Google Nest Mini Review

The most accessible smart speaker for smart home beginners.

If you are starting out in your smart home journey, the Nest Mini could be the speaker for you. With good sound and smart home control, what’s not to like?

 

What is it. 

The Nest Mini is the basic entry in Google’s lineup of smart speakers. The Nest Mini is essentially a re-branded Home Mini (after acquiring the company Nest).

 

Unboxing and looks

Top view.
Back view.
A closer look.
The mute button.
How it looks like next to the Echo Dot (2nd gen).

 

Setup

Follow setup instructions in the Google Home app.

 

Features

The Nest Mini has a tonne of features. You can use it to play music, set reminders and timers, ask for the weather, read the news and also control your smart home devices.

Quick features.

 

Usage and Performance

Most of my experience of using the Nest Mini will be in relation to the Echo Dot (2nd gen). I am unable not to avoid this comparison since I’ve been using the Echo Dot for three years now.

Usage and Performance – How does it sound? 

My expectations were high for the Nest Mini speaker since it’s the only competitor to Amazon’s Echo speakers; and I wasn’t disappointed. The first thing that hits you is how loud and clear it is. You could even feel a tiny ounce of bass compared to the Echo Dot (2nd gen).  Suffice to say, listening  to music was a great experience; even better than the Echo Dot.

Usage and Performance –  How user friendly is it?

The Nest Mini is user friendly and functions just like any smart speaker in the market; say your command and the Nest Mini will respond accordingly. The only tricky parts come from the design of the Nest Mini.

First is the Nest Mini’s buttons. You will not see any physical buttons on the Nest Mini. Instead, the buttons only light up when you tap the surface of the speaker. For example, if you want to adjust the volume down, you have to tap the edge of the left side. And if you want to volume up, you have to tap the edge of the right side.

Volume buttons on the left and right.

The tricky part is that sometimes your tap is going to be off an inch. This is because without any visual help, you can only know roughly where the buttons are. Hence I found myself ‘spam-tapping’ the volume buttons until the touch registered.

If you compare this to the Echo Dot, it has their buttons all clearly laid out at the top. And they are volume up, volume down, mute and the Alexa trigger. This makes it easy for anyone to operate without any second guessing.

Physical volume buttons.

Second is the Nest Mini’s visual cue. What I mean by that is, whenever you call “Ok Google”, the centre of the speaker will light up. The purpose of these lights is to reinforce that the Nest Mini has heard your command.

If you are a few feet away from the Nest Mini, you are still able to see this lights. The issue arises when you are 20-30 feet away; you will not be able to see whether the Nest Mini has heard you or not.

The Nest Mini’s response.

In contrast, the Echo Dot has a blue ring that lights up on the side. Which means no matter how far (within reason) you can still see that Alexa has heard your command.

The Amazon Echo Dot’s response.
Usage and Performance – How does it control smart devices?

The Nest Mini controls smart devices pretty well. Just add the supported products via the Google Home app and you are good to go. Overall, the Nest Mini performed faster than the Echo Dot (2nd gen) – almost instantaneously. Where the Echo Dot took about 2 seconds, the Nest Mini took half the time.

The Nest Mini however has one annoying behaviour that is good or bad depending on how you view it.  Lets say you have 3 smart bulbs grouped under ‘All Lights’. But you only have 1 bulb which is active. If you say ‘OK google, turn on all lights”, it will turn on that one light and also complain that it cannot access the remaining two lights.

One on hand, it is good that it alerts you which devices it cannot reach. On the other hand, if you had purposely removed those devices (for whatever reason), then it gets annoying to be reminded again and again. Contrast this to the Echo where it will not complain that it cannot access inactive devices.

 

Price and Availability

 

Do check your local retailers for availability.
If you are in a country that has a Google Store, do check that too.

 

To purchase go here.

Final Thoughts

You cannot go wrong with the Nest Mini; the speaker is loud and clear, almost all smart home products (Hue, Nest, TP-Link, etc) are supported and the price is affordable.

The only thing to consider when getting the Nest Mini is whether you prefer function over form or vice versa. This is because the Nest Mini is designed with form over function; pleasing to the eyes but sacrificing practicality. There is no right or wrong with this one, but for me personally I prefer to see physical buttons like on the Echo Dot.

Then comes the question: Why should I get the Nest Mini over the Echo Dot? Well, both products are on equal footing with majority of smart home products being supported. But, if you live outside the United States, you are better off with the Nest Mini. This is because Google has made their Home app available universally. Contrast this to the Echo where Amazon has only made the Alexa app available on countries where Alexa is officially supported (i.e. US, UK).

Overall the Nest Mini is the most accessible speaker for smart home beginners.It is your best solution if you want a smart home speaker but don’t know where to start. A recommended buy indeed.