Part of the HomePod’s success was due to its fantastic sound quality and understated design – but it wasn’t without its flaws, and the built-in Siri voice assistant couldn’t compete with the smart home integration of Alexa and Google Assistant.This is why rumors of a new and improved HomePod were so compelling – and two years after the original was released, the company announced the Apple HomePod mini on its iPhone 12 launch in October.
The Mini is smaller and cheaper than the original HomePod. According to Apple, it is designed to be “the brain of your smart home”. It has a completely new design and nifty features such as the ability to transfer voice messages to Apple devices. including AirPods – in your home.
Is it worth upgrading to the HomePod mini if you already have the original Apple Smart Speaker? Or if you’re looking to invest in your first wireless speaker, which one should you buy? While we haven’t tested the HomePod mini ourselves, we looked at the specs to help you make an informed decision once the newer speaker is available on November 6th.
What’s new with the Apple HomePod mini?
The Apple HomePod mini is the long-awaited successor to the original HomePod. smaller, cheaper, and with improved compatibility with the Apple ecosystem, it could be a compelling alternative to its larger predecessor.
One of the biggest changes in the new HomePod mini compared to its predecessor is the price. It costs $ 99 / £ 99 / AU $ 149, which is far cheaper than the original HomePod, which was $ 349 / £ 319 / AU $ 499 when it was launched in 2018.
Now that the Apple HomePod is a bit older, it’s usually available at a discount – and with the introduction of the HomePod mini, you can expect some fantastic Apple HomePod deals this Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So if your heart is on the biggest Apple speaker, it’s worth waiting until November 27th to buy it.
The low price of the HomePod mini came as a surprise. After all, Apple isn’t exactly known for being budget-friendly and is in direct competition with the new Amazon Echo and Google Nest Audio, both of which cost $ 99.99 / £ 89.99 / AU $ 149.
The Apple HomePod mini looks like a squatter version of the HomePod, with a rounded design that’s pretty similar to the new Amazon Echo.
It’s much smaller than its predecessor and only 3.3 inches tall. However, it has the same wraparound fabric grille and touch-sensitive control panel on the top and is available in the same colors of white and space gray.
So if you’re looking for a compact desk buddy or smart speaker that sits comfortably on your kitchen counter or bedside table, the HomePod mini is probably your best bet.
While we can’t really gauge the HomePod mini’s audio performance without testing it out ourselves, the specs shared by Apple give us some clues as to how it might sound compared to the original HomePod.
For starters, its much smaller build means it probably won’t be quite as powerful as the Apple HomePod. In fact, it only includes one driver, which acts as the woofer and tweeter compared to the seven tweeters and the separate woofer in the larger HomePod. You can be almost sure that the HomePod mini won’t be as bassy or as loud as its predecessor.
The new smart speaker contains the Apple S5 chip, which, according to Apple, “analyzes the unique properties of music and applies complex tuning models to optimize the volume, adjust the dynamic range and the movement of the driver and passive radiators to control real time ”.
As a result, the HomePod mini’s audio processing technology may be able to make up for the smaller size. Even so, it’s unlikely to match the original HomePod’s beamforming technology, which allows it to automatically adjust its sound output to match the room it’s in.
The original Apple HomePod had fantastic audio quality – and based on the specs, we don’t think the Mini can quite keep up. So if it’s all about the sound for you, the older HomePod is probably your best bet.
With that said, you can pair two HomePod minis for stereo sound – and it’s far cheaper to buy two of them than two of the original HomePods.
The HomePod mini has a few connectivity features that make it attractive over the original HomePod. However, it is possible that these functions will be shared by both speakers in the future.
The original HomePod offered great compatibility with the Apple ecosystem, and this is taken even further by the smaller smart speaker.
For example, if you’re listening to music on your phone, you can just bring your device near the HomePod mini and, according to Apple, “pass the music seamlessly without missing a beat”. The company states that visual, audible, and tactile effects occur when sound is transferred from one device to another.
Plus, you’ll get personalized listening suggestions on your iPhone when it’s next to your Apple HomePod mini, as well as the ability to control the HomePod without unlocking your phone.
As already mentioned, this function could be transferred to the HomePod 2018 via a software update – as we have already seen with the intercom function of the HomePod mini (more on this later).
Siri and Smart Home functions
Like its predecessor, the Apple HomePod mini is equipped with the company’s integrated Siri voice assistant. Any upgrades that came with the HomePod mini are also available on the original HomePod.
These upgrades include the ability to see who is speaking to Siri in your household, as well as the ability to customize music and podcasts to suit their preferences. Siri shortcuts created on your iPhone are also available on HomePods. So you can ask them to add milk to your shopping list, for example.
Siri can also play ambient sounds like rain to help you relax, find missing devices with Find My, set music alarms and send web results from voice search directly to your iPhone.
With the built-in Siri, you can use the SmartPod mini to control your smart home devices, whether you want to turn off your smart lights or change the temperature with your smart thermostat. One of the big flaws with the Apple HomePod, however, is the fact that it just doesn’t have the same capacity for smart home control as Alexa and Google Home devices.
What about the Apple HomePod?
The older Apple HomePod gets two new features of its own – one that’s shared by the HomePod mini and one that’s exclusive to the larger smart speaker.
In addition to the HomePod mini, it announced a new feature called Intercom, which is also available on the original HomePod. With this feature, the Apple HomePod can be used as an intercom system for your home, allowing you to send voice messages to other HomePods, iPhones, iPads, CarPlay and even AirPods. This feature is also available for the HomePod mini. So if you’re looking to build a cheap intercom system and already have a larger HomePod, we recommend purchasing the cheaper Homepod mini to complete your setup.
One new feature that appears to be exclusive to the older HomePod is the ability to act as surround speakers in 5.1, 7.1, and Dolby Atmos Spatial Audio – this is expected to be done in the coming weeks via a software update.
It works when you only have a single speaker. However, if you place one on both sides of your TV, you get the full “spatial sound experience” that you get from Atmos, where you are placed as an object in the soundscape and the noise is triggered all around.
For this reason, if Dolby Atmos is a deal breaker and you want to use your smart speaker as part of your home theater setup, we recommend using the older HomePod, which is the best speaker for the job.
Of course, the HomePod mini will work in stereo if you buy two. This is an option if you are on a tight budget.
Without thoroughly testing the HomePod mini, we can’t say for sure whether it’s a worthwhile investment or not – but it is clear that it doesn’t have the same audio performance as its older sibling.
As a smaller, cheaper version of the Apple HomePod, this is totally to be expected – and if sound quality isn’t your primary concern, the Homepod mini could be a great way to control your smart home while listening to some tunes especially if you have a smaller room set up.
The same is true if you want to add Siri to a smaller room in your house and already have the original HomePod. Thanks to the new intercom feature, your entire house can be connected and you don’t have to spend the money on the larger HomePod if you just want to bring smart connectivity into an additional room.
However, if sound quality is your priority, the larger HomePod is probably your best bet thanks to its impressive driver layout, clever auto audio adjustment, and upcoming support for Dolby Atmos.
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