The Google Home Mini does something no other smart speaker can do. It gives you the smarts of Google Assistant to help you interact with your smart connected devices easily with voice only at an affordable price.
Google Assistant is still the best virtual assistant out there when it comes to finding answers, but will also help you control smart home devices to change your lighting in the home, control the music and all other Google media services, start playing a TV show and more just by using the voice.
In this way the Google Home Mini is exactly like the larger Google Home and Google Home Max, but that is where the similarities end. In our full Google Home Mini review we take a look at what compromises you are making for in exchange for the easy accessibility due to the low price.
Design and Build
The Google Home Mini is like nothing the tech giant has made before. It must’ve taken a lot of restraint and poise in order to deliver such a minimalist, simple design when you want to show off how much it can actually do. You have a fabric texture on the top and around the sides of the circular device with matte plastic on the bottom where the only physical trigger is housed.
Interestingly, Google added touch controls to the fabric on the top to lower and raise the volume of the speaker manually, although you can do it with voice alone as well, i.e. “Hey Google, change the volume to 40%.” A simple tap will also pause whatever is playing, which can also be done by voice, of course. Whenever you interact with the Mini with your voice the four LED lights on the top will illuminate to show that some action has been registered.
On the bottom half you find the micro USB port on the rear used to power the device. It does not include a battery like some of the bigger smart home speakers, which helps with price. While some might bemoan this fact, I’m sure most people will want to leave the Home Mini in a specific place in the home where it is most useful instead of wanting to move it around as a speaker from time to time (more on this later).
You also have a microphone switch on the bottom that can turn off active listening, making it simply a speaker that you have to tap to interact with(again, not sure anyone will ever do that). The entire bottom is a rubber mat that helps it keep still on whatever surface you place it on.
As previously mentioned, this is the cheapest smart speaker you can find that utilises Google Assistant. That being said, fortunately the voice recognition doesn’t suffer due to the drastic price reduction, neither from worse microphones or functionality. It will give you the same results, regardless of whether you are shouting from across the room or talking softly right next to it.
Speaking of functionality, there is plenty to control with this small little speaker. You can make calls through Google Duo to Android users for free. You can control a wide range of music apps like Spotify, Pandora, YouTube Music (which is tries to default you to upon setup), iHeartRadio and more. If you have a Chromecast connected to the network you can pull op YouTube videos on your TV. You can also control smart home hardware, IoT (Internet-of-Things) devices like smart light bulbs, microwaves and so on.
The setup process is simple and the Google Home app takes you through everything step by step. It will teach you a thing or two you can do with the app when setup is completed, which is very helpful if it is your first smart speaker like I assume many Home Mini buyers will be.
If your Google Home app is installed and linked to an Android account you have used for some time all that knowledge Google Assistant has of you is instantly transferred and available. A good example would be the fact that you wouldn’t need to setup your voice with Assistant if you have already done that on your Android account. It will also have all your location data available, like where your home and work is, to make other queries much easier.
If you have multiple Cast-enabled devices, it is also extremely easy to do what you want without the need for further setup. It is extremely simple to group together a Home Mini, Chromecast connected TV and soundbar and another cast enabled speaker to create a surround sound setup, for example.
If you aren’t using the Google Home Mini in conjunction with other connected devices, you will find that it is a desk companion more than anything else. You can quickly glance at your calendar, find out what the latest news stories are or phone a friend. What it is not is a standalone music station.
While the sound that emanates, the Google Home Mini is not going to give you the best listening experience. It gets fairly loud, but there is very little bass delivery (as you can imagine from such a small chassis). It can also get a bit tinny at higher volumes, which means it probably won’t be used to play music in a large room for a party. There are definitely better smart speakers to when it comes to sound quality. For the size and price, though, it is commendable what this device does in a smaller space.
The Google Home Mini is competition for the Amazon Echo Dot, being similarly priced and delivering similar functionality. In South Africa, though, Google has a big leg up on Amazon, as Google Assistant is not restricted here as Amazon Alexa is. It is Google’s play not only to get more smart speakers into homes because of the lower price point, but to be another vehicle to gather data and make your life as simple and effortless as possible.
This should really be on anyone’s shopping list, even if you aren’t that involved with technology. The easy setup, best of class digital assistant and low price makes it a very easy recommendation.
That is the market Google is going for here – people that want to be inducted into the connected home and want as little hassle as possible when doing it. It is not a device that should form the foundation of a home that is already connected, but is a great supplement thereof.
While the sound might not be to everyone’s liking, at less than R600 no one should expect it to be a primary speaker. What you should expect is the best possible way to start your connected home experience or the most effective desk buddy you can buy.