May 27th, 2018 – Google first unveiled the Google Home Mini in the fall of 2017 to compete head to head with the Amazon Echo Dot, a $40 mini speaker that allows you to interact with Alexa, Amazon’s smart assistant. The Echo Dot was a game changer because of it’s price point, making it incredibly easy for people to put Alexa enabled devices in multiple parts of their home.  This helped Amazon completely dominate the smart speaker market and at the time of writing, Amazon currently holds a 52% market share (according to estimates by Loup Group) with Google now holding a 32% market share, which is up from where they were a year ago. This is all in part due to the Google Home Mini.

What is the Mini exactly? 

The Google Home Mini a small and mighty speaker that is powered by the Google Assistant. There is just so much you can do with a Google Home Mini as well as the other Google Home devices thanks to the Google Assistant:

You can asks your Google Home Mini all sorts of questions like:

“Who is Elon Musk”

or tell it phrases like “These Violent Delights Have Violent Ends”

You can use your Google Home Mini to set alarms and reminders, get the news, ask about your commute to work in the morning, make phone calls, control your smart home devices like your lights or thermostat, and if you have a Chromecast TV and a newer TV that supports HDMI CEC, you can even have your Google Home Mini turn on and off your TV.

Media Playback

My personal favorite feature for Google Home devices, including the Google Home Mini, is music and media playback. You can hookup your various streaming service accounts to it such as Spotify, Google Play Music, Pandora, Netflix, and of course YouTube, and so many more. I personally use Google Play Music because Google gives you no ads on YouTube with a Google Play music subscription, which has been rebranded into the YouTube Music Premium service.

I’ve used this service so much, it’s become almost scary. I’ll tell Google to play a song and as that song is ending, half the time I’ll think of another song I want it to play and before I tell it to play another song, it’s already started playing it because it knows my music listening habits and can guess what type of song I’ll want to hear next. These music algorithms from companies like Google and Spotify really make listening to music on the Google Home Mini very enjoyable.

Sound quality and design

The speaker itself is decent for it’s price range, but don’t buy this and expect great sound to come out of it. Podcasts sound decent, but actual music can be hit or miss depending on how the song was mixed and how much bass there is. You don’t get much bass coming out of the Mini. The microphone on the Mini is quite good, and can pick up your voice over ambient sounds like rain, a shower running, etc.

The design is nice. Atheistically I think it’s better looking than the Echo dot. Google’s devices overall look more inviting than Amazon’s. Amazon’s look a little too space age for my taste. I also love that the Google Home Mini comes in three colors: chalk, charcoal, and coral. So no matter the room you plan to put it in, there should be a mini color that matches.

Unfortunately for some, Google decided not to include a 3.5 audio out jack on the Google Home Mini like Amazon does with the Echo dot. That doesn’t mean you can’t use the Google Assistant to play music on speakers you already have though. Simply buy a Chromecast Audio and then you’ll be able to cast to your speakers from your Google Home Mini.  You can also pair the Google Home Mini to another speaker via bluetooth as well (here’s a quick tutorial on that).

The way you interact with the speaker is mainly with your voice, though there are a few physical controls with the mini. You can tap each side of the device to increase or decrease the volume. Tap and hold to play/pause music. There is also a mute switch on the back of the device and a micro USB cable you can use for power.

Where to put it? 

When you already have so many Google Home devices in your residence like I do, it begs the question: where exactly should I put another one?  I use my Google Home devices a lot for music playback, so I’ve got more Google Homes than Google Home Minis because to me they sound a lot better. So, when I first got my Home Mini, I was a bit worried I wouldn’t have a good place to put it. I ended up putting mine in the bathroom so I can listen to music in the shower and play the news when I’m getting ready in the morning. I was a bit worried with how the humidity would effect the performance of the speaker, but I’m happy to say that I haven’t had any issues at all with it and use the thing all the time.

You can even ask Google to order you some more toilet paper from Google Express from inside the bathroom! (though it won’t deliver the toilet paper instantly in case you’ve run completely out.)

Closing thoughts

Overall, after 6 months of use, I haven’t had a single issue with the speaker. I’ve used it every day since I’ve got it. It’s a great speaker if you just need the Google Assistant in a room and don’t care much about the music quality of the speaker. For me, if you’re going to listen to a lot of music on a Google Home device, you should look at the Google Home Max, if you want to spend $400 for great sounding music, or the Google Home if you can’t quite swing the Max’s price.

But if you don’t care about the lower performance in audio quality, then I think the Google Home Mini is a great buy that you really can’t go wrong with.

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