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Erika Rawes / Lifewire
New round design
Excellent sound quality
Great voice recognition
Integrates well with iPhone
USB-C power connection
Emphasis on privacy
Expensive for a mini speaker
Fewer smart home partners
Power cable doesn’t detach from speaker
No 3.5 mm jack
The new HomePod Mini makes Apple more of a contender in the smart home arena, but it offers more utility as an iPhone accessory than as a smart home hub for its $100 price tag.
We purchased the Apple Homepod Mini so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
Apple has been a bit behind Google Nest and Amazon in terms of its smart speaker releases. The brand introduced the regular-sized HomePod in early 2018 as a competitor to Amazon’s Echo, but Apple didn’t have a mini speaker to compete with the Echo Dot until now. Apple just released the HomePod Mini, a small round smart speaker that houses Siri as its voice assistant. At $99, the HomePod Mini is pricier than the competing Nest Mini and the Echo Dot, which both sell for $50.
Is the HomePod Mini worth the investment, considering it’s double the price of other mini smart speakers? What’s different about the HomePod Mini that makes it deserving of this higher price point? I tested the HomePod Mini for 24 hours to find out, examining its design, setup process, sound quality, voice recognition, and features.
At first glance, the HomePod Mini has a similar look to the newest Echo Dot. It has a spherical shape, and an all-grille design made of eco-friendly materials. The HomePod Mini is slightly smaller than the Dot though, clocking in at 3.9 inches in diameter and 3.3 inches tall (compared to 3.94 x 3.53 inches for the Dot). The HomePod Mini’s grille also has larger holes, so it looks more like an actual speaker than some of its competitors.
Apple’s Mini speaker only comes in two color options—white or space gray. However, the top portion of the speaker has a flat surface that lights up in rainbow colors when you address Siri, making the speaker look more interesting. Touch controls sit on the top flat surface, and you can play, pause, skip, or address Siri with a series of taps. There are also plus and minus buttons for adjusting the volume.
The HomePod Mini doesn’t have any ports whatsoever—no 3.5 mm jack—and even its power cord is permanently attached. However, the power supply connects to the brick via USB-C, which makes it easier to find a replacement power source. This is in contrast to the Nest Mini, which has a proprietary power supply. I also like the rubberized base on the HomePod Mini, which prevents the device from sliding around on the table. There’s no mounting holes, but the speaker’s shape doesn’t really support mounting, so I wasn’t too disappointed at the lack of a keyhole mount.
Apple gained its vast user base by offering user-friendliness, clean and intuitive interfaces, and good build quality. The HomePod Mini fits right in.
The HomePod Mini has one of the easiest setup processes I’ve ever experienced. Just plug the speaker in, move your iPhone close to the HomePod Mini, and your mobile device will pick up the speaker’s presence (provided you have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned on). After that, it gives a photo window where you scan the top of the HomePod Mini.
Once I placed the flat rainbow surface in the photo window, my phone began the setup process. I just followed a few prompts, and I had the speaker completely up and running in less than five minutes. I didn’t even have to connect to Apple Music, as it was already ready to go.
The HomePod Mini will work with most modern Apple mobile devices, including the iPhone SE, the iPhone 6s (or later), the iPod touch (7th generation with the latest iOS), the iPad Pro, the regular iPad (5th generation or later), the iPad Air (2 or later) and the iPad mini (4 or later with the latest iPadOS). I connected the HomePod Mini to an iPhone XR.
Many users listen to music on their smart speakers, so sound quality is key for these devices. The HomePod Mini sounds good, I’d even go as far as to say it sounds great, but it just doesn’t sound as loud or as powerful as other $100 speakers like the Echo (4th Gen) or the Nest Audio.
Under its hood, the HomePod Mini has a full-range driver powered by a neonadium magnet and dual passive radiators to help control force and airflow. It doesn’t have a dedicated woofer, but audio hardware isn’t the only thing the Mini has going for it when it comes to sound quality.
The Mini has Apple’s S5 chip, which allows tuning software to work harmoniously with the content in real-time to produce the best possible results. It can adjust everything from driver and passive radiator movement to volume, making each song sound its best. And, the HomePod Mini has exceptionally clean sound, with enough bass and even tones.
Siri can pick up your voice from a pretty significant distance—about 20 feet before you have to raise your voice.
I listened to my go-to test songs on the HomePod Mini: “Chains” by Nick Jonas, “Titanium” by David Guetta featuring Sia, and “Comedown” by Bush. These three songs from different time periods and genres have a good combination of bass, mids, and high tones, so I listen to them on every speaker I test. I also played a song my teenage kids suggested (“Dynamite” by BTS), as well as a few hip hop songs from artists like Chance the Rapper and Eminem. With every song I played, the audio quality and clarity were comparable to what I’d expect from a pair of high-end headphones.
The problem with the HomePod Mini is that it’s not headphones, but rather a loudspeaker designed for more than one person to listen to. Sure, the quality is top-notch, but the tiny speaker simply doesn’t have enough power to overpower a room filled with people. It will, however, serve well as a speaker for jamming out while cleaning or listening to tunes when you have a few friends over.
Erika Rawes Lifewire
Siri can pick up your voice from a pretty significant distance—about 20 feet before you have to raise your voice. Even in the face of background noises like TV noises, conversation, or music, Siri can still hear the wake word. If I just say the wake word and don’t provide a command, she’ll respond with something like “uh-huh,” to try to engage an interaction. The HomePod Mini has a four-mic array, and it uses three of those mics to listen for its wake word, and one mic for noise cancellation, which helps it tell the difference between its own music and voice commands.
When I placed the latest Echo Dot next to the HomePod Mini, the Mini could hear my commands at a much greater distance than the Echo Dot. Of course, Siri has a sense of humor too. On some occasions, when I’d say “Alexa” too quickly after saying “Hey Siri,” Siri would respond with a witty remark like “wow, awkward.”
This is a speaker for those who want an ultra-convenient and easy to use smart speaker that acts as an extension of their Apple mobile device.
You can do a lot with the HomePod Mini: create texts using your voice, make calls, find your phone, search the web, or use several HomePod Minis as intercoms throughout your house. You can pair two HomePod Minis for stereo sound. But, one of the coolest features is the ability to seamlessly send audio from your phone to the Mini. If you’re listening to your playlist or a podcast on your phone, you can transfer it to the HomePod Mini instantly.
Apple placed a lot of emphasis on privacy too. The questions you ask Siri aren’t associated with your Apple ID, they’re not trying to sell you stuff through personalized ads, and messages and notes aren’t shared with Apple.
Apple loaded a lot of smart tech into the tiny version of the HomePod as well. In addition to its S5 chip, the Mini also supports the Thread protocol, so devices can communicate with one another (this feature will likely be more useful in the future). Even still, you can voice-control compatible smart home devices with Siri, although HomeKit doesn’t have as many compatible smart home partners as Google Nest or Amazon.
The HomePod Mini sounds good, I’d even go as far as to say it sounds great, but it just doesn’t sound as loud or as powerful as other $100 speakers like the Echo (4th Gen) or the Nest Audio.
The HomePod Mini’s $99 price point sounds like a lot when you compare it to the $50 Echo Dot or Nest Mini, and it feels overpriced when you compare it to larger speakers like the Echo (4th Gen) or Nest Audio. It doesn’t play music as loudly as other $100 smart speakers, nor does it control as many smart home devices, but it’s carved out its own niche in another area. This is a speaker for those who want an ultra-convenient and easy to use smart speaker that acts as an extension of their Apple mobile device. Apple gained its vast user base by offering user-friendliness, clean and intuitive interfaces, and good build quality. The HomePod Mini fits right in.
The Echo Dot is the better speaker for those who prioritize smart home control. Alexa is compatible with most smart home devices, and the Alexa app makes it so easy to create routines that make home automation a cinch. The downsides to the Dot are that it isn’t as smart as the HomePod Mini, it doesn’t work as seamlessly with Apple mobile devices, and it doesn’t natively provide the level of privacy that you get with the HomePod Mini. You can make an Echo Dot more private and secure, but it requires action on the part of the user (deleting voice recordings and changing settings), where Apple makes privacy a bit more automatic.
Absolutely effortless smart speaker and music player.
An extension of your Apple device, you’re paying more for the ease of use and overall quality the HomePod Mini offers, but it won’t let you down in terms of features or audio quality. That said, it does cost more than other compact smart speakers on the market and doesn’t have as extensive of a smart home ecosystem.
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