Google Nest Mini (2nd Gen) Review: Even Faster, Even Smarter
“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
While Amazon has made quite a few updates to its Echo speakers and displays, Google hasn’t been as quick to update its smart speaker lineup. Since the search giant released the original Google Home Mini in 2017, the company made numerous updates to the assistant that powers the device, but they didn’t release a new version of the speaker itself… until now. The Nest Mini (2nd Generation) is Google’s newest Mini Speaker. Releasing on October 22, 2019, the Nest Mini is supposed to have better sound, faster processing, and other improvements that provide a better experience for the user.
We tested out the Nest Mini to see how it stacks up against the rest of the pint-sized smart speaker pack. Here’s our full review of the Nest Mini (2nd Generation).
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.
The new Mini has a 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 percent recycled plastic, while the external enclosure is comprised of at least 35 percent post-consumer recycled plastic. The Nest Mini is slightly heavier than the Home Mini (181 grams vs. 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 microUSB connection. Even though it would’ve been ideal to get USB Type-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 3.5 mm audio jack to connect an external speaker, but there is Bluetooth support.
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 the 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 are help to improve the sound quality. It’s supposed to have two times stronger bass without compromising on sound clarity.
When we listened to the same songs on full volume, one after another on the Nest Mini and on the Echo Dot 3rd gen (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.
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.
A feature rich device
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.
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.
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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