Apple has updated its home audio line-up with the introduction of the new HomePod mini. It’s certainly a lot cheaper than the original HomePod, but what else does it have to offer when compared to its larger stablemate? We take a look at how the HomePod and HomePod mini shape up and find out what’s different.
When the HomePod was first released back in 2018, it came with a pretty hefty £319/$349 price tag. Over time this has dropped to £279/$299, but that still makes it very much a considered purchase for most people.
One of the main selling points of the smaller HomePod mini is that it can be picked up for £99/$99, which is still a lot more than the likes of the Google Nest Mini and Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) models that cost £49.99/$49.99 and are the ones with which it will directly compete. Still, it’s a darn site cheaper than the HomePod.
When resellers start to sell the HomePod mini you’ll see the best prices below:
The HomePod was released in 2018 and can be bought directly from Apple or high street retailers such as Argos, John Lewis and Currys/PC World. Check out our best HomePod deals for the best prices. Read our original HomePod review.
Apple opened Pre-Orders for the HomePod mini on 6 November 2020, with the release date of 16 November 2020. After that, you’ll be able to buy the speaker from the normal online and high street retailers. Read more about the HomePod mini
Design and features
The HomePod and HomePod mini share many of the same functions, but there are some obvious key differences in terms of construction and performance. Here’s what you need to know:
Size and weight
The HomePod is the larger of the two, with dimensions of 172mm (H) x 142mm (W) and weighing in at 2.5kg compared to the 84.3mm (H) x 97.9mm (W) and 345g of the HomePod mini.
Speakers and audio
This extra girth is in order to house the impressive speaker array, which is comprised of seven horn-loaded tweeters and a high-excursion woofer with a custom amplifier. Apple also includes a low-frequency calibration microphone that allows the HomePod to monitor and adjust the bass frequencies in response to the surrounding environment.
The HomePod mini chassis can’t accommodate all of this audio splendour, but it does offer something Apple calls a “full-range driver and dual passive radiators.” We’re quite sure you won’t be heating your house with a HomePod mini, but if the exemplary sound quality of the HomePod is anything to go by, then the newer model should be able to add a bit of sizzle to the tracks it plays.
Both make use of monitoring software to adjust the tuning of the output to best suit your room, but only the HomePod has the dedicated bass frequency calibration, presumably due to the fact that its woofer will produce a more sizable amount of low-end.
The HomePod also has the capability to deliver Dolby Atmos audio from the Apple TV 4K, although Apple recommends using two of them for the best results. The Mini can’t quite match this level of performance, so if Atmos is important to you then the HomePod is the way to go.
Microphones and Siri
As these are smart speaker, they need to hear your commands, even when music is playing loudly. Apple facilitates this rather well by including a six-microphone array on the HomePod and four on the Mini.
Siri is the voice assistant of choice (actually it’s the only one you can use), and on either device it allows you to set reminders, control music playback, read and reply to messages, or ask and receive answers to questions. One cool features is the ability to create automated routines that control your HomeKit compatible smart devices. So, for example, if you say “Good Night” then the HomePod can turn off the smart lights, switch off the heating and even close the curtains. Sadly, it can’t tuck you up in bed yet, but Apple may be working on a solution.
Siri does have the ability to distinguish between six voices, so each member of the family can use the HomePod or HomePod mini and have all commands relate to their individual Apple accounts.
If voice isn’t your thing, then there are also control surfaces on the top of either model, so you can quickly change volume, skip tracks or pause playback.
Multi-room audio and stereo pairing
If you have multiple HomePods and Minis or a combination of both, then you can set up a local network via AirPlay 2 that means you can stream your music or podcasts in several rooms at once, so you don’t miss anything as you move around. There’s also the option to command the speakers to play different things in each room, so you can enjoy AC/DC in the kitchen while the kids have Disney tracks in their bedroom.
Another reason to have multiple HomePods around the home is the new Intercom capability that allows you to send messages back and forth via the speakers. This can be particularly handy for letting everyone know that dinner is ready or that you’re too lazy to get off the sofa to answer the door. The future, today.
Both devices also offer the ability to create stereo paired audio if you have two of them, although you can’t mix and match them as the feature only currently works on models of the same type.
As both devices use AirPlay 2, this does mean that neither can be used as standard Bluetooth speakers, which remain a huge disappointment, especially as both have Bluetooth 5.0 capabilities. So, if you have an Android phone, you’re out of luck trying to connect to the HomePod or mini. They are compatible with iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV though, so you can stream content directly from those devices.
You can stream to either HomePod without a WiFi network though. Read: How to use HomePod without WiFi.
Thanks to updates in the software, the HomePod or HomePod mini support a variety of music streaming services, which should include Spotify, Apple Music and others.
As you can see, most of the capabilities in terms of services and features are shared across both devices. They will respond to voice commands via Siri, stream music from a variety of services, and work with each other quite happily (unless you want to create a stereo pair). So, the main consideration is sound quality and price. If you want to best smart speaker currently available then the HomePod is the one, the audio is pristine and thanks to the low-frequency calibration it always sounds fantastic no matter what room you’re in.
But, if you’re happy with decent sound quality and don’t have nearly £300/$300 to blow, then the sub £100/$100 HomePod mini ticks all the right boxes. The fact that you can buy two, use them as a stereo pair, and still have a large chunk of change from what you’d spend on the bigger model, makes it the sensible choice.
For more information read What can HomePod do.
Apple HomePod mini: Specs
- 84.3mm (H) x 97.9mm (W), 345g, full-range driver and dual passive radiators, Four-microphone design for far-field Siri, Multiroom audio with AirPlay 2, Stereo pair capable, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Direct guest access4, Bluetooth 5.0, Ultra Wideband chip for device proximity, Siri control, Touch Control panel
Apple HomePod: Specs
- Smart speaker
- Audio sources: Apple Music, iTunes music purchases, iCloud Music Library with Apple Music/iTunes Match subscription, Beats 1, Podcasts, AirPlay
- Dimensions: 172mm tall, 142mm wide
- Weight: 2.5kg
- Audio formats: HE-AAC, AAC up to 320Kbps, protected AAC, MP3 up to 320Kbps, Apple Lossless, AIFF, WAV, FLAC
- Wireless: 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0 (cannot be used as a Bluetooth speaker)
- Requires: iPhone 5s or later, iPad Air or later, iPad mini 2 or later with iOS 11.2.5
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