Google Home Mini (Hardware) Review: A Little Helper
Home assistants are quickly becoming an invaluable piece of hardware for the modern person. The access to quick Internet searches, music playback, and integration with many of the programs we use on a daily basis, shows how convenient home assistants are. Around half a year ago, Google released the Google Home. Now, Google wants to put more access to it’s assistant throughout your home with the release of the Google Home Mini.
The Google Home Mini does live up to the mini in its name. Coming in at only around 2 inches tall and only approximately 4 inches in diameter, the device is small and discreet. The Mini is primarily made of the speaker with a small base attached along the bottom. The unit I received was the chalk colour; which has a white base and a grey mesh on top for the speaker. Visible within the grey mesh are the four dots that signify any and everything the Google Home Mini does. These dots represent when the device is listening to your commands, when it is performing its functions, and even the volume control.
Using the Google Home Mini is straightforward. Just say, “Okay Google…” followed by your request and the device gets to work. Only on one occasion did I find that the device couldn’t hear me and this was when there was already loud music playing in the room. I didn’t attempt to use the device from across any space larger then a room as this device is intended for individual rooms, unlike its larger, full-size cousin.
Using your voice is the primary way that you can interact with the Google Home Mini. Touch controls are limited to only volume control. By touching the sides of the device you can have the volume raised or lowered. These controls were always responsive and it’s a shame that there were not more controls that could be done by touch.
Having access to Google’s searching capabilities is immensely helpful. Any time I would need to know something, the Google Home Mini could find the answer. That isn’t to say that this device exists solely to be a physical Google search engine. The device has many more capabilities then that.
The other primary feature I used from the Google Home Mini was its ability to make phone calls. At first I was sceptical that the device could make proper phone calls but after getting accustomed to the commands, I never had to pick up my cell phone while around the Home Mini. Call quality was clear for the recipient on the other end and I never found myself struggling to hear the other person.
For anyone with other Google devices in their home—such as a Chromecast—the Google Home Mini works with them to create a functioning ecosystem of convenience. I could ask my Home Mini to play the latest episode of Stranger Things through Netflix and it would cast the show to my TV through the Chromecast. Integration with my phone was great as well. Being able to ask about the traffic, and then having the fastest directions on my phone was incredibly convenient while I was getting ready to leave for my day.
Using the Google Home Mini as an assistant to my day felt natural. Getting the weather and news while I was busy getting ready is incredibly useful. Having something that can tell me step-by-step instructions to some of my favourite recipes made cooking new food a breeze. Having access to all of these features made me always want the Google Home close at hand.
This was Google’s goal with the Home Mini. They wanted you to be able to place a device throughout all the rooms in your home so that the Google Assistant is only a phrase away. Having a few of these devices sprinkled throughout the house with a full size Google Home as a central hub is what Google aims for these devices.
There is only one minor hiccup with Google’s plan, the base cost of the device. At $79 CAD, the Google Home Mini is a small investment if you want the device in multiple rooms of your house. With the full-size Google Home only being a hundred dollars more expensive at $179 CAD, the devices don’t seem to be properly priced. As of this writing, the devices are on sale and available for much cheaper. The Google Home Mini is only $39 CAD and the full sized Google Home is only $99 CAD. At these prices, the devices are amazing. For such a low cost to entry, I would whole-heartedly recommend these devices. However, outside of this discount, I have to pause and think if they are worth it.
The Google Home Mini is a great purchase if you already have a Google Home and are looking to expand it’s use throughout your home or if you want Google Assistant in one room of your home such as an office. As something to pick up on a whim, the price tag makes it harder to justify. If you can snag it on sale, I say go for it.
A retail version of this device reviewed was provided by the manufacturer. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.
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