As it stands, the HomePod mini feels like a catch-up device that doesn't bring anything new to the conversation. It was a unique device — instead of prioritizing an accessible price and smart assistant features, it was laser-focused on audio quality and considerably more expensive than its closest competitors from Amazon and Google, while being less capable as a smart speaker. (Given Spotify’s frequent lawsuits and criticism of Apple’s locked-down platforms, I wouldn’t hold my breath for it anytime soon.). I say “good” because, for its size, the HomePod mini sounds quite nice. 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. Apple will be expanding this with a new interface and more features for iPhones with the U1 chip (any model released in 2019 or later, except for the SE) in the future, but I wasn’t able to test that for this review. Setting up the mini requires an iPhone or iPad. Two passive radiators help to accentuate lower bass tones, but they shouldn’t be confused with the multiple active speakers that are in the Echo and Nest Audio. You need an iPhone or a Mac to do that. The new HomePod Mini … Either way, it’s nice to see Siri catch up to something that Alexa and the Google Assistant have offered for years. It won’t soundtrack a party, and it certainly doesn’t replace a proper sound system — but for its size, it is good. It sounds good but it's blown away by the larger HomePod. 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. We give you the scoop on what's new, what's best and how to make the most out of the products you love. For one, its namesake is one of the rare misses in the Tim Cook era. But right now, the only app that’s taken advantage of it is Pandora, and there’s no word when others, such as Spotify or YouTube Music, will hop on board. The HomePod Mini glows white while playing musicGearBrain. This is great if you plan to put the mini in the middle of a room, but realistically, it will be on a shelf or closer to a wall, where it has less of an impact. It doesn’t have the presence, volume, or sound stage of either, and it certainly can’t match the Echo’s bass output. The HomePod mini doesn’t support cross-platform audio streaming like Google Cast or Spotify Connect, so the only way to send audio to it from a device is via Apple’s AirPlay. The HomePod mini at least feels like it’s in the same ballpark as the rest. My home is equipped with dozens of smart devices and the only ones that Siri can talk to are one of my two August locks and my Hue lights. It can also act as a Home hub, which allows you to control your smart home devices with your iPhone from anywhere you have a data connection. Fast-forward to now and Apple’s new smart speaker, the $99 HomePod mini, takes a different approach. I ran into a number of weird bugs with Siri during my two weeks or so testing the HomePod mini. The HomePod mini is the small speaker of choice for music lovers, but only if you're deep in the Apple ecosystem, and don't need it to be TOO smart. While the HomePod mini is a much-needed, overdue entry to Apple’s product matrix, it’s unlikely to tempt anyone who isn’t already invested in Apple’s ecosystem. Just like the original, you can get it in light or dark gray, and it has a similar soft fabric. When I use the HomePod mini to place a call, neither myself nor the other party could hear anything until I transferred the call to my iPhone and then back to the HomePod. If you have an original in your living room, you can put the mini in various other places in your home without having to invest as much money or take up as much shelf space. You can have it sent to a specific HomePod or blast it to all of the HomePods in the home as an announcement. Apple has shown that it’s willing to improve things and listen to feedback when it comes to smart speakers, so I’ll be interested to see how it continues to develop. Macworld |. The HomePod mini has four microphones for picking up voice commands, but it does not have the room-tuning capabilities the original HomePod has. In fact, it’s even smaller than the … But overall, I feel Apple fell short with HomePod Mini. But you’ll really only be getting 180-degree sound since your HomePod mini will almost certainly be positioned against a wall. While Siri has gotten better, it’s still the HomePod mini’s Achilles’ heel — well, that and the fact that you still need to be fully embedded in Apple’s ecosystem to get the most out of it. See our ethics statement. Compounding things is the other end of the cord. The bass that’s there can be heard but not felt. You can usually find him with his nose buried in a screen. The HomePod mini's cord is very inflexible. It does most of the things you expect a smart speaker to do and sounds good when doing them. So, you won’t be able to ask Siri to change the temperature on your Nest Thermostat, or talk to the person who just rang your Ring Doorbell, or control the lamp plugged into a Kasa Smart Plug. So it sounds good, but I can’t say the HomePod mini sounds great. Where the original HomePod shakes the room with deep low-end tones that border on excessive, the HomePod mini puts a much greater emphasis on upper mid and presence ranges so songs sound more trebly than they should. It doesn’t play games other than simple things like flipping a coin. It reminds me of a scented candle or an upside-down Magic-8 Ball wrapped in mesh. Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac. Unless you’re right next to the HomePod mini, it’s hard to tell when Siri has heard your voice command and is responding. But the rest of the smart speaker world has obviously not stood still, and Amazon and Google have released the most compelling options in their respective lineups this year. But is it worth it to get the HomePod Mini, or should you get a cheaper smart speaker instead? Apple HomePod mini review: Verdict It isn’t as great-sounding as the HomePod, of course, but it’s not much more than a third of the price. 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. Back in 2018, my colleague Nilay Patel rightly pointed out that the state of Siri on the original HomePod can be summed up by the fact that it cannot handle multiple timers. The HomePod Mini might be small but the sound is mighty. More on that in a minute. None of this is a problem if you’re fully bought into Apple’s world, but the reality is that few individuals (and, by extension, families) are. Also new for either HomePod is an intercom feature that lets you broadcast messages from a HomePod to another HomePod or Apple device. HomePod Mini beats them both for clarity but right now, with Christmas specials, the Nest Mini is a … With the first HomePod, Apple prioritized sound quality above all else. But knowing how well the HomePod sounds, how cheap the Echo Dot and Nest Mini are, and how little Siri does compared to the other assistants, it’s hard to give it a better than an average grade. But while you can obviously adjust the volume, you're stuck with the sound. While Apple has opened up the HomePod software to work with other music services by default, only Pandora is supported for now, but Amazon Music, Spotify, and others should be on the way. It’s effectively sending recorded audio messages to the devices instead of opening a live audio. As a result, it has just one speaker: a downward-firing full-range driver that is designed to evenly spread sound in all directions. That’s a shame because the HomePod mini really wants to be portable, and not just because of its size. After months of rumors and speculation, Apple on Tuesday announced a new, smaller smart speaker called the HomePod Mini at its iPhone … Two HomePod minis can be paired in a stereo configuration, but that doesn’t dramatically increase the amount of volume you get, and it does nothing for improving bass or punch. You can also run Siri Shortcuts from the HomePod, provided you’ve gone through the legwork to program them on your iPhone. But while Siri’s smarts have gotten better in iOS 14 with features like audio handoff, intercom, and personalized daily updates, it’s still nowhere near as smart and effortless as Alexa or Google Assistant. Correction: An earlier version of this review said it wasn’t possible to use third-party apps as default sources for podcasts or audiobooks. The HomePod mini’s 360-sound works as advertised, too. You are stuck with what it does out of the box. By choosing I Accept, you consent to our use of cookies and other tracking technologies. It looks great, and it’s so small you want to pick it up and take it with you. After Apple released the HomePod Mini for only $99, it has become a more viable option. In fact, I’d go even further: everyone in your home really needs to be using iPhones and Apple services to make the HomePod mini worth buying. It also provides an escape from some of the privacy concerns and baggage that come with the Echo or Nest smart speakers, including the increasingly common ads that show up in Alexa’s responses. Siri has gotten other improvements over the years as well. You can even intercom using Siri from your phone or Apple Watch to broadcast messages to anyone that is at home. It’s also very light, and while a battery would easily double or triple its weight, it would still likely be less than two pounds with a five- or six-hour battery. Asking the HomePod mini to place a phone call, read messages, or give you calendar updates requires you to use an iPhone. To learn more or opt-out, read our Cookie Policy. Add a MagSafe dock for quick and easy charging and you’ve got one of the best Bluetooth speakers on the market. Music. I’m happy to say that the HomePod mini can support multiple timers, and you can even label them now. If sound quality is your top priority in a smart speaker, and you don’t mind paying for it, the HomePod Mini blows competitors like the Echo Dot out of the water. And it outdoes other speakers for the price … It's also missing an easy way to turn off the microphone outside the app. It’s impossible for us to read and analyze every single one of these agreements. Like the larger HomePod, the mini has a permanently attached power cord, though this time, it ends in a USB-C port. And compared to the equally priced Echo and Nest Audio, the HomePod mini struggles to keep up in both sound quality and features. If you plug the HomePod mini into a power adapter that's less than 20W, you'll get an ominous orange glow. As a speaker, the sound coming from the HomePod Mini is good. The HomePod Mini sounds fantastic as a TV speaker. Even if you can magically position it in a place where people can walk around, that 360-degree sound is markedly different than the original HomePod’s spatial awareness. Apple has proven its ability to excel in audio, whether it's the Air Pods Pro, or the original HomePod. If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. You have to either ask Siri to “stop listening” or dive into the HomePod settings in the Home app in iOS to toggle the feature, a slow and clumsy process. Siri can also do a bunch of things with Apple’s apps, such as notes, calendar, reminders, and Maps, and some limited actions with third-party apps that have added support for SiriKit commands. Hey Siri! A custom full-range driver and dual force-cancelling passive radiators ensure that the audio is rich and warm and has a punchy bass. The HomePod mini is the compact, good-sounding smart speaker for Apple aficionados. The HomePod Mini is Apple's 'cheap' speaker - it sounds amazing, but Siri still needs work. If you’re looking for an everyday music player, weather forecaster, simple question answerer, and light switch, it’ll work a bit better than one of the super-low-priced alternatives, especially if you’re already invested in the Apple universe. Since Apple still doesn’t offer a proper equalizer for the HomePod, there isn’t anything you can do about the levels unless you’re using it as an AirPlay speaker, and even then, you’re extremely limited. One big selling point: you don't have to worry about Apple's speakers spying on you, as Apple has a different … But we’re going to start counting exactly how many times you have to hit “agree” to use devices when we review them since these are agreements most people don’t read and definitely can’t negotiate. Apple’s newest smart speaker is way more affordable but still chasing Amazon and Google. Apple has made some small strides toward allowing the HomePod to directly play music, podcasts, and audiobooks from sources other than Apple Music, and there’s now an API that apps can tap into to become the default option on the HomePod. The HomePod Mini (left) and Echo Dot might be the same size, but their sound isn't. That’s why both Amazon and Google switched to more directional speaker designs this year, after years of using 360-degree speakers. It’s smaller, simpler, and way less expensive than its bigger sibling, and thanks to Apple’s work on Siri over the past few years, it can actually do more than the original when it launched. But it probably won’t make as much noise as Apple hopes it will. Some of these bugs, such as the Apple Music one, were resolved during my testing period or didn’t happen every time. That said, it's quite loud for its size and shouldn't struggle to fill up any but the largest of rooms. There’s also no physical switch to disable Siri’s always-listening feature. Apple HomePod Mini review: an almost perfect smart speaker After big brother failed to take the world by storm, Apple’s dinky new smart speaker sibling makes a much bigger impact By … Michael Simon covers all things mobile for PCWorld and Macworld. That’s a hard claim to dispute, but I can tell you two things: the original HomePod sounds much better than the mini, and the HomePod mini sounds better than an Echo Dot. Update, Nov. 12: Read our HomePod Mini review. (Smart home nerds will remember Thread as the standard that Google originally pushed and adopted by Eero routers before effectively stalling and going nowhere for years.) It’s fine for letting the family know you’re on the way home from the grocery store or telling the kids it’s time for dinner from another floor of the house, but I didn’t find it particularly necessary in my home. Mini-Review of the HomePod Mini I can walk around the speaker, and the sound of the music just doesn’t change. Please also read our Privacy Notice and Terms of Use, which became effective December 20, 2019. That said, Apple’s new speaker is a solid entry at a good price, but you should wait until the inevitable sales start hitting Best Buy and Walmart. Here is our review of the HomePod Mini, and the best features and biggest failures you’ll get with Apple’s newest smart speaker. The HomePod mini’s light-up panel is harder to see than the Echo’s light ring In my testing, I’ve found this light-up panel to be harder to see from across the room than the Echo’s glowing … The HomePod Mini is a surprisingly good speaker. Like the new Amazon Echo Dot, the HomePod mini is a convenient little softball that can be set up almost anywhere. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to improve that, either. The best way to yell at him is on Twitter. The HomePod mini's screen is very nice but you won't see it unless you're above it. Where the larger HomePod “analyzes the acoustics and adjusts the sound based on its location … so the entire space is filled with rich, well-defined tones,” the smaller HomePod only promises to “sound amazing from every angle.”. One of its main features is 360‑degree audio “that sounds amazing from every angle,” which would be far more useful if you could put the HomePod mini in the middle of a room. Where Apple's other mini products were geared toward switchers put off by the high prices of those product’s respective siblings, the HomePod mini is merely the speaker Apple should have released first. At $100, compared to the original HomePod’s $350 launch price, the mini is priced low enough that you can envision buying more than one and spreading them throughout your home. A new feature as of software version 14.2 is the ability to give you an itinerary at the start of your day, including a weather report, upcoming appointments, commute traffic, and a news blurb from NPR. 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. At $99, the HomePod mini is probably cheap enough to succeed. 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. I want an equalizer for the HomePod, but I feel like I need one for the HomePod mini, especially when listening to bass-heavy rap or pop music. As a result, the HomePod didn’t really take off. It seems as though Apple is setting HomePod mini up for GoPod. 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