Google Nest Mini REVIEW
Google Nest Mini REVIEW
Is NZ finally getting some Google love? PAT PILCHER gets close and personal with the Nest Mini.
Not so long ago, I lamented Google’s lack of love for New Zealand. Pixel phones and other Google goodies were all absent.
In what may be a thawing of this frosty issue, Google has launched the Nest Mini smart speaker in New Zealand. Kiwis can finally experience some Google goodness without resorting to parallel importers.
Selling for $89 from Spark, Noel Leeming, JB HI-FI and Harvey Norman, the Nest Mini is in the same ballpark as the Echo Dot. So, does Google’s smallest smart speaker have what it takes to make the cut?
First things first, getting up and running is a doddle. This is thanks to the Google Home app on my Android phone. After the Google Home app found the Nest Mini, it asked me a few simple questions and got everything set up. Simple.
Once set up, I proceeded to get the many smart home gadgets around my house connected. The volume of smart-home gear supported has grown a lot since Google’s smart speakers first launched.
The Nest Mini is both compact and neutral looking. Its light charcoal fabric covering and petite design mean it can go anywhere and blend in.
Another nice touch is a built-in wall mounting. This will be a boon for those with limited counter or shelf space. Greenies (and anyone who cares about the environment) can rejoice too. The Nest Mini’s fabric covering comes from recycled plastic bottles. A single half-litre plastic bottle makes enough fabric to cover two Nest Mini devices. The external chassis is also crafted out of 70 per cent recycled plastic. Nice!
The biggest difference between Google’s smart speaker and the rest is this. The Google assistant is actually smart. While Siri, Alexa are great, they’re not the sharpest digital assistants in the knife drawer. Ask them a complex question and they’ll flounder.
Google Assistant, while not perfect, does get context. She can also handle multi-question queries, plus she learns from previous interactions. This can be the difference between hearing “I don’t understand that” and a useful answer.
Google says their audio engineers used proprietary audio tuning software and that it allowed them to deliver decent audio. It won’t replace my lounge speakers, but the Nest Mini did crank out some big audio despite its pint-sized build.
There’s no 3.5mm audio out socket like you’d find on the Echo Dot. It’s a curious omission. It also means that wiring it to a set of external speakers isn’t possible. That said, the Nest Mini supports Bluetooth, so it’ll pair with Bluetooth speakers. It can also work with Sonos gear, so extending its “oonst” is possible. But the lack of a 3.5mm jack is a misstep that held the Nest Mini back from scoring a perfect 10/10.
Activating the Nest Mini will be familiar to Android phone users. Uttering the magic catchphrase “Hey Google” or “Okay Google” sees a set of LEDs on its top illuminate to let you know it has heard your request. Its LED indicators are a smart feature. They light up when your hand is close to the device, showing you the spots to tap for tweaking its volume levels.
It’s also a sensitive wee soul. It was able to hear my stupid questions over my coffee grinder, dishwasher and loud music. What was also interesting was that its reply got louder when noise was happening.
If your budget permits, you can also use several Nest Mini’s to create a multi-room speaker setup. Stereo pairing is also possible. Having music follow you to another room is as easy as saying “Okay Google, move the music to the XYZ room speaker”. You can use the Nest Mini to call smartphones/tablets/PCs/Chromebooks or talk to other Nest Mini’s in your home. Making calls across town or the other side of the planet is free. All that’s needed is that you and the person you’re calling both have Google Duo accounts set up.
If it stopped there, that’d all be good and well, but there’s more, lots more. Google Assistant learns from your interactions so it can smarten up its act over time. Up to six people can connect their Google accounts to a Nest Mini. This allows it to distinguish your voice from theirs to give you tailored replies.
All told, the Nest Mini is a great smart speaker. The super-smart Google Assistant will be instantly familiar to Android users. That plus good design and decent audio make it an excellent choice.