The mightiest mini

Nest Mini

A breath of fresh air

Google Home

Nest took one of our favorite little smart devices and updated it with some key tweaks like a much better speaker and a much smarter assistant. The Mini keeps its same great looks with updated colors and it is also now wall-mountable.

$49 at Best Buy

Pros

  • Great sounding small speaker
  • More on-device smarts
  • You can mount it to your wall
  • Fabric made from recycled bottles

Cons

  • No information display
  • Fidgety touch controls

Don't let its air freshener facade fool you — this is still one great smart speaker. We like the colored LEDs and better touch interface experience over the Mini and similar devices. Plus, it still sounds great!

$99 at B&H

Pros

  • User-friendly color LED touch controls
  • Bigger, room-filling speaker
  • Different color bases are an additional charge

Cons

  • Hasn't seen a visual update in 3 years
  • Google has taken away color options since introduction

Google's first two smart speakers were the original Google Home and the Google Home Mini (now Nest Mini). Love their looks or hate them, one thing is for certain. These are the most un-speaker looking speakers in the smart assistant space. While different sizes and form factors, they both basically perform the same function. So which should you get?

These speakers don't look much like speakers... smart.

Size, color, price, sound... these are the areas in which these little smart speakers differ, and what we you want to focus on when making your purchase decision. Let's take a look at their specs to see how they stack up.

Nest Mini (2nd Gen) Google Home
Weight 6.1 oz 16.8 oz
Size 3.9" x 3.9" x 1.6" 5.62" x 3.79" x 3.79"
Microphones 3 2
Mute switch Yes Yes
Speakers 1 x 1.58" 1 x 2"
Touch screen No No
Smart home controls Yes Yes
Virtual assistant Google Assistant Google Assistant
Pair multiple for stereo sound Yes Yes
Finishes Fabric — 4 colors
Coral
Sky
Charcoal
Chalk
Fabric — 1 color
Slate

Mighty mini

Nest Mini Coral LifestyleSource: Google

Even though many people who own a Google Home Mini probably didn't pay full-price, or even pay at all (they are often given away as a promo for other purchases), most people I've heard from really have liked their little pucks. However, the biggest complaint from the first version was the relatively poor sound quality from the diminutive speaker. Naturally this is to be expected... after all, you can only fit so much speaker in such a small space, right? Not so fast.

Enter the Nest Mini — Google, er, Nest's second generation of the device. Not only did Nest keep the things fans loved about the first iteration like its size, mult-colored options, and price, but it managed to address some of the major concerns from the previous version. Google claims that it improved the speakers to the point where the bass is twice as powerful as before, and early reviews concurred.

In addition to the improved sound, Google says it beefed up the processor on the device, making it capable of faster and more secure on-device voice processing. This should make your interactions with the Google Assistant more snappy, more accurate, and more secure.

In what seems like a little addition that could amount to a big deal, Google basically put a little hole on the back of the device so you could mount the Nest mini on your wall. Not that the device took up that much room before, but now you have virtually unlimited options for where to put it.

Finally, Google says that the fabric covering of the device is made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. The company hopes to bring this sustainability push across its product lines in the near future, and I'm here for it!

Home sweet home

Google HomeSource: Google

Google first unveiled the Google Home at its I/O conference in May of 2016, and the product was released later that fall. And then... well, nothing really. The product hasn't been substantially updated since, though it's received any updates to Google Assistant that the rest of the lineup has received. During that time period, the company has devoted itself to expanding the product line, introducing products like the Google/Nest Mini, Google Home Max, the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max.

The Google Home still serves as a capable conduit to the Google Assistant, and its 2" speaker with two passive radiators still puts out a quality audio experience. It only has two microphones as compared to three on the Nest Mini, but they still work quite well. Its colored LED touchpad on the top of the device is also a little more enjoyable and intuitive to use when compared to the Mini, in my opinion.

Google has dropped the price in the intervening years so now it competes directly with the Amazon Echo (3rd Gen), but while Amazon has iterated on that product's design and capabilities, the Google Home has set dormant. Also, Google has stopped selling different colored Home devices, though you can still purchase different color bases separately from Google or elsewhere on the interwebs (particularly at eBay and Etsy).

Even though it doesn't cost what it once did, with it being so long in the tooth I'd rather fork up the additional $30 for a Nest Hub, or get two Nest Minis instead. That may seem harsh considering the Google Home is still to this day a solid product, but it is one that I feel is falling out of its place in the lineup.

Get this one

With all due apologies to the Glade air freshener, er — Google Home, I can easily recommend the Nest Mini as the little Google smart speaker to get. Even though it's much smaller than the Google Home, it packs a better microphone array, a more comparable speaker setup, and it is more flexible in terms of where you can put it. It comes in more colors, and is still half the price of its bigger sibling. With the Nest Mini occupying the low end, and the Nest Hub(s) the high end, it makes me wonder if the Google Home will see a refresh or if it will be put out to pasture.

If you can find the Google Home on special or as part of some bundle, then maybe pull the trigger. Otherwise, pick up a few Nest Minis and start putting the Google Assistant to work for you in more places!

Nicely done, Nest

Nest Mini

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.

The OG

Google Home

Still a great choice for music

It's been out for three years, but the original Google Home is still going strong — but for how long, and will it be updated again?

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