The Nest Mini and Google Home Mini are closely related products: Much like Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot speakers, the Home Mini and Nest Mini are both smaller versions of the Home smart speaker. Both utilize Google Assistant, one of the better virtual assistants currently on the market right now, and connect to a variety of devices around your home. You can use these devices to play music, make calls, use voice commands for smart devices, ask questions, and update Google apps like Calendar.
So, what are the key differences between the two pint-sized smart speakers, and which is right for your home (or as a gift)? To help you with your purchase, we’ve outlined the main differences below.
Pricing and availability
In many ways, the Nest Mini was intended to be a replacement for the Home Mini, with a few important upgrades and a renewed focus on the “Nest” brand and the data security it provides. One of the results is that there’s no difference between the prices of the two models: Both cost $49, and both feature free shipping from sites like Google. This also compares well to competitor products, like Amazon’s 3rd-generation Echo Dot, which sells for $50. Even though pricing is no different between the two, you can certainly expect the Google Home Mini to drop in price or even see generous sales discounts as we head into the holiday season, given that it’s the older model.
This makes a price recommendation very easy: If the Nest Mini comes with updated features (which we will talk about more down below) and the same price tag, then it’s definitely the better deal.
The Home Mini is a small disk covered in fabric. The top of the disk uses three LED dots to communicate functions like running processes, listening, initiating setups, or muted mode. You can tap the sides of the Mini to change volume, stop a process, or mute. However, it can be a bit difficult because they’re not properly marked — often requiring several taps before they’re found. There’s a small mic switch at the bottom to turn the mic entirely off as needed. The Mini comes in several different color options including a dark blue and orange.
At first glance, the Nest Mini looks just the same. It’s very slightly smaller (so slight it’s hard to tell), and comes in slightly different color options. There’s also an integrated wall mount on this model, where the Home Mini requires buying a wall mount accessory. The touch controls on either side of the device and the LED lights on the top function the same way in both models.
Smart home control
Since both the Nest Home and Home Mini use Google Assistant to control smart devices, they have the same functionality: Anything that works over Google Assistant will work for either device. Both can connect to and control many smart devices around the home, both can run on Android or iOS, and there’s no appreciable difference here.
However, we will note that Google’s smart home compatibility system is, well, a mess right now. Google is trying to move everyone from the old Works with Nest program to a newer, more limited Works with Google Assistant program. The transition is currently a complicated one, and smart device households will lose various compatibilities and functionality as a result. The dust will clear eventually, but at the moment both Home and Mini are good choices for a house that has only a couple of smart devices but wants to adopt more in the future.
Speakers and sound
The Home Mini has a 40mm driver for sound, around the same size that’s found in large headphones. This is a significant decrease in sound reach and quality compared to larger Bluetooth speakers like the Google Home. Unfortunately, this version of the Home Mini only has a micro-USB port for power, so you will need Bluetooth wireless headphones to connect to it (at which point, you can just connect to your computer instead). It’s not really designed as a music-playing machine.
Here we come across one of the biggest differences with the Nest Mini, the speaker upgrade. The Nest Mini still has a 40mm driver, but Google reports that it redesigned the sound system to provide bass that’s twice as strong as the first original model. This is hard to judge when the specs are the same, but there is notable sound improvement. However, neither model will get close to the level of performance that a full smart speaker can reach, so they aren’t great for music. The Nest Mini, however, does have an edge when it comes to notifications, reports, catching up on sports, and other sound-related uses when the speaker will be close at hand.
Both the Home Mini and the newer Nest Mini are designed for the same applications — acting as little personal assistants in smaller spaces. They aren’t really meant to be placed in central locations the way larger speakers are, although this is a possibility if you don’t have any other alternatives. But the Minis are mostly at home on desks, in dorms, hanging out by workspaces, or perched on smaller counters where people will be working close by. They don’t do quite as well as alarm clocks since there’s no easy feature for telling the time, but they could serve as alarm clock companions if you prefer a voice assistant in the morning.
The Nest Mini has upgraded sound design and newer hardware for the same price, plus integrated mounting options. That makes this 2nd generation model an easy pick over the Home Mini. In fact, it’s likely Google will phase the Home Mini out entirely in the future (it’s already difficult to find in many online stores). If you need to pick between the two, the Nest Mini is the obvious choice…but we encourage you to take a look at the full range of smart speakers on the market before making a final decision.
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- The best Google Home-compatible devices for 2020