Google Home Mini (Hardware) Review: A Little Helper

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.

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Google Home Mini (Image credit: CGM Staff)

 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.

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Google Home Mini (Image credit: CGM Staff)

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.

Google Home Mini (Hardware) Review: A Little Helper
Google Home Mini (Image credit: CGM Staff)

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.

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Google Home Mini (Image credit: CGM Staff)

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.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Jesse Cabral’s review of Divinity Original Sin 2 and his review of the MSI Stealth Pro!

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Google Pixel 2 XL Review: A Controversial Flagship

Google Pixel 2 XL Review: A Controversial Flagship

When the original Google Pixel released in 2016 it was received with open arms by critics and the public. While not the most original design on the market, the Google Pixel delivered an amazing camera, snappy interface, and a stable experience practically devoid of flaws. Unfortunately, the Pixel 2 XL’s launch didn’t share the same tale, with multiple controversies erupting over screen quality, burn-in issues and strange high-pitched sounds coming from the phone when next to the user’s ear. Google has responded quickly with multiple patches and even a worldwide warranty extension, but is it too little too late to sway opinions? CGMagazine might be late to the party, but let’s examine the Google Pixel 2 XL as a brand new user in late November.

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Google Pixel 2 XL (credit: CGM Staff)

Starting with design and specs, the Google Pixel 2 XL stands in line with the competition’s best, going with a near bezel-less design and packing in the industry standard of premium components. The phone screams professional from top to bottom thanks to the matte textured coating on the aluminum body. While the XL size of the Pixel 2 can feel intimidating to wield at the beginning, this texture makes the phone easy to handle even with one hand and provides an extra layer of grip that all phones of this form factor need.

Packed in the chassis of the Google Pixel 2 XL is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor running on Android 8.0 Oreo, 4GB of RAM, up to 128 GB of storage and an incredibly efficient 3520mAH battery. Compared to my previous smartphone reviews and my personal experience as an iPhone 6 user, the Google Pixel 2 XL is simply the best experience I’ve had to date. Users upgrading to this generation of smartphone hardware are in for a treat thanks to superb UI’s, powerful battery life, punchy speakers, extremely precise displays and amazing portable viewing experiences. While the Google Pixel 2 XL may not stand out from the pack in this regard, it still keeps up as a powerful contender worth your dollar.

Google Pixel 2 XL Review: A Controversial Flagship
Google Pixel 2 XL (credit: CGM Staff)

Time to address the display. Despite sharing the same internal specs, the display of the Pixel 2 and 2 XL are made by different manufacturers. In the case of the Pixel 2 XL, LG has developed a 6” Quad HD+ pOLED screen sporting an appealing 18:9 aspect ratio and a pixel density of 538 ppi. The largest complaint about this screen is that colours appeared lifeless, but after Google’s latest patches, the phone has received a new saturation option to boost colours by 10%. The update makes a substantial difference from the initial viewing experience, but unfortunately no update will ever be able to fix the blue-tint issues caused by the screens poor viewing angles.

While the display controversy is the Google Pixel 2 XL’s largest weakness, the Pixel still manages to retain its crown as the camera king. Sporting a 12.2MP back facing camera and an 8MP front facing camera, the Google Pixel 2 provides the photographer in all of us with a powerful tool for any type of memorable moment or occasion. The Pixel 2 XL accomplishes these feats thanks to its ability to gather more light in the sensor during both good and low light situations, while also utilizing a more accurate level of color balance to bring the picture to life. Users can also take full advantage of the Pixel 2 XL’s ability to record video at 4K resolution at 30FPS or 1080P at 60. To smoothen out those captured moments with a lot of rapid movement, the phone uses a mix of optical and electronic stabilization to capture the subject fluidly.

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Google Pixel 2 XL (credit: CGM Staff)

With the phone’s primary features covered, all that’s left to talk about is the rest of the package. Included in the box is a USB-C 3mm audio jack adapter, a USB-C to USB 2.0 adapter, and the charging cable and brick featuring fast charging technology. The unfortunate omission from this box is a set of headphones, but this isn’t much of a negative when a majority of users prefer to buy a better third party option that suits their personal tastes. The charger is the real highlight, quickly bringing the Google Pixel 2 XL back from 0% battery to full within an hour. Considering it took me almost two full days of use to drop the battery to less than 20%, I’d say this charging tech is just as efficient as the phone itself.

Despite the complaints at launch, the Google Pixel 2 Xl is undoubtedly one of the best smartphones of 2017. Where some companies sit idly by, Google is regaining their consumers’ lost trust by rolling out updates fast and improving the overall experience. Considering the wealth of competition offered by Samsung, Apple, and OnePlus, Google still manages to find an edge in this market with its impressive camera and video capabilities. It’s no longer the specs that will get users to buy a flagship smartphone, but their specializations that cater to the consumers’ individual needs.

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Google Pixel 2 XL (credit: CGM Staff)

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.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Cole Watson’s reviews of Assassin’s Creed Origins and Gundam Versus!

Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15: Star Wars Battlefront II, Sonic Forces + Episode Shadow, and  Super Mario Odyssey!

Don’t forget to tune in every Friday the Pixels & Ink Podcast to hear the latest news, previews, and in-depth game discussions!

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#MadeByGoogle Presentation Wrap-Up

#MadeByGoogle Presentation Wrap-Up

Earlier today, Google hosted a major press conference discussing their upcoming smartphone and search engine features. Although news of the Google Pixel was leaked beforehand, the event still explored the new smartphone in detail and explained its specifications. Here’s just a few key highlights from the San Francisco reveal:

For one, Google explored the features and abilities behind their new voice-based Google Assistant feature. Google Assistant is intended to be a personal search engine helper, not unlike Siri. More importantly, it’ll be the fundamental feature behind Google’s upcoming Google Home. Releasing on November 4th, Google Home comes from the same family as Amazon’s Alexa: It’s intended to be a physical personal assistant that uses voice commands to do everything from activate household appliances to watch Netflix on your TV.

There’s also the Google Pixel, which has the Google Assistant as a built-in feature. The Pixel is a cloud-based smartphone, and uses Google Assistant to answer and respond to particularly unique queries: such as photos from a specific month or music from a specific movie. Of particular note is the Pixel’s amazing camera. Clocking in at 12.3 megapixels, the camera comes with HDR+ by default and has received an 89 rating from DXOMark.

As well Google introduced the Daydream View headset for smartphones. The VR set looks a bit more like an accessory in style and is designed to be a light headset alternative. It’s also accessible for users with glasses. The Google Pixel will come with Daydream View support baked in too, although it will not be a Pixel-exclusive. The VR headset will go for $79 when it launches later this year in November.

Will the Daydream View and Pixel prove popular options for smartphone users? It depends. The View is certainly affordable, but the Pixel isn’t quite as flashy as other smartphones. Rather, it looks like it intends to be the Chromebook of smartphones: developed to connect with the Internet, prioritizing ease of use over raw power on its own.