Smart speakers are rising in popularity and there are plenty to choose from in the market right now from Amazon, Google, Sonos and Apple.
It was 2018 when Apple released its answer to the home smart speaker – HomePod. It had a focus on quality music and sound as well as the inclusion of the company’s smart assistant, Siri.
Fast forward to 2020 and Apple has released HomePod mini. But how does it compare to Alexa and Nest devices?
Apple HomePod Mini: How do I get it and what will it cost?
HomePod Mini is available in two colours – white and space grey for $149 from the Apple Store as well as Apple Authorised Resellers like Harvey Norman.
Apple HomePod Mini: Who is it good for?
If you’re already well invested in Apple’s product ecosystem then these are the speakers to get. They’ll play nicely with ‘everything Apple’, making it a breeze to set up and connect. That’s always the positive thing about what the Cupertino tech giant offers.
However, that also means that HomePod Mini is also only compatible with Apple products running iOS, iPadOS or the MacOS including iPhone SE, iPhone 6s or later, or iPod touch (7th generation) running iOS 14; or iPad Pro, iPad (5th generation or later), iPad Air 2 or later, or iPad mini 4 or later running iPadOS 14.
So if you have an Android phone or tablet, you won’t be able to set the HomePod up. So keep a note of that.
Apple HomePod Mini: Design
As the name implies, the HomePod Mini is small in size. It’s actually a little bit smaller than the newly released fourth generation Amazon Echo Dot.
There are two colours; white and space grey. I tested the white model that had no issue blending in quite nicely with the existing decor of my home. It’s wrapped in a fabric mesh that allows for better acoustics and looks very stylish.
There are no physical buttons on the speaker, and that’s where the HomePod Mini stands out against the competition. Another is the glass panel at the very top of the speaker that displays a swirling coloured orb when Siri is waiting for your command, and a smaller white orb when listening to music.
It just makes the HomePod Mini more attractive than the LED lights or strip lighting that come with other products on the market.
Controls are also within the top glass panel where you can play, pause and resume music or podcasts and skip back and forward through a playlist. But you can also control the HomePod Mini through your iPhone or iPad too.
Unlike other smart speakers, the power adapter cannot be removed either – which could be a good or bad thing if you’re trying to place the device in tricky areas that does have a lot of room to move cables around. However, the other end is a USB-C plug that connects into a power adapter so it’s not that difficult to do this if you need.
Apple HomePod Mini review: The day-to-day
One of the first things I noticed when playing some tunes on the HomePod Mini is just how great the sound is for such a small gadget. During testing out the speaker, even at high volume (higher than you’d probably ever use the device at), the sound was extremely clean and clear. There was also a pleasing amount of bass, which is surprising for a small speaker.
It’s clear that sound quality was a big focus when it came to the gadget. Adding in a second HomePod Mini and you instantly get better stereo separation, and this sounds amazing. It will fill any room with increased clarity and bass.
Calling upon Siri is also flawless, even when there is noise or loud music playing in the background.
Apple seems to have also done something that Google and Amazon both haven’t solved yet, and that is working out which smart speaker you’re actually talking to when it comes to the assistant. Without fail, Siri was able to respond to the correct HomePod when multiple devices were placed in rooms close together. On this same test, the Echo and Nest Audio would trigger the wrong speaker on numerous occasions.
Another trick that HomePod Mini has is the ability to control HomeKit-compatible devices that are already around your home. I was able to hook Siri up to my Christmas tree lights and set on and off times. When you have multiple HomePod devices, there’s also the ‘announcements’ function that can be used to broadcast a message to other rooms – much like an intercom.
One of my favourite functions of HomePod Mini is discovering new music that I may not have heard before by telling Siri to “play something I’ll like”. While most other smart speakers will default to songs that I’ve listened to over and over again, Siri does this differently by finding music that is within genres of music I tend to listen to most.
However, there isn’t a lot of third-party services support for things like Spotify and, dare I say it, YouTube Music (which I get bundled in with my YouTube subscription – so it would be nice to be able to use it). It does mean that you need to be already within the Apple ecosystem in order to get the best use out of HomePod Mini, including Apple Music.
In saying that, I was able to use AirPlay 2 to stream music onto HomePod Mini from both services, but they are just not as integrated as I would like to see. But if you’re already subscribed to Apple Music, you’ll be more than happy with how the smart speaker performs in this regard.
Apple HomePod Mini review: Standout feature
What is the best feature that this device is touting? How does it set itself apart from the competition? How does it live up to the promise?
What’s to like?
- Compact size
- Fantastic sound
- Siri is getting smarter and faster
- Multi-room and speaker grouping
- Smart home controls
- Great for listening to music
- Stereo pairing works flawlessly and sounds great
What’s not to like?
- Limited third-party controls outside of Apple ecosystem
Apple HomePod Mini review: What we think
HomePod Mini is finally the smart speaker that many have been waiting on, especially in terms of the lower cost compared to its big brother.
This is a very impressive device, considering its small size. Audio quality is nothing short of fantastic and nothing else on the market in this price range right now comes close.
There is the lack of support for some third-party providers but at the end of the day if you’re already on Apple Music – which most people with iPhones do have – it’s not a deal-breaker.
Apple provided this publisher with a loan device for testing purposes. This did not affect our views on the device, and our review remains independent of the manufacturer.