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Google Home Mini Review: Brilliant Little Assistant Speaker
By Samuel Gibbs
Posted: October 29, 2017 3:53pm PDT

Google Home Mini is the company's new smart speaker that shrinks down all the intelligence into a cheaper, smaller package. The Home Mini joins last year's Home and the upcoming Home Max smart speakers housing the Google Assistant, the voice assistant housed in most Android smartphones that has access to your Google profile and its various bits of information.

What Is It?

Google Home Mini is a Wi-Fi-connected smart speaker that looks like a small fabric-covered pin cushion. It comes in a grey, black or coral with a color-matched plastic base and rubber foot to keep it from sliding about when you prod it.

There is a row of four LEDs in the top that light up when you speak to it or adjust the volume. They're simple and easy to understand, lighting up red when muted, but are difficult to see from across the room.

What Does It Do?

The Home Mini basically does everything the full-sized Google Home does, just in a smaller package with a much smaller speaker.

It'll answer questions, set timers and alarms, play music, read the news or information from the web, and control a relatively large collection of smart home devices such as Hue lights. It can also read out your next appointment if you've got your life plugged into Google services and give you traffic updates on your commute.

How Does It Work?

All you have to do once set up using the Google Home app on an Android or iOS device is say the wake words: “OK, Google” or the easier to say “Hey Google.” Assistant will then wait for your command or question.

Google Assistant is better than any other voice assistant at recognizing what you're trying to say, even if you've garbled the question.

Home Mini is capable of hearing you over fairly loud noises, such as the a cooker hood going full blast, but struggles a little when it is playing music at full volume. At volume level 10 you can hear it over the sound of a loud washing machine in the kitchen. I wouldn't call it room-filling sound but it's still fairly loud and clear when maxed out.

It won't replace a good Bluetooth or wireless speaker as there's no real bass and the treble can be a little harsh, but is much louder than Amazon's similar Echo Dot smart puck. I was quite impressed.

You can set the Home Mini to always play music out of a Google Cast-enabled speaker or the Chromecast Audio dongle, but cannot link it to a Bluetooth speaker. You can use the Home Mini as a Bluetooth speaker, however.

You can control the volume by asking for a particular level from zero to 10, asking Assistant to turn it up or down, or by tapping on the left or right side of the little puck.

Taps have to be more deliberate than for a smartphone screen, but it works fairly well. To mute the microphone you have to slide a switch on the back of the speaker which is a bit awkward and is easier if you just pick the thing up. You can't do it via voice anymore.

Observations

  • If two Google Home products can hear you, only the closest responds despite both activating
  • Alarms sound on one Home unit only if you have more than one
  • It comes with a microUSB power adapter
  • Google Assistant can ring your phone if you've lost it, even if you've got more than one linked to your Google account
  • Keeping the fabric dome clean will need a vacuum cleaner
  • There's no 3.5mm or Bluetooth audio output
  • You can control videos on a Chromecast or Cast-enabled TV
  • There's still no support for G Suite accounts, only personal Google accounts

Verdict

The Google Home Mini is all the functionality of a full-sized Google Home shrunk into a small fabric-covered pin cushion.

It doesn't sound as good, and isn't as loud, as the bigger Home, but sounds better and is louder than Amazon's Echo Dot.

It's a great little smart speaker giving access to a world of information through Google Assistant, while playing music and controlling the odd smart home device, if you're OK with the privacy implications of having a voice-controlled speaker in your home.

It works best if you're plugged into Google's ecosystem, but at £50 the Home Mini is a great little thing to have about the house.

Pros: full Google Assistant, relatively discreet, Bluetooth in, sounds decent for a small speaker, relatively loud, can hear you very well.

Cons: no 3.5mm jack or Bluetooth out, fabric could get dirty in a kitchen, LEDs a bit dim to see from across the room.


© 2017 Guardian Web. Syndicated here under contract with YellowBrix, Inc. All rights reserved.
 

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