.
- Size: The Echo is one of the smallest smart speakers available: it’s only 98 x 42 x 42 mm. This means it can easy slot on top any mantelpiece, desk shelving space or kitchen corner without drawing attention.
Google Nest Mini sound quality
Google has made plenty of upgrades from the Nest’s previous incarnation, the Google Home Mini, notably notching up the bass strength by two. But it’s still not the most powerful speaker and you may struggle to hear it from another room. Those looking to kickstart a party with the Nest Mini may also be disappointed with its maximum volume (especially when compared it to the louder Amazon Echo Dot).
However, if you’re not an audiophile and just looking to play an audiobook or music as you lay back on the sofa, the Google Nest more than does the job, offering crisp and clear audio that rivals higher-end speakers – provided you don’t up the volume to max. You can also pair two Nest Minis together and create an atmospheric surround stereo sound.
With the Nest’s upward-facing speaker, it offers the best sound quality when mounted on a wall (using the handy slot on the back), which better separates high and low frequencies.
Users can also use the device as a Bluetooth speaker, connecting it with both Android devices and iPhones without a drop in audio quality.
It’s also worth noting that thanks to its excellent voice recognition features, the Nest Mini will pick up your voice easily even if playing music at top volume.
Google Nest Mini set-up
The good news: the Google Nest Mini is extremely easy to set up. And even easier if you already have a Google account.
After unboxing, connect the power lead to the speaker and plug in. A few moments later, the Nest Mini will light up and you’ll hear a prompt to download the Google Home app (available on most Android and Apple phones and tablets via Google Play or the App Store). To make the next part of the process easier, connect your phone/tablet to your home Wi-Fi – that'll save you from typing out your lengthy network password.
Once the app is downloaded and installed, you should receive a prompt that says “new device detected”. Press on this notification and follow the instructions to set up your device settings, which includes options to link the Nest to your music accounts (think Spotify, Deezer, TuneIn and YouTube).
This process will also allow you to set-up the device’s ‘Voice Match’ feature. This will allow the Nest Mini to recognise your voice and distinguish it from others – very useful if you want to add reminders to your personal calendar.
Users may also get a prompt to enable Google Duo on the unit. This will allow the device to make and receive calls from other Duo users.
Overall, the initial set-up software is incredibly intuitive and easy to use, with the process taking less than 10 minutes.
What is the difference between the Google Nest Mini and Google Home?
The biggest difference: the size of each unit. As its name suggests, the Mini is shorter and is fitted with a smaller speaker. As such, the Google Home has a higher sound quality, sporting a dual two-inch active loudspeaker. But this difference also means that the Nest Mini is much cheaper.
Both smart speakers are fitted with similar hands-free voice assistants, which Google keeps updated to provide a better user experience.
If you’re not too concerned with a robust hi-fi speaker and merely a voice-activated assistant capable of delivering background music, the Google Nest Mini could be the device for you.
Our Verdict: Should you buy the Google Nest Mini?
Whether you’re looking to expand your smart home or start one up, absolutely. Serving up twice the bass and a smarter processor than its predecessor, the second generation of Google smaller speakers certainly gives the Amazon Echo Dot a very good run for its money (while also being marginally cheaper).
The unit offers truly impressive Voice recognition – you’ll rarely have to repeat a command or shout, if ever – and complex questions can be answered with help of the mighty Google search engine.
Sure, a device of its size will never offer the sound quality that can compete with more expensive models. But as a reliable lounge-based smart speaker for everyday use, the Google Nest Mini is a home run.
Sound quality: 3/5
Ease of set-up: 4/5
Value for money: 5/5
Where to buy the Google Nest Mini
The Google Nest Hub Max is available from a number of retailers:
John Lewis: £34