Apple’s HomePod Mini now joins the ranks of premium smart speakers, but at half the size. The miniature HomeKit hub can deliver crystal clear audio, control your smart home gear, and engage with Siri to answer your questions and connect you with news, weather, music, and more. But can Apple’s mini speaker hold a sword to its elder (and bigger) brother, the HomePod? We weigh in on a few different specs to help you make the call.
One of the most common complaints about the original HomePod (released in 2018) was that it was one of the most expensive smart speakers on the market. That’s still true: The original model will cost $299 to order today. The speaker is available in white or space gray, but otherwise, there are no customization options.
The HomePod Mini, on the other hand, is priced more competitively at $99, the same as the fourth-generation Amazon Echo. It too is available in white and space gray.
Winner: The HomePod Mini wins easily on price alone. However, these two speakers are so different that it’s difficult to compare them solely on the cost.
The design differences between the two HomePods are stark: The original HomePod is designed to have a central location with its large, cylindrical shape, and the focus on competing with past Amazon Echo devices is clear. The fabric material helps protect the internal speakers, while the solid 5.6-inch base needs a bit of space. There is a simple LED light at the top to serve as an indicator and enable somewhat confusing touch controls — tap for volume controls, press down for Siri, double-tap to skip songs, etc.
The HomePod Mini goes for a very different approach. This rounded speaker sports a bulbous design and is much smaller — only 3.3 inches high and 3.9 inches wide. This allows it to sit more comfortably on narrow shelves or bed stands, and you don’t have to find as much space on your desk to add a HomePod Mini companion. However, it does sound better in a central location given it boasts 360-degree sound. The LED controls have a colorful upgrade and more obvious control buttons for volume.
Winner: HomePod Mini. The little orb looks great and is easier to position in different locations throughout the home.
The original HomePod is equipped with a high-excursion woofer and seven tweeters, plus spatial awareness technology to adapt sound for the room it’s in. Even though the HomePod is a few years old now, it still provides some of the best sound we’ve heard from a smart speaker.
The HomePod Mini is designed more for accessibility than for sound. It only has one full-range driver, plus a design that includes dual passive radiators for amplification (Amazon’s latest Echo does a bit better with a 3-inch woofer and dual 0.8-inch tweeters). In lieu of dedicated spatial adaptivity, Apple pairs its S5 chip with a feature called computational audio for the HomePod Mini. While the speaker doesn’t exactly adapt to its listening environment, the computational function helps to balance sound output based on where the speaker is placed and what type of content it’s playing. In terms of highs and lows, the HomePod Mini does a great job of delivering both without cutting off the bass, but it’s no HomePod.
The Mini is designed more for up-close, personal sound for one person — it’s another indication that the HomePod Mini is most at home on your desk while you work (or in a similar location). Apple suggests setting up HomePod Minis around the house for better sound results, but this just raises the cost up to HomePod levels without as many benefits for audio quality.
Both speakers have multiroom audio options, too. That means that if you have two HomePods of either model, you can link them together and play the same music/sounds on both at the same time. This is a bonus for those who already have a HomePod but are thinking about getting a Mini (and it also works with AirPlay 2). Apple has an Intercom mode that allows HomePods to act as two-way audio devices, too.
There’s no battle between voice assistant here, as each speaker uses Siri and has all the same Siri capabilities. They can both act as smart home hubs for HomeKit home automation and support AirPlay 2 devices.
Likewise, both speakers offer the same services. Both are compatible with Apple Music, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and Radio.com, as well as any Apple Podcasts.
Here’s another significant difference between the speakers for anyone who has an Apple TV 4K. The Apple TV has the ability to sync up with the HomePod and allow it to enhance your home theater experience by playing sound for whatever you’re watching on TV. That way, you can position the HomePod as an important ancillary speaker without the need to get a dedicated speaker for your system.
The HomePod Mini doesn’t as seamlessly support home theater sound on Apple TV 4K, as it’s too small and focused on personal audio to be a good match for an entertainment system (unless you use two for stereo sound). You can, however, stream audio from Apple TV to a HomePod Mini or a pair of minis using the Airplay feature.
For a personal smart speaker sitting beside you on your desk, the affordable HomePod Mini is the best choice. For full-room sound and entertainment, as well as connections with your home theater, the original HomePod remains the best choice.
Considering the costs, if you don’t have any experience with HomePods, we suggest buying the HomePod Mini (the same goes for giving it as a gift, too). This is a great entry-level pick, and you can add the larger HomePod later on if you want to build out your Apple collection.
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