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Google Home Mini review: Chasing Dots

Google's smart speaker simply got smaller. The Home Mini isalso, since it is possible to deduce from the title, a more compact edition of this Google Home speaker that the firm found annually. It has most of the specific abilities as its bigger forebear, but comes with a smaller price: $49 versus the larger speaker 129 tag. The Home Mini is a truly voice-controlled speaker that may be utilized to play with music, command smart house gadgets, answer trivia questions, comprise things to a grocery list, make calendar appointments, or play with video onto a Chromecast-enabled display.

Recently, Google added that the ability to put phone calls from the Home speakers, so in addition to use them to find your telephone if you have lost it somewhere in your home. It's always from the settee.) The Home Mini is also a direct reaction to Amazon's wildly popular Echo Dot, that retails for approximately $50 and supplies a number of the identical smart speaker capacities. Much like the Echo Dot, the Home Mini is small enough and cheap enough to place in any area of your house, blanketing your home with an always-listening voice-controlled computer.


Those are the broad strokes of the Home Mini, and that there is actuallyn't too much to put in there. If you've been eyeing a Google Home since you use a whole lot of Google services, but its price and / or size have kept you away, the Home Mini is probably just what you've been awaiting. Or in the event you already own a Google Home and want to expand its abilities to other rooms in your house, that the Home Mini will fill that need, too. But as with anything, the devil is in the details, so let's dive into these.

Google likes to say that the Home Mini is about the size of a "donut," in a fairly nude attempt at making you associate it with a comforting thing which you enjoy. As an outline of size, however, it's apt: the Home Mini is substantially shorter and thinner compared to the air freshener-inspired Home, having a roughly 4-inch diameter and curved sides. It's a little larger than the Echo Dot, however, its sloping sides and softer shape are not as menacing looking than Amazon's merchandise.

The Home Mini comes in 3 colors -- light grey, dark grey, and coral red -- all entirely inoffensive and designed to blend subtly into a contemporary, HGTV-slash-Apple-Store home décor. The very top of this Mini is covered in a textured cloth, which looks fantastic when it's fresh, but I fear that it is going to turn into a dust collector at short time. Having to vacuum the top of my smart speaker instead of simply wiping it off with a rag is something I never believed I'd need to consider, yet here we are. Cat owners may also have to contend with their pets viewing the Mini as a ringing or even scratching pad.

That fabric-covered top is also the primary physical interface for your Mini, whenever you don't need to use your voice to control it. Tapping the left or right side of the disc will lower or increase the quantity, while tapping the middle will pause audio, discontinue an alert, or cancel a command. The touch controls are very sensitive, and also a slight brush against it is going to change the volume or pause audio. The Echo Dot's push button volume up and down controls are easier to work with and less likely to become inadvertently triggered, for what it is worth.

In the Home Mini's announcement, Google explained that you could tap and hold at the top of the speaker to activate the listening feature, in lieu of utilizing the "OK Google" or "Hey Google" wake words. Because of a bug which caused some Home Mini units to awaken regularly and record snippets of noise when they were not supposed to, even Google handicapped this feature until further notice with a software upgrade. The two Home Mini units I tested instantly installed what I presume is this software upgrade upon installation, therefore I was never able to utilize the tap-and-hold attribute. The activity logs inside my Google Home program did not demonstrate any questionable or accidental recordings, either, so it appears that I didn't encounter this bug.

Given the problems with touch sensitivity and also the potential for reliability issues down the line, I'm of the situation that the fabric cover in the Home Mini is 1 toke over the line of form versus fashion. It will look very cool and presents well, but that obviously comes at a cost to the item's durability and usability.