The whole smart speaker ecosystem has blossomed into something quite beautiful. There are the smart speakers, umm, speakers, which are primed for music but can do a whole lot of other stuff such as control smart home devices, connect with apps and more. Then there are smart displays such as the Google Nest Hub, which do all that, and also add a screen to the entire experience. But we still need more versatility. So, for the bedside, there have to be even smaller speakers. Puck sized. Such as the Google Nest Mini, which is now in its second generation. This is priced at Rs 4,499 and joins the Nest Hub in the smart devices line-up for Google in India. And dare I say it, this competes with the Amazon Echo Dot (3d gen) which also has a clock display and is priced at Rs 3,999.
For starters, the design is quite familiar. And that’s a good thing. This is still a very compact speaker, measuring 1.65-inch in height and 3.85-inch diameter. Safe to say, the Nest Mini won’t take much space on your nightstand or bedside table. Google has made this in four colours globally—chalk, charcoal, sky (which is a light blue colour) and my personal favorite, coral. At the time of writing this, Flipkart has listed the chalk and charcoal colour options only. There is the environment angle too. Google says the fabric on the top is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles. We have no reason to not believe that claim, but what I can surely say is that it looks great and feels very classy. The external enclosure of the Google Nest Mini is made with, what Google says, is 35% post-consumer recycled plastic. Quite a bit of focus on the environment, which is impressive. Oh, and before we forget, this can be wall-mounted too.
Google insists that the better audio driver inside the Nest Mini makes a big difference. In terms of the hardware itself, this is also a 4-centimeter audio driver, the same size as its predecessor, the Google Home Mini. But this has been tuned for better handling of lower frequencies. From what I experienced, the bass is certainly more pronounced, though it would be outlandish to expect it to match a full-fledged speaker. In fact, the better audio tuning also means clarity is better to boot. If you do mount this on a wall, chances are you will get a better audio experience because well, to put it simply, the audio driver inside the Google Nest Mini will be looking forwards instead of upwards—and you’ll probably get slightly wider sound. It is too close to call between this and the latest Echo Dot, but then again, that is perhaps to be expected. Both do a fantastic job of playing soothing music (the Sleep playlist on Spotify, if you want to look that up) as we hit the bed, and that is one of the priceless things that these smart speakers can do.
The Nest Mini has Bluetooth 5.0, compared with Bluetooth 4.1 in the predecessor. There are three far-field microphones instead of two, and these never failed to understand our commands, not even when there was some other persistent audio in the background. Google Assistant is built in, and the Voice Match capabilities have predictably been expanded to the Nest Mini as well. Say “Ok Google” and this is ready for action. You can ask it for music (YouTube Music, Google Play Music and Spotify, to name a few), for news, add something to your calendar, set a timer, get an alarm ready to fire in the morning and control smart home devices. The versatility is on the lines of the Google Nest Hub smart display, but without the display, of course.
In the Nest Hub, you would have noticed how the on-screen controls pop up when the smart display detects your movement nearby. That is because of the ultrasonic sensor which detects nearby movements and readies certain actions. In the case of the Nest Mini, there is an ultrasonic sensor which detects when you are in close proximity and lights up the volume increase and decrease options.
Google hasn’t forgotten the privacy bit too. The physical kill-switch for the microphone is very much there.
The Nest Mini clearly indicates a greater focus on sound. The Google Home, the first-generation Home Mini and the Nest Hub all have the solid foundations of Google’s services to build on. But for all that good work, like for like, Amazon’s Echo speakers sounded better. But things seem to be changing now. The Nest Mini is as good as the new Amazon Echo Dot with Clock most of the time, and actually sounds richer and brighter in a few instances. This will surely not become your go-to music speaker but for all its worth, this gets pretty close to becoming the default smart speaker for a variety of quick usage scenarios, such as munching on a podcast while having your breakfast, controlling smart devices in your home or even as I mentioned earlier, streaming the tunes to make you fall asleep faster. I really cannot have enough of smart speakers at home, because you will always find a use-case and a scenario for one. The Google Nest Mini is versatile enough for more than one such situation.