When Apple launched HomePod back in 2018, I was really interested, but I could not justify myself in spending that much for a single unit speaker. Later on, I read many reviews that HomePod is actually a high-end speaker that happens to have some smart feature, and to get high-end speaker with similar technology, we will have to actually spend more money on other brands. I see this as a missed opportunity because Apple seems to market HomePod as a smart speaker, and people easily would compare it against other smart speaker products with far below sound quality. Still, I was not in the market for a high-end speaker, so I never end up getting HomePod.
Things change when Apple announced HomePod mini. This time, the price level is actually reasonable for a smart speaker. With the smaller form factor, it is a better fit for my rather limited work desk at home. As a nice bonus, HomePod mini could also function as HomeKit Hub. I’m sold, so I ordered one.
Nothing noteworthy from the unboxing process. This speaker comes in typical Apple-styled packaging. The main unit looks nice and the build quality is what I would expect from Apple. A 20W USB-C wall charger is included. I could easily plug the power cable from the speaker to the charger. The power cable is braided, love the look and feel. However, the cable is not removable from the speaker. This could be a problem for some people.
Initial set up is quite easy. Just plug it into power, bring our iPhone (or iPad) nearby and unlocked, all we need to do is follow some on-screen instructions. Within few minutes, my new speaker is ready for use. After initial setup, we could change some settings from Home app. This includes giving it a name or setting it as HomeKit Hub.
I chose white colour because it matches my work desk, which has almost everything already in white. The top display is not really useful other than showing pretty colours.
I am not an Apple Music subscriber. However, I did purchase fair number of songs from iTunes store throughout my 20+ years using Apple products. Touching the top touch screen area turns on the speaker and automatically play one of the songs I purchased. Supposedly, subscribing to Apple Music would give me much better experience, but that is an entirely different topic.
Playing songs from iPhone is really easy because the speaker name appears in the list of my AirPlay-compatible devices as soon as the initial setup was completed. Even better, I could bring my iPhone very close to the speaker (within 5 cm distance) and the song currently playing in my iPhone will be transferred to the speaker thanks to Handoff feature.
Sound quality is really impressive for a speaker that size. Music is easily enjoyable without sounding overwhelming. An ideal companion for work-desk. It could not compete against my Sonos One, but I never expected it to, considering that HomePod mini is less than half the size of Sonos One. Another comparison is against another smart speaker that I own: Google Nest Hub. HomePod mini sounds far better it is not even a fair comparison. However, I get more from Google Nest Hub screen, so both devices serve different purposes in my house.
As HomeKit Hub, I initially expect that HomePod mini will help me to get faster responses from my HomeKit accessories located in places far from my Apple TV. However, that does not seem to be the case. The response time does get slightly faster if I disable my Apple TV as HomeKit Hub (leaving just HomePod mini as the only hub in the network), but then I would lost the coverage of the accessories closer to Apple TV. So, HomePod mini does help me to reach some accessories in far location, but the connection is rather slow because it seems that Apple tries to connect my Apple TV first (as the main hub) and will only attempt to use my HomePod mini after some waiting time. Not ideal, but I believe this is something they might be able to improve with software updates in the future. I will keep my fingers crossed.
So far, I am quite happy with this purchase. People might love or hate it depending on their use case and initial expectations. For my case, I am happy to get a good speaker for casual listening in such compact size.