The ability to call out to a small speaker and get information, have automations performed, or listen to music is an amazing convenience that I would have killed for as a child. Google/Nest and Amazon are two of the biggest companies developing pint-sized smart speakers for the home, so let's take a look at what makes them special.
Battle of the baby smart speakers
These speakers share a lot, from their relative size, to their fabric exteriors, and even to their color options. There are also some obvious differences, like how the Mini uses Google Assistant and the Echo Dot uses Alexa. However, there are also enough differences to take note of when making your purchase decision.
|Nest Mini (2nd Gen)||Amazon Echo Dot
|Weight||6.1 oz||10.6 oz|
|Size||3.9" x 3.9" x 1.6"||3.9" x 3.9" x 1.7"|
|Speakers||1 x 1.58"||1 x 1.6"|
3.5mm audio jack
|Smart home controls||Yes||Yes|
|Virtual asssistant||Google Assistant||Alexa|
|Pair multiple for stereo sound||Yes||Yes|
|Finishes||Fabric — 4 colors
|Fabric — 4 colors
Nesting in your home
If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? That appears to be the philosophy that Google followed with the slightly refreshed Nest Mini (2nd Gen), but there is much more than meets the eye in this update. My favorite thing that has changed relates to the sustainability of the device. As part of a renewed environmental push, Google says that the fabric covering the Nest Mini is made from 100% post-consumer recycled bottles.
Arguably the biggest improvement to this generation of Mini speakers is the upgraded Google Assistant capabilities. Google included a new dedicated machine learning chip that it says has one TeraOps of processing power. What exactly does that mean? Google says that allows it to move a lot of the Google Assistant goodies directly to the device, rather than transmitting between your home and a Google server somewhere. In addition to being a privacy feature, it should mean that you will experience much faster response times to your commands and requests.
The Nest Mini (2nd Gen) has one more microphone than before (three, up from two) so that the Google Assistant can better hear your requests from across a room, and the speakers have been beefed up with an improved bass that Google claims is nearly twice as powerful than what was on the original Google Home Mini. The Minis got a minor color refresh as well, with the blue/pink versions previously named Aqua and Coral being tweaked to a more subtle Sky Blue and Coral.
Doting on the Dot
Even though it hasn't been updated in over a year, the Echo Dot (3rd Gen) is still one of the most popular smart home devices around. Of course, it helps that Amazon prices them so aggressively and offers bundles with other smart home products to sweeten the pot.
The Echo Dot has one more microphone than the Nest Mini (2nd Gen) for better voice coverage, and it can not only stream music and content over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but you can actually plug in external speakers to its 3.5mm audio jack to boost the sound even more.
The biggest change to the Dot, aside from the Echo Dot with Clock, which we will talk about another time (oh look, a clock pun!), is the new color variant called Plum. Over the past year, this plum/coral color palette has come into fashion, and Amazon apparently didn't want to miss the boat. While I like the color of the fabric, I feel like Amazon whiffed a bit on the overall aesthetic... the white plastic top and bottom and blue Alexa LED light ring just clash too much with the pink, in my humble opinion.
Which should you buy?
Many of these comparisons boil down to two questions: which is the newer product, andwhich ecosystem are you most comfortable with? Those criteria make it a little easy to pick our favorite here — the Nest Mini. As you can imagine, a large percentage of our readers are Android and Google Assistant enthusiasts, and there is no better choice for a small smart speaker for those folks than the Nest Mini (2nd Gen). Google/Nest took what was already a beloved product and made some minor enhancements to the processor and speaker to make it even better. It's also newer than the Echo Dot, which hasn't received an update in around a year.
Personally, I live more in the Amazon ecosystem so naturally I still love the Echo Dot (3rd Gen). I also prefer the look of the Echo Dot better, and I think that its microphone and speaker capabilities still win out. It just can't win when it hasn't been updated in a while. If you have other Echos or Alexa-enabled devices, however, I would still recommend this to you.
Nicely done, Nest
Improved assistant and better bass
There isn't much room in such a small device for large improvements, but somehow Nest pulled it off. 2 X better bass and more on-device smarts make this a smart buy.
Easy Amazon accessory
An inexpensive entry into Alexa's world
The Echo Dot (3rd Gen) has a familiar design and decent speakers for the size of the device and comes in at an extremely affordable price point.
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