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Google Nest Mini review: A better sounding in-home assistant

Google's second-generation in-home speaker packs retuned audio that makes it a much more musical companion.
By
December 24, 2021
Google Nest Mini trio
aa2020 editors choice
aa2020 editors choice

Google Nest Mini

The Google Nest Mini hits all the right notes. This small, Assistant-enabled smart speaker makes improvements to music quality as well as voice recognition and speed. If you want a Google-made smart speaker on the cheap, the is the one to get.

Retail price: $24.99

$24.99 at Best Buy

What we like

Good quality sound
Goes/fits anywhere
Notch for hanging
Quick to respond
Works w/other smart home gear
Affordable

What we don't like

Proprietary charging pin
Cable not long enough

The Google Nest Mini is the second-generation miniaturized, voice-activated speaker for your home. It replaces the Google Home Mini in Google’s lineup of Assistant-powered hardware. If you want to know whether or not this little speaker lives up to its big aspirations, we’ve got a tune for you. This is the Android Authority Google Nest Mini review.

Google Nest Mini (2nd Gen)
$24.99 at Best Buy
About this Google Nest Mini review: I used the Google Nest Mini review unit for more than a week. Google provided the Google Nest Mini review unit to Android Authority for the purposes of this review.

Update, December 2021: This review has been updated to reflect the age of the product and its new position in Google’s lineup of smart speakers.

What you need to know about the Google Nest Mini

Google Nest Mini on end table

Google is all about getting its voice-powered Google Assistant into as many places as possible. It’s already on every new Android phone, and is available to the iPhone and myriad other devices via apps and APIs. The original Google Home Mini was a fine assistant, but not the best speaker. Google knows that the vast majority of smart speaker users rely on them to play music, and competition has become fierce. A handful of audio gear companies have begun to sell their own Google Assistant-powered speakers — most of which trounce Google’s in terms of audio quality.

See also: Making the most of Google Assistant

Google set out to improve the music experience delivered by its mighty mini, and made other refinements along the way. Did Google succeed?

Google Nest Mini charcoal on purple table

The Google Nest Mini is an updated and rebranded Google Home Mini. Google consolidated its smart home products under the Nest brand back in 2019. Thus, the Google Hub became the Nest Hub, Google Wifi became Nest Wifi, and so on.

The Mini looks almost identical to its predecessor, but there are some distinct changes.

The Mini looks almost identical to its predecessor, but there are some distinct changes. The dimensions and basic form factor are carried over. That includes the mic off switch on the side edge. The Nest Mini is available in more colors, including Charcoal, Chalk, Sky, and Coral. Google says the fabric that covers the top half of the new speaker is made from 100% recycled plastic water bottles, while about 35% of the chassis is sourced from recycled materials. That’s environmentally responsible.

Perhaps the biggest physical change is the charger. Where the original relied on a micro-USB cable for charging, Google switched to a proprietary pin-style DC plug for the Nest Mini. We wish Google had left the micro-USB intact or, better yet, switched to USB-C. USB-C has become the de facto charging port of the mobile world.

Related: The best Google Nest products

Last, there’s a small notch on the back so you can hang the Mini on a wall if you wish. Since the device has to be plugged in, the wire will need to be draped down the wall. This is not the best look, but there are now third-party accessories that can bundle the charger, cord, and Mini itself into one unit.

How do you use Nest Mini?

Google Nest Mini on purple table

Setting up Nest Mini takes a but few moments and requires a phone, such as the Google Pixel 6, with the Google Home app installed and a local Wi-Fi network. You’ll have to go through several steps, such as adding the speaker to a room, giving it a name, and registering your voice. Once this is done, simply talk to it.

Google says the Nest Mini has three spatial microphones that listen to and analyze the surrounding environment for voices. The Mini is better than the original at picking up commands even when playing loud music. It didn’t seem any less or more responsive to me, but it did catch my requests even when music was set to the maximum volume.

See also: Here are the Google Assistant commands you need to know

Four lights on top let you know when the Mini has been activated and is awaiting instructions, and also provide a gauge for the volume. Tapping the left side of the chassis lowers the volume, tapping the right side raises it. The microphone mute switch is on the rear. To turn the mic off, you slide the switch so the orange background shows. You’ll hear an audio alert and the lights on top will turn orange. Orange equals no mic.

The Nest Mini includes a machine learning chip, which helps speed up performance. Google says the Mini is able to learn your most common music requests or smart home commands for faster response times.

Does Nest Mini sound any good?

Google Nest Mini charoal closeup

Surprisingly, yes. Google claims the Mini thumps out twice as much bass as its predecessor while keeping highs and mids clear. I tested all manner of music on it and came away fairly impressed.

The speaker preserves the details of your favorite tunes with clarity that has to be heard to be appreciated. Distortion at high volumes is minimal. Google engineered the Mini so it can be played loud.

I pounded some heavy metal through the Mini and cranked the volume all the way up. The only thing distorted about the sound was the guitars chugging along in the recording itself. I also tried some acoustic, jazz, orchestral, and EDM songs, and they too sounded clean and tight. You’re not going to be able to turn your room into a hopping nightclub, but the Mini is more than capable of filling an average-sized room with pleasing sound.

Google engineered the Nest Mini so it can be played loud.

The original Mini was mediocre for listening to music at best; the sequel is much better. I did some A-B testing of the two and the Nest Mini noticeably outperformed the Home Mini.

I really like some of the advanced features. For example, you can create speaker groups (two or more) and have them play the same song. This can fill your house with music if you want. I created a group of all the speakers on the first floor of my house and it worked surprisingly well. You can also pair two Minis to create stereo music playback. You have to set them via the Google Home app. It’s pretty simple.

More reading: Tips and tricks to using Google Assistant

Then there’s moving music. Listening in the bedroom, but want to transition downstairs? Just ask Assistant to move the tunes to the speaker you want and the Mini does the rest.

What else can the Nest Mini do?

Google Nest Mini sky

Lots. Beyond the obvious factual queries (Hey Google, how far away is the moon?), Nest Mini can be used as a communication tool. If you choose to set up Duo, the Mini acts like a telephone of sorts. You can have it call whomever and have a conversation speakerphone style. Moreover, you can call your Mini from afar. Using the Google Home app, simply tap the Google device you want to reach, and call. If you have a Hub, you can have a live video chat.

Then there’s broadcast. Put the Nest Mini and other Google Nest products to use as an intercom. You can issue the broadcast command from any Google Assistant-powered speaker, or use the Google Home app on your phone, to send an alert to the other devices in your home. My favorite use-case is to broadcast in the evenings to let my daughters know it’s dinner time. No more bellowing up the stairs.

See also: Google Nest Hub Max review

All Google Nest products can do these things, and the Nest Mini does them as well as any other.

Google Nest Mini review: The verdict

Google Nest Mini family with logo

The Google Nest Mini is available to purchase from Google and other retailers for $25 — a significant drop from the launch price of $49. I’d call that a steal.

If you already have a Google Home, Mini, or Hub there’s no reason to replace it with the Nest Mini. Yes, the new speaker sounds better, but it’s not worth forking out an additional cash if you are satisfied with what you own. If you’re buying your first in-home, Assistant-powered speaker, make sure you get the Nest Mini and not the older Home Mini. The older version should no longer be available, but check the box just in case.

If you already have a Google-powered speaker that you like, there's no reason to replace it with the Nest Mini.

Keep in mind that Google and other retailers often discount or include products such as this as a freebie when purchased with other devices. The Google Nest Mini is often given away free when bundled with a Pixelbook Go Chromebook or Pixel smartphone.

Are there alternatives to the Google Nest Mini? You best. Want bigger sound? Get the bigger Google Nest Audio ($75). This much larger speaker pushes out way more sound and has advanced features such as the ability to adjust its audio output for the room it’s in.

If you’re looking for something that’s a bit more functional than a stand-alone speaker, you have options such as the Lenovo Smart Clock 2 ($49). This product features a fair-sized display that shows the clock, weather, and other data in addition to all the standard smart speaker tools.

See also: The best Google Home and Nest deals

Not into Google-powered stuff? Amazon has your back. The closest competitor to the Google Nest Mini is the Amazon Echo Dot ($49). This globe-shaped speaker packs Amazon Alexa smarts and produces solid sound.

In the end, the Google Nest Mini (2nd generation) is a fine little smart speaker. It’s a breeze to set up, fits most anywhere, is responsive to voice input, and sounds good to boot. Considering its low price, it’s practically a steal and a good entry point into the world of Assistant-powered gear.

Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen press render
Google Nest Mini (2nd Gen)
The Google Nest Mini takes what made the Home Mini such a good smart speaker and makes it a bit better. You can now hang up the Nest Mini on a wall. For music listeners, the Nest Mini also features improved sound quality and bass.