It’s time to expand my smart home setup. I’m branching out from my bedroom and I’ve added two new Google Homes to the rest of my house. This time however I opted for the baby of the Google Home family. That’s right I ran out and bought two brand new Google Home Minis. Why two? Well if I’m honest it’s because they were a black Friday deal and I got 2 for the price of 1. It was a slight risk on my part, I could’ve been stuck with two of something that I didn’t like. That’s not the story I’m about to tell though. Except for a few minor flaws I’m very happy with my Google Home Minis.
Opening the box and you’re greeted with a pretty sparse package. Inside you’ll find the Google Home Mini (duh), the power cable and power brick, a tiny instruction booklet, and that’s about it. This is the third Google Hardware device I’ve purchased and I’m really beginning to appreciate their approach to packaging, just the bare essentials. Which is great, because everything else just ends up in the garbage anyways.
After I plugged in the micro USB (would’ve been nice to see USB-C here) power cable Home Mini booted right up. Pairing the Google Home Mini to my home wifi network was painless. The Google Home App does most of the heavy lifting. I can’t figure out exactly how my phone and the Google Home Mini talk to each other before establishing a wifi connection but I assume it’s some sort of inaudible tone because the app instructs you to stay close to Google Home Mini while it’s pairing. I wish pairing of all smart home products was this easy.
Wow this thing is louder than I expected! I’m not sure why, maybe it was the $40 CAD price tag, but I had low expectations for the max volume of the Google Home Mini. I’m happy to report that I was wrong. I was expecting a speaker only slightly louder than the speaker on most smart phones. What I got was a speaker that I only need to operate at 50% volume to fill a large room. Sound quality isn’t GREAT, but then again you wouldn’t expect it to be from a speaker this size. It’s passable, you might even listen to music on it every once in a while, but set your expectations at the level of a bluetooth speaker that costs 50 dollars and you’ll be in the right ballpark. For podcasts and simply communicating with the Google Assistant it’s wholly qualified. The microphone is sensitive enough that I can use it from the next room over and not have to yell.
Speaking of using it from the next room over, Google is marketing these Home Mini’s as cheap enough that you can put one in every room of the house. I put one of my Home Minis in my kitchen and my other Home Mini in the living room which is directly adjacent to the kitchen. When I say “Ok Google” in the living room, I can see the Home Mini in the kitchen light up and start listening, but only the Home Mini in the living room will actually communicate with me. Google must be detecting which Home Mini you are closest to based on the volume of your voice and routing the Google Assistant through that Home Mini. Very cool, no need to worry about cross talk or accidentally having two Google Assistants blabbing at you at once.
Aesthetically I’m much more pleased with the Google Home Mini than I was with the full sized Google Home. Google Home stood out with it’s bright white plastic, making it almost impossible not to notice in a room. The Home Mini with it’s dark Charcoal appearance blends pleasantly with my decor and disappears into the background. That being said the bright white power cable that comes with the Home Mini kind of ruins that. Why Google didn’t colour match the included power cable is beyond me. Flip the Home Mini over and you’ll see a bright orange rubber bottom that’s extremely grippy. A smart move on Googles part, this non-slip bottom will probably prevent a lot of people from accidentally knocking their Home Minis off the table.
After spending a few days with them I am left with one glaring question though; who’s going to buy a full sized Google Home now? The Google Home is about twice as much as the Google Home Mini and what do you get for your extra money? A slightly better speaker? As near as I can tell that’s the only real difference and to be honest I was never that impressed with the speaker in the Google Home to begin with. You get the same Google Assistant with all of the same functionality. For my money I’d much rather have a Google Home Mini and a decent bluetooth speaker.
Overall I’m extremely impressed with the Google Home Mini. I’ll probably give a few of them to people for Christmas. A smart home assistant isn’t going to be for everyone. Some people don’t like the idea of having an ever present microphone in their house, which is completely fair. But as far as I’m concerned if the NSA wants to waste their time listening to me bicker with my girlfriend about who bought the toilet paper last, I say be my guest.