What Is a Google Home Mini and How Does It Work?

There's more to this compact smart speaker than meets the eye

The Google Home Mini is a smart speaker that's built on the same platform as the original Google Home, but it's significantly smaller. Google Home Mini provides access to the powerful Google Assistant, so you can use it to listen to music, check the news and weather, make appointments, and a variety of other tasks. The built-in speaker doesn't provide the same audio quality as the larger Google Home, but you can connect it wirelessly to any Cast-enabled speaker if you're after a richer sound.

What is the Google Home Mini?

The Google Home Mini is basically just a miniaturized version of the Google Home, so it's made up of a speaker, some computer hardware, and a couple of microphones. It's a little bigger than the Amazon Dot that it was introduced to compete with, but its edges are rounded to create an appearance that's somewhat evocative of candies like M&Ms and Skittles.

Google Home Mini in a kitchen.
Google

For connectivity, the Google Home Mini can connect to both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wireless networks, supports Chromecast and Chromecast audio, and accepts audio inputs via Bluetooth 4.1. That means you can connect it to the internet via Wi-Fi regardless of the type of router you have, stream music and other audio to your Chromecast or Cast-enabled speaker, and stream music and other audio from your phone to the Home Mini via Bluetooth.

Unlike the competing Amazon Dot, however, the Home Mini has no physical audio output, and you can't connect it to Bluetooth speakers that aren't Cast-enabled.

The Home Mini also includes the same basic sort of microphone array as the larger Google Home, which is designed to pick out your voice from up close, across the room, or anywhere else within range.

How Does the Google Home Mini Work?

Don't be fooled by the Google Home Mini's affordable price tag or diminutive size. This bite-sized smart speaker is capable of performing all the same tasks as the larger Google Home, like controlling your smart home, giving weather reports, answering questions, and more.

Like all Google Home devices, the Home Mini is built around the Google Assistant virtual assistant, so it is operated almost entirely via voice commands. It listens for a wake word, which is "Okay, Google," and then records anything it hears after the wake word. That information is passed to the cloud, where Google's powerful servers get to work.

While the heavy lifting is all done in the cloud, there is no noticeable lag between asking Google Home Mini to do something and receiving a response. The experience is a lot like talking to a person, since you use natural language to interact with the device and receive responses in natural language as well.

While there are privacy concerns with a device like Google Home Mini that is always listening for a wake word, Google is fairly transparent with what it records. You can access all of the recordings through your Google account and even turn off recording, although that does prevent some Google Home features from working.

How is the Google Home Mini Different From Google Home?

The two biggest differences between the Google Home and the Google Home Mini are size and price. The Home Mini is significantly smaller and fades more readily into your home decor, and it also costs a lot less. The Home Mini can also do everything the regular Google Home can do, but the larger device does provide richer sound that does a much better job filling a room.

The Google Home has a single speaker with two passive radiators, which really help it produce decent sound for a device of its size. The Home Mini, on the other hand, has a smaller speaker and lacks the passive radiators. While the Home Mini can still be used to listen to audio content like music and podcasts, it doesn't sound as good.

What is the Nest Mini?

Nest is a company that Google purchased and folded into their own line of smart devices. The Nest name has subsequently been attached to various devices, including an improved version of the Google Home Mini. So the Nest Mini is essentially just a slightly more expensive, and slightly better, version of the Google Home Mini.

The Nest Mini is slightly smaller than the Home Mini, but the difference is minute enough that it barely matters. The Nest Mini also comes in slightly different colors. The touch controls and LED indicators are identical.

Unlike the Home Mini, the Nest Mini comes with a built-in wall mount. It also provides better sound, with improved bass response, although the physical speakers in both devices use 40mm drivers.

In terms of functionality, the Home Mini and Nest Mini are identical. They answer all the same queries and commands, and they work with all of the same devices and apps.

Who Needs a Google Home Mini?

The Google Home Mini is ideal for two sets of people. If you've never used a smart speaker, but you want to try it out without paying for an expensive Google Home or Google Home Max, then the Home Mini is a great affordable option. The Google Home Mini is also an excellent addition to any home that already has one or more Google Home devices.

Since the Google Home Mini has all of the same functionality as the Google Home, it makes a good entry-level smart speaker. With a very affordable price point, you can pick up a Home Mini and try it out to see if you could benefit from having smart speakers in your home without spending a lot of money.

If you already have one or more Google Home devices, then the Home Mini is a great way to extend the same functionality you're familiar with into every room in your house. This is especially important if you have a lot of smart devices in your home, as the Home Mini represents an affordable way to control those devices from every part of your house.