Tech Review: Google’s new Home Mini is smaller, less expensive

Google was late to the voice activated home speakers party, trailing the Amazon Echo by over a year.  None the less, they moved in fast and this year they are also selling a less expensive mini version of their smart speaker called the Google Home Mini.  Can it live up to the big brother, more expensive, Google Home and compete with the Echo Dot?  I put it to the test.

Hardware

The Google Home Mini looks slick!  It is a lot less rigid than the Echo Dot and it comes in 3 different colors, Light Grey, Dark Grey and Coral.  The only actual button is the microphone on/off switch on the back.  You adjust the volume by tapping on the side of the speaker and the LED dots under the fabric show you the current volume level.  Simply put, the Google Home Mini looks sheik and most people may not even notice it on your nightstand, in your kitchen or living room.

Setup

Setup is pretty easy.  The smartphone app (iOS or Android) will walk you through the process of connecting the Mini to your home WI-FI network.  It took me less than 5 minutes to have it up and running.

Google Assistant

The Google Assistant is exactly what you would expect it to be.  Ask a question and she answers... usually.  You can ask the weather, current news or set a kitchen timer.  It goes beyond that once you connect other smarthome devices.  The Google Home Mini can control smart lights, smart thermostats and other smart home devices.  Updates have been fast and furious with new features and supported devices being added weekly.

The voice is stuck in the box!

My biggest complaint about the Google Home Mini is that there is no audio output jack or option to connect the Mini to a bluetooth speaker.  I probably wouldn't care about this if the Echo Dot didn't offer it.  None the less, that's the competition and Google has to keep up.

With that said, the coolest thing when it comes to music on the Google Home Mini (and it's big brother) is that it is integrated with Google Chromecast Audio devices.  In fact I think this might be why they decided not to put an audio output on the Mini.  The Chromecast Audio dongles are inexpensive and connect to speakers or home stereos to stream tunes into your home.  The Home Mini can sync up with any Chromecast Audio devices in your home.  For example, setup a zone with 2 Chromecast Audio devices and your Home Mini and crank synchronized tunes into all of those devices at the same time.  It's works really well!

Conclusion

Despite the lack of an audio output the Google Home Mini is an awesome option for a great price.  It's the only smarthome speaker that will work with the Google Music streaming service... for obvious reasons.  It also works hand in hand with Android phones.  The new broadcast feature lets me use it like a household intercom and adds to the value of multiple Google Homes throughout your house.

I like the Echo and the Google Home.  The Google Home looks better but when it comes to functionality, frankly, it's a issue of personal preference.

List price is $49 but you can buy it directly from Google (or most other retail stores) on sale for the holiday for just $29!  At that price, you can't go wrong!