Apple launched the original HomePod in 2018. Unlike other smart speakers, the sole focus of HomePod was superior audio quality. The HomePod failed to take off as expected due to many reasons, including a premium price point. This year Apple launched a smaller and more affordable HomePod mini at $99.
The HomePod mini features a unique spherical design. It is wrapped in soft fabric and looks premium. The reviewers remarked that HomePod mini’s LED ring is difficult to notice from a distance.
In my testing, I’ve found this light-up panel to be harder to see from across the room than the Echo’s glowing ring. Unless you’re right next to the HomePod mini, it’s hard to tell when Siri has heard your voice command and is responding. It’s also much more fiddly to use to adjust volume (especially when nothing is playing), and there’s no visual confirmation for how loud the speaker is set when you do adjust the volume, like you can see with an Echo or Nest Audio. In all, it’s just less accessible than the buttons on Amazon’s speakers or even the touch-sensitive areas on Google’s — a rare miss in this department from Apple.
The microphones on the HomePod mini are accurate when it comes to picking voice commands. Furthermore, Siri is noticeably faster than Google Assistant or Alexa when responding to voice commands.
The microphones do an admirable job of hearing my voice commands, even from across the room, and while something is playing, and the processor is quick to take action. In my experience, Siri is typically faster to respond and do something than either Alexa or the Google Assistant, whether that’s to play music, answer a question, or control a smart home device.
HomePod mini is better sounding than the fourth-generation Echo Dot.
The key thing to notice is that the HomePod mini outperforms other “small” smart speakers like the Echo Dot and Nest Mini, but it can’t compete with larger speakers like the regular Echo, Nest Audio, or Sonos One. The HomePod mini is priced closer to those larger speakers, although it really belongs in the small speaker class when it comes to the sound it can produce.
The HomePod Mini struggles to keep up with similarly priced competitors like Echo and Nest Audio.
So it sounds good, but I can’t say the HomePod mini sounds great. And next to the larger Echo and Nest Audio, both of which cost the same, it simply can’t keep up. It doesn’t have the presence, volume, or sound stage of either, and it certainly can’t match the Echo’s bass output. As they say, there’s no replacement for displacement.”
The following are the downsides of HomePod mini.
Still hugely dependent on Apple devices and services
Doesn’t sound as good as similarly priced competitors
Volume controls on top are fiddly
Siri is still behind Google Assistant and Alexa in features and capabilities.
Bottomline- The HomePod mini is excellent as an auxiliary speaker but not capable enough to replace a sound system.
In all, the HomePod mini excels at casual listening and background music. It’s great for playing music during dinner when you don’t want to drown out conversation or just to have some audio playing in the background as you work from home. The mini is nice to listen to at low volumes or higher settings and doesn’t distort at all. It won’t soundtrack a party, and it certainly doesn’t replace a proper sound system — but for its size, it is good.
Designwise, the HomePod mini borrows generously from the original HomePod.
The design decision keeps the product more in line with the original HomePod, with an Aurora Borealis of swirling lights up top to show you when Siri is doing her thing. It also allows for the inclusion of touch-sensitive volume buttons and the ability to tap the surface to play/pause music. Rather than the fabric-style covering that has dominated the last several generations of Google and Amazon products, the Mini is covered in the same sort of audio-conductive mesh material as the full-size HomePod.”
Just like the original HomePod, the mini doesn’t come with auxiliary input on-board.
The cable sports a USB-C connector, however, which makes it fairly versatile on that end. There’s also a 20W power adapter in the box (admittedly, not a sure bet with Apple, these days). It’s disappointing — but not surprising that there’s no auxiliary input on-board — there wasn’t one on the standard HomePod, either.”
Easy setup and impressive audio quality for its size. The Multiroom speaker setup is bliss.
Pairing is painless, out of the box. Just set up two devices for the same room of your home and it will ask you whether you want to pair them. From there, you can specify which one handles the right and left channels. If you’d like to spread out, the system will do multiroom audio by simply assigning speakers to different rooms.”
The whole setup process is pretty simple with an iPhone. It’s quite similar to pairing AirPods: hold the phone near the speaker and you’ll get a familiar white popup guiding you through the process of setting it up”
Siri is accurate but still has catching up to do.
As a smart assistant, Siri is up to most of the basic tasks. There are also some neat tricks that leverage Apple’s unique ecosystem. You can say, ask Siri to send images to your iPhone, and it’ll oblige, using Bing results.”
Small, Cute, and Functional
Holding the small speaker in my hand felt like holding an orange, albeit one with a flat bottom and top. I was taken aback at just how small it was. It’s only 3.3 inches tall and just under four inches wide. That makes it significantly smaller than Amazon’s new Echo and Google’s Nest Audio.
Fixed Braided power cable is not as compact as a “two-prong” plug on the bigger HomePod.
The only other thing to note about the HomePod mini is the fixed, braided power cable that comes out the back and connects to an included USB-C adapter. For a device that is meant to be plugged in and left in one spot, I would have preferred the more compact, attached two-prong plug on the original HomePod.
A weird Siri bug affects the music experience on HomePod mini.
That said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out an extremely odd bug that happened during my time testing the HomePod mini. For the better part of a week, asking Siri to play a specific album resulted in the album being played out of order as if it was being shuffled. But repeated tests showed albums being played in the same wrong order, every time. This happened regardless of whether I used Siri on the HomePod mini or my iPhone or iPad, so it appears to be a cloud-level issue.
The reviewer points out the drawbacks of the HomePod mini speaker instead of the New Echo or Nest Audio.
For starters, it’s much smaller than Amazon’s new Echo or Google’s Nest Audio. The simple matter of physics when it comes to sound reproduction doesn’t work in Apple’s favor. The HomePod mini also has less advanced speaker hardware: it includes a single full-range driver coupled with two passive radiators to increase bass presence.”
Check out some HomePod mini-review videos.