Perhaps the buzzword of this decade is Artificial Intelligence (AI), and you might hear it from some Tech giants. AI is slowly seeping in our lives, from the camera app in your smartphone to the toaster is your kitchen. Tech and Consumer Electronics giants are actively pushing AI.
The newest application of this is Smart speakers, and the market is already flooded with them. Tech giants like Amazon, Google, Apple are already on it. Amazon Echo just launched this year in India, and now Google has entered the market as well though it is important to note here that Amazon was the first one to bring a smart speaker to the market and has been a leader since then.
Google has brought the Google Home, and Home mini to India and they are already competing with Amazon’s Echo line up in terms of features and price. We have the Google Home Mini with us for review.
So let’s dive in and see what it has to offer:
If you keep both the Google Home and Home Mini side by side, you will notice that Google has reversed the Home to form the Home Mini’s design. The Home Mini has the fabric on top and matte plastic on the bottom. Google has been comparing the Home Mini with a Donut perhaps to highlight the size, but from the design, it kind of resembles a macaron.
The Home mini is available in three colours, Charcoal, Chalk and Coral. The unit we have is Charcoal, but we personally like the Coral one.
The fabric finish on the topic gives a sense of style to the Home Mini. The fabric mesh also has the touch controls and LED underneath; You tap the left of the device to turn the volume down; the right to turn the volume up.
The whole top of the Home mini is supposed to be touch sensitive, and the Google Assistant can be woken up by just tapping the top. But this functionality was disabled by Google after some Home mini units had a faulty sensor and were mimicking taps.
There is a row of four LED’s on the top which lights up as soon as you say the wake-word. Apart from this, there is a micro USB port on the side for power and a microphone switch that enables you to turn on/off the mic. Coming to the bottom, there is a rubber mat covering the entire bottom of the Home mini to provide grip when placed on a flat surface.
Performance and Features
The Google Home Mini has the Google Assistant at the core, which means you get the entire host of features and functions that you perform with the Assistant on your smartphone here too. The most basic commands that you can ask Home Mini include setting alarms, making shopping lists and getting weather reports. Things get interesting as you add a host of Google Assistant compatible accessories like a smart bulb or a smart plug. You can enable or disable all these with just your voice.
The voice detection on the Home Mini is perfect; you would get the same result if you are a foot from the speaker or 15 feet. The only thing we don’t like with the Google Assistant is the wake-word situation. While Alexa lets you choose from 4 wake words but with the Home mini you are just limited with ‘OK Google’ or ‘Hey Google’ and after a while, it seems very unnatural and irritating. We hope Google comes up with a Single wake-word in the future.
Other than the Google search feature, you can stream music with the Home mini. Google has bundled in a launch offer, and you can use Services like Play Music, Saavn and Gaana free for six months starting this April. The music library on all these services is very massive, and you won’t be disappointed. You can choose the default music service from the Google Home app on your smartphone which is also used to set up the Google Home mini.
The thing missing here is the calling feature that users in the US or UK can enjoy. But you do have a broadcast feature using which you can broadcast a message which will be sent to all the devices that are linked to a particular Google account used at the time of setting up the Home mini. It can be a nifty feature if you have a bunch of Google Home devices scattered across your house.
Google Home lineup is also compatible with Chromecast devices, so you can essentially push content to Chromecast enabled products. We would have liked a 3.5mm jack as well in here just like the one found on the ‘Echo Dot’ for line in or line out.
Talking about the sound quality and loudness, the Google Home mini gets pretty loud for its size. One thing to note here is that these speakers aren’t meant for listening to music, it’s just an added advantage. That being said, the sound quality is a little better than the ‘Echo dot’, which is its main rival. In the recent updates, Google has enabled the option to connect Bluetooth speakers with Google Home line-up which will be greatly appreciated by people looking for some audio boost.
The main rival to the Google Home mini is Amazon’s Echo dot, both the speakers are similarly priced, but considering the US and UK price, we feel like the India price should also have been a little less. This could’ve translated into better sales. Other than the price, there’s not much to dislike. With the recent updates, Google has enabled a bunch of feature in the mini and Google Assistant itself.
We recommend the Home mini to people looking for an affordable way to get into the smart home ecosystem and to possible get Google everywhere.