Apple HomePod mini review
Although considerably later in the smart speaker segment than Google and Amazon, Apple launched the HomePod in 2018. The speaker finally arrived in India over two years after its global launch, priced at Rs. 19,900. Like many Apple products, the HomePod is designed to work well within the Apple ecosystem, thanks to specialized connectivity and voice assistant support through Apple’s own technologies like AirPlay and Siri. If the size or price of the HomePod are key factors in your purchase decision, Apple’s latest release has made owning one of its smart speakers a bit easier.
Enter the apple HomePod mini, a smaller, more affordable smart speaker priced at Rs. 9,900. Launched alongside iPhone 12 series, the HomePod mini is From Apple Try to make its range of smart speakers more accessible, while maintaining the same capabilities as the larger ones. HomePod. How good is the HomePod mini? Find out in our review.
Apple HomePod mini design and specifications
The ‘mini’ nomenclature of the HomePod series is as accurate as the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini; The HomePod mini has a smaller form factor, but with the same feature set as the larger HomePod. Apple has changed the shape a bit though, with the smaller device sporting a spherical body rather than the cylindrical shape of the larger HomePod.
The shape fits the size quite well, and the HomePod mini is easily the best-looking compact smart speaker you can buy today. The outer side of the speaker has a soft, mesh-like fabric covering that adds to the attractive design. The bottom has a sticky texture, and that’s where you’ll find the only Apple logo on the device; strangely completely hidden out of sight in normal operation. The HomePod mini is available in two colors, white and space gray, and while my white review unit looks good, the gray looks better, in my opinion, and will also be less susceptible to fading from household dust and dirt.
The top of the speaker is touch sensitive to control volume and playback, and summon Siri. There are no physical buttons or ports anywhere on the device. Unlike other smart speakers, the power cord is fixed, with a USB Type-C plug on the other end that connects to the included power adapter. This means that the HomePod mini is always on when it’s plugged in, and once set up, it’s always connected to your Wi-Fi.
The controls are quite simple: the touch zones for volume are marked with symbols, while the center is a multi-function zone that controls both playback and Siri. Of course, the mic is always on and listening, so you can also control volume and playback with the ‘Hey Siri’ wake command. While other smart speakers have physical switches to mute the microphone, you can only disable Siri on the HomePod mini from the Home app on iOS.
An iOS device is required to set up and control the HomePod mini, and I used my iPad mini (2019) to complete the process through the Home application. Although it took me a while to complete, the process is easy and reliable, and the HomePod worked fine for me after that. Apple sent me two mini HomePod units, so I was able to set up and test stereo pairing mode as well. You can also use multiple units for traditional multi-room connectivity, if desired.
The Home app gives you access to most of the settings related to the HomePod mini and also allows you to play music directly on the speaker while using your iOS device as a controller. There is also the ability to control ‘Intercom’, a new feature that allows users to send messages directly to specific Apple devices, as well as broadcast messages to all devices in their home. You can also set up and voice control any HomeKit-compatible IoT accessory in your home using the HomePod mini.
I had some connectivity issues with stereo pairing as the speakers weren’t reliably connecting all the time. I often had sound coming from just one and occasionally the connection from one of them would drop for a few seconds before resuming. With only one operating HomePod mini, I didn’t have any connectivity issues with iOS or macOS.
Also, I noticed that the macOS system on my MacBook Air doesn’t support stereo pairing even after upgrading to Big South. When online, both speakers are separately detected, and I could choose one for system audio, but I couldn’t use them together as a stereo setup. Using an Apple app like Apple Music or Apple TV on my laptop allowed me to use the speakers as a stereo pair, but this was obviously not the ideal scenario to use with my computer.
As with the greatest HomePod, the HomePod mini only works directly with the Siri voice assistant and Apple Music to stream music via voice commands. This means that you will need an active Apple Music subscription on the account linked to the smart speaker to play music on demand. The device also supports iTunes Music purchases, Apple Music Radio (for free streaming), Apple Podcasts, and informational meetings. You can use AirPlay to stream from some other services like Spotify with compatible devices, which I was able to do using my iPad mini.
The HomePod mini has a single full-range controller and two passive radiators for sound, AirPlay 2 for streaming audio over Wi-Fi, and a four-microphone system for picking up the ‘Hey Siri’ wake word and commands. subsequent voices. The Homepod mini has Bluetooth 5, but it can’t be used to stream music like other speakers; It is only used for the initial setup process and to communicate with smart devices. There’s also Apple’s U1 chip, which enables Apple’s ultra-broadband connectivity to detect other U1-enabled devices in the immediate vicinity. It can be used to stream audio from an iPhone just by holding it close to the speaker, with more customization features with future software updates. .
Performance Apple HomePod mini
As with the rest of Apple’s audio products, the HomePod mini makes up for all of its Apple-specific limitations with sound quality. This is the best-sounding compact speaker you can buy, and its tightly controlled ecosystem of services and features helps maintain sound quality and performance. Though it’s not as high a price as other speakers, it’s high enough for desktop use, and using a second HomePod mini in a stereo paired setup gives the system enough oomph.
As mentioned, the HomePod mini is designed to work only with the limited protocols and services that are fully tied to Apple. This means there is no old-fashioned Bluetooth audio playback and you’ll have to use AirPlay to connect with source devices. If you have a Mac, iPhone, or iPad computer, you have everything you need to put HomePod mini to good use. I largely played music on the speaker using Apple Music on my laptop or tablet, but I also tried Spotify on my iPad, as well as regular AirPlay to stream system audio from my laptop to the speaker.
The Apple HomePod mini stands out for its sound quality, and it’s particularly impressive how loud and refined this speaker sounds for its size. I quite enjoyed listening to Kamasi Washington’s Truth on the HomePod mini, with the speaker offering a great mix of detail, a clean sonic signature, and plenty of refinement across the entire frequency range. The speaker stood his ground through the track’s slow, calculated build-up and eventual levels of orchestral involvement, with the jazz drums in particular sounding shocking and emotional.
While the sound was immersive and engaging across sources and genres with just one HomePod mini, Apple’s support for stereo pairing stands out much more if you can choose two to use together. With smart positioning, I was able to get a healthy and impressive soundstage with proper stereo separation from the paired HomePod minis.
Kamasi Washington’s Truth sounded even more beautiful and detailed with the stereo setup, and the speakers offered plenty of detail. This is the kind of sound you would expect from a high-end multi-speaker system. Although this particular genre and track benefited greatly from the stereo setup, it helped the music across genres, and even Todd Terje’s upbeat and cheerful Alfonso Muskedunder sounded more upbeat.
The Apple HomePod mini has a four-microphone system for voice commands. This worked well from uniform distances up to around 3m, but not beyond that. Siri has greatly improved in its ability to understand the Indian accent, and overall, I had no trouble with basic tasks like playing specific tracks, setting timers, and getting answers to simple questions. HomeKit’s ecosystem of IoT devices is still pretty limited compared to the Google Assistant and Alexa, so there wasn’t much it could do with the HomePod mini in terms of smart functionality.
The HomePod mini is an attractive product that is delivered where it matters most. The device connects seamlessly with any other Apple product you might have, works well as a compact smart speaker, and sounds pretty good for something so small. I used it as a convenient wireless speaker for my laptop and tablet to good effect, and the smart functionality came in handy too.
Buying a second HomePod mini will allow you to set up a proper smart stereo speaker system for about the same price as the larger Apple HomePod, and I quite liked how the speakers sounded in this setup, albeit with some connectivity issues. A single HomePod mini also works well on its own.
All that said, the HomePod mini is a product aimed at a very specific audience and it needs you to invest a lot in the Apple ecosystem to take full advantage of it, including an active Apple Music subscription and at least one iOS device. If you’re an Apple fan, the HomePod mini is the best smart speaker you can buy for the price, but also consider the bigger HomePod if you have the budget for it.