Talk to the kettle when you get Home!
Low-cost digital assistant – that hangs on your every word
Pros: Looks great Excellent value
Cons: Weak audio No 3.5mm audio socket
Google Home Mini From €58 ★★★★★
The smart-home business is hotting up. Smart plugs, lights and even kettles are appearing in more and more shops as we adapt to the new digital way of life. At the heart of the smart home is a hub to do all the switching and smart stuff. Amazon has led the way with its market-leading Echo, powered by Alexa, while Apple launched its Homepod this year.
However, coming from the world’s biggest search engine company, Google’s Home device should have something extra special to offer.
The Home Mini is Home’s smaller sibling – but at a more affordable price. In the box is the small device, a quick-start guide and its power cable. Available in three colours, the Home Mini is shaped like a 4in ice-hockey puck and is less than 2in tall.
It’s covered in a lovely latticed material and is more stylish than the Amazon Echo Dot – its main competitor.
To set it up, I downloaded the Google Home app – quick and straightforward as I have a Gmail account. I then connected it to my home broadband.
Once powered up and connected to WiFi, you can forget about the app and rely on your voice alone to control it.
These voice-responsive digital assistants need a wake word, so I asked: ‘Okay, Google, what’s today’s weather like?’
The Home Mini responded with its weather forecast, letting me know that it was cloudy outside.
It answers all manner of questions, using Google’s search engine to find the information. It also integrates with your Google account – so you can ask, for example, about the contents of your calendar or how long it takes to drive to a specific destination. The real fun starts when you connect it to any smarthome products you have.
It works with Philips Hue, Nest and integrates with Samsung’s SmartThings.
Once such devices have been identified by the Home Mini, it’s as easy as asking that the lights be turned off or that the living room temperature be nudged up a few degrees.
The audio quality, however, is a bit of a let down and isn’t ideal for trying to fill a room with sound – but you can remedy this by pairing it with a superior Bluetooth speaker. The Home Mini lacks a standard jack-plug socket, which would have been useful.
Saying that, the performance overall is really good. It’s easy to set up and has all the crucial smarthome controls built in. Access to Google Search by speaking is brilliant and, at the price, it’s an ideal way to dip your toe into the world of digital assistants.
JUST ASK: It’s the ideal way to dip your toes into the world of digital assistants