The war to win the smart speaker segment is easily the hottest emerging tech battle. Although many believe Amazon is already ahead in the game with its Alexa-enabled Echo speakers range, the e-commerce giant is expecting some serious competition from none other than Google. The latter is the latest entrant in the smart speaker segment, with Google Home and Google Home Mini in India just a few months after Echo’s entry.
The Home Mini, which rivals Amazon’s Echo Dot, is the cheapest way to get the Google Assistant into your home. I have been testing Google’s Home Mini for a while now, and here’s my final verdict. Google Home Mini has a more attractive design as compared to the Amazon Echo Dot—and there is no second opinion about it. The Home Mini is a small, hockey-puck-sized device that can easily fit in the palm of the hand. Since the device is so compact, it is best suited to be kept on the bedside table or your desktop.
Available in chalk and charcoal colour options, you will notice the fabric-covered cushion on the top and the matte plastic on the bottom half. The volume can be controlled by placing the finger—yes, it is touch-enabled—on the left and right side of the speaker. There is a row of four LEDs on the top and they will light up when your voice (remember, you have to speak the magic words “Hey Google”) gets recognised for any action. Google had earlier provided the touch-enabled controls on the top of the Home Mini to play/pause music and launch Google Assistant, but they are permanently disabled citing privacy concerns. And on the left of that port is the switch for disabling voice detection. Like the Amazon Echo Dot, Google Home Mini uses a micro-USB port to get power.
Setting up the Google Home Mini is easy. Before you take the Home Mini out of the box, download the Google Home app from either the Play store or Apple App store. Choose the Wi-Fi network you would like your Google Home Mini to connect to, after which the app on the phone will guide you with step-by-step instructions.
The Wi-Fi-enabled Google Home Mini does everything the Home does, the core difference is the smaller form. It can set alarms, answer your questions, read news, connect to Saavn and other streaming services, all by using your voice. The idea behind the Assistant-enabled Home speakers is to promote its voice-activated search. Only, instead of typing your query, you will need to speak to get the results.
So, how well does the Home Mini perform? Well, one can always rely on Google for finding any answers and Home Mini certainly does not disappoint. For most direct questions, I got the answers—of course, in English. Speaking of language support, Hindi is not one of them. However, Google says it will add the Hindi language support sometime later this year.
The Home Mini can be used to control movies and playback by voice when connected to my Google Chromecast. You can ask the Home Mini to play YouTube or Netflix and the content will appear right on the TV. I particularly liked this feature. The Home Mini works with the Google Chromecast Audio as well. It can play music from Google Play Music, Gaana, and Saavn. Unfortunately, Apple Music and Amazon Music support are still missing. One can also use it as a Bluetooth speaker, though there’s no external 3.5mm output to connect the device to another speaker unlike the Amazon Echo Dot.
Google Home Mini is a great option if you are looking for an entry-level smart speaker. Sure, it doesn’t sound as good as the Home, but it will get the job done. This is a proper smart speaker and is no way less capable than the Google Home, which costs Rs 9,999. Google Home Mini is directly competing with the Amazon Echo Dot, which has the same price as the Mini. If you have invested a lot into Google’s ecosystem, I would recommend the Home Mini.
- Estimated street price: Rs 4,499
By Anuj Bhatia