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Google Home Mini Review: Should you still buy it in 2022. Google home mini portable speaker

How to Connect Google Home to Bluetooth Speakers

Tim Fisher has more than 30 years’ of professional technology experience. He’s been writing about tech for more than two decades and serves as the SVP and General Manager of Lifewire.

What to Know

  • Turn on the speakers and the device with the Google Home app on it.
  • In the app, choose Settings Audio Default music speaker. Put speakers into pairing mode.
  • Select Pair Bluetooth speaker and choose the speaker.

This article explains how to connect Google Home to Bluetooth speakers using the Google Home app. Also included are troubleshooting tips to help with any problems that might occur during the initial pairing.

Google Home Bluetooth Setup Directions

When you connect Google Home to Bluetooth speakers, all music that you command through Google Home plays on the Bluetooth device. However, other things, like Google Assistant responses, alarms, and timers, continue to play through the Google Home’s built-in speaker.

Here’s how to hook up Google Home to some Bluetooth speakers:

  • With both devices turned on, open the Google Home app on your phone or tablet. It’s available for Android, iPhone, and iPad users.

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Go to Audio Default music speaker.

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Return to the Google Home app and select Pair Bluetooth speaker, and then select the speaker when you see it appear on the screen.

Troubleshooting Tips

If Google Home can’t find your speaker, verify the speaker is in pairing mode and, if there’s a physical switch to enable Bluetooth, that the switch is in the on position.

If you see an error in the app that no devices were found, tap Rescan to try looking again. It might take a few tries.

If Google Home is having trouble hearing you after you’ve paired the speaker, make sure you’re talking to Google Home itself and not the newly paired speaker. The microphone is on Google Home.

You can connect Google Home to several Bluetooth speakers simultaneously. Either add multiple speakers through the app so you can pick which one to play music on, or create a speaker group to play the same music across multiple speakers at once.

There’s no reason to reconnect the Bluetooth speaker each time you want to use it. The directions above let you pair and connect the speaker to Google Home just once, so every time after that, music will continue to play through the Bluetooth speaker until you turn it off or it gets disconnected.

Google Home Mini Review: Should you still buy it in 2022?

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Experiencing the Google Home ecosystem reminds me strongly of strangely relatable Ultron singing “I had strings but now I am free.” The Google Home speakers are where the Google Assistant resides when not in your Android smartphone or on your Smart TV.

The Google Home Mini is a 1st Gen product from Google that has since been superseded by the Google Nest Mini. On the plus side, it’s cheaper without losing too much ground on features.

Design

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The most defining feature of the Google Home Mini is its design. Picture a donut but without all its doughy, gooey sickly sweetness minus the hole. Dress that up in chalk, charcoal, and coral-colored fabric, complemented with silicon and you got yourself a speaker.

Underneath this layer of clothing, are hidden capacitative touch controls and LEDs to indicate that Google Assistant is listening or thinking. There aren’t any protrusions topside but tapping the left side should reduce the volume while the right side should increase it. Tapping the device used to trigger the device to play/pause or activate the Assistant but has since been permanently disabled. As it turns out, a bug caused phantom taps that kept triggering the device.

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A physical button on the side can disable the microphone if you feel creeped out by the unsolicited wiretapping. Although turning that off invalidates the whole reason to have a Google Home speaker at all to begin with. There’s also a tiny reset button at the bottom. You might miss it if you’re not paying attention. It will reset your device quick and easy.

Being the first generation old tech that it is, don’t be surprised by the Micro-USB port. It is what it is. The Google-branded power adapter that comes with plugs into a socket. Powering the device from a USB port might not offer a smooth experience because of power draw issues.

Smart Home Voice Control

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I don’t know how many of you actually use the Google Assistant on your Android device. I know I don’t. It’s quite unnecessary when my Rapid-fire thumb is just a swipe away. The Google Assistant makes perfect sense on my Google Home Mini because I get to call up whatever I want in short order be it on Spotify, Netflix, YouTube, name it. I can control the lights, the Smart cameras, thermostat e.t.c.

I can’t say how many times I’ve given up on my entertainment because the prospect of searching for a remote control or Smart phone that’s playing hide and seek just wasn’t appealing.

My morning starts with saying ‘Hey Google, I’m up’ after which I get the 411 on the weather, my battery level, today in history and news from my subscriptions. I then set the mood with a request depending on how I feel that day. It could be 70s funk or hip-hop from the 2000s on Spotify. If there’s a track that resonates deeply with me, I can simply say, “Hey Google, I like this song.” And just like that it would be added to my playlist.

The Google Assistant makes perfect sense out of my phone as it’s a touch-leaning device to a speaker that’s a ways off. It almost feels like having your own J.A.R.V.I.S doing your bidding. Throw in some Smart lights and a few other gizmos and you’re on your way to a Smart home.

Sound Quality

The Google Home mini is a teensy weensy speaker has tech for other smarts besides just pumping out sound. So it’s no surprise that it’s intended to be a complementary speaker rather than a daily driver.

It uses a 40mm driver for sound output, similar to what you get in large headphones. That’s not much for a speaker. But guess what? I have used it for days on end without much complaint. When you have better speakers in the house, you will notice the sound variance immediately. In that case, it’s better to connect your soundbar or speaker to the Google Home Mini via Bluetooth for a deeper, richer sound. In a pinch though, it will suffice.

I fiddled with the settings in the Google Home app to squeeze some out some more bass. What you get is decent sound quality and clarity. There might not be much bass to jam to, but there’s a hint of bass that might be less punchy but still enjoyable. You can’t expect much from a donut after all.

Microphone quality

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I noticed that my Google Home mini appeared to have mic blindspots despite the circular shape. The spec sheet mentions two far-field microphones but the farthest I could be heard was about 16 feet away. Full frontal picks up my voice best quite a distance and the sides do the worst job of it. When I was a ways to the side, I often caught myself shouting to get myself heard.

I also noted that once the mic is on, the Google Home mini picks up the rest of my commands just fine. Although there are instances when the search results don’t remotely sound like what I just asked.

For instance, I can’t seem to get Megatron by Nicki Minaj on Spotify via the Google Assistant and yet the track is there when I search for it manually. A few other search results have brought totally unrelated results that I was like, wait what… What’s more, when it’s a dialogue, the Google Assistant sort of zones out and won’t answer my summons.

On a last note, the bug that has been mentioned often is the Google Home Mini triggering abruptly and asking your pardon because it didn’t hear what you said. It’s quite alarming and creepy.

Geo-restrictions

In case you haven’t noticed, I have only mentioned a fraction of what the Google Home Mini is capable of. My region (East Africa) like so many others never experience the full experience of most devices built with the US, Canada, and perhaps a handful of European countries in mind.

While Netflix shows up in my Google Home app, I can not use the Google Home Mini to play anything on Netflix due to geo-restrictions. Other streaming services like Disney, Hulu, Paramount, Sling, Viki, Starz and even YouTube Kids don’t show at all unless I use a VPN.

While I get Spotify, thank goodness, I don’t get YouTube Music, iHeartRadio, Apple Music, Pandora, Deezer e.t.c. I don’t have Live TV or Podcasts. Neither can I make calls unless it’s via Duo. I also don’t get Nest Aware either and it’s not from lack of trying. These apps don’t support most regions outside their privileged enclave in the Northern Hemisphere.

Google Home Mini Specs

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  • Dimensions: 3.86 in (98 mm) x 1.65 in (42 mm)
  • Colors: Chalk, Charcoal, Coral
  • Weight: 6.1 oz (173 g)
  • Power: 5V, 1.8A, 4.92 ft (1.5 m) cable, Micro USB.
  • Audio: 360-degree sound with 40mm driver
  • Connection: 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz or 5 GHz) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, Chromecast and Chromecast Audio built-in
  • Microphone: 2 far-field microphones
  • Controls: Capacitive touch controls, Microphone button, Reset button
  • Operating System: Android phone/tablet running Android 6.0 or later or iPhone/ iPad with iOS 12.0 or later

Is it still worth it?

The release of the Google Home Mini brought some much-needed competition for Amazon’s Echo Dot. Since the release of later generations (Google Nest Mini), a lot of online and offline stores are selling them for a giveaway price.

As a complementary speaker, the Google Home Mini evades most of its limitations in sound when you connect it to a better sound system. But for its price, I would say, it’s still a steal, and if not, a good inexpensive introduction to Smart speakers.

Price and where to buy

The Google Home Mini is conspicuously missing from Amazon in favor of its rival the Echo Dot. Head over to Best Buy where it retails for 39.99, or Newegg for 29.99. In Uganda, the Google Home Mini is retailing at Sync Life at UGX 250,000.

The Nest Mini is cheap, easy-to-setup and works with most Smart devices

TechRadar Verdict

The Nest Mini is a great deal for your first Smart home speaker and a simple solution if you want to extend the Google Assistant experience into other parts of your home. It lacks the musicality of the best-sounding Bluetooth speakers and you’ll need to subscribe to Spotify, Google Play Music or YouTube Music to get specific songs to play on-demand, but at this price these issues aren’t deal-breakers.

Cons

Why you can trust TechRadar

We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

For years Google has been selling its insanely cheap Smart speakers to great success, first with the name ‘Google Home Mini’ and now with the name ‘Google Nest Mini’.

Whatever name it currently goes by, these multipurpose speakers serve as both a gateway to the Smart home by way of Google Assistant and a solid speaker that can be controlled with your voice or through your phone with Bluetooth.

The finished result is an entry-level Smart speaker that doesn’t have the same power or clarity of, say, the Apple HomePod, Amazon Echo Studio or Google Home Max, but its low cost and spectacular feature set makes it a great jumping off point for folks just getting into Smart home voice control and automation.

[Update: There’s a new Google Nest speaker in town, and it’s called the Google Nest Audio. With a new design and upgraded sound quality, it costs 99 / £89 / AU149 and is available to preorder now. It launched alongside the Pixel 5 and a new Chromecast at the company’s Launch Night In event on September 30.]

Price analysis and release date

What Google’s mini Smart speaker is most for, however, is its rock-bottom price. the Google Nest Mini is supposed to cost 49.99 / £49 / AU79, but is often on sale for just 35 / £35. (Sorry Australia, it’s still the regular price there.)

When you do the math on how much goes into this speaker. the speakers, the microphones, the wireless receiver and on-board processor. it’s kind of amazing how cheap Google can sell this speaker for.

How much, if any of it, Google makes back in data collection and sales remains a subject of debate (Google has told some sites that data collected through queries may “inform your interests for ad personalization on Google services”) but it’s worth mentioning just so you’re aware of what’s possible.

Its affordable sticker price puts it in line with almost any budget Bluetooth speaker you’d buy on Amazon, and almost none of those can match the Nest Mini in terms of feature set. In fact, the only other speaker in remotely the same weight class as the Nest Mini is the Amazon Echo Dot – which also costs just 35 / £29 / AU79.

We’ll cover the differences in performance and design below, but for now the main takeaway is that this is both one of the cheapest speakers and the cheapest brand-name Smart speaker on the planet right now.

Design

In spite of the Nest Mini’s affordable sticker price, there’s nothing about its design that alerts you that this is indeed a cheap speaker: The design is modern, clean and unobtrusive, especially if you buy it in a subtle color like Chalk (off-white) or Charcoal (grey-black). If you want to spice things up with the two more colorful options. Coral (pink-red) or Sky (light blue). you can certainly do so, but those might not fit with everyone’s living room decor.

Regardless of which color you go for, the Nest Mini has a fabric mesh on top that covers three touch-capacitive buttons for raising and lowering the volume, and play/pause. On the underside you’ll find a rubberized base that compliments the fabric mesh and hides a microphone mute button on the back side near the power port. Last but not least, on the underside, you’ll find a place for a universal mount for easy hanging on a wall. a first for Google’s speakers.

What you won’t find anywhere on the Nest Mini is a 3.5mm line-out jack that could, in theory, connect to any other speaker or a line-in aux port that would allow you to connect your phone or MP3 player to boost your music. You’ll find the former on the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Generation) that was released a year prior to the Nest Mini and the latter on last year’s new Amazon Echo. For neither one to be on the Nest Mini feels like a bit of a misstep.

The good news though is that the Nest Mini can connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth 5.0 so there’s always that option, too, if you need it.

Features

While the addition of Bluetooth is great (and, as you’ll see in a minute, desperately needed), the primary way of interfacing with the Google Nest Mini is, obviously, Google Assistant.

If you tried other virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa or Bixby in the past, or have tried Google Assistant on another Android device, you’ll know what to expect here. a solid assistant that can tap into your calendar to make appointments, set reminders and timers, control the music from popular streaming services, connect to some Smart TVs and answer many. but not all. of the questions you can come up with on a day-to-day basis.

The experience of setting up and using Google Assistant has largely improved in the past three-and-a-half years since it launched, and really is as simple as downloading the Google Home app if you haven’t already, logging in using your email, and assigning it to a room.

Through the Google Home app you can setup multi-room groups that enable you to hear the same song across different speakers if you own more than one Google Assistant speaker, and control any Smart devices you own if you’re too far away from the Nest Mini.

You’ll also be able to use the app to select which services the Nest Mini defaults to when you ask it to play music. which is pretty crucial. Your choices include Google Play Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, Deezer or Pandora, but getting the Nest Mini to play a specific song requires a subscription to one of the above services… which is kind of disappointing. The Google Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max can play YouTube Music songs on command without a subscription with ads, and it’s disappointing to find the same isn’t true for the Nest Mini.

The best workaround? Find a song on YouTube you want to listen to on your phone and then connect via Bluetooth to hear that song on the Nest Mini.

Audio performance

Music from the speaker is fairly middling. it has good clarity in the mid-range that’s perfect for speech reproduction, but it’s not very musical, especially in the high or bass ranges. It will absolutely surprise you by how loud it can get but the fatiguing treble and anemic bass don’t make for the best experience when listening to your favorite songs.

Because of the way it’s designed, you also won’t get any stereo separation when listening to the speaker. though, you will get 360-degree sound that allows you to put the speaker anywhere in the room, especially in smaller rooms like a home office. Admittedly, it’s not the best trade-off if you love music, but it’s one that Google needed to make for a speaker of this size and purpose.

The good news is that, if you’re coming from the original Google Home Mini, you’ll be hugely impressed with the improvements Google made with this speaker. To wit, the Nest Mini uses three speakers, one up over the Home Mini, and has twice the bass response as the original Home Mini. You still won’t hear stereo-channel separation but it’s still a big step up.

While music isn’t exactly the speaker’s strong suit, it really does nail the mid-range. That’s great if you’re trying to hear the daily news over the dull roar of kitchen conversation, and awesome for podcast fans who can never find a speaker that properly amplifies voices.

If you want to try and add back in that treble or bass response, you can attempt to do so through the Google Home app that we mentioned above, but don’t expect the Nest Mini to ever sound as good as its larger brethren the Google Home or Google Home Max.

Who’s it for?

Smart home newcomers Despite its musical limitations and lack of an auxiliary port on the back, the Google Nest Mini is a solid speaker. especially at its incredibly low price point. Google Assistant is clearly the killer feature here and its ability to tap into other Smart devices is second-to-none.

At-home office workers If you work from home every day, the Google Nest Mini is a solid coworker. It knows your schedule front-to-back, has answers to most any question you can come up with and sounds especially good in smaller spaces like a home office.

Who’s it not for?

Amazon enthusiasts It probably goes without saying, but the Google Nest Mini doesn’t really interact much with any Amazon product or service. That’s not a huge deal per se, but admittedly we still like the Amazon Echo Dot a bit more thanks to its more robust soundstage and inclusion of a line-out jack on the back. The improvements Google made to the Nest Mini make the fight closer than it’s ever been, but we still think the Amazon Echo Dot is the better option, especially if you want better sound quality.

Penny Pinchers Yes the Google Nest Mini is SUPER cheap, and we love that. But that low entry price isn’t so low if you want to tack on services like Spotify Premium or YouTube Music. either of which are needed for on-demand, song-specific playback. The Nest Mini will supply you with a playlist or will shuffle an artist free-of-charge, but specificity is going to cost you. which is kind of a shame.

The Best Google Nest Smart Speakers

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We’ve updated this guide with reviews and recommendations for Google’s entire line of Nest Smart speakers.

With a simple voice command to a Google Nest Smart speaker, you can summon the mighty power of Google Assistant to do your bidding: Call up your favorite music, podcasts, or audiobooks; get news, weather, traffic reports, and trivia; control other Smart devices; and, in some cases, even view video. Since Google Assistant performs dramatically better on Google’s own expansive line of Nest devices, we considered only them for this guide. Whether you want to ask Google to start blasting your favorite tunes, find a recipe for tonight’s dinner, or control the Smart devices in your home, we’ve picked out the best Google Nest Smart speaker for your needs.

Things to know

All Google Nest devices have voice-activated speakers, and some also include a screen to make calls, view video, access touch controls, display recipes, and more.

Decide where your speaker will live, then what functions matter most (such as audio quality) and whether you want a touchscreen display or a built-in camera.

All Google Nest devices have built-in microphones in order to function, and some have cameras. If you want to ensure privacy, you can block them.

Why you should trust us

Nena Farrell, who took over this guide in 2022, is an updates writer for Wirecutter’s audio-visual and Smart-home teams. Nena has been testing and reviewing home technology gear since 2016, and was previously an associate home editor at Sunset magazine, where she covered Smart-home technology. She also designed the Sunset Smart Cottage, an interactive Smart-home demonstration controlled by Smart speakers.

Making sense of the Google Nest ecosystem

Google’s collection of Smart-home devices, software, and apps is a swarm of often changing names that sometimes baffles even us. (Google Home is both an app and the name of Google’s Smart-home platform, but it was previously also the name of its Smart speaker.) As of now, Google’s physical Smart-home devices, including all of its Smart speakers and displays, are grouped under the Google Nest brand. All of the devices in this guide use the Google Home app for setup and control. (Google also sells a number of devices that rely on the Nest app, including security cameras, thermostats, and smoke detectors; we can’t explain why this is the case.)

Google Assistant is Google’s AI virtual assistant, which responds to the command “Hey, Google” when you’re using speakers powered by Google Assistant. It also exists in a Google Assistant app separate from Google Home, but you don’t need it to use Google’s devices.

The name of Google’s Smart speakers appears as just “Nest” in the Google Store, but on third-party retailers such as Best Buy and Target, the speakers are often referred to as “Google Nest.” In this guide, we will refer to this ecosystem of Smart devices as either “Google Nest” or “Nest” speakers and displays.

Who this is for

This guide is for anyone looking to add a Google Assistant–powered Smart speaker to their home, whether for the first time or as an addition to an existing setup. We organized it to make it easy to choose the best device based on your needs.

If you’re new to this kind of device, a Smart speaker is, well, a speaker that connects to your Wi-Fi network and responds to voice commands to play music and perform other tasks, including answering questions, telling you the weather, or controlling other connected Smart devices such as lights and thermostats. Most Smart speakers (including the ones reviewed here) also include Bluetooth, so they can play music directly from a smartphone, as you would with a portable Bluetooth speaker. Google also recently added Matter, a technology that enables easier connecting and control of Smart devices, to all of its Smart speakers.

For smaller homes and apartments, you might find you want only one or two Google Nest devices, since the microphones are powerful enough to pick up voice commands from a room away. In larger homes, you may want to enlist a fleet of Google Nest devices to act as a multiroom sound system, while also optimizing your ability to control Smart devices.

If you’re just getting started with Smart devices like plugs or light bulbs, adding a Smart speaker that lets you use voice commands to control them is a logical next step.

If you’re a devout Google Photos user, Google’s Smart displays function particularly well as a digital photo frame. Smart displays also add a variety of additional features, including recipes, video chatting, and movie streaming, plus quick access to information like local weather and air quality data at a glance.

For those who have accessibility restrictions, such as mobility and sight limitations in particular, the ability to use voice commands can also be a valuable asset. For instance, Smart speakers allow someone to make voice calls without needing to physically manipulate a device, but they also can be used as an intercom to communicate with other members of a household (or, when paired with a Smart doorbell, with visitors on the front porch). We go into a little more detail on Google’s accessibility offerings below. And we go into even more detail in our guides to using Smart-home devices for seniors aging in place and for enhancing independence for people with disabilities and mobility needs.

We can’t speak about Smart speakers without addressing the fact that these devices have microphones and, in some cases, cameras, and there are plenty of people who simply aren’t comfortable adding them to their home. (If you share those concerns, please read our Security, privacy, and Google section for details on what these devices actually do and don’t do.)

How we picked and tested

For this guide, we considered only Google’s Nest-branded Smart speakers and displays. We have used Google Assistant on third-party devices, but we found that the experience was consistently worse compared to Google’s own devices—many suffered from sometimes lengthy delays to voice commands and less reliable integration of features, or didn’t receive updates or new features as quickly. With that experience in mind, we believe if you’re interested in a Google-powered speaker, the best choice is to choose from Google’s own lineup. This guide is focused on comparing those devices: the Nest Audio, Nest Mini, and Nest Hubs (the latter was previously only covered in our Smart-displays guide.)

As of November 2022, Google makes two Smart speakers and two Smart displays. All four have the same core abilities: to respond to voice commands and stream audio. And since each speaker uses the Google Assistant platform, they’re all compatible with the same Smart-home devices and use the same app. All of them have a button to mute the microphone (and the camera for the Hub Max, though it isn’t a physical shutter) and a physical volume control. They can all also function as a Bluetooth speaker. In our testing we considered both the speaker’s performance as a Smart device and its audio performance, along with features such as watching movies or following recipes on the display models.

In addition to the general Google Assistant features, we evaluated each speaker on the following criteria:

  • Responsiveness: A voice-controlled device is useless if it can’t hear you, so we tested them at various distances and voice volumes, and with and without background noise (including the speaker’s own music).
  • Audio performance: We listened to a variety of music, both through standard streaming services and via Bluetooth. Audio performance can vary greatly because some Google Nest speakers are designed for more critical listening than others. But we looked for reasonably good sound in line with the price and size of the speaker.
  • Design: Smart speakers aren’t devices that you hide away, so you’re likely to prefer a speaker that looks good sitting on a shelf or counter, especially if you plan to put more than one in your home.
  • Setup and use: All Google Nest speakers use the Google Home app, but we still compared to see if different models have different setup steps, such as the Hub displays versus the speaker-only Nest Audio. We then compared how each one’s features could be used and where each model fit best in a home.

We timed setup for each speaker and display, noting any special steps that different models required. To gauge sound quality, we ran an identical list of music through each speaker and compared each one’s performance with the next. We also linked all models and tested them as a multiroom wireless-speaker setup. We also linked our account to a Wyze Cam v3 (to test viewing a livestream on Nest Hub displays) and to Smart plugs (to test Smart-home voice commands).

On a more subjective level, we considered how each speaker could fit into a home and where it performed best based on its size, sound quality, and special abilities, such as whether it had a screen, recipe content, sleep tracking, and the ability to be a security camera.

Best for beginners

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Best Google Nest speaker for beginners

This small speaker is surprisingly loud for its size, and it has all the features the Nest Audio does despite a much lower price.

Buying Options

The squat, puck-like Google Nest Mini (2nd Gen) is an inexpensive starting point for easily adding Google Assistant to your home or office. At half the price of the Nest Audio (and frequently even cheaper on sale), it still provides nearly all the same features, such as streaming music, controlling Smart-home devices, and asking a variety of questions from the built-in Google Assistant. With a 3.9-inch diameter and only a 1.7-inch height, it’s easy to add to any countertop, shelf, or console.

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google, home, mini, review, 2022, portable

For its small size, the Nest Mini gets impressively loud, and it sounds pretty good for its price, capturing mids and highs nicely. But you do lose out in real bass punch. If you’re not worried about getting the best sound quality and you just want something convenient and unobtrusive, the Nest Mini is a fine choice. (If you are worried about the best sound quality, we recommend upgrading to the Nest Audio.)

The Nest Mini has four round lights that light up when it is triggered by a voice command. A button on the back mutes the microphone, and the lights glow orange-red to show it’s not listening. Controls on the left and right sides lower and raise the volume. These tap controls are super sensitive—you won’t want to place this anywhere you can accidentally brush the sides, as the device will likely react and start changing the volume.

The Nest Mini has a fabric-covered top and a plastic base that comes in four colors: Chalk (gray), Charcoal (heathered black), Sky (a light blue), and Coral (a pinky orange). They feel design-forward, and the colors can make for a fun addition to a room, too.

If you’re looking for an easy way to try out Google in your home, the Nest Mini is your best bet for its abilities and price. But if you’re looking for a better sound experience or more features, the other Google Nest speakers are a better investment.

Best for music

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Best Google Nest speaker for streaming music

Google’s Nest Audio speaker produces pretty good bass for its size and can be paired for a stereo set or used with other Google speakers for multiroom audio.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 68.

The Nest Audio’s sound quality is a clear step up from the other Google Nest Smart speakers and provides a noticeably richer audio experience overall. The speaker responds quickly to voice queries and can pull from music sources such as Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, and Deezer after initial setup in the Google Home app (it doesn’t offer as many services as an Amazon Echo, and it’s missing major services like Tidal and Amazon Prime Music). The Google Home app can also connect with iHeartRadio.

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You can pair this Smart speaker with another Nest Audio to create a stereo pair, or use it in tandem with other Google Nest speakers for a multiroom audio setup. You’ll need to create speaker groups to request music on multiple speakers through voice commands (such as “Whole House” or “Living Room”), and groups are easy to set up and name as you see fit within the Google Home app. You can’t easily switch the music from one speaker group to another, though; you’ll have to completely restart the playlist or album you’re listening to on that speaker group.

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At just under 7 inches tall and with a slim, 3-inch base, the Nest Audio fits comfortably on bookshelves, countertops, and side tables without standing out—I was able to fit it on my thin fireplace ledge, for example, where most speakers (Smart or not) wouldn’t fit. The Nest Audio is covered completely in fabric for a similar look to the Google Nest Mini, and it comes in a similar set of colors. It has a physical switch on the back to turn the microphone off, and tap controls on either side to control volume.

Best for video calls and kitchens

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Best Google Nest speaker for video calls and kitchens

The only Google Nest speaker with a camera, this Smart display can make video calls, and its 10-inch display and built-in software are great for displaying follow-along recipes.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 147.

The Google Nest Hub Max touts a wide range of abilities beyond audio-only Smart speakers, thanks to the generous digital real estate of its 10-inch touchscreen and 6.5-megapixel camera. The current weather and air quality index are displayed on the home screen at all times, and you can customize it to display your calendar, do double duty as a digital photo frame through Google Photos, stream video content, or pull video feeds from your Smart security cameras—or become a security camera itself (more on that below). But where it excels most compared to the rest of Google’s Smart-speaker lineup is with video calls and recipes.

google, home, mini, review, 2022, portable

While there’s another Google Nest Hub with a touchscreen, the Max is the only model with a camera. The 6.5-megapixel camera is good enough for a Zoom call (though not as amazing as the cameras in Amazon’s Echo Show). The camera has a wide 127-degree field of view, and during Google Meet video calls it automatically pans and zooms in and out to follow you while you’re moving around the room. It also works with Zoom; however, the lens has a fish-eye effect that was disorienting for both sides of a video call, and it didn’t pan or zoom as expected. It was, at least, easy to join a meeting: You simply say, “Hey, Google, join my Zoom meeting,” and the Hub will connect to the next meeting on your Google calendar (or will prompt you to type in the code, if it doesn’t see a calendar invite).

The Nest Hub Max doesn’t have a physical lens cover for its camera, and so to toggle the camera on or off you swipe up from the bottom of the screen and touch “Camera.” If you want complete privacy, there is a physical mute switch that electronically disables both the camera and microphone, similar to other Google Nest models.

Cooking recipes are available on both the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max, but the Max’s larger screen makes it much easier to read a recipe on screen. It has recipe search built in, and you can choose to call up specific cooking apps, including popular ones from Bon Appétit and Tasty. In our tests, a search for “beef stroganoff” brought up recipes from Betty Crocker, Food Network, and several other sites. The Nest Hub Max reads the recipe aloud, step by step, while also scrolling the written instructions on-screen. The austere text-on-a-white-background look of the Nest Hub Max recipes is clean and easy to see from a distance, though admittedly it did make us miss the beautiful food pictures that recipe books often include (though we didn’t miss skipping over the standard 10-paragraph food bloggers autobiography).

The screen quality on the Nest Hub Max is clear and bright enough for not only recipes but also streaming video via services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney, Sling, Paramount, and (of course) YouTube and YouTube TV. While the display isn’t as bright or crisp as that of our digital photo frame picks, it can still double as a nice-enough digital photo frame if you’re a Google Photos user (or are willing to become one). It includes an Ambient EQ setting, which adjusts both the brightness and the color tone of the screen to match the mood of the room, and will switch to a dark, simple clock face when the room goes dark.

The biggest weakness of the Nest Hub Max is its sound quality. It’s more than double the price of the Nest Audio, yet the lack of bass power is notable. It’s fine enough for casual listening, but it won’t impress audiophiles or lovers of bass-heavy tracks. But if you’re mainly looking for its screen capabilities, the Nest Hub Max is a great choice.

The Best Smart Display for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant

The Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen) and Google Nest Hub Max are the best Smart displays. They have big screens for video chat, TV, or recipes, and great speakers, too.

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