Google Home Mini Review
What’s the Google Home Mini?
In regards to shifting smart speakers, Amazon is streets ahead of Google.
The Google Home came late to market; from the time it turned up, it did not just have to compete with the Amazon Echo — it also had to confront the much smaller and more economical Amazon Echo Dot. At $50, the Echo Dot has been a really simple sell — the perfect impulse buys or birthday gift and a gateway gadget for those taking their first steps into smart house technology.
And today, Google has finally decided to get in on the miniature smart speaker actions, with the introduction of the Google Home Mini.
- Good looks
- No 3.5mm or Bluetooth audio output
- No top touch controls besides quantity
- Review Cost: $50
- Google Assistant
- Chromecast compatible
- Smart home control
Google Home Mini: Design
It is immediately obvious that design is far more important to Google than it is to Amazon. While the Amazon Echo Dot is completely utilitarian, with observable grilles, buttons, and microphones, the Google Home Mini makes a good stab at looking fine.
There are no hard edges — what you get is a large Babybel wrapped in various colored fabrics. The only thing giving it away as a gadget is that the micro USB cable it needs for electricity, and the LEDs that glance through the cloth at the top once the unit is active.
Tucked away in the back is a little slider, which mutes the mic. It is a bit fiddly, however, and given it is in the back of the device, I wish it’d been just a button rather than a slider.
It might not seem like it, but despite the cloth end, the Google Home Mini has touch-sensitive controls. You tap the remaining device to turn down the volume; the best to turn up the volume.
The surface of the unit is supposed to be touch-sensitive, also, but it does not work anymore. Apparently, a mistake with the detector tricked some units into believing they were being touched when they were not, resulting in those devices permanently listening to commands. That’s terrible for solitude, and consequently, Google has permanently disabled the touch-sensitive top.
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That means that the only physical controls are volume, and you’re going to need to rely on your voice to play or pause or fast forward music. Not ideal.
Google Home Mini: Characteristics
The Google Home Mini can do pretty much everything the large Google Home can perform. It is possible, of course, just treat it like a Bluetooth speaker and use it to play tunes from your phone, but that would not be taking advantage of its potential.
It runs on Google Assistant, and you can use your voice to command it to perform a good deal of things. The simplest commands include setting alarms, making shopping lists and receiving weather reports. It becomes more interesting when you factor in smart house elements, such as Philips Hue lightbulbs and Hive thermostats. In addition, it can play music from lots of big-name services, like gGooglePlay Music, Spotify, and TuneIn.
There are several advantages and disadvantages to Google Assistant in comparison to Alexa, but essentially, it comes down to this: Google is somewhat smarter, but Alexa has better hardware support.
For basic searches, Google pulls information from its own search engine, while Alexa uses Bing. Google’s voice input signal is also more contextual and obviously conversational, while occasionally with Alexa it looks like you want specific commands to get what you would like.
However, third-party support is a great deal better for Alexa. Take Sonos, for example — the largest name in multiroom has selected to lean heavily on Alexa. You can use Alexa to control aged Sonos speakers, whereas the new Sonos One really has Alexa built right into it. Meanwhile, Google Assistant will not be appearing on this speaker until sometime next year.
Alexa also has the benefit of permitting you to select from four trigger words. You can not do this with Google Home, which is a shame since I find it rather unnatural having to say ‘OK Google’ or ‘Hey Google’.
One special trait of Google Assistant is that it works with Google’s present Chromecast ecosystem, which means it is possible to throw audio to compatible speakers. The Chromecast component also enables you to set up a multi-room system — if you buy multiple House or Home Mini device, you can use them to perform the same music throughout your home.
Google Assistant is also compatible with Android TV, which has Chromecast technology built in. That means that you can use your voice to begin your next Netflix binge.
All this Chromecast possible is nearly enough to balance out the lack of a 3.5millimeter Bluetooth or output, both of which appear on the Amazon Echo Dot. I get a kick from voice-commanding a suitable large hi-fi system, and the Google Home Mini just does not give you a simple means to do that.
Google Home Mini: Audio quality
Sound quality is not great, but that’s to be expected from a device this small. These mini smart speakers are not really intended for music, although functionality is fine for listening to the weather report.
The Google Home Mini is supposed to be a 360-degree speaker, but the operation is so feeble that I can not really imagine anyone crowding around it to listen. There’s barely any bass to speak of, and if you flip it up, it will not be long until you turn it down again from tiredness.
It is a marginally bigger sound than the Amazon Echo Dot, but at least that’s a 3.5mm headphone jack. Without that, or even the ability to match with a third party Bluetooth speaker, you’re unable to outsource the musical performance.
Yes, there are workarounds — you can find a Chromecast-compatible speaker, but they’re much rarer than Bluetooth ones. It is possible into plug a Chromecast Audio to a Bluetooth speaker and then throws that, but that’s just overly complicated. Make no mistake, this is an intelligent device initially and speaker second.
Why purchase the Google Home Mini?
If you would like to take your first step into the world of smart houses, and you want Google Assistant throughout your home, the Google Home Mini is a reasonable method of making that happen.
The Amazon Echo Dot is much more striking on the hardware front, however. It provides more physical controls, and its sound output means it can be easily be turned into part of a larger sound system.