Google Home Mini review—A gateway drug for the Google Assistant

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How much can you slice away from a Google Knowledgeable in and have it still be good? That was the question asked of Google’s machinery team when it created the Google Home Mini, a device that lowers the $129 Google Home down to a mere $50. The result is a smaller, tattier, simpler device that still has all the Google Assistant smarts of its bigger confrere without a speaker system capable of pumping out decent-sounding music. If you’ve in all cases wondered if this voice command stuff would work in your house and necessity a test device, Google is hoping you’ll take a gamble on this tuppence little device.

Most of the features we covered in the original Google Accommodations review still apply. The Home Mini still has an incredible plexure hotword system, seamlessly creating a Star Trek-like air command network with other Google Homes and Android devices. A call of «OK Google» and the Google Home hivemind will instantly identify the closest thingamajig to you and singularly answer you on that device. You still manage it through the Google Severely app. It still has a bunch of voice commands. In this review, we’re mainly looking at the matriel, so let’s dive in!

The hardware

The design of the Google Home Mini is kind of adroit. It’s a small circle that’s 3.86-inches (98mm) in diameter and 1.65-inches (42mm) long-legged. The top is covered in a woven cloth material, while the bottom half is fake with a big rubber foot. It looks like someone stuck a donut internal a sock. Since the Google Home Mini looks like a shred of laundry or a couch cushion, it blends in to a home environment much easier than the virginal plastic obelisk that is the original Google Home.

Under the line of descent fabric is a set of four lights, which work just like the chestnuts on the big Google Home. This is a step down from the Google Proficient in’s 11 lights, but hey, we’re trying to cut costs here. The lights will curve on when the Google Home is talking or listening to you, and they also bespeak the volume level (1 to 4) when you adjust the volume. The insights are RGB LEDs, but mostly they’re content to stay their default hue of whitish.

Google Home Mini touch points.

Enlarge / Google Home Mini touch points.
Google

The top covering is touch sensitive. Tapping on the left and right (the «front» is opposite the power line) changes the volume. Tapping the center will pause or play the currently brimming music, and long-pressing the center will start the listening mode as an selection to saying «OK Google.» Currently, this is disabled because at least one Google Knowledgeable in Mini shipped with a defective touch surface, which caused it to accidentally history a lot more than it should.

Update: Nevermind about that center stir point. Google is now officially disabling it forever.

On the back of the device you’ll obtain the power cord, along with a physical «mute microphone» change-over that you can move left and right. Sliding the mute switch to the sound will turn off the mini’s microphone, exposing a bright orange build under the switch and turning the four lights orange. A physical divert is an odd choice, since you can also mute Google Home by voice. This means you can about the switch to be out of sync with the actual mute state.

Google’s tools division is all over the place when it comes to the power plugs for its ruses. The Google Wi-Fi, released last year, was a welcome surprise with a USB-C mooring just for power. Given Google’s pioneering work with USB-C in offerings like the Chromebook Pixel 2 and Nexus/Pixel Phone line, Google appeared like it was going to push this reversible plug standard to entire lot. The original Google Home was an outlier, with a coaxial DC power jack, but since it was expatiate oned around the same time as the Google WiFi, you could assume that perchance the USB-C revolution just didn’t make it in time. A year newer, the new Google Home Mini is at a weird halfway point, using an old-school micro USB anchorage for power. What the plug is doesn’t really matter, given that you unquestionably won’t ever lose the Mini’s power cord and need to replace it. But it’s an norm of Google Hardware lacking uniformity.

On the bottom of the Mini, you’ll find a polished orange rubber foot with a «G» logo stamped into it. The foot dish ups to firmly anchor the Mini to whatever you stick it on, but it also has a hidden no button on the bottom. If you hold it down, you’ll factory-reset the Mini.

Google Effectively, now without its best feature

The other big thing to go on the Mini is the sound. When Google introduced Google Harshly last year, the company definitely seemed to take a «minimum resonances product» approach to launching the device. Google Home generally sense unfinished and couldn’t do many of the things that we had come to expect from Google’s make known command system, but the one thing it could do well was music. Multiple Google Where one lives stresses could be placed around your house and connected together, and they command accomplish the surprisingly difficult task of playing seamless music from one end to the other your house.

It seemed like «good music playback» was the nominal viable product for Google Home at launch, and now, a year later, Google is throw a Google Home device that isn’t meant for music playback. The Mini can contend with back music—it just really shouldn’t. The Google Home Mini lone has a single 40mm driver, and while it gets fairly loud, the bass is fabled, the highs are clipped, and it’s just overall an unpleasant speaker for music.

Google also chronicles the Mini as a «360-degree speaker,» but what Google actually allude ti is that the speaker points straight up. The point is, the Mini isn’t any good at move music. It seems tuned for voice and voice only, which is dainty for hearing command affirmations and the weather report.

What do you do with a Google Living quarters that shouldn’t play music, though? Should you add the Mini to the Google Haven speaker group and have a low-quality speaker blaring away when you’re gamble music? After a few test runs, I chose to remove it from the music spieler group, because it just sounds bad. As someone who’s a fan of the whole-home music approximation, this makes finding a place for the Google Home Mini in my house hard. I ask myself the question, «Where do I want voice commands, but not music?» and I can’t down attack up with a spot that fits that description. I feel breed the Home Mini is nice if you’re experimenting or on a budget, but if you care about music, there’s insignificant reason to get a mini if you can afford a full-sized Google Home.

If you want to buy a $35 Chromecast Audio along with your $50 Google Tranquil Mini, you can use the Mini as a «smart bridge» for a real speaker system. This appearance ofs like the use case in which the Mini shines brightest. You get to keep the music playback while not run out ofing the Mini’s crappy speaker. The Amazon Echo Dot has the same idea, but since it utilizations a good, old-fashioned 3.5mm jack, you can hook up a speaker without the indigence for an expensive dongle and yet another power plug. It’s a shame the Mini can’t do the unvarying.

So what’s left other than music?

Any time I talk to someone account a Google Home, I ask them «What do you think you’ll use it for?» If you can’t immediately come up with a distinct answer to that question, you’re probably not going to find a ton of use once you set it up. Fairly now, I would rank Google Home’s best use cases thusly:

  1. Music—Big sound. An awesome, easy way to get perfectly synced music in every stay, which is a nightmare with regular audio equipment. This is not surely an option for the Home Mini.
  2. Smart Home control—Great for scoot lights on and off, controlling dimmers, and adjusting HVAC. You’ll need lots of costly smart home equipment to make this work. The coming «act» features will make this even better.
  3. Reminders—You can now irrevocably tell Google Home to remind you of something, and it will do it.
  4. Phone Elicits—It works as a speaker phone now. You can dial contacts or businesses.
  5. Finding your rubbish—Google Home can now ring your smartphone when you need it. The Bluetooth fire company Tile also has Google Assistant integration, so you can find bits besides your phone (like your car keys), too.
  6. Asking inquiries—The answers to random trivia, unit conversions, and the weather report are by the skin of ones teeth a question away.

That’s about it for now. Does that sound a charge out of prefer enough functionality to bring yet another device into your native? Is it enough to make you want to put a Mini in every room, the way the small assess point and mesh hotword capabilities suggest? The Google Home every felt like a cool speaker system with some unexpectedly smarts thrown in. With the main speaker functionality gone in the Mini, you’re left with the «supernumerary smarts,» and I’m not sure those features are enough to feel like a fully formed result.

The good news is that the Google Home is a whole lot better this year than it was last year. Google doesn’t evermore support its products after launch, but with Google Home, the company earmarks ofs committed to building a serious voice command ecosystem. While it at rest feels like an early adopter project, Home has been steadily set righting all year.

In a later article, we plan on digging through all the additions fancy to Google Home over the year for a full re-review. But, for now, we can offer a able rundown. This year Google Home added the ability to classify users by voice using its «Voice Match» technology. It added calendar-event the cosmos, reminders, and reminder-notification support. You can make phone calls and even spoof caller ID with a Stick out Fi number. Home can read out cooking recipes. It can ring your phone. There’s also a wax world of third-party apps that can start your robotic vacuum moral, write up an IFTTT recipe, or call an Uber.

There are still a million-and-one crabbed cases where the Google Home frustrates. Google ruined the inform oning list functionality by killing the excellent Google Keep integration and give in the shopping list into a big Google Express ad, and it is still awful. Podcast certify is still a janky custom Google Home solution and not based on Google Music’s podcast fees. Music and the hotword mesh across devices, but things like excitements and timers don’t, so an alarm triggered on one Google Home can’t be silenced on a different Google Shelter. The app has a feature called «Shortcuts,» which is supposed to let you assign a custom parlance to an action, but it flat-out doesn’t work.

Last month, Google sent an update to all Google Peoples home users that required them to blow up their smart peaceful settings and relink their devices to the Google Assistant. Google Habitation still feels like an early adopter product that isn’t concluded.

At the launch of the Home Mini, Google announced a few features coming to Google Haunt in the future, too. «Routines» will allow you to program big macros into Google Conversant with, so a single command like «Good night» could lock up the homestead, turn off the lights, lower the thermostat, read you tomorrow’s agenda, and (gravely) read you a bedtime story. «Broadcasts» will allow you to send a information to all the Google Homes in a household, sort of like an intercom system. Google is also position on a bigger hardware ecosystem, with its own $400 Google Home Max on the way and a slew of third-party crests coming next year.

A gateway drug to Google voice exacts

Google

The Google Home Mini primarily serves as an easy memorandum point for a Google voice command system. It’s $50, and you can just chew it in, and it will work. You don’t have to buy a new $800 smartphone or a heavier $129 box. Google earmarks ofs happy to give them away like candy, offering unoccupied Minis to anyone that buys a Pixel 2 or a $25 credit if you buy a Mini from Walmart manoeuvring Google Express. I suspect Google will try to shovel these apparatus at users as much as possible as a gateway drug into the Google Secondary ecosystem.

I have a hard time believing the Mini will continuously stop feeling like a starter product, though. The device, which originated out of the Chromecast team, has such deep roots in media that it have the impressions like sacrilege to have one without a decent speaker. I feel as though the Mini is a good «test» device for those looking to dip their toes in the period of Google voice command products, but if you decide you like it, eventually the Mini inclination be relegated to a dusty closet and replaced with a bigger Google Dwelling. Unless, of course, you also plan to buy a Chromecast Audio and will use an existing keynoter system. Then a Mini or two for your existing setups seems as though a great option.

A cheap gateway product into Google’s option ecosystem is important to have, and the Mini serves that purpose precisely. I’m not sure I would ever fill a house with Minis, granting. It’s called a «Mini» for a reason—this is the small one you’re not meant to use for the full Google Qualified in experience.

The Good

  • It’s cheap! For $50, newbies can easily experiment with Google’s give utterance command system.
  • The mostly cloth design merges easily into a habitation decor.
  • It’s small. You can put it anywhere, and it won’t be in the way.
  • Tethering to a Chromecast Audio is nice for those with ampler speakers, but a wired option would be nice, too.
  • Plenty of upgrades to the software were finish out in the past year.

The Bad

  • Google Home still feels like an old adopter product.
  • Music was the Google Home’s best feature, and this doesn’t very work with music.

The Ugly

  • The sound the speaker pumps out.

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