Google Home Mini Google’s As­sis­tant just got smaller and smarter

Computer Active (UK) - - Contents -

Play mu­sic, get in­for­ma­tion and turn off lights with­out typ­ing or swip­ing

A much cheaper ver­sion of Google’s smart speaker and a ri­val to the Ama­zon Echo Dot (see our re­view, Is­sue 487), the Home Mini is a fab­ric-cov­ered four-inch puck that lis­tens for your com­mands and re­sponds by con­nect­ing through your home broad­band, via Wi-fi, to Google’s servers.

Many peo­ple’s first re­ac­tion to th­ese do­mes­tic voice as­sis­tants was ‘Who needs that?’ or ‘That’s creepy!’. Bring­ing the price down to un­der 50 quid make buy­ing one eas­ier to jus­tify, and those who have used them of­ten end up us­ing them all the time. And their pop­u­lar­ity sug­gests con­cerns about in­ter­net com­pa­nies lis­ten­ing to you through home de­vices are out­weighed by the con­ve­nience of be­ing able to play your favourite mu­sic, get a weather fore­cast, turn the lights down or check a date hands-free.

Google As­sis­tant’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties are the same with this or the full-size Google Home (£119 from John Lewis www. snipca.com/24151, see Is­sue 501, pic­tured be­low right). If you’ve used the Google As­sis­tant app on your phone you’ll al­ready be fa­mil­iar with it, and you might won­der why you need a home speaker too. The an­swer is sim­ply that you’re much more likely to ca­su­ally yell at it while sit­ting at home than get out your phone. Say­ing ‘OK Google’ feels silly at first, but you get used to it.

As you’d ex­pect, it in­te­grates with other Google hard­ware and soft­ware. Have you got Chrome­cast plugged into your TV? You can con­trol that by voice. Want di­rec­tions? The Home Mini can zap them straight into the Google Maps app on your phone. Some non-google kit is also sup­ported, in­clud­ing Bri­tish Gas’ smart-heat­ing sys­tem Hive and Philips’ smart light­ing Hue de­vices, but not as much as with Ama­zon’s Alexa. On the other hand, Google As­sis­tant is bet­ter at an­swer­ing ques­tions.

Un­like the Echo Dot, the Home Mini doesn’t have a jack out­put to stream mu­sic to an ex­ist­ing speaker – you need a Chrome­cast Au­dio don­gle (£30) for that. Be­ing so dinky, it isn’t a great speaker in it­self. And we found it didn’t re­spond as re­li­ably to our voice as the big­ger model, which has more mi­cro­phones. SPEC­I­FI­CA­TIONS 802.11ac Wi-fi • Blue­tooth 4.1 • Far-field mi­cro­phones

• Speaker • Mains adapter • Re­quires An­droid 4.4 or IOS 9.1 or higher de­vice for apps • Chrome­cast • 42x98x98mm (HXWXD) • 173g • One-year war­ranty www.snipca.com/26008

AL­TER­NA­TIVE: Ama­zon Echo Dot £50 Apart from the au­dio jack (rather than Chrome­cast), this box has sim­i­lar abil­i­ties and short­com­ings

VER­DICT: It works quite well, and at this price we are more tempted to re­cruit a dig­i­tal but­ler. The choice be­tween this and Ama­zon de­pends on your pri­or­i­ties and whose prod­ucts you pre­fer

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