Google Nest (previously Google Home) is Google’s answer to Amazon’s Echo line-up of smart speakers and displays.
From the tiny Google Nest Mini to Google Nest Hub smart displays, in this article we will attempt to bring some logic to Google’s line-up of own-brand smart speakers, ranking these devices from best to – well, not worst, but not best. We’ll help you find the best Google Nest for your home.
Do note that we are rounding up only Google-owned devices, and the Google Assistant is also available in many other smart speakers and smart displays made by other manufacturers. In every case the Google Assistant functionality will be the same, but sound quality, build quality and additional features offered by those devices will differ.
Best Google Nest reviews
1. Google Nest Mini (2nd gen) – Best Value
Despite the big name change, the Nest Mini is far from an overhaul of the Home Mini – though you can think of it as the Home Mini 2.
If your house is already kitted out with the originals there’s no real reason to swap them out for the newer model, as the design and functionality is basically the same. Audio has improved a lot though, if you want to use it as a standalone speaker, while a machine learning chip makes basic commands quicker to use.
The design is essentially unchanged, aside from a new Sky colour, but there is one welcome tweak: a small indentation on the back for wall-mounting, letting you easily hang the Nest Mini from any nail or screw.
So don’t rush out to grab a Nest Mini to replace an existing Home Mini. But for anyone looking to add Google to more rooms, or get the Google Assistant into their home for the first time, the Nest Mini is the new best, and cheapest, way to do it.
The design is a bit divisive, but it’s a grower – and it should fit in with most homes’ decor better than the original Google Home. In the UK you’ll have only two colours to choose from, however.
More importantly, Google has hit the sweet spot with an affordable price, and some great savings when you buy two and use them as a stereo pair.
The Nest Audio has excellent sound quality, with an impressively rich and warm profile and more power than you’d expect for its compact size. Our only complaint concerns how the quality degrades at high volume, but you shouldn’t need to crank it to the max anyway.
The Google Nest Hub Max is the best smart display we’ve tested to date.
It brings a larger, more useful display as well as a camera which is far more useful than simply making video calls. It can recognise different users, be used as a security camera and supports gestures for playback.
Futhermore, the audio performance is excellent so well worth the upgrade if you want to listen to music.
If you plan to put Nest Hub 2 in the kitchen, living room or office, then it’s a nice improvement on the original and a no-brainer if you want a Google Assistant-powered smart display at a reasonable price.
It looks better, sounds better and has some new features you’ll find useful such as Quick Gestures – even if that doesn’t support swipes to skip tracks.
On the other hand, Sleep Sensing is the major new feature offering you a smart alarm clock with sleep tracking without putting a camera in your bedroom.
Sleep Sensing works well and doesn’t require wearing anything on your person while in bed and gives you a lot of data about how you sleep.
However, a huge question mark hangs over this feature because Sleep Sensing is a free preview until next year when Google will likely start charging a subscription fee to use it. How much this will cost is anyone’s guess.
What is the difference between Google Nest models?
If you’re looking to buy your first
smart speaker, Google Nest Mini (2nd gen) is a great choice. It does almost everything the more expensive models do, but with a smaller speaker also benefits from a lower price. You may also still be able to find at a lower price the older Home Mini, which has the exact same design but a little less audio oomph and slower processing.
Step up to the Google Nest Audio if you want louder, better-quality audio.
Meanwhile, the Nest Hub line offers the most feature-complete service, with an integrated display on which Google Assistant can show as well as tell (though it’s not the only
smart display), and play photo slideshows or function as a clock in standby mode. The latest model includes Sleep Sensing.
Of course, every Google Nest device can tell you the time when asked, and we think the standard (7in) Nest Hub’s audio quality is below that of even Google Nest Mini (which is actually surprisingly good for such a tiny device).
The Google Nest Hub Max has a larger 10in display, better 2.1 speakers, and an integrated camera that lets you make video calls, use the Hub as a security camera (with a Nest Aware subscription), use gestures to control audio playback and set up Face Match.
Each device works independently of its siblings, but you can also combine any or all of these devices for
mutli-room audio and broadcasting functionality.
The one feature all share is the most important of all: Google Assistant. This is the company’s smart voice assistant, and the equivalent to Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Samsung’s Bixby and Apple’s Siri. We find it the most accomplished of all, able to understand a natural, conversational tone and the most likely to be able to give you an answer to the most random of questions.
What does Google Assistant do?
We’re getting to the stage now where it’s not a question of
what can Google Assistant do, but what can’t it do? If you have an Android phone, chances are you’ve already tried Google Assistant (it’s available as a
free download from the Play Store), but you’ll find it works much better – and is more comfortable to use – in a home environment.
For many people the chief task of Google’s Nest speakers is to play music. You can tune into internet radio stations, or listen to anything available on Google Play Music, YouTube Music Premium, Spotify, or Deezer Premium+.
If you don’t subscribe to these services there’s also Spotify Free, or you can access playlists stored in the free version of Google Play Music. All Google Nest devices also function as Bluetooth speakers, so you can stream music directly from your phone, tablet or laptop.
Controlling other smart home devices, such as smart lights and heating, is another common use for Google Nest. All can control any device that is compatible with Google Assistant, but Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max are most useful if you have a number of said devices since it allows you to control all from a single dashboard as you can in the Google Home app. For smart services that are not directly compatible with Google Assistant you can often find a workaround with IFTTT.
Gleaning information about your day ahead, whether that be calendar appointments, journey times into the office, weather alerts or news bulletins, is another common feature across the range, best accessed with the term “Okay Google, good morning”. If you want to see and hear you need Google Nest Hub, but otherwise any Google Nest device can tell you what you want to hear.
Google Assistant also lets you
place free calls to anyone in your contacts book over Wi-Fi, or even call back to your speaker from your mobile, essentially replacing a landline. These are simply voice calls, because while Google Nest Hub has a display it does not have a camera – you will be able to see the video feed from your recipient if you specifically place the call over Google Duo, but they won’t be able to see you.
It’s also worth pointing out that you can set up
various parental controls that restrict what your kids hear – and now see on Nest Hub’s display – using Digital Wellbeing content filters.
This is merely scratching the surface of what Google Assistant can do, with so many other tasks achievable with a single voice command – we’re always discovering new functionality, and it’s often very much the case that you don’t really know until you ask.
The Assistant can answer mathematical questions or any general search query that you might enter into a web browser, it can find local restaurants and cinema times, it can set timers, alarms and reminders, and it can even play games and tell you stories and jokes.
Here are some funny things you might want to ask Google Assistant.