Nest mini review: We put Google’s smart speaker to the test

Nest mini review: We put Google’s smart speaker to the test
From sound to design, we put the Google nest mini available from Ao to the test. Should you buy it for your home?

We’re now firmly in the era of smart. From light bulbs you can switch on from the other side of the world, to thermostats that tell you exactly how much energy you’re using and when, smart devices are becoming more and more prevalent in our homes.

Central to this, the smart speaker has become something of a must for any modern home, from helping out with cooking times and playing your favourite music, to letting you call friends hands-free and controlling your home’s other smart devices. All this through the unnervingly recognisable voices of our favourite voice assistants.

All-seeing Google’s smart assistant is the most widely-found – and probably best – voice assistant out there. The brand is so confident of its product that it hasn’t even given it a human name, like Alexa or Siri, to try and make users believe it’s not the beginning of the rise of the machines. Nothing fancy for Google, oh no: it’s Google Assistant all the way, nameless since 2016.

It’s generally seen as the smartest of the AI assistants, thanks largely to Google’s years of collecting information about everything that’s ever happened on planet Earth. While Google Assistant is a great feature on smartphones, it really comes into its own when paired with the brand’s smart speakers.

Google’s tiniest smart offering and successor to the home mini, the Nest mini, really is a diminutive speaker – it fits in the palm of your hand easily, and feels like it weighs the same as the top of a Pringles tube. Don’t be deceived by its size, however: Google prides itself on getting the most out of its tech, including its lauded range of smart speakers. So, is the little speaker with big dreams up to the standard of the company’s other strong smart performers? Read on to find out.

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Google Nest mini

Buy now £33, Ao.com

Dimensions: D 98mm x H 42mm

Weight: 177-183g

Colours: Chalk, charcoal, coral, sky

Design

The Nest mini is a case of a good thing coming in a small package. It’s a pebble-shaped beauty, fitting nicely in the palm of your hand and coming in a range of lovely pastel shades – our favourite is the coral. Bright but subtle, it’s the sort of speaker that would look great in a light and airy kitchen next to the toaster, or sat neatly on your distressed-wood bedside table. If you don’t have the home out of Notting Hill that we just described, it’ll still fit seamlessly pretty much anywhere.

There’s not much that’s changed from the original home mini. In fact, it’s almost identical on the outside, apart from a hole on the bottom for wall hanging. It would be quite difficult to make big changes to the Nest mini without turning it into something new, and the design works well, so no complaints from us. The coloured fabric top is a nice touch, and actually made from recycled plastic bottles, so Google gets a small tick on the sustainability chart. Controls are intuitive: LEDs light up when they sense your hand nearby, pointing you to new (!) side lights to control volume, and four central dots that play and pause music.

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There still isn’t a 3.5mm jack, which seems an oversight, especially considering its direct Amazonian rival, the Echo dot, offers one, and would mean Google users could add the brand’s class-leading smarts to a much higher quality sound system. Unfortunately, the Nest mini also doesn’t have a battery, which feels slightly odd for a speaker of this size and a bit of a shame for something so eminently portable, but for the price, you can’t have everything.

Sound input and output

When it comes to the inside of the Nest mini, we begin to see marked improvements. It offers Google’s now-device-wide wake word technology, meaning that accidental virtual assistant interaction is a thing of the past, and helps allay fears of a spy in your own home. The microphones are very handy, picking up voice commands from across a noisy kitchen: this is helped by the inclusion of a third microphone adding some more pick up power.

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Sound output is impressive for such a teeny speaker, and a big improvement on the Nest mini’s predecessor. Bass has been ramped up a few notches, and sound in general feels fuller and more powerful, reaching our ears across any room. It’s by no means a speaker to replace a proper sound set-up, and the Echo dot arguably pips it when it comes to the sound stakes, but there’s not much to complain about – it certainly does the business when giving you the answer to literally almost any question you could throw at it. This is also improved, thanks to a quicker processing chip meaning less pausing when having a full-on discussion with your AI helper.

The verdict: Google Nest mini

This is a direct rival to Amazon’s Echo dot, with both products claiming to do pretty much the same job for the same price. It comes down to personal preference: those who are used to Alexa will most likely stay with Amazon, while Google users will go for the Nest mini – or, more likely, a Google smart speaker with a little more power. The Nest mini is the perfect jumping off point, however, for anyone who knows Google Assistant, but has never entered the world of smart speakers.

It’s a great bit of kit, with a sound that comfortably outperforms its size and microphones that cope with most situations with ease, with the vital feature of offering the best voice assistant on the market. At £49 RRP – and regular offers pushing that price down further – you can’t go wrong.

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IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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