At their 2017 World Wide Developer Conference, Apple announced a whole new product line. It would be a smart speaker that would not only be your smart assistant but would also be an AirPlay speaker. Even though it was announced in June of 2017, it would be seven and a half months, January 26th of 2018 to be exact, before you would be able to pre-order one. They were released on February 9th, and sold out before they went on sale.
One aspect to the original HomePod that a lot of people questioned was the price. It cost $349 when it was released. Apple is known as having a premium product, and this price was definitely a premium.
It was a mere 14 months after it became available, but Apple reduced the price from $349 to $299, while this made it more affordable, but it was still a bit too much for many to be willing to purchase one. When it was released, I did write up about my thoughts on the HomePod. You can read both part 1 and part 2 of my HomePod review for my thoughts on the product.
Not long after the HomePod was released many wondered if, or when, another HomePod would be released. In particular, they were wondering if Apple would release a smaller HomePod. It would take two and a half years, but Apple finally did release a smaller HomePod, they called it the HomePod mini. Apple announced the HomePod mini at their “Hi, Speed” event on October 13th, 2020.
At the time of its announcement, Apple also announced when it would be available for pre-order. Pre-orders for the HomePod mini went live on November 6th, with the devices beginning to arrive during the week of November 17th. I ordered two HomePod minis.
This review will cover some aspects that are similar to my original HomePod review. These topics include the size, how it sounds, and Siri. There will also be an area covered, which I was not able to cover last time, and that is using the HomePod minis as a stereo pair. Before all of that though, let us start with the internals.
Both the original HomePod and HomePod mini are powered by Apple’s system on a chip. The original HomePod has an A8 system on a chip. The A8 was introduced in 2014 with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. This processor is more than enough to power the original HomePod.
Th HomePod mini also has an Apple system on a chip within it, but it not the A8. Instead it is the same one that is within the Series 5 Apple Watch, which has an S5 within it. The S5 is a more powerful and yet more power-efficient processor than the A8.
Much like the original HomePod, the HomePod mini has a built-in power cord. The end of the power cord is not the same as the original HomePod. Instead, the end is a USB-C plug. Included with the HomePod is Apple’s 20-watt power brick. The HomePod mini needs the 20-watt power brick. Using anything less will not work. I tried plugging in a HomePod mini into the USB-C port on my 2017 iMac and all I got was an orange light on the top of the HomePod mini.
I think the reason for this arrangement is so Apple can produce the same HomePod mini and the only difference needed to ship it anywhere is the USB-C power brick, which Apple already produces for usage with other products.
When I received my HomePod minis, my first thought was that they were much smaller than I thought they would have been. They are definitely a lot smaller than the original HomePod.
The size is not only noticeable in the physical size of the HomePod mini, but also in the box. In fact, the HomePod mini is 3.3-inches high by 3.9-inches wide. If you compare this to the original HomePod, which is 6.8 inches high and 5.5 inches wide, the HomePod minis are absolutely diminutive. Here are a few comparisons.
Even though they are of a small size, they are not are not small on sound, which we will cover in a bit. First though, let us look at the setup of the HomePod mini.
When you first power on a HomePod mini and if your iOS device is in range, you will get a setup prompt, like the one below.
The next steps are to select which room the HomePod mini is in, from the ones available in your Home app. This is followed by whether or not to allow “Personalized Requests”, as is shown in the screenshot below.
Here you can either “Use Personal Requests” or “Don’t Use Personal Requests”. If you opt to use personalized requests, you will then see another screen. This is the “Siri for Everyone” screen, which indicates that you Siri will be able to personalize requests for everyone in the home.
The next screen is the “Transfer Accounts and Settings” screen. This will use the Apple ID that is logged on your iOS device and use that for the HomePod mini. Once you tap on “Transfer Settings”, the HomePod mini will continue setting up. It will look like the screen below.
After you have setup an individual HomePod mini, if you happen to setup a second one, as a stereo pair, you will see something a bit different during the setup of the second HomePod mini.
Setting up a Stereo Pair
If you have a second HomePod mini, and you begin setting it up, you will get a different prompt after the initial setup screen. This screen asks if you want to setup the two HomePod minis as a stereo pair. The screen will look like the one below.
You will then be asked which room, as the second step. The third step will now let you select which side of the room the second HomePod mini is on. The screen will look like the one below.
Once you select left or right, you will be able to tap continue on the “Siri for Everyone” screen and then you will transfer the settings again to the second HomePod mini. At this point the HomePod mini stereo pair will be setup and you will see a screen like the one below.
The final screen is the one where the HomePod mini stereo pair completion screen.
Now that we hav the HomePod minis setup, let us look at how they sound.
When you look at the HomePod mini, you might think that it would have a tinny sound to it, but it does not. While it does not have a much bass as the larger HomePod, it does not, but it does not sound bad at all.
I use the HomePod minis in a stereo pair, we will cover that in a bit, almost exclusively. For the room that they are in, the two smaller HomePod minis as a stereo pair has worked quite well, most of the time anyway.
There have been instances when I am watching something on the Apple TV and the sound will seem to cut out on one of the HomePod minis. It usually only lasts a few seconds, but has been as long as 30 seconds, and then it gets corrected. It has happened over multiple items that I do not think it is a source issue, but I cannot rule it out.
One thing that I have noticed is that using the HomePod minis in a stereo pair, from the Apple TV, the volume has to be set higher than was needed on the original HomePod, in order to get the same volume out of the HomePod minis. The volume does not need to be significantly higher than the original HomePod, but it is definitely higher.
While I use the HomePod minis in a stereo pair most of the time, I have used just one of the HomePod minis on its own. A single HomePod mini on its own sounds decent when listening to music. Again, a single HomePod on its own will not be able to fill up a room, but if you are using one to listen to music while working, it will work quit well.
I do not use the HomePod to listen to podcasts or audiobooks, just music or as an output for the Apple TV, so I do not have any experience on that front. However, I do have experience using two of them as a stereo pair.
One of the features of both the original HomePod and the HomePod mini is the ability to use two of them as a stereo pair. However, you cannot mix and match HomePod models. For instance, you cannot have an original HomePod and make a stereo pair with a HomePod mini. This is just not possible.
You can create a stereo pair for two HomePods or two HomePod minis. In fact, if you have one HomePod mini configured in a room and add another, of the same type, the Home app will ask if you want to create a stereo pair automatically.
As you might expect, using a pair of HomePods in a stereo pair. I would have never done this with the original HomePod. Mostly, because I could never justify purchasing a second HomePod for $300 after paying $350 for the first HomePod.
The HomePod and HomePod minis are designed to be your virtual assistant. Siri works similarly on the HomePod mini as other Apple devices. The HomePod mini can be used as a HomeKit Hub, so you can use it to control all of your HomeKit-enabled devices.
I have not had any issues with Siri, although I do not use Siri all that often. The only issues that I have had are with its inability to turn off a specific light. However, the Home app has issues contacting that particular light every so often, so I do not think it is an issue with the HomePod itself, instead an issue with the light bulb.
There are a couple of other items that need to be covered. These are updates, switching positions, and AirPlay. Let us begin with Updates.
After I did my initial setup of the HomePods, I knew that there was an update available, to HomePod software 14.2. As is the case with the original HomePod, this is done through the Home app. If there is an update, the Home app should inform you. There may be instances when it does not, so you can go and check for an update in the Home app.
When you have a set of HomePod minis configured, you may end up moving them while re-arranging them. If you need to identify which HomePod is which, you can by performing the following steps:
- Open the Home App.
- Locate the HomePod mini stereo pair.
- Tap and hold on the HomePod mini stereo pair to bring up the now playing information.
- Scroll up to bring up the settings.
- In the first grouping, tap on “Audio Settings”. This will bring up the “Audio Settings” screen.
- Tap on one of the HomePod minis to identify it.
- If needed, you can tap on the “Swap” button, in the middle of the screen to swap the HomePod minis.
The ability to swap the HomePod minis with the tap of a button can be quite convenient if you need to swap them. Similarly, if you need to identify a HomePod, there is the easy way to identify them.
One thing that you are able to do is just the HomePod mini as an AirPlay destination. If you are using an Apple TV 4K, you can use a HomePod, or a HomePod mini, as the default output for the Apple TV. This is a nice addition that would also be good to have in the Apple TV HD.
Even though you may not be able to set a default audio output on the Apple TV HD, you can still AirPlay from one, as you have been able to in the past. Furthermore, you are able to AirPlay to multiple items simultaneously. While you cannot add a regular HomePod as a stereo pair with a HomePod mini, you are able to AirPlay to both a HomePod mini stereo pair, you can actually use an Apple TV to airplay to both simultaneously. While this is not a true stereo pair, it can be used as pseudo-stereo pair.
Even though they have only been available for approximately two weeks, it is easy to see that the HomePod minis are already super popular. As of this writing the HomePod minis from Apple have a 3 to 4 week shipping range from Apple.
The HomePod mini does not have nearly as much bass as the larger HomePod, but that is to be expected. Even though it is much smaller than the original HomePod, it still has pretty good sound.
If you have multiple HomePod minis you are able to pair them together in a stereo pair. Doing so will provide you with even better sound than a single HomePod mini. This can be beneficial in a larger room. While you can pair multiple HomePod minis together, you cannot put a larger HomePod and a HomePod mini together in a stereo pair.
If you are looking to get a speaker with a virtual assistant in it, you cannot go wrong with the HomePod mini. The $99 price point makes it being 1/3 the cost of the original HomePod, means that you can put them in more rooms throughout your home. With multiple HomePods you can use the new Intercom feature included in the HomePod operating system 14.2.
When I first ordered the HomePod minis, I only ordered two. At the time I thought that would be enough. However, in reality, I should have ordered a third one in order to use while working. This is because my work area is separate from where I use the HomePods as a stereo pair.
If you have been looking to get a HomePod, but have been deterred by the price, I recommend getting the HomePod mini. The price of $99 while not an impulse buy, it more palatable than the original HomePod and although it does not have the same bass and sound as the original HomePod, it is still quite good. Overall, the HomePod mini is well worth the $99 investment, and if you can, get more than one, because using them as a stereo pair is even better than a standalone HomePod mini.