The Google Home Mini is a voice-controlled speaker that uses Google Assistant that can play music, control smart devices around the home and much more.

Video Review

The Home Mini is the company’s answer to the Amazon Echo Dot. The Home Mini shrinks down the size of the full-sized Google Home into a smaller and more understated package and price that fits right into the home – without losing any software capabilities.

Design

The Home Mini is a minimal and simple rounded design, which comes in three different colours – chalk, charcoal and coral.

The fabric top houses the row of four LEDs that are used to indicate that the device is listening, thinking and for setting the volume level. They’re simple, but incredibly useful to know that the device is listening – when you mute the microphone, they’ll light up red.

The top is also the main way to physically interact with the Home Mini. There are two different touch areas on the top surface which allow you to interact with various functions such as alarms and music playback.

Google Home Mini Top
There are touch areas on the top to control various features

These touch areas are very sensitive, so it’s easy and natural to use without too much thought. The left- and right-hand sides are for volume adjustment and stopping alarms.

On the back is the Micro-USB port which plugs into the included 1.5-meter power cable and a physical switch to turn of the microphones – which are otherwise always listening for the “Ok Google” or “Hey Google” wake words.

The bottom has a grippy, rubberised plastic base which stops it from slipping around on a surface from accidental knocks.

Sound Quality

The speaker on the Home Mini is surprisingly good when you consider the form factor, but it certainly won’t beat the sound quality of a standalone Bluetooth speaker or a connected speaker such as the Sonos.

The speaker gets loud enough to provide full sound to an entire room. I normally have the speaker, which is kept in my bedroom, at around 30% volume. I have done a few equaliser (EQ) adjustments to try and make the speaker a little more of a punch from its factory settings by boosting the bass frequencies by +3dB.

Google Home Mini top, with plant in the foreground
The sound quality is surprisingly good for such a small device

Even without the adjustments that I have made, the Home Mini still managed to fill a room after I’d set it up (which by the way was extremely easy with the Google Home app).

Unfortunately, if you had hopes of linking up your Home Mini to your sound system – that isn’t going to be possible as there are no audio outputs on the device. The Home Mini only supports other Google Cast speakers as an audio output destination. If you had hopes to do this, take a look at the Amazon Echo Dot, which does support a 3.5mm output.

Microphone Performance

I had no issues with the microphone on the Home Mini, I was able to activate Google Assistant without any problems. The two-microphone array was able to pick up my voice, even with the music at high volumes.

There is one feature that I’d like to see which the Home Mini can’t do, but Amazon Echo can. Whispering. This would come in quite handy at night so I can set tasks for my Google Assistant to do quietly, but unfortunately, the Home Mini only picks me up if I’m speaking in a “talking voice” and not a whispering one.

Functionality

Since the Home Mini uses Google Assistant to keep it running – the functionality of the device is constantly changing and evolving over time.

I personally don’t use my Home Mini an awful lot but for the things that I do use it for, such as Spotify, listening to the radio and Google Assistant, work very well. I’m only utilising a small range of the expansive list of features that the Home Mini supports.

Spotify works well and as the Home Mini also acts as a Google Cast speaker, the Home Mini is always there in Spotify to be Cast to – as well as any other apps and services that support Google Cast. You can also treat the Home Mini as a Bluetooth speaker if you’d like to, which I think is a nice feature as you could use it as a speaker for your computer.

You can also use the Home Mini to control smart devices around the home, you’ll need to link all these together in the Google Home app – but once you’ve done that smart devices such as light bulbs respond almost immediately.

Side of Google Home Mini
The Home Mini has an expansive range of features

Google Assistant is also one of the main selling points of the Home Mini, and it works great thanks to the experience Google has gained with Search. Asking for information is a breeze, and thanks to Assistant being able to contextually understand follow up questions, you don’t feel like you’re repeating your initial question when you want to find out more information.

As an example, you could ask “Who founded Microsoft?” to which you would learn it is Bill Gates, and you could follow up with “How tall is he?” to learn his height without having to say “How tall is Bill Gates?”. I think this is a fantastic feature that I haven’t seen, or at least recognised, on other voice assistants.

Sometimes Google can get it wrong, though, as recently Assistant was telling people that horses had six legs, so that’s just something to be aware of.

If you have a Google Cast supported TV such as an Android TV or the Chromecast, you can also use voice commands to play things on your TV, I don’t have either of these so I haven’t been able to try this out myself – but I wanted to include this in my review.

Privacy Concerns

I think it is fair to have some concerns over privacy when you’re bringing an always-on always-listening device into your home environment. Google does keep all your voice command history in your account, and you can delete this history at any time. Amazon also does the same with its Echo devices.

I haven’t found the Home Mini to have accidentally recorded something myself, but your mileage may vary. If you are concerned, the Home Mini isn’t for you, and you’ll probably want to get a Wi-Fi connected speaker instead – such as the Sonos One or Bose SoundTouch, where the voice assistant is an optional add-on feature.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a small smart speaker with a great design, look no further than the Google Home Mini. Its integrations with both audio and video services such as Spotify and Netflix make it great for a connected home – with decent sound quality for the size of the device.


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