Apple fulfilled long-term rumors by at last announcing the HomePod Mini, a successor to the larger smart speaker that’s designed for smaller spaces and more personal needs. Apple has changed a lot about the HomePod with the switch to a small version — so, we’re taking a look at exactly how the speakers are different and which iteration is right for you.
Pricing and availability
One of the most common complaints about the original HomePod (released in 2018) was that it was one of the most expensive smart speakers on the market. That’s still true: The original model will cost $299 to order today. The speaker is available in white or Space Gray, but otherwise, there are no customization options.
The HomePod Mini, on the other hand, is priced very competitively at $99, the same as the fourth-generation Amazon Echo. It, too, is available in white and Space Gray.
Winner: The HomePod Mini wins easily on price alone. However, these two speakers are so different and designed for such different locations that it’s difficult to compare them solely on the cost.
The design differences between the two HomePods are stark: The original HomePod is designed to have a central location with its large, cylindrical shape, and the focus on competing with past Amazon Echo devices is clear. The fabric material helps protect the internal speakers, while the solid 5.6-inch base needs a bit of space. There is a simple LED light at the top to serve as an indicator and enable somewhat confusing touch controls — tap for volume controls, press down for Siri, double-tap to skip songs, etc.
The HomePod Mini goes for a very different approach. This rounded speaker sports a bulbous design and is much smaller — only 3.3 inches high and 3.9 inches wide. This allows it to sit more comfortably on narrow shelves or bed stands, and you don’t have to find as much space on your desk to add a HomePod Mini companion. The LED controls also have a colorful upgrade and more obvious control buttons for volume.
Winner: HomePod Mini. The little orb looks great and is easier to position wherever you want.
Speakers and sound
The original HomePod is equipped with a high-excursion woofer and seven tweeters, plus spatial awareness technology to adapt sound for the room it’s in. Even though the HomePod is a few years old now, those speakers still provide some of the best sound we’ve heard from a smart speaker.
The HomePod Mini is designed more for accessibility than for sound. It only has one full-range driver, plus a design that includes dual passive radiators for amplification (Amazon’s latest Echo does a bit better with a 3-inch woofer and dual 0.8-inch tweeters). The special awareness tech is not available on the Mini, either. That makes the smaller speaker designed more for up-close, personal sound for one person — it’s another indication that the HomePod Mini is most at home on your desk while you work (or in a similar location). Apple suggests setting up HomePod Minis around the house for better sound results, but this just raises the cost up to HomePod levels without as many benefits for audio quality.
Both speakers have multiroom audio options, too. That means that if you have two HomePods of either model, you can link them together and play the same music/sounds on both at the same time. This is a bonus for those who already have a HomePod but are thinking about getting a Mini (and it also works with AirPlay 2 speakers). Apple has an Intercom mode that allows HomePods to act as two-way audio devices, too.
Siri and smart features
There’s no battle between voice assistant here, as each speaker uses Siri and has all the same Siri capabilities. They can both act as smart home hubs for HomeKit home automation and support AirPlay 2 devices.
Likewise, both speakers offer the same services. Both are compatible with Apple Music, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and Radio.com, as well as any Apple Podcasts.
Apple TV compatibility
Here’s another significant difference between the speakers for anyone who has an Apple TV 4K. The Apple TV 4K has the ability to sync up with the original HomePod and allow it to enhance your home theater experience by playing sound for whatever you’re watching on TV. That way, you can position the HomePod as an important ancillary speaker without the need to get a dedicated speaker for your system.
The HomePod Mini doesn’t have this feature — and it’s understandable why. The speaker is simply too small and focused on personal audio to be a good match for an entertainment system. Even if it could connect, it doesn’t have the spatial awareness option that’s necessary for accurate surround sound.
Which should you buy?
For a personal smart speaker sitting beside you on your desk, the affordable HomePod Mini is the best choice. For full-room sound and entertainment, as well as connections with your home theater, the original HomePod remains the best choice.
Considering the costs, if you don’t have any experience with HomePods, we suggest buying the HomePod Mini (the same goes for giving it as a gift, too). This is a great entry-level pick, and you can add the larger HomePod later on if you want to build out your Apple collection.
Article Tags: Apple · HomePod · Mini