Review: Google Home Mini — Google Assistant on an affordable speaker

Google first announced the Google Home Mini at the September 2017 ‘madebygoogle’ event. This speaker was sold at a really cheap price of $49. This miniature version of the elder brother, Google Home smart speaker was brought to compete directly with Amazon’s Echo Dot. This speaker has capabilities of doing everything that the other Google Home speakers can do. This includes operating your smart home appliances, setting a timer, giving out weather reports and more. All the difference lied in the hardware. The fact that the smaller device has only one speaker built-in and facing upwards, makes it cheaper. Now let us just take a look at my experiences with this smart home device.

Design

The design of the smart speaker looks beautiful. The fact that it actually fits perfectly in your hands comfortably makes it better than the Echo Dot. Also, it is covered with some fabric-ish material which gives it a good amount of premium touch. But that is just with the top part of the speaker. The bottom part is made up of plastic which is not a bad quality one but when I check its ratio with the fabric area, I wish I could get more of fabric.

Sound and Mic Quality

The hardware including the speaker and the mic that the whole module comes with is super awesome. Music played are clear. I hardly experienced any disturbances or any other sorts of downside while using this speaker. The sound was a perfect blend of a little bass and great voice clarity. The speaker was loud enough to be heard playing while playing it with some background noise.

Hardware Capabilities

As a part of the package, Google offers you 4 physical interaction points with the Google Home Mini. The first one is the mute button. If you think that people can hear you all the time, making a bad use of the always listening mode. Just toggle a button and the Mini will stop listening for your Google Hotword. Secondly, you have a 3.5mm audio jack. With this, you can plug in your phone or other audio devices directly to your home Mini to play songs or audio content of other types. Thirdly there is two touch point on either side of the speaker. Tapping onto them will increase or decrease the volume and long touching on them will stop whatever the home mini is speaking. There used to be a touch on the top feature to shut off the Google Assistant or to play and pause but that was removed with a firmware update.

Software Capabilities

The software is something where the real fixing needs to take place with this smart speaker. Though it uses Google Assistant’s super capabilities to ring an alarm, control your Philips HUE and many other things, there are some average needs of every individual and that is ordering from Amazon, booking a Lyft or an uber which the Amazon Alexa can do and the Home Mini cannot. I think Google should focus more on localization now. Because they have every possible advantage over Alexa and the Echo speakers but all it needs to do now is integrate into more handy services like the ones I just mentioned. It should be able to integrate with more devices over the network. But as the steady pace of development brings better features and capabilities to the Google Home Mini, I hope these capabilities come soon too.

Verdict

Google has made every possible move in a good way to compete in the smart speaker market. Now all Google needs to do is work on its Google Assistant. In my daily use, I found it really useful to do even my small tasks like setting up an alarm and more. However, simply putting a Digital Assistant from a phone into a speaker won’t help. It needs to have some extra capabilities that revolve around a smart speaker. Something that makes it what it really is.

In my opinion, I would rate it 3.75 out of 5.

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