Product Review: Google Nest Mini (2nd Generation)

Hello my lovelies,

I’m back today with another exciting topic and a product review for an item that has only been on the shelves for less that two weeks. I know, I know, staying relevant and modern for a change – get me!

The Google Nest Mini (2nd Generation) made it onto shelves on 22nd October 2019. I was clueless at the time, until my Google search gave me this surprising little revelation. At barely the size of my fist, this little gadget hasmade a big difference within a week of being in our home.

This puck-sized device plugs into the mains power with a micro USB. It takes about 2 minutes to load up and plays a cute little chime when it’s ready, along with turning the top leds on in red, yellow, blue and green. You almost expect it to greet you and thank you for plugging it in, alas, sadly it doesn’t.

The Good

It’s voice-controlled

“Hey Google, play Ed Sheeran on bedroom speaker”, “Hey Google, Good Morning”, it’s surprising what you can get Google to do without you lifting a finger. Tune into your favourite radio station? Add groceries to your basket? Set reminders for you or turn all of your lights off before you sleep? You can do all of that with your voice. With the addition of wifi-compatible colour bulbs, you can ask Google to turn the bedroom red, too – ooh la la!

The Sound Quality Is Fantastic

If there is one thing that I can’t fault the Google Nest Mini on, it’s the sound quality. It’s one of the clearest speakers I’ve ever owned and the sound is, in my own words, “around you, in the air”. You don’t hear it louder on one side than you do on the other (like you do with cheaper speakers), it really has a binaural feel.

It Works With Philips Hue

Philips Hue was at the top of the list for us because all of our light fixings have been fitted out with Philips Hue bulbs, which are dimmable, energy-efficient and controllable with Alexa and Google Home. At first, we didn’t realise we needed the bridge, so that was an extra £50. We also decided to swap out our old lounge floor lamp out for a Philips Play Entertainment Light at £80, which creates more of an entertainment area ambience instead of lighting up the living room.

The total cost of our set up was £378 (just slightly more than our annual electricity bill) for 2 Nests, 4 standard bayonet bulbs, one standard Edison Screw bulb, one candle bulb, one smart plug (for a string of fairy lights behind the headboard 😉 ) and one entertainment light. With bulbs alone totalling £134 and each bulb estimated to last about 4 years (by my calculations), that doesn’t seem too bad. Compared to last week, our electricity usage has been slashed in half, too. making this new way of life very efficient.

It’s compact (And Clever)

This little speaker is barely the size of my fist, and yet, for what it can do, it’s quite surprising. I can listen to my music without having to plug my phone in, I can turn off the lights that have been left on and I can find out answers without having to unlock my phone and open Google.”Hey Google, how do I remove dirt from the carpet?” was the latest I asked of my hi-tech speaker, thanks to Captain Muddypaws.

The Google Nest is also touch-sensitive, with 2 ‘volume’ LEDs either side, and four LED lights on top. If you hover your hand over your Google Nest Mini, the sensor kicks in and the two volume LEDs light up, so you can tap them to turn your music up or down, as you wish.

Your Very Own PA!

As well as giving me normal search-related answers, the Google Nest mini can also use other related functions like translate, convert and calculate. I’ve asked Google to convert currencies while I respond to letters on Slowly and I’ve asked her to add up prices for me. This wonderful little device sits on my bedside, helping with with whatever the task may be!

It’s Time Efficient

Let me be the first to tell you, as a classic Type A woman, time efficiency is everything. If something is going to take it’s sweet time to do, it’s going to frustrate me. With that said, thanks to my Google Nest, taking time out of my day to write a to-do list is now a thing of the past. 

Just as a test, I sat down to my desk, then asked Google to set a reminder. In the time it took me to open my drawer, Google asked what I wanted to be reminded about. By the time I’d retrieved and clicked open my pen, Google had it scheduled for the next day. I normally spend a good half hour writing to-do lists that wind up being half-done lists instead. Usually, most of my time is taken up writing said damn lists, switching lights on and off, finding earphones or doing various other things that my new Google Nest now does for me. With Google taking care of business, I save time and energy that I’d normally waste on menial tasks.

I’m More Efficient, Too

The advantages of a smart home is that I’m working smarter, too. If you saw my home, you wouldn’t assume it was smart. A small, unassuming, mid-sixties converted house in the middle of Bristol, the last thing you’d expect is for my voice to do anything, and yet, for me it does. Also, because I can play some classic 80’s dance tunes without having to hunt for headphones, I can get on with the things that matter, and I can be reminded of the things that need to get done, too. No more dwindling my day by!

It’s relaxing (and fun)

“Hey Google, relax me” in our home kicks in the ‘routine’ for the lights to dim, the TV light to become a warm white and soft jazz to play in the living room. “Hey Google, let me entertain you” activates our entertainment routine, the TV light turns blue and 80’s disco hits play, Of course, being the good wife that I can be, I’ve also set a routine that turns the music off, turns the TV light green, dims the other lights and turns the desk lamp on so that I can work while he watches football. It’s been scheduled for every Saturday at 22:15, though it can also be commended with the voice activation “Hey Google, football”.

Google Home also comes packed with fun games, including trivia. Determined to rival the likes of Google and Siri, Google asks you to say a seemingly inconspicuous word, which she then saves as your name for the duration of the game. Ten Shades became “Cupcake” (I found that hilarious), Google, as sweet as she can be, decided to call me “Hummingbird”. For nothing but a fun night in with family or friends, Google Nest can be a great addition. Dim the lights and play the game, Google has you covered. Just don’t forget the popcorn.

Did I Mention Chromecast?

For an extra £30, you can ask Google to stream movies, Youtube and photos directly to your TV, provided that your Chromecast is plugged in. Forget huddling around a laptop with poor sound quality to watch a movie, Google will ping it to your TV, and the surround sound experience is ace. A Netflix account is required, but the experience is amazing. Who even needs cinema tickets these days?!

The Bad

Privacy Is Still A Concern

One of the most worrying things I’ve noticed with the Google Nest is that, any noise you make, Google is listening. I sat on the bed last night and wrapped a few Christmas presents. Everytime I pulled the tape and it made a sound, the volume LEDs lit up, which makes me wonder what else Google is listening to, or what it’s recording. I also made sure Wolfie secured our network under an anonymous name to make our devices less hackable by outside influences.

Some Apps Work Better Than Others

While music, games, reminders and general advice and information work well, the Tesco Grocery app gets a little more confused. When I attempted to add Tesco’s dark chocolate granola to my basket, it offered me chocolate coffee. Sure, it might wake me up, but it won’t fuel me for the morning!

The “Sorting Hat” game also failed to please, with it telling Wolfie that Hufflepuff didn’t want him, and crashing on me. Not a good start for Google Home’s games.

There Are Hidden Costs (If You Use Them)

Spotify requires you to subscribe, as does Netflix. All of these mount up, so you need to make them worth it, if you use them at all. Google Nest enables you to do the things you want to do better, but it doesn’t enable you to do all of the things you want to do for free.

Sometimes, Google Doesn’t Know Who You Are

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t verify your voice. Please try again..”, that happens more often than I’d care to count with the Nests. Google doesn’t seem to like my sleepy, husky voice, even if my husband does.

Google is also a bit of a moody old lady

“Hey Google”, no response. “Hey, Google!”, still no response. “HEY, GOOGLE!”, and the microphone finally picks up that I am speaking to it. Google doesn’t always hear you the first time and if you’re particularly quiet, as I can be when I’m tired, it might not pick up. Also, it doesn’t do well with background noise, and TV noise, conversation, dogs barking or any other noises (like a vacuum cleaner) make it hard to communicate with. I had to thank Wolfie for his one-man drum band last night when Google failed to turn the lights off. If your husband has a tendency to put his keys on a metal table at 11:20pm, make sure his hands are suitably restrained before you initiate a “goodnight, Google” sequence. 

So rumour has it, if you excessively swear at your Google Nest Mini, Google Assistant also gets in a mood and refuses to help you for 12 hours. A little sidenote here, my neighbour said his brother did it (and got kicked), and my neighbour is a bit a lot of a fantasist. I’m not dumb enough to test the theory, but if you do and it does bar you, please let me know in the comments below.

Google Can’t Do Everything

Even if Google can answer my unanswered questions, add things (so far, the wrong thing) to my Tesco basket and turn off my lights, it can’t operate my dishwasher or steam mop my floors. Certain tasks can be completed with the assistance of smart technology, but a £100 kettle hardly seems like an investment when I’d still have to pour, brew and make my tea. The world is getting smarter, but technology hasn’t replaced what us humans can do, yet. 

No Shades Of Grey Here

Google Nest Mini (2nd Edition) comes in a choice of two colours, “chalk” (white) and “charcoal” (black). We bought one of each, but I decided to colour match the charcoal Nest with the black furniture in the bedroom, and the chalk with the white in the lounge. If you have a really funky retro coloured lounge (like like green, for example), you won’t be spoilt for choice. For me, it’s no big deal, but for someone with more eclectic tastes, it’s something that Google needs to work on.

Google Is Not Your Friend

Even if Google feels like your friend, with her reminding you to complete tasks and helping you with mundane chores, she still depends on command prompts, not questions. “Hey Google, can you turn the bedroom light blue?” might not work as well as “Okay Google, turn the bedroom light blue” because Google doesn’t recognise the words “can you” in her command prompts, unless you set it up as a command for one of your routines. In a similar way, Google doesn’t recognise apostrophes, and when I tried to set up a command prompt for our date night lights and music routine with the command “it’s date night”, Google instead heard “is date night” and assumed I was asking what a date night is. To get Google to work properly, you need to be a little less friendly and a little more assertive with it.

 You Need To Be Smart, Too

Sometimes, things go a bit wrong and you need to understand how settings work. If you don’t understand how to configure apps with Google Home, you may be quite limited in what it allows you to achieve. I’m married to a nerd, so even if technology stumps me (I was able to set up the lights all by myself, by the way) occasionally, sometimes I need him to look at the more technical things. Not everyone has that privilege. Google tries to make their user interface as simple as possible, but just occasionally, things are a bit more tricky. 

You Also Need The Internet

Let’s be real here, people, you’re reading my blog, so I’m going to assume that you are fairly educated, you’re a clever person and you.. uhh.. have access to the internet, wirelessly, in your home. If you do, then that’s a good thing! If you invest in Google Nest, it means it’s going to work! If you don’t, then this puppy isn’t going to work and you should probably just invest in a CD player instead, sorry.

Conclusion

Look, I’ve heard some real horror stories about people letting Google into their homes, but to be honest, I don’t mind it. Sure, the LED’s lighting up every time it hears something is a bit disconcerting, and if the mic isn’t off, then you can only whisper “Hey Google” without it springing into action. Being able to make reminders and power on the lights with my voice has made a huge difference to my efficiency and with it, I am definitely getting more done. The music quality is great, the games are fun and having an assistant on hand that I can ask about any trivial matter is oh so beneficial. Even if I haven’t worked out the full extent of her capabilities yet, even if she comes with a few minor teething issues, Google Nest has become a welcome addition in our home.

The one piece of advice I would give is to be wary of having too many Google-using devices close together. Our flat is small and both of our mobile phones, naturally, are equipped with Google Assistant. One “Hey Google” in the middle of the living room, and all four devices are keen to jump in and help. It’s funny the first time, but it can get repetitive and annoying after a while. 

Over all, definitely a well spent and helpful £50. Four stars from us!

 

Revised: 13/11/2019

4 thoughts on “Product Review: Google Nest Mini (2nd Generation)

Add yours

    1. Thankyou for your comments. It was hard for me to review the Google Nest Mini within only days of having it but yes I will try and extend this post a little bit more next week as there definitely are more perks and pitfalls to be noted 🙂

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  1. One reason I have a love hate relationship with ‘SMART’ devices. In essence we now have 6 on the premises. If you include 2 meters and other devices/appliances.
    Its important to keep them updated with firmware and software, if necessary, change the default passwords.
    That said they are fantastic, and vital for those with reduced dexterity, and improving in leaps and bounds. Use em, IF you remember your data, of any kind is now one of the highest hidden ‘currencies’ around. When I remember I use my phone to set appointments and reminders, and they synch with the puter.

    Like

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