Happy Thursday everyone.   I hope everybody has had a nice short week. In the spirit of being fair, since I reviewed the Amazon Echo Dot last week, I would like to be fair to Google and do a review on its device, the Google Home Mini assistant.  As well, in case you are torn on which one to get between the two devices this I hope, will give you a better idea.

Look and Build

google-home-mini - 2The Google Home Mini (GHM) vocal assistant is the same size as the Amazon Echo Dot.  However, when it comes to the looks, the GHM has a more sleek edge to it.  First off there are no sharp angles except for the bottom.  The top part of the device has a totally different look than the Amazon Echo Dot.  The top half of the GHM device has a porous cloth like material and the bottom half is made of plastic.  There are no buttons except for one. You have a choice of two colours, charcoal or chalk.

Set Up

The set up is about as easy as the Amazon Echo dot.  Simply download an updated version of the Google Home App on your smart phone or tablet from the Google Play Store.  Once installed, open the Google Home app and tap on Get Started. You then have to confirm your Google account if you already have one, if not you will have to first create an account.   Pair your Google Home Mini device to your phone and follow the prompts or instructions as you progress through the set up. Google Home Mini Setup steps can be found on this link. Basic set up took me less than half an hour.  Customizing it the way you want it will be a work in progress. That’s what makes it fun.

Function

There are no buttons except for one.
Everything is controlled by touch. If you want to turn the volume up, simple tap the left part of the unit and the lights will illuminate to show what the volume is set at, out of 4. To turn the volume up, simply tap the right side of the unit. Another way would be to simply ask the personal assistant device “Okay Google, please turn down the volume.” Or “Okay Google, turn down music to 40%.” The device will instantly adjust the volume.  To stop or pause the music,  simply press and hold either side of the unit.  To mute the mic for privacy, there is a small mute button to the left of the power cable.

In regards to the quality of the sound of this speaker.  The sound is better than the Amazon Echo.  Some reviews have mentioned that the sound on the GHM is actually not that great.  Maybe I have lower standards, but I am usually picky with the sounds of the speakers, or any audio equipment that I use.  I find that for the size of this speaker, it is actually very good.  The base is much fuller and the sound is very clear compared to the Amazon Echo Dot.    I was going to mention it is a good thing that the sound of the GHM is quite good for its size.  Because you cannot connect this device to a Bluetooth speaker like the Echo Dot can.  Rumour has it that the latest update that came out will allow you to connect to a Bluetooth speaker.   When I tried, it I still couldn’t pair it.  Instead, I could only pair my phone or tablet with the Home Google app to the Google Home Mini device to use it as a speaker. I guess, we will have to wait until Google works out all the bugs and try again. In the meantime, if you want a bigger, louder sound using the GHM, it will not be loud enough to use at your house party.

As for the speed of the GHM to respond to any of your questions or commands, it is very fast as well just like the Echo Dot.    I can ask a trivia question and it will respond with the correct answer within a second.

As far as the quality of the sound on GHM, I actually like the sound of the voice  they use. I find that it is more natural sounding and does not sound like a computer.  It actually sounds like a real person.
In regards to the different functions, just like the Echo, you can customize the GHM to do different things like play your play list on Spotify, or Google Play if you have a subscription. One thing that I really like about this device is that you can ask it how long it would take to drive to a specific destination, and Google would tell you an up to date estimate depending on the traffic at that particular time.  It would then ask you if you would like her to send the direction to your phone.  If you say yes, it would then confirm “Okay.. I have sent it to your phone.”  Another function that it is good for, is  reminding you of your appointments for the day, read you the news in the morning etc. You can also control your whole house (heating, cooling, lights, security, etc) if you install compatible hard ware devices around your house to control the switches and power.

IFTTT-for-iPhone-Intro-Screen-01  You can also download skills like the Echo Dot. For Google Home, you will have to download applets from IFTTT (Stands for “If This, Then That”) .  There are hundreds of them and more are being created each week.

I like the Google Home Mini.  It works well for what I need it for.  I have it set up in the home office. Since I work from home, and I can’t afford an assistant, the Google Home Mini is a great alternative for me. It is quick and very responsive.  However, I find that for some questions, Amazon Echo give slightly better answers than the Google Home.  But when asking for directions, Google Home Mini gives better answers.    I expect Google to keep updating their firm ware on their devices and keep on improving.  I hope one of those updates is for Google Home to actually cook dinner rather telling us how to.  I am sure that is not too far in the future.

The Google Home Mini retails for around $79.00 CDN.

Pros:

  • Great Sleek Look
  • Easy Set Up
  • Uses a More Natural Voice.  It doesn’t sound like a computer voice
  • Very Quick
  • Good Sound for the Size
  • Very Portable
  • Very compatible with established Google apps like calendars, maps, and translator.
  • Can be improved by downloading skills from IFTTT.com/google_assistantweb site
  • If you have Google Chromecast installed in your TV, then the Google Home mini is a great addition to your home theater.

Cons:

  • Cannot be paired with a better sounding Bluetooth speaker. But I heard updates are coming if not here already.
  • Takes a little getting used to with the unmarked touch controls.
  • There is only one set of wake words for the Google Home Mini and that’s “Hey Google”. Actually it will also respond to “Hey Boo-Boo”. 🙂

Review by Alf Crespo
www.bushkin.ca