Better a poor horse than no horse at all

Google may delay launching Nest Hub Smart Display in India but it is not taking a chance with its new smart speaker, Nest Mini. Search engine giant India has launched the Nest Mini more than a month after its global announcement (including the Pixel 4 smartphone). This is undoubtedly fast, considering how much comfort Google had in the past about its smart speaker launch. The Google Nest Mini is, of course, the successor to the Google Home Mini and a direct competitor to the third generation Amazon Echo Dot.

If you’re wondering why Nest moniker got into every Google smart speaker late, the reason is that Google acquired American home automation company Nest Labs in early 2014 and then decided to merge its products with its own home series sometime last year. This is why Home Hub was renamed Nest Hub in May this year before coming to India. We expect that all future smart speakers and smart displays from Google will carry the Nest badge. With that little lesson in history, let’s crack the Google Nest Mini.

Design and build

Yes, the Google Nest Mini looks very similar to the Home Mini, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the Home Mini was nice and compact in the beginning. The new one even comes in the same color options as before: chalk and charcoal. Although the new model has some changes, they are mostly subtle or under the bonnet. To get started, the Nest Mini gets a wall mount on the back. That means you won’t need a counter space for your new speaker if you have an empty hook or nail in your wall.

Another subtle difference is between the materials and packaging of the device. Google says the fabric wrapped around the speaker is custom-made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles. “A half-liter plastic bottle makes enough fabric to cover two Nest mini,” Google said in its detailed brochure. Even the enclosure is made from at least 35 percent post-consumer recycled plastic. So if you are concerned about how your e-commerce shopping environment is affected, then Nest Mini will go a long way in making you feel good about your decision.

The Google Nest Mini plays a friendly donut shape that is equally ideal for tables and walls. Inside the box is a single white cable, which connects the device to a wall socket. On the device, there are three haptic buttons (one for activity, two for volume control) and a small sliding switch on the side that turns off the microphone. All three haptic buttons, including volume up and volume down, now have a separate LED light for easy interaction.

Sadly, the Nest Mini does not include a 3.5mm jack for audio output. This, in my opinion, is a serious mistake that Google is going to repeat on all its new smart speakers On the other hand, Amazon has equipped all of its mainstream Echo devices (even the newly launched Echo Flex) with a 3.5mm audio jack, allowing the user to pair their device with a more powerful set of external speakers. ‘Smart’ functionality.

Nest Mini is programmed to respond to your users’ ‘OK Google’ and ‘Hey Google’ calls, powered by Google-owned virtual assistants like Google Assistant’s brothers. Unlike Amazon’s ecosystem, this awakening term cannot be changed. The Echo Dot comes with a multi-colored light ring that can be seen from different angles, the Nest Mini comes with four small white LED lights on top. This type of lighting setup makes it difficult to tell if Google has listened to you when setting up the device. Fortunately, Google has an option to enable audio feedback for listening sessions.

Setup

Setting up Google Nest Mini is as simple but not as easy as setting up Amazon Echo Dot Up. As soon as you plug in the speaker, you need to download and launch the Google Home app on your Android or iOS smartphone / tablet. The app then tells you how to connect the Nest Mini to a Wi-Fi network. The whole setup process lasts about ten or fifteen minutes because there are lots of questions to answer on the way. In the last step, you can either go with the usual Google Assistant female voice, or choose a new male voice launched with Nest Mini. In my opinion, new male voices can either quickly go under your skin or gradually grow on you.

In the review unit, I had a hard time getting to know the smart appliances around me using Google Assistant. Although the home app reported that Google had a successful connection to my Mi account, the speaker could not control my Xiaomi Mi Air Purifier 2S. What’s more, switching to Wi-Fi networks was a bigger pain than I expected. Since the device needs to be set up anew with each network change, if you decide to move it to another location, it will take you more than fifteen minutes to get up and running. In other words, you can’t expect portability from the Nest Mini.

Features and user interface

Google Nest Mini may be a spit image of its predecessor, but Google assures us that it will come with a new interior. At the center of the device is a dedicated machine learning chip with a TeraOPS of processing power, which Google claims results are quick response time. In my experience, the review unit felt faster than the home mini but only slightly. Yet I was able to use the speaker effectively to get seven out of ten answers about weather, local business, recent news, general knowledge. The other three times, Google either failed to catch my voice or didn’t know the answer.

While with the review unit, I was able to play most of the songs, including the English title, without much hassle. For example, say ‘OK Google, play Snoop Dogs’ Throw it away like it’s hot. ‘ Will serve as purpose. However, song titles in other regional and foreign languages ​​are often misunderstood. For example, ‘OK Google, run Coup Speakers are often played by Daddy Yankees Gradually, A different song by the artist requesting the same. Also, I’ve been able to get the speaker to play the sound of sleep, wake up in the morning, and run pre-programmed routines.

The Google Nest Mini comes with Google’s proprietary ultrasound sensing feature to automatically turn on the volume control light when the user’s hand touches it. In other words, the device emits inaudible ultrasonic vibrations and listens to them to determine the position of your hands within a distance of four feet. It is believed that this will help the user to easily find the volume control while playing music on the device. In my experience, this feature worked or helped me to detect about two out of five haptic volume buttons. This is a feature I think is more useful on a Nest device with a display.

Google’s Nest ecosystem has native support for music sources such as Spotify, YouTube Music, TuneIn, Gaana (ad-free playback) and Jio Saavn. Sadly, it misses Apple Music, a source Amazon recently incorporated into its ecosystem. Additionally, you can set up Netflix on the Nest Mini and ask to cast a show or movie of your choice on a nearby Chromecast-enabled display.

Audio quality

This is a segment where we see significant improvements over previous models. Google has significantly improved the sound quality in the new Nest Mini. According to Google, the device now comes with a new custom speaker driver integrated with Google’s proprietary tuning software, resulting in 2x stronger bus response. This, I found to be true in the test unit without any doubt. The Nest Mini serves clear, distinctive lows, heights, and mediums when the music volume is maintained between 50 and 70 percent. Increasing the volume to the maximum causes noticeable distortion but this is an understandable limitation, due to the size of the internal driver. Still, Google could throw in a 3.5mm jack for optional audio output.

The last row

The Google Nest Mini is undoubtedly ahead of its predecessor, the Google Home Mini launched in 2017, in terms of sound quality, walkthrough response and overall usability. But the slightly wall-mounted Google device still lacks features like the Amazon Echo Dot. Anything the third-gen Eco.nest Mini can do can do less damage to the buyer’s wallet. What’s more, Echo Dot supports audio output. At a rather steep price of Rs. For everyone else, Amazon Echo Dot is a good choice.

Reviewer’s note

  • Nest Mini’s ultrasound sensing feature for automatic volume control lights rarely works or helps when playing music
  • While the Nest Mini is on, it’s hard to move because you always have to press a button on its body

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