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Apple homepod mini review: Is the small but mighty smart speaker worth the £99 price tag?

We put the pint-sized device through its paces to see if it can make a big noise in the smart market

David RS Taylor
Friday 02 July 2021 16:04
<p>Apple’s original homepod never managed to fully take off, but the new mini is here to impress</p>

Apple’s original homepod never managed to fully take off, but the new mini is here to impress

Smart speakers are everywhere. It seems that for every analogue home, there’s a digital ecosystem next door, waiting for its overlords to switch on the lights or find out the weather with a simple command.

With this rapid rise in popularity has come an entire section of the speaker business devoted to big smarts in small packages. The major smart speaker players are two of the originators of the virtual assistant: Google (Assistant) and Amazon (Alexa). Each brand offers a wide range of smart speakers to fit pretty much anyone’s needs.

But Apple, and its unnervingly calm-voiced Siri, has also tried to get in on the action in recent years. The brand’s original smart speaker, the homepod, came out to much fanfare, promising to challenge the existing Google Home/Nest and Amazon Echo market domination. The homepod, however, never managed to fully take off, a mixture of expensive starting price and lack of technical advancements leading to Apple’s first foray into smart speakers becoming a bit of a damp squib.

Its second attempt has been much more positively received. Attempting to muscle in on the super small smart speaker market is the homepod mini – Apple’s response to the Echo dot and Nest mini. It’s about the same size as the Echo dot, and looks the futuristic part. It also comes with a more palatable price point of £99. Is it worth Apple users adding the homepod mini to their ecosystem, or is an offering from the “big two” still the better option? Read on to find out.

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Apple homepod mini

Buy now £99, Apple.com

  • Dimensions: D 97.9mm x H 84.3mm
  • Weight: 345g
  • Colours: Space grey, white

Design

The design is nothing less than you’d expect from the branding gurus in California, a gorgeous look that transports us into a future where everything is made of white marble and the smart speakers are in charge of us. You can actually buy the mini in white or space grey, but the Space Odyssey effect is in full force either way.

On top of the mini is a flat touchpad that lets you play and pause music, change the volume or call on Siri without raising your voice. It works well enough, with minor repetition of actions sometimes needed, but you’d hope that Apple would smooth this out in the next generation. For now, the control pad looks smart and does the job.

Setting up the mini is refreshingly easy, a matter of switching it on and waving your chosen device nearby. The “home” app is your one stop shop for all your smart needs, managing any smart devices linked to the ecosystem. This is also where you can switch off Siri’s permanent listening mode.

Read more: Sonos Move Bluetooth speaker review

The mini is a great size, perfect for fitting seamlessly anywhere in any room. Its mesh finish adds a subtlety to the overall design that brings it an aesthetic versatility, helped in no small measure by its diminutive proportions. This, while on the whole a positive, actually proved to be a slight annoyance: for all its seeming portability, the mini has a permanently-attached power cord, meaning that the most portability you’ll get out of it is about five or six steps. For something so dinky and “pick-uppable”, this is an oversight from Apple – pop a battery in the mini and you could have a class-leading machine.

Sound input and output

It might be small, but it sure is mighty. We were surprised by the sound the mini can make, to the extent that we immediately regretted first testing it at 10pm on a Tuesday night. The mini can take any genre of music you throw at it and give you better sound than a competitor such as the Echo dot – you would expect this, however, for the extra £50. For its size, it’s a quality speaker, producing strong bass and clarity in the higher frequencies. Impressive, but again, at £99, pretty much a prerequisite.

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While it’s not a speaker that will dominate a room with its sound, it works perfectly as an atmosphere elevator, ably playing music as the backdrop of your day, and setting up a pair in stereo creates a surprisingly full sound that would do for many households. Voice commands are picked up easily and consistently, even when music is playing, and responses from Siri are characteristically rapid, if a little limited when compared to Google Assistant. The speed of Siri’s processing is something that Apple is rightly proud of and a real plus point for the mini.

The verdict: Apple homepod mini

The Apple homepod mini offers fantastic sound for its size and plenty of smart features for its price. It’s incredibly easy to set up on an Apple device, looks fantastic, and does everything you could want of it while taking up a tiny amount of space in any room. This impressively small size becomes quite frustrating when you’re faced with its distinct lack of portability, but usefully serves to keep the tech in your living space at a visible minimum.

No (easy) third party integration means that the mini is aimed directly at those already familiar with and heavily involved in Apple’s ecosystem. For those who fall under this category, the mini is a great option. It’s streamlined, works on the same operating system, and will have a familiar feel when compared to Google or Amazon products. It’s pricier than the most similar alternatives from those two, but for ease of life and peace of mind, the homepod mini is the best choice for any Apple user looking to enter the smart speaker world with a less-risky investment than the original homepod – in fact, we would recommend the mini over its bigger sibling any day.

Voucher codes

For the latest discount codes on speakers and other tech offers, try the links below:

For more smart speaker options, read our review of the Google Nest mini, which offers better bass and smarter voice assistance

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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