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Google Nest Audio review: An ideal buy for a first smart-home experience

The Google Nest Audio   | Photo Credit: Divya Kala Bhavani

“Okay, Google, please play ‘Laid Back Tunes’ on Spotify.” This command became automatic for me on Monday morning when deadlines inched closer. Yes, it has an air of pompousness but sometimes, having a speaker that just obliged you with not just benevolence to follow through but also great sound profiles made the tension ease up.

This fall, the Google Nest Audio launched in India, making it a fine addition to not just the home, but also the evolving home workspace. My review device, in Chalk White, arrived at some reshuffling of the existing Google Home gadgets around the house. The mesh fabric is quite soft and does not attract a lot of dust but a light brush down would be good upkeep, about once every three or four days. I had read that Google made sure this mesh fabric was made from recycled plastic bottles, a sign that the tech giant takes its sustainability goals seriously.

Specifications
  • Dimensions & weight: Height: 6.9” ; Width: 4.9” ; Depth: 3.1” ; Power cable: 4’11” ; Device Weight: 2.6 pounds (without external power adapter)
  • Connectivity: 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz/5 GHz) Wi-Fi ; Bluetooth® 5.0 ; Chromecast built-in
  • Power: 30W, 24V external adapter ; DC power jack
  • Hardware: 75 mm woofer and 19 mm tweeter ; 3 far-field microphones ; 2-stage mic mute switch (hardware mute)
  • Processors: Quad Core A53 1.8 GHz ; High-performance ML hardware engine

Let us just say that unlike a rival tech giant, I am pretty pleased Google kept the power cable in the box for this one. Coming with a 30 watt 24 volt external adaptor and a DC power jack, it would have been nice if the Nest Audio came with USB-C type wiring and ports but it seems Google has no intention of changing this any time soon.

The fact that the Nest Audio is screenless with just the three capacitive touch-points adds a subtlety to the gadget; I did not need yet another screen to keep up with. The performance lies in the strength of its sound profile and an up-to-date lightning fast Google Assistant, which is powered by the Quad Core A53 1.8 GHz processor and an advanced Machine Learning engine.

While I am not a huge fan of Alexa devices, Google Home has the potential to make more permanent homes across India because of its supported Android ecosystem.

Adding the Nest Audio to Google Home app (make sure you have the latest version) took barely three minutes, while the earlier Nest Hub (which comes with a smart display) takes about 10 minutes. Google has been wise to keep set-up streamlined here, in terms of what the AI responds to and how often. Integrating the device into a Google Home-ready ecosystem is also glitch-free and there are no hassling extra stages such as voice match — unless you want to add more to the existing repertoire.

Savvy hardware

Claiming to be 75% louder with 50% more bass, the Nest Audio sports a 19-millimetre tweeter that promises crisp vocals as well as a high-frequency coverage.

The 75-millimetre mid-woofer offers clear bass without the annoying crackle. Given I had placed this device on a glass-topped table, I was pleased to hear no disruptive tremors so there is a nod to high-fidelity audio, no matter how loud the volume gets.

The Google Home app, with the Google Nest Audio in the background

The Google Home app, with the Google Nest Audio in the background   | Photo Credit: Divya Kala Bhavani

The media EQ makes the most of whatever medium — music, podcasts, audiobooks, movies — you are using the device for at that time, and this switch-over is not jarring thanks to the fast Machine Learning-enabled chipset. The ambient EQ cleverly adapts to background noise so an ‘in room live’ sound profile is emulated.

Nest Audio is able to pick up commands from even seven feet away, thanks to the three far-field microphones embedded into the device. And with this, there were thankfully no annoying pick-ups or misinterpretations from the AI itself. And, typical to the Google Home products, you can manually switch off the mics using a toggle switch rather than instigating a command.

Privacy does not just stop at the toggle switch. As Nest Audio is used through the day, the Google Home app collects data, and, as the user, you can view it easily and delete what you wish.

The Google Nest Audio

The Google Nest Audio   | Photo Credit: Divya Kala Bhavani

With everyone at home glued to screen for the majority of the day, I did love the intercom and broadcasting capabilities. Yes, they may be perpetuating laziness to the maximum among my household but shouting across the hallways is overrated. There is no additional pairing required here, just a simple command based on where another Google Home device is placed. As usual, one can start Google Duo voice calls on the device as well — just be mindful of the volume here.

Ultimately, the Nest Audio is brimming with the latest in Google’s smart-home range. It looks chic, it is tough, and occupies minimal space despite its height.

At just ₹6,899, it is a steal given the audio quality can rival most Alexa-powered luxury smarthome speakers. This is a fun first buy for those looking to experiment with a smart-home with a boomier sound experience.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 9:07:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/gadgets/google-nest-audio-review-an-ideal-buy-for-a-first-smart-home-experience/article33176672.ece

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