Google Nest Audio is the most recent proposal from the BigG giant in the field of smart speakers: we put it to the test to understand how it works.
At the same time as the Google Pixel 4a review, we also tested another product from the Mountain View company, the latest addition to the smart speaker field: Google Nest Audio, sold for 99.99 euros through the official portal (at sometimes it is also on offer in the main major electronics chains). The name is self-explanatory: no display, everything is based on the sound experience. Nest Audio is therefore a product that must be placed in a very specific context to be properly appreciated.
The test could therefore only take place mainly inside a house, putting the product at the service of a family more than a single. Thanks also to the limited movements allowed in this period, we didn’t have too many problems carrying out this test. Needless to say, what follows is a review based more on the experience that this product offers rather than on the technical data sheet, which we will not fail to analyze in any case. On the other hand, Nest Audio must be “lived” in everyday life.
Google Nest Audio user experience and data sheet
Once connected to the power outlet and configured using the appropriate Google Home application (also available on the App Store), Nest Audio is a product that fits well into the design of the home. The dimensions are equal to 175 x 124 x 78 mm, for a weight of 1.2 kg (without external power supply), so the device can be easily placed even in a shelf, even if it is good to provide it with the right space. For such a product, the look is therefore not only important, but fundamental. The Mountain View company knows this well and in fact the Chalk (Light Gray) colorway that we have had the opportunity to try identifies itself perfectly in many contexts. Those who prefer “dark” colors can opt for the Charcoal variant (anthracite gray).
Net of the subjectivity of the choice, what is striking is the aesthetic simplicity of the product: a single switch to turn off the microphone peeks out on the back, while at the front there are four LEDs that appear only when a request is made to the assistant, they flash in phase search and disappear once their task is done. The color of the LEDs is practically always white, except when you deactivate the microphone and switch to solid orange.
For the rest, at the bottom center on the back is the Google logo, flanked a little further to the right by the power outlet (30W, proprietary standard). In this regard, the 1.5 meter white cable supplied in the package is not particularly bulky and can be “hidden” well. As for the materials, the fabric is of good quality as well the housing is made up of 70% recycled plastic, so the Californian company shows a certain attention to the environment.
Some of you will surely be wondering if the absence of additional switches besides the one related to the microphone could affect the experience. The answer is no, since in reality the keys are there, but they are “hidden” under the body. In fact, you can make a slight pressure on the top of the device to use the multimedia controls. In the center there is the button to pause playback, at the top right the button to raise the volume peeps out and on the left we find the one to lower it. In short, the Mountain View company has found a way to ensure functioning controls without going to “ruin” the design of the product. A smart solution, which will surely please a certain type of user.
We refer to a specific type of person because Nest Audio is a divisive product in its very essence: the lack of a screen inhibits some of the possibilities that you have with other devices, just think of the Nest Hub range. This may make some people turn up their noses, but in reality, placed in the everyday context, the real value of Nest Audio is quickly understood.
Initially, even the writer was wavering a bit in front of the real usefulness of a technological product without a display sold at this price, since there are undoubtedly cheaper solutions on the market (the reference can only go to Amazon Echo), but after several weeks of testing everything started to become clearer.
Google has in fact equipped Nest Audio with one 75mm woofer, one 19mm tweeter and three microphones long range, in order to aim for a high sound performance, while allowing the user to give voice commands even with important background noises, think for example of a washing machine. Furthermore, the support for Voice Match technology should not be underestimated.
Let’s say it right away: despite being a product that winks a lot at music playback, also given the possibility of choosing the default streaming service (from YouTube Music to Spotify), Nest Audio is not a device that aims at audiophiles, since imperfections are not lacking. By the way, the audio is diffused from the front, so no 360 degrees. Put simply, remember that you are still buying a smart speaker.
With that node untied, the Mountain View company has worked to make the audio 75% louder than the original Google Home, while also making the bass 50% louder. Despite this, the sound spectrum is not unbalanced towards the latter, since mids and highs are practically never overwhelmed. The audio sector is therefore of high caliber for a product of this type, since it is clean and rich. We can safely say that, taking into consideration the family of Google products available in Italy, Nest Audio is the one that sounds best.
This is where a crucial question comes into play: Unless your family consists entirely of audiophiles, when strategically placed in the right room and paired with a Premium account from a major audio streaming platform, this smart speaker is capable of to guarantee access to audio quality not typically found in these contexts. Count that you can also “play” a little with the equalization, adjusting bass and treble or relying on specific automatic functions.
Put simply, the right way to look at Nest Audio is to contextualize it as an object that fits into everyday life. In support of our “thesis” we find the myriad of features available through the Google Home app. Are you in a hurry and want to warn those who live with you that you are going out? You pick up your smartphone, open the Google Home app, tap “Announcement” and quickly say the message you want Nest Audio to play. In the morning, as soon as you wake up, do you want to hear the news, get information on the weather and get the reminders of the day, perhaps in the order you want? Just set up a routine, perhaps activated by the voice command “Good morning”. Do you have smart bulbs that you want to turn off automatically before going out? It can be done using the appropriate command. Are you a TIM customer and want to make calls directly from Nest Audio? Just perform the proper configuration.
This without counting all the possibilities that a voice assistant like that of Google, among other things always precise and fast even in Italian (even if there is work to be done to reach English), can offer. In short, the contexts in which Nest Audio can be useful are many.
The interaction with a product of this type at a certain point becomes natural: if you use it well, you can no longer do without it, it becomes a habit. We assure you that, if your family members are a bit “technological”, in the end they will all end up “using the service”. On the other hand, you always have an assistant with A53 quad-core processor operating at the maximum frequency of 1.8 GHz, which also features Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11ac (2.4GHz / 5GHz). Everything also makes more sense if you look to the future: home automation is becoming more and more popular and, once a house of this type has been set up, it can be difficult to go back from such comfort.
Google has made a product that lives up to its name. Nest Audio is in fact a smart speaker that makes a clear leap forward in sound quality compared to Google Home, while not reaching the levels of an audiophile product. This is normal, given the type of product and the cost of 99 euros. The device must in fact be contextualized in home use, perhaps positioned alongside compatible iOT products. The ability to make calls via TIM or Google Duo certainly makes it interesting for a certain type of user, but the true nature of Nest Audio is probably that of a “family device”, which comes in handy in everyday life and becomes a convenient habit. Having an audio quality of this caliber at your disposal in this context can allow you to listen to good music in companions, as well as spend the days with that extra carefree touch that never hurts. The only real doubt that could arise if you are looking for a device of this type is that of the competition: which range is best suited to your needs? The choice is yours. However, those who set their sights on Nest Audio, knowing full well what it is, will not be disappointed.