Thinking of investing in a smart speaker, but don’t want to break the bank? Maybe you have a size limitation based on the available space in your office. Fortunately, notable smart speaker brands like Google and Apple aren’t one-size-fits-all with their hardware.
The Google Nest Mini and Apple HomePod Mini are the latest miniature smart speaker options from both brands. If you’re shopping on a budget or if you can’t imagine a big speaker in your space, a mini speaker is your best bet. But which is truly the best?
We’ve stacked the Nest Mini and HomePod Mini side by side to get a better idea of what each has to offer. Categories include design, controls, notable features, and price/warranty. Read on to see which of the two smart speakers we would choose.
The Google Nest Mini bears a striking resemblance to its predecessor, the similarly puck-shaped Google Home Mini. The Nest Mini measures 3.85 inches in diameter and 1.65 inches tall. Color options include chalk, charcoal, coral, and sky. The enclosure is a fabric top made of recycled materials that wrap around a firm, plastic base. In lieu of traditional buttons, the Nest uses touch controls mapped to the sides of the speaker for functions like volume up/down and mute. There’s also a mic mute switch (located on the back right of the device) that you can toggle on/off. The Nest Mini features a mounting hole for mounting the speaker to a wall.
A series of four LEDs are your main indicator for the Nest. When you speak commands to the speaker, the LEDs illuminate, indicating your command was heard and that a process is about to start.
The HomePod Mini comes in swinging with an aesthetically pleasing bulb design. Like the Nest Mini, the HomePod Mini is also fabric-wrapped, and it measures 3.9 inches wide and 3.3 inches tall. Color options are a bit more limited than the Nest Mini, with only white and space gray as choices. Like the Nest, there are also no traditional buttons to speak of, with physical commands being mapped to a colorfully interactive LED touchpad on top of the speaker. A single tap on the top of the HomePod will play/pause content or engage Siri. A double-tap skips to the next song, while a triple-tap skips back. A long touch also wakes Siri, and the volume is controlled by the volume up/down indicators at the top of the speaker.
Unlike the Nest Mini, the HomePod Mini has no mic switch. If you don’t want Siri listening, you’ll have to tell her to “stop listening” or go into your settings on the Home app to disable.
Speakers and sound quality
Both the Nest Mini and HomePod Mini are designed for much larger audio performance than their small packages would lead one to believe. The Nest Mini is equipped with a 40mm driver that is capable of clear and articulate 360-degree sound. Even at high volumes, highs and mids come in crisp, with a decent amount of bass underneath (two times that of the original Google Home Mini). The speaker has three far-field microphones for picking up on your voice commands and will automatically adjust the volume that your Google Assistant responds with, based on how loud the environment is around the speaker.
The HomePod Mini also boasts 360-degree sound capabilities. A full-range driver and two passive radiators for accentuating bass tones are the audio peripherals at play, and they make the HomePod Mini sound great. The sound is rich and clear, and the bass a bit punchier than competitive miniature speakers. While the HomePod Mini lacks the adaptive sound features of its taller HomePod brethren, Apple’s onboard S5 chip brings a feature called computational audio that helps to balance sound output. It’s not the kind of calibration you get on the bigger HomePod, but it makes a small difference for the listening experience. In terms of actual listening, four far-field microphones are at play with the HomePod Mini (over Google’s three).
Unlike the Amazon Echo lineup and some other smart speakers, neither the Nest Mini nor HomePod Mini features an auxiliary jack for connecting to larger external speakers. While a direct connection would be nice, both the Nest and HomePod are able to be paired to a second speaker for a wider stereo soundstage.
For the Nest Mini, Google Assistant is at the helm of all smart controls. Google’s interactive A.I. is capable of answering questions and connecting to popular streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, news, and weather, as well as smart home controls for gear including thermostats, lighting, cameras, home maintenance devices like vacuums, and more. With an enhanced learning chip, the Nest Mini’s Google Assistant learns and operates at twice the speed of its previous iteration, the Home Mini. The Google Home app (for Android and iOS devices) is where you’ll be stepping up your Nest Mini, adjusting settings, creating “routines” and schedules for your speaker to follow, and enabling/disabling certain functions.
In terms of compatibility, Google revamped its privacy criteria last year, putting a bigger emphasis on data protection. Some third-party brands that were once compatible with Google Assistant may not be anymore. If you’re unsure whether or not a certain service is supported by Google, you can check here.
For the HomePod Mini, Siri is the voice A.I. that steers the ship. For those looking to kickstart an Apple HomeKit ecosystem, the HomePod Mini is one of the cheaper ways to do so. Like Google Assistant, Siri will scour the web to answer your questions and connect you to your favorite news, weather, and preferred streaming content outlets, while providing controls for all your preferred smart home devices.
Both Google Assistant and Siri use voice recognition to differentiate between users. While the feature is still a bit buggy on Siri’s end (there are reported issues of second users not being recognized), the ability has existed on Google and Alexa devices for a few generations longer than Apple.
The Nest Mini normally retails for $49, but you can sometimes grab one on sale for only $19 during shopping holidays like Cyber Monday. Google offers a one-year limited warranty for the device that covers internal defects. The HomePod Mini is nowhere near as good of a deal. At $99, it’s certainly one of the most expensive miniature smart speakers on the market, but still, a relatively good deal if you’re buying it to launch a HomeKit network at a low cost.
The HomePod Mini comes with only 90 days of limited protection, but there’s also the option to add AppleCare to the speaker. For $15, you can guarantee your HomePod for an additional two years. Do note that for each accidental protection claim, there’s an additional $15 instance fee, with only two claims allowed within the coverage period.
In terms of overall performance and value, there’s really no beating the Google Nest Mini. The device has been out much longer than the HomePod Mini, so there’s been time to vet through numerous glitches and firmware tweaks. While Apple fans will appreciate the extra hand-holding with other Apple hardware and apps, $99 can easily buy you a premiere smart speaker like the Amazon Echo. New to the mini market, we’d say that Apple still has a bit of catching up to do with its smart speaker competition.
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