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Google Nest Mini initial review: Mini update, max impact

That the name has changed from Home Mini to Nest Mini is predictable, with Google realigning its smart devices with the Nest brand – but the compact Google Assistant speaker has also gone through a subtle but not insignificant redesign in this latest iteration.

Updated to replace the previous model, it will still only cost you $49 or £49 – and often less thanks to frequent sales – making it the natural entry point to Google’s smart home devices.

And that’s also the reason for the update, according to Ed Kenney, product manager of Google Nest, who introduced us to the new device, saying that this update was about making the experience better for those buying their first Google Nest device.

Same design, cleaner conscience

  • 98 x 98 x 42mm, 173g
  • Recycled materials
  • Rear wall mount 

The new Nest Mini has the same design as the old Home Mini and you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. With a plastic base and mesh covering across the top, the big change comes in the materials that Google has used to produce this model.

nest mini

Looking to clean up its environmental credentials, the Nest Mini is now 34 per cent recycled plastic, while the mesh on the top comes from recycled plastic bottles. Just make sure you don’t throw it in the sea when you’re done with it.

Flip the Mini over and you’ll find a wall mount on the back, giving you another way to deploy your device: it doesn’t have to sit on a counter, it can hang on the wall.

Sound improvements

  • 360-degree 40mm speaker
  • New volume LEDs
  • Three microphones

You change the volume on the Nest Mini by tapping towards the edges, but that’s always been slightly dubious. Now there are additional LEDs under the fabric so you can see that you’re doing something. That’s in addition to the LEDs that run across the middle to show that Google Assistant is listening to you.

But that’s not really the sound improvement we’re talking about. Like Amazon’s Echo Dot, one of the aims of this update is to improve the sound quality. That’s seen an update to move the Nest Mini from background noise to room filling. Sure, it’s no match for some of the bigger Google Assistant speakers, but with a 40 per cent boosted bass response, the sound is now less Mini and more substantial.

That’s what Google means by improving the performance. While the Home Mini was always a cute design and affordably entry point to the ecosystem, the performance was well behind the latest Echo Dot, but with the Nest Mini you can get away with using it as a beside speaker without it feeling a little weedy.

There’s also the addition of a third mic on the top, meaning that it can also hear better, meaning that it should be more responsive when using voice control.

Getting smarter every day 

  • Google Assistant powered 

Aside from the physical attributes of this speaker, there’s also a lot going on under the hood. It’s powered by Google Assistant, which we think is the leading voice control system of the lot, often able to give you more useful and accurate information that some of its rivals.

These systems are always updating too, adding new functionality and learning more, to make for a better experience. You’ll be able to talk to Google to control all your smart home functions via the Nest Mini making it an easy addition to any home. 

Seamless control from your phone, with support for services like Spotify Connect and other Google-compatible music casting services mean it’s easy to keep yourself entertained. You can also group it with other Google Assistant speakers to form groups and easily play the same music across that group.

At the same time, the software experience of the Nest Mini is going to basically be exactly the same as other Google Assistant speakers. There’s parity across the functionality, regardless of the size or price of the speaker you’re buying – and that’s a good thing.

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