29/11/2017 – 3:39pm
Google Home is basically Google’s first, proper Smart Home device. It is the building block on which a new type of market will be built. Amazon kicked things off a few years ago with Alexa and its Echo device, but now everybody else – Apple included – is getting in on the action.
You can read our Google Home review here, for a more detailed breakdown of the flagship Google Home device. I quite like Google Home. I use it most days and, for the most part, the sound quality is decent enough, providing you use it in a smallish room.
The Google Home Mini is a different kind of beast altogether, though, as it is smaller, more portable, and is designed, I think, for even smaller rooms – places like your bathroom, bedroom, or a reading nook or similar.
You probably know all about this device already, so let’s cut the preamble and get straight into the review.
Google Home Mini Review – Design
I actually really like the way Google Home Mini looks. It sort of looks like a furry hockey puck. The design language is “very Google” in several elements, the material that coats the speaker, for instance, being carried over from the larger Google Home. On the Mini the speaker is at the top, while on the larger model it sits at the bottom.
The device itself, as the name suggests, is proper dinky – I mean, like you-could-definitely-lose-it dinky. My fiancé absolutely loves the way it looks and how it functions, so much so that she has now stolen it from me and installed it in her office.
Overall, it is a very tidy little package. This applies to the packaging as well, which a lot of thought, care and attention has clearly gone into. There really isn’t much to it; just the unit itself, a cable to power it, and that, as they say, is that.
Setup is super simple too; just download the Google Home app for your Android phone and set it up from there. It takes less than two minutes and is about as painless as could be. Once you’ve done that, and connected some applications, Spotify, for instance, you’re good to go.
Google Home Mini Review – What It Can Do
Loads of stuff. And thanks to Google taking these products very seriously, they’re getting better and better as the months pass, learning new stuff, getting more features, and, generally speaking, just being smarter and more useful.
You can order an Uber via Google Assistant, get the time, check your emails, organise your schedule, set reminders, get it to read things to you, listen to music, order things – basically tons of stuff. The best way of getting to grips with it, however, is to simply just try things.
When I tested Google Home a while back, the unit was fairly decent, but since then Google has added in lots of new capabilities. And the new stuff just keeps on coming, though I REALLY wish they’d hurry up and add in voice call support for the UK.
You can also get it to send things to your Chromecast, so, if you have it in the living room, or you can shout really loud if it’s upstairs, the Google Home Mini will let you talk to your TV. The voice recognition is also scarily good as well.
Google Assistant, the software that powers Google Home Mini, also integrates with a myriad of third-party smart home appliances, so you can, if you have things like smart lightbulbs and the like, effectively talk to your home.
Google Home Mini Review – Does The Sound Quality Suck?
Sadly, it’s not great. Even when compared to Google Home, which wasn’t all that good to begin with. But, for smaller rooms, like a study or an office, it is more than adequate.
It ain’t going to replace your Sonos anytime soon, and most music played through it sounds pretty thin and lifeless. For podcasts and audiobooks it’s fine, ditto for things like queries and getting answers, just don’t go buying one of these, expecting it to replace your HiFi because, well… it won’t.
Google Home Mini Review – Things I Like…
I like the way it looks. I like the way it blends into any room you put it in, and I really like how simple it is to set up. Google Assistant’s voice recognition skills are immense, and so too are its abilities – it actually has loads of meaningful and useful features.
And the best part is that, because it is software, it will only get better, more feature-rich, and more useful as time passes by. You could buy this now and still be running it in 2020, only then it’ll probably be driving your car and doing your taxes as well.
The integration with Google’s additional services and products (Chromecast, for instance) is brilliant. Everything just works. And if you’re already invested in the ecosystem, the Google Home and Google Home Mini are really nice additions, acting like the glue that brings things together.
Google Home Mini Review – Things I Don’t Like…
The sound quality when listening to music is pretty crap. But from a device this size, that’s kind of always going to be the case. For everything else, however, it’s more than adequate.
If sound quality is important to you, and you’re looking at something to actually replace an existing HiFi, you’re probably best off looking at something like the Sonos One, which has awesome sound quality and features Amazon’s Alexa inside it.
Or, get the bigger Google Home.
Google Home Mini Review – Verdict
For the price, it’s pretty much impossible not to like the Google Home Mini. It’s a smart piece of technology that delivers tons of value. If you’re interested in dipping your toe in the pool that is AI, this is probably the best place to start.
Is it better than Amazon’s Dot? Honestly, I think it is – but I actually prefer Google Assistant to Amazon’s Alexa. This is a personal preference, however, so your opinion may differ. It basically all depends on what you’re using right now and what you like to do with these types of devices.
I’m very much integrated into the Google ecosystem, so using Google Home makes more sense for me. If you’re on the fence, it might be worth shopping around a bit before you pull the trigger on a purchase. Apple’s HomePod is launching in Q1 2018 as well, so you do have plenty of options.
For me, though, Google Assistant is very much where it’s at right now.
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