Apple HomePod Mini Evaluate: Smaller, Smarter, and Cheaper

Apple HomePod Mini review (Image: APPLE)

If you’re looking for one of the best sounding smart speakers money can buy, Apple’s HomePod is hands down the top of the list. Since the introduction of this intelligent music maker in 2018, it has impressed audio fans with a superior music quality. While it sounds pretty epic, one of the problems for the HomePod is that it’s just too expensive, especially when compared to the Amazon Echo and Google Nest devices, which can be purchased at a fraction of the cost and often have more smart boot features .

The fact that you can win one of these competitors for such a cheap price has given these devices a huge edge with Alexa and Google, but Apple is now trying to fight back with the introduction of its new and much cheaper HomePod mini.

This spherical boom box will hit stores next week and is packed with features and priced at under £ 100. This makes it much cheaper. So is it good, and can this newest speaker spoil the dominance of Amazon Echo and Google Audio?

Express.co.uk has tried the HomePod mini for the past few weeks and here is our full review.

If you’re a huge Apple fan and already have an iPhone, Apple Watch, iCloud account, and Apple Music subscription, the first thing you should know is how ridiculously easy the HomePod mini is to set up.

Apple HomePod Mini review

Apple uses clever technology in the Mini to improve its audio capabilities (Image: APPLE)

Plug it in, hold your phone near the speaker, and Apple does the rest. The pairing process even connects the speaker to your home WiFi and logs into your Apple accounts without hitting a single button have to press.

It really is very impressive and means you can go from delivery to playlist creation in seconds. Once it’s up and running, the next thing you’ll see is how good this mini speaker sounds.

Despite its small size of 3.3 inches, Apple’s audio team once again worked wonders with this HomePod speaker, following in the footsteps of the standard model with a device that offers a lot of clout.

Obviously, this mini version doesn’t offer quite the same levels of wall-shaking bass, but it easily fills an average-sized room with sound.

Apple HomePod Mini review

The Apple HomePod mini looks great and has simple controls on the top of the speaker (Image: APPLE)

Apple HomePod Mini review

Apple HomePod Mini review (Image: APPLE)

When the volume is pumped to the maximum there is little distortion, and we were pretty impressed with how good this speaker sounds compared to larger devices. According to Apple, this was all achieved through a clever acoustic waveguide that directs sound down and down onto the HomePod mini for a consistent 360-degree experience.

Apple also built in their clever S5 chip which can basically monitor what’s playing on the device and adjust that sound accordingly.

Apple even boasts that the S5 can apply complex tuning algorithms – over 180 times per second – to understand the unique properties of audio. The S5 can optimize the volume, adjust the dynamic range and predict the movement of the driver and the passive radiators in real time.

Of course, we can’t test the number of optimization algorithms per second … but we can only tell you that the HomePod Mini is well above its weight. Listening to songs on Apple Music, radio, or podcasts sounds a lot better than you’d expect from something this small.

When there’s not enough oomph, pair two HomePod mini speakers together for room-filling sound in stereo. Just like with setup, pairing two HomePod minis is very easy and very effective.

Apple HomePod Mini review

It’s easy to set up and the HomePod is seamlessly connected to all other devices (Image: APPLE)

Apple HomePod Mini review

Apple HomePod Mini review (Image: APPLE)

Aside from the actual audio, we also really like the look of the HomePod mini. The really cute mesh design fits perfectly on a bookshelf or kitchen countertop and doesn’t look out of place in style-conscious homes.

There are also simple controls on top of the Mini that allow you to pause / skip tracks, increase or decrease the volume, and call the Siri assistant. Of course, this is a smart speaker, so if you want to get the most out of your new purchase, you’ll have to say Siri’s name a lot.

There is no question that Apple has improved its smart features as Siri is now able to handle almost anything you ask of it. You can play your favorite playlists, check the weather, get news reports, set timers, and control things like volume with simple commands.

If you have an iCloud account, you can also set reminders or calendar entries that will be instantly synced to your iPhone, iPad or Mac. You can also create shopping lists, make calls and send iMessages without touching your phone, and there’s even a new intercom option that lets you take family out for tea without yelling up the stairs. It all works very well.

Siri even recognizes voices, which means it can provide better answers to different members of the household.

This is all pretty normal, however – and Alexa and Google Assistant have been able to handle all of these voice commands for years. And while Apple caught up with Siri, the Google Assistant has gotten much, much smarter.

Apple HomePod Mini review

The HomePod mini can be connected for stereo pairing (Image: APPLE)

Apple HomePod Mini review

The new intercom function is a nice upgrade (Image: APPLE)

When Siri asked for train times, he couldn’t answer, and the phone numbers of the local restaurants or our doctor’s office also made the Apple voice assistant stutter and prompt us to check the internet instead. Not ideal.

When the Google Assistant asked the same questions on the Nest Mini, the chatty AI was able to provide pinpoint answers – and even add some extra information, such as: B. the time it would take our next train to reach central London. So it’s clear that there is still some work to be done before the HomePod can match the US search engine performance.

The fact that the HomePod mini isn’t quite as smart as the other smart speakers on the marker is annoying for those who pay a premium for the Apple-branded kit, but it has a bigger problem for users in the UK.

One of our biggest problems with the original HomePod is that it couldn’t access BBC radio stations. Two years after the HomePod launched, this problem still lingers on the Mini.

If you say “Play Radio 2” to your HomePod, you receive nothing in return. Siri apologizes for “I can’t play this radio station”.

This remains a huge downside for anyone enjoying the BBC with their morning coffee, and it’s something that needs to be addressed, especially considering how many people tune into these channels on a daily basis.

Of course, there are other radio stations that you can listen to as well. When you subscribe to Apple Music, HomePod can keep you entertained all day and late into the night with curated music, podcasts, and personalized recommendations. However, it’s disappointing to see that some of the most popular channels weren’t supported on the HomePod in the past two years. Both Google and Amazon smart speakers support BBC out of the box.

Apple HomePod Mini Review: Final Verdict

The HomePod mini is a great little smart speaker with audio that is well above its weight given its small size. When you connect two HomePod mini speakers together in stereo mode, the sound is more than good enough to carry your favorite songs through.

It looks great, and the easy setup for iPhone owners makes it a breeze to install in your home. Since the introduction of the original HomePod, Siri has definitely gotten a little smarter, and the seamless link between your devices and the iCloud account makes the HomePod mini very useful for anyone deeply rooted in the Apple world.

However, if you want more smarts from your smart speaker, the Google Nest range still conveniently wins first prize, and the fact that the HomePod can’t play anything from the BBC is a massive downside that you should definitely consider before buying must consider. It’s also worth checking out what brand of smart lightbulbs, thermostats, and video doorbells you have in your home, as the HomePod still supports a much smaller number of them. The range is growing as Nanoleaf recently announced a new set of compatible smart lightbulbs and hopefully more accessories will be available in the future.

If you want a small speaker that looks and sounds great, then the HomePod is for you. At £ 99, it’s a far more attractive option than its bigger brother.

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