Bottom line: The Nest Mini is perfect for the one place I'm wary of putting anything more expensive: the bathroom. It makes for the ultimate shower buddy, where your bathroom is your microphone and arena. It'll likely be on sale for Black Friday, making it an even better buy.
- Surprisingly loud
- Cute capacitive controls
- Better voice recognition
- Excellent value for money
- Mounting hole is useful
- It's still a small speaker with minimal bass
- Assistant still hesitates
- Not recommended for high-fidelity music
We all love to sing in the shower — or at least I do — and for the past two years I've used a first-generation Google Home Mini as my bathroom speaker. Sitting right next to my shower on top of my vanity cabinet, it's been a great companion to my daily singing-in-the-shower routine, albeit with some issues. The main one of these has been voice recognition, as the Home Mini usually fails to hear me over the louder volume and running shower.
The new Nest Mini, announced last week at Google's Pixel 4 event, is the successor to my bathroom pal and comes with more than just a new name. It's got several enhancements in audio playback, a new machine learning chip for better voice recognition, and proximity sensors to help show you where the volume keys are.
After a few days with it, I can safely say it's the best bathroom speaker — heck, the best small speaker for any space — I've ever used.
It hears you a lot better now
Nest Mini What I like
The most annoying thing about the Google Home Mini specifically, and Google Assistant speakers generally, has been when the microphones fail to hear you over loud music. The Nest Mini has no such issues.
With the volume set to 10 (out of 10), the Nest Mini can still hear me over the music's blare, whereas the Google Home Mini often couldn't. It's hard to quantify exactly how much better it is, but I'll tell you this: I can shout down the hallway, through a closed door, and the Nest Mini still hears me. The Google Home Mini didn't have that superpower.
Thanks to the new extra microphone and the on-device machine learning chip, it seems to work from approximately 30 feet away, compared to around 25 feet with the Google Home Mini. Positioned by the front door of my apartment, it triggered when I was laying in bed activating my bedtime Assistant routine. Considering it's the exact same site as the original Google Home Mini, it's a welcome improvement.
In the space of a few days, I have seen little improvement but this is likely a feature that needs a fair amount of time to learn my habits. In theory, this should all mean that things like turning the lights on and off should be much faster, but we'll see how Assistant does once it learns my habits.
Google says the new Nest Mini has double the bass "when measured at the 60Hz to 100Hz range." It's a bold claim, and it bears out in practice, too: the Nest Mini sounds considerably fuller and more balanced than the Google Home Mini.
The Nest Mini can also get really loud — much louder than its predecessor. For a speaker this small (it's practically the same size as the Home Mini), it is mighty powerful.
Of course, the size of the Nest Mini means the audio output is somewhat limited in quality; for most songs it's fine, but if hi-fi music is your main priority, you'll want to spring for a bigger, and better, speaker.
One of the most interesting updates to the Nest Mini is the addition of new capacitive buttons. There are now three buttons: volume up, volume down and a tap in the center to play or pause. They're incredibly useful, especially because Google added some intelligence to the proceedings.
There's a new ultrasonic sensor that can tell when your hand gets near and will automatically enable two small lights on the left and right as a guide for tapping the volume buttons. This feature is especially useful for late-night interactions where changing the volume using your voice can disturb a sleeping partner.
The Nest Mini is an iterative upgrade over the Google Home Mini but that's OK as, ultimately, the Home Mini is a fantastic speaker for so little money.
If your room doesn't have anywhere feasible to place the Nest Mini, the new mounting hole is a welcome addition. The Google Home Mini has developed an accessory ecosystem, with many of the accessories featuring mounting options. Now you can just pop a nail in the wall, hang the Nest Mini and be done with it, although you probably won't get the wire to hang straight like Google shows in its press pictures.
The charging port has also changed from the standard-but-dated micro-USB to a barrel type charger, similar to the Amazon Echo Dot (opens in new tab). This is likely down to the Nest Mini's greater 15W power requirement, and other than having fewer available third party chargers, it doesn't affect the experience in any way.
The software needs further tweaks
Nest Mini What I don't like
With all the improvements fixing the key things I didn't like about the Nest Mini, there's virtually nothing I don't like about the Nest Mini. The only thing I'm still wary of is the long-term performance, as I've found other Google Assistant speakers tend to take longer and longer to respond to voice requests over time.
Google says the new on-device machine learning chip should improve Assistant by learning the routines and phrases you say often and processing them locally. I'm sure it will eventually, but there's still a pause when I'm activating any of the routines I use frequently. That said, on device AI is going to improve with time, so I'm quietly excited about the Nest Mini eventually responding almost immediately.
Nest Mini Bottom Line
Whether you're getting into the Assistant speaker market for the first time, or this is your tenth speaker, the Nest Mini is a great small speaker.
It brings the new Assistant, and the machine learning chip should allow conversations with Assistant flow faster. In my testing, it still missed a beat or two while waiting for a response from the server, but none more so than the previous Google Home Mini or Amazon's Echo Dot.
At $49, it's a product that's easy to purchase on a whim. Based on the history of the Google Home Mini during Black Friday last year, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Nest Mini price be reduced drastically, or see multiples bundled alongside other Google Assistant products. There's also multiple colors you can choose from, which help it to blend into your home.
4.5 out of 5
If you have the chance to pick one up at a low price, it's worth doing so as this is a small, but mighty, speaker that's perfect for the bathroom and other small spaces.
Small speaker, big sound
An excellent purchase, at a price that'll get lower
The Nest Mini is perfect for the one place I'm wary of putting anything more expensive: the bathroom. It makes for the ultimate shower buddy, where your bathroom — not just your shampoo bottle — is your microphone and arena. It'll likely be on sale for Black Friday, making it an even better buy.
Nirave Gondhia has been writing about the mobile industry for over a decade and began his career selling and fixing phones in the UK. He's used every flagship smartphone over the past five years and carries at least two phones at all times - currently, he's using the iPhone 11 Pro, [Samsung Galaxy Fold and Motorola RAZR. Say hi to him on Twitter at @nirave.
I bought one of those mini holders that plugs right into my wall outlet so I don't have to worry about getting water or toothpaste on it ;)
Honest question here. I do not have any smart speaker of any kind. What do these things actually DO? They seen neat but I dont see any reason to actually buy it. Am I missing some cool functionality or something? I already have google assistant on my phone, and at home my phone is always near me to answer google assistant queries. Again...serious question. I want one but cant find a use for it.
Your phone is always within arms length? Your hands are never in a condition where you really don't want to touch your phone? They do have much better sound than your phone (almost guaranteed) so telling it to play something from Google Play or Spotify will yield a more pleasant result.
My phone is never more than a room away from me. Sure, my hands are busy while cooking or something but I never need to use my phone at that time. As for sound, that little mono speaker cant hold a candle to my receiver system so I have no desire to listen to music on it. Besides, all my music is local files on my phone or my NAS. I don't subscribe to play music or spotify. Other comment talked about turning lights and fans off. I don't have any smart lights or switches. My house isn't that big so walking over to flip a switch is hardly a bother. Seems like a solution looking for a problem. My TV and receiver can be controlled by smart assistants but....again. my remotes are right there on my coffee table. Takes less time to reach over and tap one button than talk to a smart speaker. Well. Its neat things it can do but I dont see any justification for it in my case.
There used to be some things the Home could do that GA couldn't emulate on your phone, but that gap might have closed. I use my Google Homes primarily to control my home automation (lightswitches, Chromecasts, Logitech Harmony Hub), but it's not something I recommend to everyone as it takes a lot of work to get that all going smoothly at this point in time. One nice thing is that you can listen to TuneIn radio broadcasts without needing an account, so the combination of Google Home + Chromecast long ago replaced my clock radio. And with multi-room audio, I get seamless radio all through my house. Other than that, I don't use it a lot beyond asking for weather updates, asking when stores/restaurants open/close, and asking how long it'll take to get to a place...all of which can be done from your phone. So from what you're saying, I would agree that you probably don't have a good use case for it right now. I think the Nest Hub is a better choice for most people, mostly because it's an exceptionally good digital photo frame (with the added benefit of voice assistance). I recently gave one to my parents, and we've set up a shared Google Photos album for the family. So, my sister and I can now push photos directly from our phones to the album, and they'll show up on the Nest Hub. The ambient display is really impressive.
I use it to turn lights on/off. My window fan in the living room on/off.
My tv and AVR on/off.
Routines - "Hey Google, good night" switches the TV and AVR off, switches a light by the front door on.
Similar routine for when I am heading out the door and I don't want to reach for remotes.
Then there's basic information queries, playing music from Spotify etc.
It's the same Google Assistant that's on your phone, and it does the same things, it just does them better. The microphones are better than the ones on your phone, they can pick up your voice a lot more accurately from farther away, and the speaker is louder than the one on your phone, it can answer questions and play music louder than your phone can. It's not meant to be a sound system, it's meant to be cheap and easily placed throughout the house, put one in your bedside and it's an alarm clock, put it in your bathroom and it's a music player, but a couple of them throughout your house and it's an intercom system, I use that with my family a lot; "hey Google, broadcast dinner's ready".
I love the games it has. It is really cool when I have my daughter over and you can play games with Google and the music is great for her
In the bathroom, seriously? I'd love to see the poor bastards at Google listening to you grunting out a dookie.
I've bought I've of these to replace my Home Mini in my bathroom because of the better sound. But alas, I cannot use it do to Google's decision to not use USB power cable!! Infuriating!!
Does anybody know of a suitable replacement cable that had the Nest Mini on one end and USB-A on the other?
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