Apple HomePod Mini Review: The Smart Speaker Apple Needs

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“The HomePod mini is exactly what Apple needs to be a relevant player in the world of smart speakers”

  • Computer audio optimizes the experience

  • Clear highs and mids

  • Compact size makes it discreet

  • It’s the most affordable HomeKit home hub

  • Siri lacks the advanced intelligence of its peers

  • Short power cord

Apple rarely missed its products, especially during the dominant period that began with the release of the first-generation iPhone. Time and time again, the Cupertino, Calif.-Based company has taken it out of the ballpark, setting the bar in every product category it fits into. Products like the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and AirPods have all shown phenomenal appeal with consumers, but that doesn’t mean Apple is foolproof.

The HomePod is an example of one of those missed opportunities, and its failure has hampered Apple’s ambitious smart home efforts. The price was part of the problem – a top cost of $ 349 out of the doors made it a tough sell for the masses. Now, however, there seems to be some redemption with the HomePod mini. Even though Apple has gotten smaller with this iteration, don’t be fooled by its size, as this move has bigger implications that make it a formidable player in the smart home.

There’s no denying that Apple has something special with the HomePod mini, but there are several other awesome smart speakers to consider if you’re looking to purchase one.

Smaller is better

Gone is the cylindrical and imposing design of the original HomePod, replaced by a more subtle appearance thanks to its spherical shape. It’s adorned with the same mesh fabric as its predecessor – something I wasn’t too thrilled about because my cats considered it a scratching post. But thanks to its smaller size, it fits better in tighter, smaller spaces and away from cats’ reach. Eventually, I decided to place it on my entertainment center in the living room, where it didn’t overwhelm the rest of the business.

Apple HomePod mini smart speaker size comparison
John Velasco / Digital Trends

The HomePod mini has a backlit touchscreen cover. His animation of Siri listening and responding adds an elegant look to him, but he still can’t take my eyes off the Echo’s LED ring light. On the back is its power cord which ends with a USB-C connection. Surprisingly, it doesn’t appear that the cord itself is removable. Since the cord on the original HomePod could be pulled out with a bit of a pull, I thought the same would apply here – but it doesn’t appear to be. In addition to that, the length of the cord is quite short, which means that it should be placed near an outlet.

Don’t just buy one, buy two because this year’s HomePod mini won’t drain your wallet.

Apple’s decision to go small is an interesting one. You’d think its size makes it a rival to the Nest Mini and the Echo Dot, but it’s actually meant to compete in the mid-range class.

Computer audio at its best

If you like raw audio power, the original HomePod is the logical choice for you. You should stop now if that’s your only priority. This is because the performance of the HomePod mini will not be close to the raw power of the original. Where the HomePod mini really comes to life is in the way that compelling computer audio is able to analyze and tweak everything it plays.

Apple HomePod mini touch controls
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Specs-wise, the HomePod mini’s full-range speakerphone and dual passive radiators won’t make audiophiles drool too much. It’s actually the combination of Apple’s S5 chip and computer audio that delivers a tantalizing and compelling audio experience. The HomePod mini doesn’t disappoint for its size, producing wide mids and highs that aren’t drowned out by the lows. In fact, the emphasis on the mids and highs becomes even more evident when the volume is turned up – it never loses contact with them, and the bass never sounds tight.

If there’s one criticism I have about audio quality, it’s that the HomePod mini controls the audio setting. There is no way to personalize or adjust to my particular preferences. It’s not a deciding factor, but I would still appreciate some level of control over things like treble and bass.

John Velasco / Digital Trends

Back to my point on computer audio. This is most evident when I paired the HomePod mini with my Apple TV 4K to watch videos. Unlike my soundbar, which seems to favor sound effects and sheet music over dialogue, compute audio appropriately attenuates sheet music and sound effects whenever there is dialogue – so I can actually understand what people are saying. This kind of smart adjustment is also useful when serving ads, as my soundbar tends to turn up the volume while playing. With the HomePod mini, however, the volume remains consistent. If that is the purpose of computer audio, then I am all in.

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Play catch-up with the competition

First and foremost, the HomePod mini is the most affordable home hub for Apple HomeKit devices in the home. You need it so that your HomeKit devices can communicate with your requests when you are away, outside your home network. Previously, the only other alternatives were the more expensive Apple TV HD ($ 149), Apple TV 4K ($ 179), and the more expensive HomePod ($ 299). You can use an iPad as well, but I generally don’t recommend it because you want your home hub to sit still at home – so the iPad is the least qualified candidate in my opinion.

Siri still has a lot of catching up to do, reflecting the fact that she doesn’t have the accomplishments of her peers. Google Assistant continually amazes me for its intelligence, while that of Amazon Alexa can be replaced by a celebrity voice like Samuel L. Jackson. Siri isn’t quite as smart or as funny as the other two virtual assistants, but I really hope she makes up for it. For example, it pissed me off that Siri wouldn’t want to announce my dates for the day every time I ask. After some troubleshooting and enabling the personal requests option in the Home app, it worked like a charm. Remember to turn this option on, otherwise Siri won’t announce it on the HomePod mini.

Apple HomePod mini smart speaker size comparison
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Despite this, there are other features that I have found useful. Take the intercom feature which allows me to play an audio message on all my HomePod speakers connected in my apartment. It’s great when you don’t want to yell at someone else in the kitchen in another room that dinner is ready. There’s also the proximity controls, which allow me to transmit something I’m listening to on my iPhone to my HomePod mini – all while placing my iPhone above the HomePod mini’s touch surface. Transparent features that allow different gadgets to communicate with each other like this is what Apple is known for, and proximity controls are proof of that.

There is also the issue of application support. Currently, music listeners only have a handful of options for streaming from an iPhone to a HomePod mini. Apple Music and Pandora work like a charm, but many other third-party apps like YouTube Music are missing.

The HomePod mini is the speaker that Apple should have released first.

Over the past year, we’ve seen more and more HomeKit-enabled smart home devices ranging from smart locks to cameras. The lack of compatible devices has undeniably dampened consumers’ appeal to make Siri the virtual assistant of choice in the home, but things have gotten better. While Apple still trails Google and Amazon when it comes to the total number of supported devices, using HomeKit devices provides a higher degree of security and privacy.

Apple HomePod mini in hand
John Velasco / Digital Trends

This is the untold story you won’t hear too much about in smart home wars. Apple does not require its users to install a new app or register for an account to use these smart devices at home. All you need is to set them up through the Home app and that’s it.

Our catch

The HomePod mini is the speaker that Apple should have released first. The company would be in a much better position in the smart home market if that were the case. Regardless of that, its cost of $ 99 makes it an attractive offering that is better positioned to bring Siri home. Of course, it’s not as smart or as powerful as some of the other smart speakers, but it doesn’t need to be because its compute audio, subtle design, and HomeKit home hub functionality make it a choice. makes sense to many other Apple users. this time.

How long will it last?

Just like all Apple devices, the HomePod mini is solidly built. The mesh fabric should hold in place if it is not disturbed, but the fabric-like material is prone to staining if something spills lightly on it.

Apple offers a one-year limited warranty that covers defects, but you can also buy AppleCare + for the HomePod mini, which will effectively extend coverage for two years and cover two cases of accidental damage.

Is there a better alternative?

You bet. For the same cost, the Google Nest Audio has a massive presence in the audio department. Audiophiles will enjoy its resounding and more powerful audio performance, while the Amazon Echo (4th Generation) strikes a balance between design, performance and compatibility with other smart home devices.

Should you buy it?

Don’t just buy one, buy two because this year’s HomePod mini won’t drain your wallet. Plus, you’ll be amazed at what computer audio is capable of delivering if you’re a home theater lover.

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