Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen review: Good small smart sound

Posted: 31 October 2019 5:45 am
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Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen

The smart home speaker formerly known as the Google Home Mini has gained a bass boost, better microphones and motion controls, making it an easy recommendation for entry level use.

Quick Verdict

There's not enough new in the Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen to make it worthwhile ditching an existing Google Home Mini or Nest Mini, but if you're after a small smart home speaker it's an inexpensive way to start.

The good

  • Better audio than the original Google Home Mini
  • Gesture controls for easier volume detection
  • Microphone pick-up is good

The bad

  • Still not a great music speaker
  • Custom power connector rather than Micro USB

From the outside, the only thing that might appear to have changed in the Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen is the name, with all of Google's smart home gear now adopting the Nest brand.

The Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen has bolder and brighter sound than its predecessor, the Google Home Mini. That's the smart speaker that Google rebranded into the Google Nest Mini – or, I guess now the Google Nest Mini 1st Gen – when it switched its smart home line branding exclusively over to the Nest nomenclature.

The Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen is generally a better device for smart home use thanks to improved microphones and the ability to easily mount it on a wall. It's an easy pick if you're just starting out on the smart home journey and Google's Assistant is your platform of choice.

Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen

Design

  • Incredibly similar look and feel to the Google Home Mini
  • New colour options
  • Fabric mesh is actually recycled soft drink bottles – very cool!
  • Wall mountable
  • Ditches Micro USB for charging

Place the Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen next to the original Google Home Mini and you might be hard pressed to tell the difference. Both speakers are small, round fabric-covered devices with no obvious external controls beyond a simple mute switch for the inbuilt microphones.

Google has made some concessions to style, with the choice of Chalk, Charcoal, Coral and Sky finishes – or grey, black, red and blue if you're not in marketing. Google supplied me with the Chalk model, which is exactly the same tone as the Google Home Mini I've already got, so the differences on the surface were really very tough to spot.

The one advantage of the Chalk model is that a small grey speaker blends in just about everywhere without drawing attention or detracting from any decor choices. You don't get the same flexibility with the brighter colours, of course.

While the fabric cover on the Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen feels essentially identical to its predecessor, Google apparently makes it from recycled soft drink bottles. That's a lovely and environmentally friendly touch, as long as you use the Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen for a decent length of time – and of course, that you then recycle it responsibly.

There are some physical changes in the Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen worth mentioning. It now has a hook section at the base so that it's suitable for wall mounting. I haven't tested that out, lacking a wall I wanted to mount it onto, but I can imagine the audio signature would change markedly on some wall types, depending on the level of connection and build materials of that wall.

Google has also ditched the use of Micro USB for charging its smallest smart speaker. While Micro USB is a little old school, it's at least easily replaceable. Google has ditched it in favour of a custom round plug point, which means you'd need to chase down that exact plug if something went wrong with your charger. It's a minor annoyance, and I wish it had opted for a switch up to USB C instead.

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Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen

Performance

  • Improved audio, but still only suitable as a small office speaker
  • Microphone pick-up is much better
  • Simple motion controls work, but they're still a gimmick

The original Google Home Mini/Nest Mini was a small and convenient device, but it would never be my pick of speakers to use for prolonged music playback. I've certainly used worse speakers in the past, but it was generally weak in anything but the smallest rooms.

For the Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen, Google has opted to boost the bass, with a claimed 2x improvement in overall bass. It's certainly capable of providing a bolder sound than the original Home Mini. I've been using it as my home office speaker for the last week or so, and within its confines it's produced acceptable sound, if not quite earth shattering.

On Cold Chisel's classic Cheap Wine, the underlying growl of Jimmy Barnes' hungover regret came through quite nicely while working. Prince's opening speil in Let's Go Crazy still sounded a little flat for my tastes, but for a $79 speaker, it's more than adequate. Being a smart speaker, you can always get it to play other content; my favourite podcast sounded great, and simpler sources such as ABC news bulletins were easily heard.

The underlying essentials of the way Google manages smart home applications hasn't changed at all for the Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen.

You're still going to be setting up your devices with Google's Home app, and you still call out to it with the familiar "Hey Google" catchcry. Like every other Google speaker I've ever tested, there were a few false positives where it perked up at the sound of other words, although you can easily mute its microphones with a physical switch if you want to ensure this can't happen.

The Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen features an improved array of microphones compared to its predecessor, and this was pretty easy to test. From across the room, the original Google Home Mini would sometimes struggle to pick up my voice, but the Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen managed it without issues.

As with any smart speaker, the relative level of speed can vary depending on the quality of your Internet connection. I've had instances where requests were handled rapidly, and others where the Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen sat and thought for a minute or two before unhelpfully telling me that "something has gone wrong". It's tough to pinpoint if that's the Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen, Google's own cloud services or my own home Internet connection, or a mix of all three.

Like the Google Pixel 4 and Google Pixel 4XL, the Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen incorporates a level of motion control into the mix. Like the original models, you control volume by tapping the sides and play/pause by tapping the top of the speaker. On the original models, this could involve a little guesswork for volume control.

For the Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen, if your hand is detected near the speaker, the two touch-sensitive areas light up to guide you to tapping the correct areas. Actually, it doesn't have to be your hand. I briefly experimented with adjusting the volume on the Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen using my nose, and it mostly worked at detecting the motion and lighting up regardless.

It's still something of a gimmick, however. You'd typically only get it "wrong" for a second or two on the original models, if that.

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Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen

Should you buy the Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen?

  • A good simple smart speaker

Google's original small smart speaker has been very popular in Australia, thanks to both its inconspicuous nature and its low asking price.

The Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen is that same speaker with those same advantages, along with better audio and better microphones. There's not really a huge argument in favour of ditching a working Google Home Mini/Nest Mini in favour of the newer model, because the differences aren't that massive.

However, if you're just starting on the smart home journey, or you need an additional speaker for voice pick-up coverage in a larger array of existing Google-compatible smart speakers, it's easily your best bet.

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Google Nest Mini: Pricing and availability

The Google Nest Mini sells in Chalk, Charcoal, Coral or Sky finishes in Australia for $79.

Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen

Smarten up your house with the small yet powerful Google Nest Mini.

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Google Nest Mini Specifications

Name Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen
Assistant Google Assistant
Wireless Network 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5GHz)
Weight (grams) 181
Height (mm) 42
Width (mm) 98
Depth (mm) 98
Speaker Information 40mm driver
Bluetooth Yes
Min. Frequency Response (Hz)
Max. Frequency Response (Hz)
Audio Out No
Water Rating N/A
Review Score 4
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