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Google Nest Mini (2nd Gen) review: Even faster, even smarter

nest mini review 2 google 2nd gen feat

Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen (Coral)

“Google's Nest Mini makes an already good device even better and remains the go-to pick among affordable smart speakers.”
  • Quick responses
  • Adjusts sound based on background noise
  • Eco-friendly materials
  • Affordable price
  • Max volume could be louder
  • Same look as the previous model
MSRP $49.00

This review was updated by Digital Trends editor John Velasco on 7/30/2020.

The Nest Mini (2nd Generation) is Google’s newest Mini Speaker. Released on October 22, 2019, the Nest Mini features an assortment of improvements, like better sound, faster processing, and much more, to deliver a better experience for the user than its predecessor. Similar to its predecessor, it’s a wonderful entry if you’re looking to finally get on board with a smart home — supplementing Google’s lineup with previous devices like the Google Home and Google Home Max.

What’s interesting is that Google is still selling its predecessor, the Google Home Mini for a slighter lower cost. However, if you craving for something with more substance, consider Google’s current smart displays — the Google Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max. We tested out the Nest Mini to see how it stacks up against the rest of the pint-sized smart speaker pack.

Same look, but few design improvements

The Nest Mini looks almost identical to the Google Home Mini. It’s 1.65 inches tall and 3.85 inches in diameter, and it has a fabric design and the same rounded shape. The Nest Mini comes in four color choices: Chalk, charcoal, coral, and a new sky color. We received the chalk color for our review.

Google Nest Mini on table
John Velasco / Digital Trends

The new Mini has some improvements in design over its predecessor. Although you may not notice much difference at first glance, the differences become more apparent during the setup process. For instance, there’s a small cutout for a screw on the back of the device that allows you to mount it on a wall. The top fabric portion of the Nest Mini is made from 100% recycled plastic, while the external enclosure is comprised of at least 35% post-consumer recycled plastic. The Nest Mini is slightly heavier than the Home Mini (181 grams versus 173 grams), and you can feel the quality of the craftsmanship when you hold the Nest Mini in your hand.

Button controls, sensors, and ports

The Mini is powered by a 15-watt power adapter connected to a DC power jack, a change from the former’s standard Micro USB connection. Even though it would’ve been ideal to get USB-C, given that it’s unlikely for the Nest Mini to be moved frequently, it’s perfectly alright for Google deciding to go with a proprietary connection. There’s no 3.5mm audio jack to connect an external speaker, but there is Bluetooth support.

Erika Rawes/Digital Trends

The Mini still has a microphone-off slider switch on the side, so you can disable the microphone anytime. The volume controls are capacitive touch buttons, but they’re now located on the sides of the device — with accompanying embedded LEDs to indicate their placements. When you touch each side of the device, the volume goes up or down.

Manually controlling the volume isn’t all that necessary with the Nest Mini though, as the device automatically adjusts its volume based on the background noise in the room. We noticed when there was a lot of conversation or when TV was playing, the Nest Mini would produce louder music and responses than when the room was completely quiet.

Better sound, but when you put it next to the Echo Dot…

The Nest Mini has 360-degree sound and the same size (40mm) speaker driver as the Home Mini. However, with the Nest Mini, Google made updates to the audio tuning software that help to improve the sound quality. It’s supposed to have two times stronger bass without compromising on sound clarity.

Google Nest Mini on ledge
John Velasco / Digital Trends

When we listened to the same songs on full volume, one after another on the Nest Mini and on the Echo Dot 3rd generation (which has a 1.6-inch driver), there was no doubt the Echo Dot 3rd gen had louder sound and stronger bass. The Nest Mini’s sound was clearer though, and we could hear every layer of the music — clear mid tones, high tones, and bass.

When it comes to voice detection, the Nest Mini is top-notch. It hears commands even in the noisiest of situations, and we feel it outperforms the Echo Dot 3 in this area in spite of the fact that the Dot has four far-field microphones and the Nest Mini only has three.

A Faster Assistant

Google added a machine learning chip with up to one TeraOPS of processing power to Nest Mini, which allows the device to process commands locally. We absolutely noticed a difference in the response time, and in the quality of the Mini’s responses.

Google Nest Mini on wall
John Velasco / Digital Trends

It quickly answers specific questions like, “How much will it cost to remodel my kitchen?” and then it listens for and immediately responds to follow up questions like, “How long will it take to remodel my kitchen?” The answers it provides are becoming more and more useful, and also, more detailed.

Try these new features

Google continues to add more and more features to its home devices. The Nest Mini can make free phone calls via Google Duo (it basically acts as a home phone) and you can use it as an intercom to call other Google/Nest speakers in the home.

Additionally, you can take advantage of stream transfer, and move content (music, podcasts, etc.) from your Mini to other compatible devices with your voice. Google Nest speakers can now control more than 30,000 different smart home devices, you can have the Nest Mini speak multiple languages, and so much more.

Enhanced Voice Match support

Did you know Google Assistant can deliver personalized information to multiple people in the home? Google Assistant is now capable of supporting up to six people’s voices with Voice Match on a smart speaker or display, so that you only get relevant details that pertain to you.

Adjusting “Hey Google” sensitivity

In busier or noisier areas, it’s possible that Google Assistant can be initiated by accident. If you want to adjust the sensitivity whenever the wake phrase “Hey Google” is spoken, you can now do it through the Google Home app.

Washing your hands

It’s more critical than ever before to ensure you wash your hands properly, especially with the pandemic continuing to spread. The Nest Mini offers a brand new feature to help out kids. You simply say, “Hey Google, help me wash my hands,” and from there, it’ll play a tune for 20 seconds to encourage adequate time for washing hands.

Find your keys

Isn’t it annoying when you’ve misplaced your keys somewhere at home while running late to an appointment? Your Google Nest Mini can help you track them down, if you’re using one of Tile’s Bluetooth trackers. In order to track them down, you simply just say, “Hey Google, where are my keys?” From there, Google Assistant will tell its last known location.

Cooking dishes at home

Having trouble figuring out what to cook? With Google Assistant, you can get some ideas with the ingredients you already have at home. You can simply say, “Hey Google, what can I make using flour, lemon, and sugar?”

Our take

We were a bit surprised that Google waited so long to update its Mini speaker, yet it didn’t make any drastic changes to the device’s overall appearance. In part, that’s because they didn’t want to fix what wasn’t broken. Google made changes to the Mini only where needed, maintaining the affordable price, without compromising on design quality.

Is there a better alternative?

It depends. Some people may prefer the Echo Dot 3rd gen (retails for $50) or the Echo Dot 3rd Gen with LED Clock (retails for $60), simply because they prefer Amazon’s assistant Alexa or the Amazon Alexa app. Some people feel the Google Home app is not as intuitive and user-friendly as the Alexa app. Also, Amazon’s Echo Dot speakers include a 3.5 mm audio output jack, while the Nest Mini doesn’t offer one.

But as of right now, the Nest Mini brings a faster and smarter assistant. Yes, the Echo Dot comes with a marginally better app and more options (more speaker choices, more smart home product compatibility, compatibility with Apple Music, etc.), but the Nest Mini still has a lot to offer for those who enjoy Google Home devices. It’s also $49 online, which is a smidgen more than its predecessor, the Google Home Mini ($39). Unless you really want to save the money, you’re better off investing in the newer Nest Mini.

Want more options? Check out our favorite smart speakers of 2019.

How long will it last?

Durability and longevity are areas where Google Nest speakers tend to thrive. Historically, Google routinely makes landmark updates to its assistant than to its smart speakers, and this allows customers to feel confident knowing their devices won’t immediately become obsolete because they’ll be replaced by an updated version a few months later.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you want a powerful, fast, and attractive smart speaker for an affordable price, you won’t be disappointed with the Nest Mini.

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