A Review of the 2nd Generation HomePod
At their World Wide Developer Conference in 2017 Apple announced a brand new audio product, called HomePod. The HomePod is not Apple’s first foray into an audio speaker, that would be the iPod HiFi, which was designed for use with the iPod with a 30-pin connector. The HomePod was a different type of product.
The HomePod is a high quality speaker that is designed to work natively with the Apple ecosystem, through the use of AirPlay. This can be either from an iPhone, iPad, Mac, an Apple TV, or any other device capable of sending to an AirPlay device.
The original HomePod was released on February 9th., 2018. I had taken the day off to pick up my HomePod from my local Apple Store, but I remember that day well because we had just had a big snow storm and the roads were treacherous, but I was able to get it picked up.
This time around, it was a bit easier. Instead of doing an in-store pickup, I had my 2nd generation HomePod delivered, only because there was no option for in-store pickup when I had ordered them.
For the longest time I had been using the 1st generation HomePod to output from my Apple TV in my bedroom. This changed when I purchased a pair of HomePod minis. Once I purchased a pair of HomePod minis, these took place of the single HomePod and the 1st generation HomePod was then moved down to my living room.
My Media Habits
You would think that if I had a HomePod in my living room that I would use it for everything, but honestly I hardly used it. As a matter of fact, I do not watch much media on the TV in my living room. Instead, I mostly use that TV for playing video games and I watch most media on my bedroom TV. I am not sure why I do this, but it is how I end up watching media.
Since I play video games in my living room, you would likely guess that I want the best audio quality, but much like my media habits, my game play habits do not match most of the mainstream. Typically, when I play games I am most likely playing multiplayer games. Since I generally play the same multiplayer game over and over, I do not necessarily need to hear the audio from the game.
Instead, I typically wear my headphones and I am either listening to a podcast or an audiobook. This will come into play a bit later, but for now, let us look at the 2nd Generation HomePod. And before we do that, let us take a look at the specs for all of the HomePods that have been available.
The 2nd Generation HomePod is very similar to that of the 1st generation HomePod. For full comparison, here are all of the specifications for the entire HomePod line, including the HomePod mini.
|1st Generation||mini||2nd Generation|
|Wi-Fi||802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5)||802.11n (Wi-Fi 4)||802.11n (Wi-Fi 4)|
The 1st generation HomePod was discontinued in 2021, many have speculated as to the reason why it was discontinued, particularly since there was not a replacement available. There are a few possibilities. The first one is that there was a manufacturing issue. This is supported by many reports the original HomePods would stop functioning after a while. The second possible reason is that they could no longer get the A8 processors that were powering the original HomePods. The third possibility is that they did not sell as well as Apple had hoped. The evidence to support this last item is that even people who bought the 1st generation HomePods, even after it was discontinued, were all part of the original batch of units produced, which were manufactured in 2017 and 2018.
Thus far, the full-sized HomePod has only come in two different colors for each model throughout its entire life. The first generation HomePod came in White and Space Gray. The same can be said for the 2nd generation HomePod. There are still two colors, Midnight, and White. The Midnight color is a bit darker than the previous Space Gray color. The darker color should allow it go with more decor than the Space Gray.
Apple does have the tendency to use the same color name, but have it actually use different shades. Given the midnight name, I would have expected the 2nd Generation HomePod to have a darker blue color, like the MacBook Air, but in reality the "midnight" color is just a variant of Space Gray.
One of the biggest changes to the 2nd generation HomePod is the fact that the power plug is now removable. Yes, completely removable, in fact it is even in a separate compartment in the HomePod box. The power plug uses a standard C7 plug, which is also commonly called a "figure 8" plug. There is a flange around the plug so it will look like a single piece when plugged into the HomePod.
As is the case with most of the cables coming from Apple, this one is slightly braided. These braided cables add a bit of style, but also help protect the cable. The 1st generation HomePod also had a braided cable, but it was not removable.
The physical size of the 2nd generation HomePod is very similar to that of the 1st generation HomePod is similar to that of the 1st generation. The exact size is 6.6 inches, or 168mm high and 5.6 inches, or 142mm, wide. This is 0.2 inches, or 4mm shorter. This is not a very big difference.
One other change is the weight. The 1st generation HomePod was 5.5 pounds, or 2.5 kilograms. The 2nd generation HomePod is 5.16 pounds, or 2.3 kilograms. This is actually 8 percent lighter, but the 2nd generation HomePod is still a hefty and dense device.
The top screen of the 2nd generation HomePod takes its inspiration from the HomePod mini. The entire top of the screen is a bit flatter than the 1st generation. Beyond this, when there is an animation, the entire screen animates, instead of just the center of the top.
One aspect of the 2nd generation HomePod screen, as well as the HomePod mini screen, is that the volume up and volume down buttons are actually etched into the screen. This differs from the 1st generation HomePod where the volume up an down buttons were only visible when the screen was active, but this is the same as on the HomePod mini.
One of the complaints that many had with the 1st generation HomePod was its response time. So, I did some testing between the 1st and 2nd generation HomePods, and I could not find any difference between the response times on them. This could have been due to when I was testing. It is also possible that I am a "Siri Unicorn", in that I rarely seem to have issues with getting fast response times from Siri.
When I unpacked my HomePod and set it up, I found out it had version 16.0 on it. This makes me think that it was originally supposed to be released in September 2022 with the release of iOS 16, but for some reason Apple opted to not release it at the time. To be honest, it was probably a good thing that they did not release it then, because many aspects of it were broken. And I do not mean it was problematic, I mean it did not function, at all.
After upgrading to 16.3, everything worked as expected.
Earlier I mentioned that I typically play games with my headphones on, and do not use the audio coming out of my TV, because I mostly play multiplayer games. However, HBO has a TV show called Last of Us, which is based on a 2013 video game. I wanted to play through Last of Us again, before the show started.
If you have played the game then you know how much the audio plays a big role in the game. I wanted the game to sound the best that it could. Now, I had bought the 3rd generation Apple TV 4K, and one feature that it supports is eARC. eARC allows all sound to be routed through the Apple TV and be output to a connected HomePod.
So, this is exactly what I did and played through the Last Of Us with my original HomePod. This is what prompted me to buy two 2nd generation HomePods.
When I ordered the 2nd generation HomePod, I opted to get a second one. This is because the audio coming out of the 1st generation HomePod was really good when connected to eARC, but the area where the HomePods will be could easily accommodate a second one.
Now that I have a second one, the sound coming out of the pair is even better than the single HomePod. After setting up the stereo pair of 2nd generation HomePods is when the sound really came alive. The example that really got me when when I was playing the 2015 game Battlefield: Hardline. During a multiplayer game, I was able to hear my player walk on the grass. This is likely something that I could hear out of the single HomePod, if the volume were up high enough, however it is definitely not something I could not hear out my TV speakers themselves.
If you want to create a stereo pair, you need to have two of the same type of HomePod, you cannot mix and match them. This means that you have to have two 2nd generation HomePods, two HomePod minis, or two 1st generation HomePods.
One thing that I would like to see Apple do is provide the ability to haver multiple stereo pairs that synchronize. Say two full-sized HomePods and two HomePod minis, which would create a great four speaker setup. I doubt that Apple would bother doing this, but it would be nice to see.
The second thing that would be good, and that might possibly get more people to think about getting the full-sized HomePod, is additional colors, just like the HomePod mini. It seems as though Apple’s higher-end items are only ever available in a few colors. Meanwhile the "consumer" items are available in a wider variety of colors.
The HomePod is not an inexpensive purchase. In fact, you could get 3 HomePod minis for the price of a single 2nd generation HomePod. However, the sound that is produced out of the 2nd generation HomePod is beyond what the HomePod mini can produce. This, of course, makes sense given the physical size of the 2nd generation HomePod.
Now, with a stereo pair of 2nd generation HomePods, I will play my multiplayer games with the sound on from time to time. The sound that can be heard can be the most minute detail, like even hearing grass crunching while walking in my multiplayer game.
The 2nd generation HomePod has fewer tweeters than the original HomePod, however it produces great audio, and having a stereo pair is even better, provided you have the space, and budget, for them. I do not think that having a stereo pair of HomePods is right for every environment, but it can be a nice thing to have in the right environment.