(A guest post by) Bobby Cherry
Hey, Google, turn on the Christmas tree. OK, Google, play some relaxing music.
For just $49, Google Home Mini blends the sounds of a moderate Bluetooth speaker with the powerhouse capabilities of Google’s line of personal assistant devices.
Users can dim the living room lights, check the weather, ask questions and play games just as they can with Google Home and Google Home Max. All of the features available through Google Assistant are available on the Google Home Mini — with one catch: the device’s sound quality is subpar. But its mediocre sound quality only is recognizable when playing music. When using all of the device’s other features, a user wouldn’t recognize any sound quality issues.
To the average user looking for a way to incorporate Google Home devices into their everyday usage, the Google Home Mini offers the cheapest entry point. So a less than stellar speaker might not be a hindrance to many users — especially those looking for gifts for children, grandparents, or those empty-nester parents.
And since the Google Home Mini likely will be many people’s first foray into personal assistants, it is worth noting that out-of-the-box setup of the device is rather simple. The device — about the size of a doughnut — easily pops out of the box and plugs into a power outlet using its micro USB cable adapter.
For users who already have other Google Home devices, setup is a breeze. A few quick steps and your Google Home Mini can be up and running on your WiFi network within a couple of minutes.
But for users new to Google’s line of personal assistants, setup takes a little longer — though it’s still easy enough to have the device functional within 10 or 15 minutes. Users need to install the Google Home app from which several features are available to control the device.
Of course, the whole point of Google Home and Google Assistant is to make life easier. So syncing the Google Home device with a Google Account is imperative to make the most of the technology. Users can ask Google what their commute to work will be like, make phone calls (U.S. only at this point, but the U.K. will be added eventually), and add or delete Google Calendar items. With a Google Chromecast Audio device, users have the ability to connect the Home Mini to stream music.
Other perks of Google Home include its connection to iHeartRadio (which means users have the ability to play many local radio stations from across the country along with additional streaming music channels), Spotify, Pandora, and Google Play’s music channels. Just like Google Home, users can ask Home Mini to turn lights on/off and cast video to Chromecast.
Its precision microphone allows for the tiny device to be hidden while still being able to pick up a person’s voice. Though, placing the Mini Home behind furniture or desks can hinder the user’s ability to hear responses and interactions from the Google Assistant.
Aside from its design, there are a few functional differences between Google’s Home and Home Mini devices. Namely, to increase or decrease sound on the Google Home Mini, a user taps on the device. Four white lights in a row — not the red, yellow, green, blue lights in a circular fashion of the Google Home — are displayed within the meshy fabric top of the Mini Home. Those lights act similarly to the multi-color lights of the Google Home, letting you know it’s thinking or listening.
Whether this is someone’s first personal assistant or a user is adding to their collection of Google Home devices, the Google Home Mini is worth the price. Sure, the audio quality isn’t as strong, but for $49, the Google Home Mini is less than half the cost of Google Home and would make a great addition to a spare room, a home office, kitchen or kid’s room. Or the Google Home Mini could make a great gift for someone who’s interested in personal assistant devices but isn’t going to notice the sound quality while jamming out to Google’s myriad of music options.
Author: Bobby Cherry
Bobby Cherry is a Pittsburgh-based journalist, social media enthusiast and pizza lover. Follow him on Twitter at @GoBobbo, and find more from him at bobbycherry.com.