Google Nest Mini full review

Meet the Google Nest Mini, first of its name. Look familiar? Well that’s because this is really the Google Home Mini 2, brought under the Nest banner as Google tries to bring all of its smart home devices under one roof.

The design is essentially unchanged, but with upgraded internals and a few new features - all for the same price - we’re not complaining.

Price and availability

The Nest Mini launched on 22 October, and costs £49/$49. That’s the exact same starting price as the Home Mini, though an aggressive pricing war with Amazon has meant that the Home Mini has been available at a discount for almost its entire shelf life.

You can grab the Nest Mini from Google itself, or from the likes of Currys or John Lewis in the UK, or Best Buy or Walmart in the US.

The new model is similar enough that now is arguable a great time to grab an original Home Mini as prices drop and retailers try to clear stock - not least since it's long been our recommendation for the best Google Home device, though that may soon change.

Design and build: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Let’s be blunt: this thing looks a lot like the original Home Mini. Like, a lot a lot. It is, essentially, the same.

And that’s no bad thing! The original Home Mini is a great looking piece of kit that blends comfortably into most homes, and the slight refinements in the Nest Mini should only add to that.

The smallest - but best - change is a small indentation on the back so that you can wall-mount the Nest Mini anywhere you can get away with sticking a nail in the wall for it to hang from, opening up a whole new range of spots for it in the home.

There’s a new colour - Sky - a pale blue to go along with the existing Chalk, Charcoal, and Coral (pictured). The construction is more sustainable too: the main plastic casing uses up to 35% recycled plastic, while the fabric mesh is made entirely from recycled bottles - one 500ml water bottle creates enough material to cover two Nest Minis.

The most substantial design change is itself under the surface. Google has tweaked the Mini’s LEDs, adding two on the side of the device to highlight the touch-based volume controls.

Otherwise, it’s basically all the same: four LEDs on the top to show when the Assistant is active, a physical microphone mute switch on the side, and the exact same compact pebble-like form factor.

There's one thing that's still missing though: an aux out port, meaning there's no way to hook this up to other speakers using a wire. You can still connect it to a sound system over Bluetooth however, or with other Google Home speakers over Wi-Fi.

Specs and features: Sound and computation

There are basically two core changes to the Nest Mini’s internals, alongside a few smaller quality of life tweaks.

The first big change is one that most users will probably never notice: a new machine learning chip. This should improve the Mini’s processing power, allowing it to recognise voice requests faster and handle on-device queries quicker, especially for simple things like weather queries or basic smart home controls.

It’s hard to assess just how much of a difference this has really made - not least since the Home Mini was already fairly fast. The Nest Mini definitely feels a little nippier and more responsive, but it isn't a game-changer. It's also worth noting that it won't change things from a privacy perspective: your recording is still going to be uploaded to Google's servers either way.

The Assistant itself has had some tweaks and new features, but none of these are exclusive to the Nest Mini, and are rolling out across all the existing Home/Nest devices too. The biggest is perhaps the option to (finally!) create speaker groups on the fly and move music from one Google speaker to another through voice commands - though obviously that only helps if you’re willing to commit to more than one device.

You can also use multiple Home/Nest devices as intercoms, calling specific rooms rather than just broadcasting to the whole house as before. More excitingly perhaps, you can use the Nest Mini and other similar devices to make phone calls over Google Duo, or phone home to the Nest Mini from your mobile.

What is easier to tell is that Google has revamped the device’s sonics. There’s a whole new amp and speaker setup which sounds both louder and clearer overall, with particular improvement in the bass response. Google says bass is up by 40% - my ears aren't that precise, but this is undeniably more impactful.

These improvements make the Nest Mini a better standalone speaker, and unlike the original Home Mini it actually sounds good enough to drive the music in your living room so long as you're not a proper audiophile, and it's more than enough to sound great in smaller spaces like a bedroom.

There’s better sound on the other end too. Google has added a third microphone, which helps the Mini pick up your voice - good news to anyone who’s ever irately repeated themselves at their Mini until it just listens for once, which is probably anyone who’s ever owned any smart speaker from any manufacturer, to be quite honest.

My kitchen is around the corner from my living room, where I've had the Nest Mini sitting, and I've found it much better than the Home Mini at hearing me when I talk to it while cooking, so that third mic is doing something. It also delivers pretty crisp, clear audio when using the intercom or calling systems.

And finally, one small quality of life tweak: built-in sonar tech will detect your hand as you move near the Mini to touch it, activating the LEDs ahead of time to guide you to the right touch controls. It’s the small things that count.

Verdict

Despite the big name change, the Nest Mini is far from an overhaul of the Home Mini. If your house is already kitted out with the originals there’s no real reason to swap them out for the newer model - unless you're desperate to mount one on the wall, or really want that upgraded audio.

But for anyone looking to add Google to more rooms, or get the Google Assistant into their home for the first time, the Nest Mini is the new best, and cheapest, way to do it.

Specs

Google Nest Mini: Specs

  • Google Assistant
  • Far field voice recognition with microphone mute switch
  • Touch controls
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • Android and iOS compatible
  • Chromecast and Chromecast Audio built-in
  • Micro-USB