Google Nest Mini hands-on review: New name, few changes

Two years after its introduction, we’re finally getting a proper update to what’s arguably Google’s best selling smart speaker. During today’s Made by Google event in New York City, the company unveiled it latest, budget offering in the Google Nest Mini.

A few changes have been made with this latest model, but don’t hold your breath for something substantially different, since it doesn’t deviate a lot from what we heard about in leaks and rumors.

A familiar look with minor changes

Retaining the same puck design as before, the Nest Mini also bears the familiar fabric covering around the top of the smart speaker that made the original memorable. You also have the embedded LEDs that light up whenever the “Hey Google” phrase is spoken, in addition to the mute switch on its side.

The changes that Google makes are subtle at best. It now boasts a uniform color scheme all throughout the design. Before, the base was orange, though you wouldn’t notice that often.

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Another change to the design is the previously reported wall mount on the underside, allowing owners to mount the Nest Mini wherever there’s enough room to access an outlet with the cable that’s supplying the juice.

Also new are LEDs that surround the main set on the sides of the speaker, which helps to distinguish their placements when adjusting the volume. It’s better than having to fiddle around tapping on the sides to see if your taps are registered.

Chances are you’re not going to make the upgrade based on the design alone, but what about the rest of the experience?

Awareness through listening

The most promising feature of the Nest Mini is the new Google Assistant. For starters, it’s now under the umbrella of Nest Aware, which is the company’s all-inclusive service that’ll monitor your home while you’re away leveraging all of Google’s family of smart speakers, display, and cameras.

What does it mean for the Nest Mini specifically? Well, it means there’s another ear at home that’ll alert you in the event it detects critical sounds, such as your home’s smoke detector going off, so that you can assess what to do. If you find yourself in a situation like this at home, you can now instantly get access to emergency services by saying, “Okay Google, call 9-1-1.”

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Sure, you may be wondering more about privacy than ever before because of this new listening feature, but Google continues to stress about how it’s designed to respect your privacy by showing the visual indicators on the Nest Mini when an event is being recorded and sent for review.

Assistance first, audiophiles last

The absolute best thing about the original Google Home Mini from a couple of years ago was that it helped to bring Google Assistant into more homes because of its lower price point. It wasn’t to the same degree as the original Google Home when it came to audio performance, which didn’t come as a shock when you factor in that it’s a smaller speaker. You could say that it was more of a Google Assistant driven device than a speaker meant for playing music.

The same premise applies with the Nest Mini, because its audio performance won’t satisfy the cravings of serious audiophiles. In our time just checking it out, it was still difficult to make out in the noisy conditions of the showroom floor during Google’s event. Even though the bass is said to be twice as strong, it’s still not enough to hold its own at a party.

At the core of it all, the Nest Mini still remains more of a Google Assistant product than anything else — giving those access to the virtual assistance through the power of voice.

Conclusion

Now that it’s official, it’s tough to recommend upgrading to the Nest Mini from the original Google Home Mini. It’s even more poignant when you look at the $50 cost that’s attached to this year’s new speaker. Throw in the fact that the new Nest Aware also covers the previous model, and there’s nothing terribly new in terms of functionality that you’ll get out of the Nest Mini over its predecessor.

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Those looking for stocking stuffers this holiday season will definitely want to add the Google Nest Mini on their list, since it’s priced at $49 and available for pre-order now through Google’s web site. It’ll be available in various retail stores and in 23 countries starting on October 22.

Google was smart to not offer yearly refreshes to its line of smart speakers, but it really irks you that they decided to give its two year old speaker a slight makeover when at the end of the day, there’s nothing really new or different with it.

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