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Google Home Mini review: Smart Speaker 101
A great smart-speaker starting point if the price is right.
Originally released a few years ago, you can absolutely still buy a Google Home Mini in 2020, and it’s not difficult to find it at reduced prices these days. For instance, at the time of writing the Google Home Mini was priced at $39 (with free delivery), which isn’t a steep price to ask for those seeking hands-free assistance around the home.
What is a Google Home Mini?
At its core, Google Home Mini is a smart speaker, albeit a very compact one. The small size comes at the cost of the bigger speaker found in its taller sibling, the Google Home. The Mini is designed to be a hands-free Google Assistant-powered companion that you control with your voice. Instead of typing it on a computer, smartphone or tablet, turn your request into a voice command and have Google Home Mini do it for you.
Outside of this, the Google Home Mini doesn’t have a whole lot of other features. It’s something you need to get used to talking to and speaking its language: by that, I mean phrasing questions in a way it understands. When you’re not using it as an on-demand assistant, the Google Home Mini can be used with Spotify or other music streaming services as a music playback device.
Google Home Mini voice control
The more you use Google Home Mini, the better it gets at responding to your voice commands. There’s room for multiple users, too, which means it’s more than just a single-person personal assistant. As long as you get used to framing questions in a way that’s meaningful to the Google Assistant’s understanding, an appropriate response comes back quickly and clearly.
It really doesn’t take all too long to learn the Google Home Mini’s effective range, how loud you have to speak, and the kind of questions it can and can’t answer. For certain results that have more detail, the Google Home Mini will tell you that it’s sent relevant links to your phone, which will quickly appear in the pull-down notification bar on your smartphone.
Google Home Mini voice sound quality
Though the Google Home Mini is a smart speaker, it isn’t a replacement for better-sounding audio equipment. The 40mm driver does pump out some great volume, and voice responses from Google Assistant or a news headlines round-up are where the Google Home Mini shines. But the size-over-sound design approach comes at the expense of narrower audio range and less oomph on the low-end.
Google Home Mini setup
The Google Home Mini is intended as a plug-and-play device, with the setup and any post-installation configuration handled via the Google Home app on your smartphone or tablet. Once the Google Home Mini is connected to WiFi, that’s it. You can unplug it for months, then reconnect it and it’s good to pick up where you left off.
Google Home Mini vs Google Nest Mini
Same design. Same dimensions. Same product, right? Well, almost. The Home Mini and Nest Mini share an identical RRP, but the Google Home Mini was on special at the time of writing. If you do opt for a Google Nest Mini, you’re effectively upgrading to a built-in screw mount on a more-sustainable product. The Nest Mini also has tap controls on top for pause and volume. In terms of sound, both have a 40mm driver, but the Nest Mini boasts 360-degree sound, plus the Nest Mini boasts three microphones to the Home Mini’s two.
Is Google Home Mini worth it in 2020?
If you can get one on special, it’s a no-brainer purchase for anyone looking to dip their toe in smart-speaker waters. That said, with an RRP equal to the newer and better Google Nest Mini, the Google Home Mini isn’t worth paying full price for. Get it on the cheap as a smart alarm clock or on-demand assistant, otherwise opt for the Next Mini or a more expensive and fully featured smart-speaker alternative.