Four years after releasing its first-ever smart speaker, Google has finally launched a replacement to Google Home. As you would expect, a lot has changed since 2016.
Second, there's now a lot more competition. Not only does Google now have to compete with the likes of an extensive Amazon Echo range, but numerous speakers from Bose, Sonos and Sony, all of which have Alexa or Google Assistant built into them.
To see if the Google Nest Audio was up for the challenge, we tested out the smart speaker's sound quality and voice recognition technology, along with how easy it was to set up and use on a daily basis.
It has all the typical smart home features including voice control of Google Home accessories such as thermostats and lights, along with news reports, weather and traffic updates (for when you can leave the house again).
The result? A well-priced, sleek-looking smart speaker that delivers powerful bass, room-filling sound and quick responses to any question you might possibly think of. Here's why we think it is one of the best value smart speakers available right now.
- What is Google Nest Audio?
- How much is Google Nest Audio?
- Sound quality
- Google Nest Audio set-up
- Difference between Google Nest Audio and Google Nest Audio
- Our verdict
- Where to buy
Google has quickly established its smart speakers as market-leading. The Google Nest Audio has a built-in AI assistant in the form of Google Assistant that responds quickly to any queries or commands. Being a slender device, it does not take up a lot of room but provides room-filling sound and punchy bass. The design is sleek and comes in two colours; charcoal and chalk.
Price: Google Nest Audio is available for £89 at AO
- With a built-in voice assistant, Google Assistant, the Google Nest Audio can control other smart devices including lights and thermostats
- Play music via Spotify, Google Play Music and TuneIn
- Voice Match feature allows you alone to set and manage personal appointments, reminders and alarms
- Outer fabric is made from 100 per cent recycled plastic bottles
- Powerful bass and good volume level
- Easy set-up
- User-friendly Google Home app
- Responsive touch controls
- Sleek looking, and tall but slender so doesn't take up a lot of surface area
- No 3.55mm audio input
Google Nest Audio is the brand's newest and biggest smart speaker. Released in October 2020, the smart speaker is powered by Google Assistant, the brand's version of Alexa, allowing you to control the music with your voice, and get hands-free weather and news updates. Beyond the voice recognition technology, the Google Nest Audio has some punchy sound with a 75mm woofer and 19mm tweeter, and various music services are available including Spotify, TuneIn and Google Play Music.
What does Google Nest Audio do?
The Google Nest Audio uses voice recognition to complete tasks, answer questions and control Google Home accessories including Nest thermostats and Philips Hue lighting.
- Voice control via Google Assistant
- Hands-free calls
- Hands-free control of Google Home accessories including lights, smart plugs and other speakers
- Easy access to reminders, timers, alarms and appointments
- Play music from services such as Spotify, YouTube Music, TuneIn and Deezer
- Pair two Google Nest Audio speakers for stereo sound or multi-room system
Google Nest Audio deals
Is Google Nest Audio good value for money?
Simply put; yes. The Google Nest Audio is good value for money. With an RRP of £89, the Google Nest Audio is comfortably under the £100 mark and competitively priced against the likes of Amazon Echo and Apple HomePod Mini.
Google has worked hard to improve the sound quality of its devices when playing music and there is a notable improvement between the Google Nest Audio and cheaper Google Nest Mini. Considering the Google Nest Mini is almost half the price at £49 and doesn't have the Nest Audio's 75mm woofer and 19mm tweeter, this is to be expected.
Google's latest smart speaker is also a good chunk cheaper than any of the Sonos or Bose smart speakers, which start at £179 and can easily cost upwards of £300. Likewise, Amazon's most sophisticated smart speaker, the Echo Studio, is £189. If you want a smart speaker is set up for high-quality music streaming and voice control, you will struggle to find better value than the Google Nest Audio.
The design of the Google Nest Audio is a vast improvement on the now-dated look of the Google Home. The design is simple, with the LED dots in the centre to identify to the user when Google Assistant is listening. If you'd rather, you can mute the speaker via a switch on the back and the lights will turn orange to indicate the three far-field microphones are turned off.
- Style: In order to not disrupt the design's simplicity, the touch controls are not marked. However, you can turn the volume up by tapping the top right side on the front of the speaker, the top left for volume down and the centre to pause/play music. However, we found ourselves leaning towards using voice commands, or on occasion the app, to do this rather than getting up to tap the speaker each time.
- Robustness: Due to its thin base and tall stature, we were concerned it could be prone to toppling. However, the smart speaker feels solid and has enough weight that it is unlikely to fall unless it's knocked with a good degree of force.
- Size: With rounded edges, the tall, slender smart speaker is covered in fabric made from 100 per cent recycled plastic bottles. Despite a 175mm height, the base is narrow making it easy to fit on any table top or shelf.
With the Google Nest Audio, Google was very upfront with the fact they had been working on improving the sound quality when it came to playing music. And, we think they did a pretty good job.
Fitted with a 75mm woofer and 19mm tweeter, the Google Nest Audio has powerful bass and a good volume range. The sound easily filled any room we put it in and any commands can be heard over even the loudest of music, making it ideal for parties or group gatherings (if they're ever allowed again). It does become a little harsh at extremely high volume but we anticipate you're unlikely to go that loud often unless you want noise complaints.
You can also pre-select a default music service including linking it up to your Spotify account, so you can play your favourite ''00s cheese' playlist to your heart's content.
When it came to the voice recognition technology, the majority of the time it worked without a hitch. On a couple of occasions, Google Assistant would struggle to understand a request. For example, when asked to play 'Hot Hits UK on Spotify', it would simply say that it could not play radio stations from Spotify. However, when we extended the request to include the word playlist, Google Assistant had no problem playing the 'Hot Hits UK playlist' every time.
However, even with these odd misses, there is no doubt that this voice recognition technology is intelligent. When asked something as generic as 'Hey Google, play Little Mix's latest album', Google Assistant immediately responded by playing Confetti. This makes the Google Nest Audio a good choice for anyone who wants a reasonably-priced speaker for everyday use but with a speaker good enough to play music at the occasional party.
The set-up of the Google Nest Audio is prompted via the Google Home app. Once the app is downloaded (already installed on Google Pixel phones), users simply follow the instructions.
One way the process is sped up is if your phone is already connected to your home Wi-Fi, the app will automatically connect the smart speaker to it. This may only save a minute but saves you having to go through the faff of typing in the long sprawl of numbers and letters that make up your Wi-Fi password.
Following this, the only thing to set up is any third-party accounts you want to link to, such as Spotify, and additional features such as Voice Match. The Voice Match function requires you to say a number of pre-determined phrases so that Google Assistant can 'learn' your voice. This should allow you to set personal appointments and reminders via the Google Nest Audio that only you can alter.
The Google Home app itself is relatively user-friendly and allows you to set 'routines' so that the Google smart speaker will prompt lunch or give you a weather report at a set time each day. Within the 'workday' routine, there is even a prompt to go get a glass of water or stretch your legs., which you may find handy if, like us, your commute has become the ten steps from the bedroom to your desk.
The Google Nest Mini is Google's most popular smart speaker, but how does it compare to the new kid on the block?
The first obvious difference is the price. The Google Nest Audio is £89, while the smaller speaker is just £49. This is largely because the Google Nest Audio is bigger and more powerful. The upward-facing speaker of the Google Nest Mini is very directional, and while it is still pretty impressive for its size, it doesn't have the power of the Google Nest Audio's 75mm woofer and 19mm tweeter.
This is where most of the differences end. Because both speakers are made by Google, they share the same app, voice assistant in the form of Google Assistant and both have additional features such as Voice Match.
Whether you're looking to upgrade your smart speaker or this is your first purchase; the answer is yes. The Google Nest Audio vastly improves on its predecessor with a stylish new design and a powerful speaker.
The voice recognition of the device meant that once you learnt its quirks, you very rarely had to repeat a command and you were easily heard over any music playing. The Google Nest Audio is a great mid-range smart speaker making it ideal for those who intend to use their speaker on daily basis for both playing music and taking advantage of the voice controls.
It may not have the sound quality of Bose and Sonos speakers three times its price, but it is a noticeable step up from the entry-level smart speakers available. And while we enjoyed using the cheaper Google Nest Mini immensely, if you can stretch your budget then the Google Nest Audio is worth it.
Sound quality: 4/5
Value for money: 5/5
The Google Nest Audio is available from a number of retailers.