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Review: Google Home Mini

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Google Home has been one of the best combinations of hardware and technology that I have happily adopted into my home and into my family’s life. The device is used mostly to play back podcasts and music from Spotify and Google Play subscriptions but it has since expanded in many ways. Now, we take a look at the smaller Google Home Mini.

Google Home has become an ideal kitchen assistant, helping me set multiple timers, assist me with conversions and measurements and soon will be able to walk me through actual recipes.

Google Home is particularly strong in Canada because is it the only smart speaker that’s built for Canada. It can receive English and French queries and understands various nuances that only Canadians would get. It helps, of course, that a lot of the work for this device was done in Waterloo, On. Google engineers there are also responsible for the awesome Google WiFi mesh router.

The Google Home mini is a smaller and more affordable smart speaker. Google designers say they’ve modelled it after a donut, and that it weighs less than a squirrel. It is a remarkable little device that’s designed to fit in various nooks and crannies and further connect and smarten homes. I think it is the ideal price and size for anyone wanting to dip their toes in the smart assistant space or fill out additional rooms and areas with a smart speaker.

What's the Google Home Mini?

Google Home Mini has a simple micro-USB connector (what? No USB C?) which plugs into a free power outlet. Once it lights up, you use the Google Home app to update software and get it up and running.

For a speaker of this size, the sound is pretty loud. I particularly liked the sound quality which had less bass and made listening to news and podcasts clearer for me. My wife, who uses our larger Google Home to play back music, said the quality was not as good as the larger Google Home. She said audio sounded like it was coming out of a smartphone’s speakers. Fair enough, it is one fourth the size of the Google Home and lacks the bass response.

Google Home Mini seems to have as good a microphone array as the larger Google Home, it can pick up my voice quite well. Although, when I initially placed it near my TV in the living room, it seemed to have trouble picking up my voice from the din.

Google has designed the Google Home Mini to be friendly, unobtrusive and easy to use. While the design is playful, particularly the bright coral-coloured model which looks like one of Homer Simpson's donuts. Because of its fabric and mesh design, it seems less tactile than the Google Home, which has a trackpad and can be tapped to access Assistant or toggle volume.

Google Home Mini allows you to tap the sides to increase or decrease volume. Suffice to say, these controls are a bit kludgy since it is a round device, it is hard to see where best to tap. For Google Home Mini, use of voice is still the best option for optimum control.

In my one week of use, Google Home Mini has been great for audio playback and also for making phone calls to numbers in the US and Canada. I have used it to determine the time it would take me to commute to meetings, find a nearby Python programming course, check the weather as well as set alerts and various timers.

The advantage of the smaller size and lower profile is that Google Home Mini units can be easily added in various areas or rooms around the house. They can be exposed in plain view or you can hide them if you wish. For its price of $79, Google Home Mini makes it possible for more consumers to give Google's services a try. 

Personally, I am a fan of the larger Google Home, it may be taller but it does sound better and I like the tactile controls. Google Home Mini makes all of the features and connectivity available for less money and makes it posible to consider placing smart home and intelligent assistant functionality in other parts of your home.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5

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