Review: Google Nest Mini – Significant progress compared to Home Mini

Review: Google Nest Mini is quite an improvement over its predecessor not only in terms of music but in many other departments too.
4.4/5 - (24 votes)

The Google Nest Mini is the successor to the Google Home Mini. The smart speaker has a built-in Google Assistant and can therefore be used in a smart home where you can control devices with Assistant voice control.

In our review of the LG WK7 , we concluded that a smart speaker is only as good as the voice assistant that comes with it. In this case, it was the Google Assistant , which has mastered the Dutch language for a while (officially since October 28, 2018). Not long after the official introduction, we published a preview about the Google Home Mini , the small version of the Google Home speaker, in which the conclusion was also that the speaker works fine, but the experience of the voice assistant is a bit lacking.

We are now a year later and the Google Nest Mini has been released on the market in the Netherlands. In our comparison you can read that a lot of things have changed since the first model. The question, of course, is whether all that change benefits the experience. In addition, we of course also take a closer look at the Google Assistant to check whether improvements have been made this year that also benefit users. Almost everything stands and falls with the experience that the Assistant has to offer.

This is the Google Nest Mini

The Google Nest Mini is a small device with a diameter of 98 millimeters and a height of 42 millimeters. It’s a compact speaker that features a wall mount that allows you to hang it on the wall and a one-and-a-half meter long plug, giving you plenty of freedom – but that probably won’t apply to everyone. The speaker is available in black and white and has WiFi 5 (at 2.4 and 5 GHz), bluetooth 5.0 and of course Chromecast built-in, for playing music.

Beneath the dust, which is made from recycled plastic bottles, we find a 40 millimeter driver, as well as three far-field microphones. That far-field is especially important, because it means that the Google Nest Mini must also be able to hear you from a considerable distance. This way you can hang the small speaker in a central place in the house. In addition, the speaker can detect that you are nearby via ultrasound and turn on the LED lights and you can access personal questions and assignments via Voice Match technology.

In essence, this is still the same speaker as the Google Home Mini, which was released last year. Fortunately, there are some differences that go beyond the design, so you can still consider going for the new version if you have a compact, smart speaker in mind. For example, the wall mount can play an important factor, but there is also a better bass reproduction. You can now also tap on top of the Nest Mini to control music and it is later possible to use two Nest Minis for a stereo pair .

Installation via Google Home

In any case, the installation is a piece of cake. After unpacking, plug in the speaker and power outlet and wait for the Google Assistant to start talking. You will then be instructed (roles are reversed) to download the Google Home app. If you have already done so, open the app and press the button for adding devices. 

You follow the instructions on the screen, download some updates and you can start using the Google Nest Mini almost immediately. The Google Home app asks if you can first ask a simple question to check if everything works, such as what time it is. If the speaker does not work immediately, give it a few extra minutes. That was also the case during our installation. After a few extra minutes, the speaker simply works as it should and you do not need to take any further steps for installation.

You can still take a look at the device settings. There you will find all kinds of other things that you may have skipped or that you have not thought about yet. There you will find the options about the room and house where the speaker is located and in which speaker group you have recorded it.  When the Nest Mini is part of a speaker group, you can play the same music on it as on other Chromecast speakers.

Control Google Nest Mini in three ways

The most obvious method for operating the Google Nest Mini is, of course, through voice control. Once you have been able to ask the question above, you will immediately know how everything works. You simply start with “Hey Google” and then ask something you want to know. You can ask about the weather, sports scores, news and more general stuff and the Google Assistant can also help with maths or translate sentences. In that respect, the voice assistant has been given a lot of functionality.

Compared to a year ago, you can also control many more devices, because many more manufacturers have built-in support for the voice assistant. Sometimes you have to change the language to English, but overall the Assistant is more than a talkative search engine. Whether it concerns vacuum cleaners, fans, ovens, lamps, thermostats or speakers – hell, even the Xbox One can now be controlled via the Google Assistant – the voice assistant does show that it can be useful.

As always, it should be noted that you must have invested heavily in your smart home by adding all kinds of products with an internet connection. If you only use some smart lights or a smart speaker, we can imagine that the Assistant is still less useful. So it depends entirely on what you have at home. Fortunately, the digital assistant can also increasingly operate on its own, but the combination of devices and looking up or finding out things with your voice is much better now.

In addition to voice control, you also have direct control via touch. You can play and pause music by tapping the speaker. When you tap, the now four well-known Assistant LED lights appear at the top. Also very cool is the proximity sensor. As soon as you walk by or move your hand towards the speaker, the LED lights of the volume buttons light up. So you don’t have to search where they are exactly (if you don’t see them, there is such a button on both sides of the Google Nest Mini).

In addition, you can always choose to operate the speaker with your mobile phone. This can be done in two ways: via WiFi and Bluetooth. You can manage the volume with the volume button on your smartphone, while you determine what you listen to via your favorite music streaming service. Some services have Chromecast built-in and then you can start listening immediately. You will probably need bluetooth mode for other services. You can also control the settings of the bluetooth connection via the Google Home application.

What you will also find in the Google Home app is the equalizer. You can find this by selecting the Google Nest Mini speaker (you can of course come up with a name yourself) and look for the equalizer within the settings of that speaker. You can influence the bass and the treble. There are no preset modes available (like pop, rock, dance, settings like that), so you’ll likely return several times for a pleasant sound reproduction. But you can also leave everything in the middle of the spectrum.

Great sound quality

For a speaker of 59 euros, the sound quality does not sound wrong. It sounds a bit disrespectful to put such a thing like that, but the price is a big factor in the experience of the sound. Compared to the previous version , especially the bass sound has improved. On small speakers, this reproduction is a tricky point, because the size is often not capable of producing a good sound. In addition, the location and position of the speaker often also have a lot of influence on the presentation of the sound.

Whether you also have a good sound experience yourself depends on even more factors. In addition to format and placement, genre is of course also an influence. Now, for example, the warm and soft voice of Kenny B comes across fine on the Google Nest Mini, but we miss the details of, for example, the bass drum in the background. In Metallica’s Master of Puppets we explore the limits of the compact device and notice that the sound can sound tinny and especially cuts the lower tones at the same level.

The bass then suddenly clicks very dull, while the Google Nest Mini is indeed capable of reproducing a pleasant bass layer. The higher tones, or the screaming guitar solos by Kirk Hammett, come out a lot better and – compared to speakers of the same size – luckily lack less detail compared to the tones in the lower regions. When we put on Lady Gaga’s Diamond Heart, all those points are confirmed again: highs usually sound pure, while the lower tones are somewhat lost.

We have tested the speaker at two locations. In a large space of 27 square meters, where people live and work. In theory, you could use the Google Nest Mini to fill the room with sound, but we don’t recommend that. The sound quality is really not enough for that. In the bedroom, the speaker already performs much better on the bedside table. The sound can reflect that much better; the acoustics are therefore better suited to what this speaker has to offer. The Nest Mini is therefore more suitable for smaller than for larger rooms.

Google Nest Mini – conclusion

All in all, the Google Nest Mini is quite an improvement over its predecessor. The music that comes out does indeed sound better than its predecessor, although you shouldn’t want to use it to fill a large room with music. But on a desk or bedroom, it sounds fine for the price. You can also play music via bluetooth. In terms of operation, there are three options: via the device, an app from a music streaming service or Google Home and of course via the voice and everything works properly.

What you could still miss is an audio cable connection, so you could also connect other devices without internet or bluetooth. Is it a great loss? Certainly not, but it could increase the value of the Google Nest Mini. In addition, not every genre of music sounds clear or undistorted. For example, if you listen to louder music, such as metal, you will soon hear the limitations of the format. In addition, the 1.5 meter cable could be too short for some users.

The negatives collected above are not really negative aspects. They are personal experiences that can be different for everyone. That does not alter the fact that we will still mention them, precisely because of their personal character. A smart speaker can be very personal, especially if you turn on Voice Match. But above all, they are things to take into account; things that it is good that you know in advance. Besides that, the Google Nest Mini is more than worth its price and a great way to use the Google Assistant.

Pros of Google Nest Mini

  • Smooth installation
  • Google Assistant can do a lot more
  • Mute button for the microphone
  • Great sound for the price

Negatives of Google Nest Mini

  • Not for all types of music
  • No audio cable connection
  • Cable may be too short