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Google Home Mini: The Little Assistant That Could

In an obvious bid to play catch up to the success of Amazon’s Echo Dot, Google recently launched the Google Home Mini. It’s a tinier, more compact version of their already compact Google Home product and Mountain View clearly hopes that’ll help its chances of mainstream success.

A minimal-looking Mini

At first glance, the Home Mini is certainly more attractive than the Echo Dot. It’s a sleek-looking doughnut- shaped device that’s roughly four inches in diameter and over an inch and a half tall. It’s made of plastic with a fabric covering its speaker. The fabric is transparent and Google says it was especially developed for the Home Mini. It comes in three available colors—charcoal, chalk, or coral. There are four LEDs under the fabric which serve as indicator lights to let you know your Home Mini is active.

Though there are no visible buttons on the device, you can use touch controls to do some simple tasks. For example, you can tap the top of the Home Mini to pause or resume your music. To increase or decrease the volume of the speaker, you can tap its left or right side.

Of course, you can skip the touch controls altogether and simply use voice commands, thanks to Google Assistant.

Google Assistant at your service

The Mini is part of the Google Home family of products, so it comes with Google Assistant onboard. To wake up the Assistant, all you need to do is say “Okay, Google” or even “Hey, Google”. The Assistant’s default voice is female, but you now have the option to change it to a male-sounding one. You just need to toggle the appropriate setting in the Home mobile app.

Google is constantly tinkering with its AI Assistant, and they’ve announced a few new features that will be rolling out in the next few months:

More family-focused capabilities. The search giant is adding support for kids’ accounts that’ll make it easier for young ones to interact with the Assistant. Children can play games, take fun quizzes, and hear bedtime stories.

Better routine management. You can set up the Assistant to perform a set of tasks with one command. For instance, if you say “OK, Google, goodnight”, the Assistant will know to turn off the lights and set the security alarms in your house.

Broadcast messages. If you’ve got more than one Google Home Mini device, you can broadcast messages that can be heard on each one around the house. So if you want to call everyone down for dinner, simply tell the Assistant to broadcast the message.

Little device, big sound

Though we’ll have to see if the Home Mini can capture some market share away from the Echo Dot, there is one thing it definitely does better than its Amazon counterpart. The Mini sounds good.

For such a small speaker, it pumps out sound at a higher volume and quality than the Dot can produce. Alexa, Amazon’s own AI assistant, sounds quite metallic on the Dot, and music playback is definitely not a treat. In contrast, the Home Mini’s speaker produces a warmer, more natural sound, both for the Assistant’s speaking voice and your music. However, we would still recommend that you get a dedicated stereo system for music playback rather than rely on the Mini. It sounds great for some casual listening, but audiophiles would likely want more power and clarity.

Overall, if you’ve already invested in the Google ecosystem, then the Home Mini is a smart choice for your smart home. With Google’s software expertise, the device can only get better at helping you manage tasks around the house. At $49, it’s a great deal and you should pre-order yours today.