Music at centre of redesigned Google Nest smart speaker’s strengths

The smart in smart-speakers is taking a back seat in 2020.

Music is at the centre of Google and Amazon‘s redesigns of the Nest Audio and Echo speakers.

Both cost $149 and release in Australia this month.

9News has gone hands-on with Google’s Nest Audio but does it do enough to justify an upgrade or make the switch from another brand?

9News reporter Mark Santomartino has given a comprehensive review of Google’s redesigned Nest Audio speaker. (9News)

Google Nest Audio review

Google’s pitch was simple: more volume, better bass; and the Nest Audio is certainly loud.

This year’s speaker is driven by a 19mm tweeter and 75mm mid-woofer.

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Comparing the tech inside the Nest Audio and the old Google Home isn’t easy as they use completely different speaker set-ups.

Google says the Nest Audio gets 70 per cent louder and delivers 50 per cent more bass than the Home for beat-heavy tracks.

Google’s pitch was simple: more volume, better bass; and the Nest Audio is certainly loud (Google)

It easily overpowers the much smaller Google Home Mini I have sitting on my entertainment unit.

The Nest Audio has no problem filling a larger space, like an open plan living area with a much more robust sound compared to its predecessor.

“Dance Party DJ” is slapped on the front of its retail packaging, and while COVID restrictions haven’t allowed us to test it in an actual party setting, the Nest Audio could easily cover a smaller crowd.

Its max volume may not overpower my Samsung sound bar and subwoofer, but the Nest Audio is much more portable and links up to music apps like Spotify and YouTube music on its own.

One thing I wish Google would add is an internal battery.

This year’s Nest Audio speaker is driven by a 19mm tweeter and 75mm mid-woofer. (Google)

I’m not expecting 10 or more hours, but being able to ditch the power cord and take the Nest Audio to the park or beach as a Bluetooth speaker would be a great feature, even if it added a little more weight.

At just over 1kg, the Nest Audio is more than double the weight of the old Google home.

Stuffing larger speakers inside its classic fabric shell required a massive redesign. Gone is the Home’s circular form factor in favour of a more rectangular “pillow” shape.

The design is incredibly minimalistic which will suit modern homes. I quite like the new shape, but it might look out of place around older furniture.

It’s disappointing that the Nest Audio’s coolest colours: Sage, Sand and Sky (read pastel green, pastel red and pastel blue) are not available in Australia.

The Nest Audio has no problem filling a larger space than Google’s Home device, like an open plan living area with a much more robust sound compared to its predecessor. (9News)

Aussies will only get the choice between Chalk and Charcoal (light grey and, you guessed it, charcoal).

The fabric cases are made with 70 per cent recycled materials and hide six touch sensitive “buttons” on the top, corners, centre and sides of the device.

The only physical switch is hidden on the Nest Audio’s back and turns the microphones on and off if you don’t want or need Google listening to you.

Google’s Assistant continues to improve, albeit slightly. Nothing here is going to blow you away if you’ve used a smart speaker before. You can still control your Chromecast TV, lights and locks (if they’re supported of course).

“Dance Party DJ” is slapped on the front of its retail packaging, and while COVID restrictions haven’t allowed us to test it in an actual party setting, the Nest Audio could easily cover a smaller crowd. (9News)

A big deal was made during Google’s “Launch Night In” about shifting music from the Nest Audio to older Google smart-speakers in different rooms or getting them all to play together as one, but this isn’t a new feature.

My router might need a reset but I personally struggled to get this working.

I had the Nest Audio and Home Mini on different bandwidths so I needed to disconnect my Google Home to fix it. Problem was, it wouldn’t reconnect.

All of these features are available on Google’s older smart-speakers so, why upgrade?

The speaker’s price, at $149, is great price if you’re getting when it arrives in Australia on October 15.

You wouldn’t throw out your old Google Home or Home Mini if you bought a Nest Audio, just shift it to another room for better coverage or stereo sound. (9News)

Nest Audio holds its own against mid-range TV sound bars, but still can’t match the bass of a full-sized subwoofer.

Google loses marks on portability and colour choice (in Australia) but its assistant is arguably best on the market.

Like buying an iPhone which then encourages an iMac, an iPad and AirPods, smart speakers are an ecosystem. They’re designed to build on each other.

You wouldn’t throw out your old Google Home or Home Mini if you bought a Nest Audio, just shift it to another room for better coverage or stereo sound.

The more you invest, the more loyalty you’re forced to have not just to speakers but to compatible smart TV dongles and home security systems.

If you already own one, the choice is made for you.

If not, think long and hard about which team you want to join.

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