(Pocket-lint) - The second-generation of Google's excellent Home Mini comes in the form of the Nest Mini. That the name has changed from Home to Nest was predictable, with Google re-aligning its smart devices under the Nest brand. But the compact Google Assistant speaker has also gone through a subtle, though not insignificant, redesign in the latest iteration.
Its revamp was about making the experience better for those buying their first Google Nest device, according to Google Nest product manager Ed Kenney when we quizzed him at the launch event. And with a price of only $49 or £49 (sometimes less thanks to frequent sale prices), it's a natural entry point to Google's smart home devices. Is it a total bargain and a must buy?
Same design, cleaner conscience
- Dimensions: 98 x 98 x 42mm / Weight: 173g
- Recycled materials in build
- Four colour options
- Rear wall-mount
The Google Nest Mini has an almost identical design to the old Home Mini. In fact, unless you knew what you were looking for, you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two. It remains a compact, puck-like circular device that features a physical microphone mute button on the back and a power port - which is now A/C not Micro-USB. There's no audio jack like the Amazon Echo Dot sadly.
With a plastic base and mesh covering across the top (just like the Home Mini) the big change comes in the materials that Google has used. Looking to clean up its environmental credentials, the Nest Mini is made from 34 per cent recycled plastic, while the fabric 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, eh?
Flip the Nest Mini over and you'll find a wall-mount on the bottom, giving you another way to deploy your device: it doesn't have to sit on a counter, it can hang on the wall. With the Home Mini, you would have to have invested in an additional accessory for such a mount. Offering a built-in mount makes it much more flexible in terms of placement.
Sound and control improvements
- 40mm speaker with 360-degree output
- Better controls than original
- Three microphones
Under the fabric mesh of the Nest Mini there are four LEDs, but the second-gen device adds smarter control compared to the first-gen (and differently named) model. Volume can be adjusted by tapping towards the device's edges - as you could with the original, even if it was a little dubious - with additional LED lights appearing to guide you.
You can also tap the four LEDs in the middle - which show Google Assistant is listening to you to play or pause songs - offering more options when it comes to control. Naturally, you can just ask Google Assistant to pause a song or turn the volume up or down, but the extra on-device control is welcome.
In terms of sound, one of the aims of the second-generation model was to improve the quality, just like Amazon's Echo Dot has over multiple iterations. Think about it as an update to move from background filler to room-filling. Sure, it's no match for some of the bigger Google Assistant speakers, and certainly not devices like the Sonos Move or Google Home Max, but with a 40 per cent boosted bass response, the sound is now less "mini" and more substantial (although we daren't not say "massive").
Volume levels are much better than the original Home Mini, too, especially in terms of bass. The Mini handled our reasonably large kitchen pretty well, pumping out the tunes without sounding too weedy. It's no match for larger speakers when it comes to vocals and definition, but it's certainly a dramatic improvement over the Home Mini.
The Nest Mini also adds a third mic on the top, meaning it can also hear its surroundings better, resulting in it being more responsive when you're using voice control.
Getting smarter every day
- Google Assistant voice control
Aside from the physical attributes of the Nest Mini speaker, there's also a lot going on under the hood. It's powered by Google Assistant, which in our opinion is the leading voice control system of those available, often able to give you more useful and accurate information than some of its rivals, like Amazon or Apple.
These systems are always updating, adding new functionality and learning more, to make for a better experience. You can talk to Google to control all your smart home functions via the Nest Mini, making it a simple addition to any home. It also offers features like Continued Conversation so you can ask follow-up questions without having to say the "Ok Google" or "Hey Google" wake words every time.
Seamless control from your phone, with support for services like Spotify Connect and other Google-compatible music casting services, means it's easy to keep yourself entertained. You can also pair the Nest Mini with other Google Assistant speakers to form groups and easily play the same music across that group, allowing for multi-room audio without the expense.
At the same time, the software experience of the Nest Mini is exactly the same as other Google Assistant speakers. So there's parity across such functionality, regardless of the size or price of the speaker you're buying, which is a great thing if you end up buying multiples.
- Google Home vs Nest Mini vs Home Max vs Nest Hub vs Nest Hub Max: Which Google speaker should you buy?
The Google Nest Mini won't see you rushing out to buy it if you already own the original (and differently named) Home Mini. But for a first-timer it's now a savvy buy.
If you're weighing up the decision of whether to buy the Nest Mini or the Echo Dot, now there's more comparability between the sound quality of those two devices - so you can buy the Google without feeling like you're making a sacrifice in terms of sound quality.
The Nest Mini is a smart and enticing entry-point to Google Assistant in the home, with this second-gen version bringing improvements where they matter the most. It's an excellent little speaker, with more bass, more flexibility, and it's more sustainable too. What's not to love?
This article was originally published on 16 October 2019 and has been updated to reflect its full review status.
Amazon Echo Dot
The Amazon Echo Dot third-gen is the small speaker to beat, offering surprisingly robust sound for something so compact. It's a great little speaker for not a lot of money, but in this case tying into the Amazon Alexa experience instead.