Google Nest Audio review

The bigger of Google’s two smart speakers impresses

Recommended
Competitive
Check price

Google brands much of its smart home gear with the Nest label, and here we have the Nest Audio – the larger (and more expensive) of two smart speakers in the current range, which offers more audio oomph than the compact Nest Mini.

Straight away that shows who this is targeted at, the type of person who values a certain level of audio quality for their music, and who is going to be using their smart speakers for more than simply asking questions about the weather or setting daily alarms.

There’s plenty of competition out there, including the Apple HomePod Mini (with Siri on board) and Amazon having a wide range of Echo speakers (with Alexa on board). The Nest Audio has Google Assistant, which might be one of the reasons to pick it over any other. 

Google Nest Audio on a wooden unit flanked by a clock and a vase.Credit: Google
Recommended

Google Nest Audio

Competitive

This pint-sized smart speaker comfortably fills a room with good-quality sound. Where it really shines is in its Google Assistant app, which adds a whole host of features.


Who’s this for?

Buy the Nest Audio if you want an upgrade over your smartphone or laptop speakers, without paying over the odds. If you’re already heavily invested in Google products, so much the better.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Easy to set up and use
  • Decent sound quality
  • Tastefully designed
  • No 3.5 mm input

Expect to pay

RRP: £89.99 At £89.99 the Nest Audio represents good value, but you can often find it for cheaper by shopping around online.

Google Nest Audio Review Method

How we review

We spent a couple of weeks listening to everything the Google Nest Audio had to offer – we tested it out with a wide range of musical styles and other audio, including podcasts and audiobooks.

We also extensively tested the speaker in terms of putting the Google Assistant through its paces: answering questions, setting alarms, and interacting with other gadgets including smart lights and smartphones. 

Google Nest Audio Setup

Get it out, plug it in, turn it on

As with most smart home gadgets now, the process of setting up the Nest Audio is handled via a phone app: in this case, the free Google Home app for Android or iOS.

If you’re not already using it to manage other devices (like Chromecasts), you’ll need to install it.

Getting the Nest Audio up and running couldn’t be much simpler, really. You get it out of the box, plug it in using the supplied cable, and turn it on.

The Google Home app will detect the speaker and take you through the process of getting it connected to the web and your various digital accounts (such as YouTube Music or Spotify, for instance).

All in all, you should be up and running in five minutes, with only a dozen or so taps on a smartphone screen – and if you don’t want to connect your music streaming apps straight away, you can do it later. These apps are what you’ll be mainly relying on for your audio.

Google Nest Audio at an angle, on a wooden unitCredit: Google

Google Nest Audio Design

Well-built and premium

There’s a certain modern elegance about the Nest Audio, which is available in chalk (white), charcoal (dark grey), sage (light green), sand (pale pink) and sky (light blue) – there’s a colour to match every kind of decor.

It’s neatly covered in fabric with a plastic base, and there are four small, circular lights shining through the front covering, acting as indicators for the volume level, microphone status, and more.

At 175 mm by 124 mm by 78 mm, the Nest Audio is about as tall as your average pint glass, and a bit wider and thinner.

The power cable is a generous 1.5 metres in length, so it doesn’t have to be right next to a power socket, and with its plastic base it feels solid and secure – it’s not something that’s going to tip over in a breeze.

Google Nest Audio being held in one handCredit: Google

There are some smart touch controls built into the top of the speaker that let you start and stop playback and adjust the volume – these controls aren’t visible, but they’re there if you tap on the speaker.

While you won’t be picking it up much, the speaker feels as well-built and as premium as it looks.

Google Nest Audio Audio Quality

Good, rather than great

The Nest Audio speaker produces a level of sound fidelity that’s about on a par with what you would expect considering its size.

It’s a step up from the Nest Mini – which you can almost fit in your palm – but it’s not up there with the best wireless home speakers on the market at the moment, such as those offered by Sonos.

Sound is clear and crisp, and certainly rich enough for casual listening, with quieter sounds and instruments clearly audible even at lower volumes.

Push the volume right up to the max and it’s enough to comfortably fill a small or medium-sized room, but there is a certain flatness to the deepest bass and highest trebles.

Close up of Google Nest Audio on a wooden unit flanked by a clock and a vase.Credit: Saga Exceptional

You’re certainly going to be able to hear the improvement over playing songs and spoken audio through your phone or laptop speakers, but at the same time you can hear the Nest Audio struggling against the constraints of its size.

While the sound is in no way weak or distorted, it lacks the frequency range and the dynamic response that you’ll get in more expensive units. We’d sum it up by saying it’s good rather than great.

There are some basic equaliser settings in the Google Home that you can play around with, but we found they didn’t really do much in terms of the listening experience, and we’d recommend sticking with the defaults most of the time.

Google Nest Audio Google Assistant

A value adding feature

You may already be familiar with Google Assistant – the digital assistant app appears on phones, laptops, smart speakers, smart displays, smartwatches and more.

Speak out your requests with a “hey Google” in front of them, and you get a spoken response in return.

There are a huge number of things Google Assistant can do:

  • retrieve facts
  • define words
  • set alarms and timers
  • read out sports scores and news headlines
  • tell you the weather forecast
  • read out your upcoming calendar appointments
  • let you know if your flight is on time
  • calculate sums
  • translate between languages
  • convert between units
  • control connected smart home devices (look for the “works with Google Assistant” label)
View of the front of Google Nest Audio, sitting on a wooden audio.Credit: Exceptional

If you can find it with a Google search in a web browser – whether it’s shop opening times or how long it will take you to drive somewhere – then Google Assistant can usually give you an answer through the Nest Audio smart speaker.

There is a privacy concern here, in that you’re letting a device into your home that’s always listening.

You have to trust Google to some extent to not be doing anything nefarious with your voice snippets – its full privacy policy is here – but you can erase the most recent phrase from the speaker’s memory by saying “hey Google delete what I just said”.

There’s also a physical switch on the back of the speaker that will turn off the microphone.

Close up of the microphone mute slide on the rear of the Google Nest AudioCredit: Google

Google Nest Audio Usability

The Nest Audio shines

One of the areas where the Nest Audio smart speaker shines is with its usability. As we’ve mentioned, you can just ask Google Assistant a question or tell it to do something and it responds in an instant.

You can get some smooth jazz playing or hear the news read out as if you were talking to a friend (and even politely ask for the volume to go up or down as required too).

You don’t have to speak to the Nest Audio speaker if you don’t want to though. Any music, audiobook or podcast app on your phone that supports the Chromecast standard – which is most of them on Android phones and iPhones – can stream their audio to the speaker with a couple of taps.

Bluetooth connections are also supported, which means just about any smartphone or laptop can stream audio to this speaker.

To some extent, what you can hear depends on the apps and streaming services you’ve signed up to. You can’t plug a cable into the Nest Audio to play music from another device, for example: as mentioned above, you need to stream music from a phone or tablet app, such as Spotify or YouTube Music.

If you’ve signed up for the premium versions of those apps you can ask for specific songs or albums; if not, you’ll be given more of a radio station-style mix to listen to, based on your request.

Rear view of the Google Nest Audio, sitting on a wooden unit.Credit: Google

Most UK radio stations are fully supported though, without the need for a separate app – just ask for the station you want to stream through the speaker.

In terms of ease of use and convenience, it doesn’t get much better than that, with no complicated menus to work through or settings to configure.

Google Nest Audio Value

Bang for your buck

For a speaker of this size, with this level of audio oomph, and with this many features, we’d say the asking price of £90 represents great value for money (it’s often available for less if deals are running on the Google Store).

You’d be hard pressed to find something better than this for less money, but note that it’s the smart assistant features rather than the audio fidelity that make the Nest Audio stand out.

The sound quality isn’t bad at all, but it’s Google Assistant that really means you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck.

At this price, we’d actually be tempted to buy two of them: they can be combined together as a stereo pair through the Google Home app, which means that any audio you play will recognise the left and right positioning of each speaker and route the sound accordingly.

Google Nest Audio Competition

Two smart speakers to also consider

When choosing between smart speakers it’s not just the audio quality and the design you’re looking at, it’s also the assistant app that’s built in.

A Nest speaker like this, manufactured by Google, is ideal if you use other products from Google, like Google Calendar, YouTube Music, and Android devices.

An Amazon Echo sitting on a wooden unit next to a lampCredit: Amazon

Amazon Echo

The big competitor here is the orb-shaped Amazon Echo, which is about the same price (£90 before discounts, which are regularly applied), and offers roughly the same level of audio quality – able to fill a medium-sized room with decent-sounding music, but clearly not at the level of high-end equipment.

It comes with Alexa on board though rather than Google Assistant, and so is better able to handle services such as your Amazon shopping list and your subscription to Amazon Music.

It’ll also work better with other Amazon-made gadgets, including the Fire TV 4K stick and Ring video cameras.

A hand holding an illuminated iPhone over a white HomePod MiniCredit: Apple

Apple HomePod Mini

Then there’s the £90 HomePod Mini: a bit smaller than the Nest Audio, but arguably better in the sound quality department. Like the Nest Audio, it’s available in a series of funky colours, and like the Amazon Echo, it’s shaped like a ball.

Where Apple’s HomePod Mini really shines is the ease with which it can integrate with iPhones and Macs, picking up audio streams from these devices in seconds.

You can see that these products have very deliberately been priced around the same point, which leaves you a choice over which tech company – Google, Amazon, Apple – you’re already most invested in. 

Read our HomePod Mini review

Google Nest Audio Final Verdict

Worth buying

We really enjoyed spending time with the Google Nest Audio. It’s a fine speaker in terms of audio playback: you can find speakers with better sound fidelity out there, but they’re invariably going to cost you more than the £90 that this sells for.

It’s the smart assistant features that really make this worth buying, a whole range of features available through simple voice commands. Add in easy integration with streaming apps on your phone and you’re getting a lot for your money.

Be sure to check out competing devices from Apple and Amazon before making a purchase though. Depending on the gadgets you already use around the home, they may be more suitable for you than the Nest Audio.

Recommended

Google Nest Audio

Competitive

This pint-sized smart speaker comfortably fills a room with good-quality sound. Where it really shines is in its Google Assistant app, which adds a whole host of features.


Who’s this for?

Buy the Nest Audio if you want an upgrade over your smartphone or laptop speakers, without paying over the odds. If you’re already heavily invested in Google products, so much the better.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Easy to set up and use
  • Decent sound quality
  • Tastefully designed
  • No 3.5 mm input

Expect to pay

RRP: £89.99 At £89.99 the Nest Audio represents good value, but you can often find it for cheaper by shopping around online.

Google Nest Audio Specs

Dimensions 175 x 124 x 78 mm
Weight 1.2 kg
Audio 75 mm woofer and 19 mm tweeter
Mics 3 far-field microphones
Connectivity 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz/5 GHz) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, Chromecast
Colours Chalk, Charcoal, Sage, Sand, Sky
David Nield

Written by David Nield

Updated:

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, you’ll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables.

David has by-lines at leading publications including TechRadar, Wired, The Guardian, Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.

When he’s not busy writing, he enjoys watching football and long walks in the countryside.

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