Which Google Home should I buy? Google Home vs Mini vs Max

Amazon has been complicating its Echo smart speaker line-up for some time, and now Google is following suit. At its Pixel 2 launch event it announced two new models - Google Home Mini and Google Home Max - to sit alongside the standard Google Home. So which should you buy?

In essence, Google Home Mini is the budget option, Google Home is the best all-round device, and Google Home Max is suited to audiophiles. You can read reviews of Google Home Mini and the standard Google Home here.

Our focus within this article is to set out the key differences between each of Google’s smart speakers, but if you’re faced with a tough purchasing decision then it’s really important that you also know what’s the same.

All three smart speakers have the Google Assistant built-in, which means their most important functionality - answering your every command, telling you about your day, streaming music, connecting the dots between your smart home tech and so on - is standard across the line.

No one Google Home is more intelligent than any other, and thus your experience should be the same whichever device you choose.

Each member of this trio also has a built-in speaker, which means you can use any Google Home as it is out of the box. They each support multiroom audio, too, so you can connect them together and pump out tunes around the house.

The differences can be categorised into four specific areas: price, design, connectivity and audio.

Google Home Mini

UK Price and Availability

The Google Home is the standard device, and the first of the trio to be introduced in the UK. It currently costs £129 direct from Google, or is available from vendors such as John Lewis, Currys, Maplin and Argos.

The Google Home Mini is, if you like, the entry-level model in the Google Home family. It has a very attractive low price, just £49 from Google or a range of vendors including John Lewis, Currys, Maplin and Argos.

Both the Home and Home Mini are currently enjoying major discounts in the UK for Black Friday. The standard Home is just £78 - over £50 off - while the Home Mini has a smaller reduction to £34. Either way, that makes both devices even better value. 

The Google Home Max is not actually available in the UK just yet, which makes your buying choice a little easier for now, but should arrive in 2018. It will cost $399 in the US, where it goes on sale in December, so expect it to come in at around £399 in the UK.

Design

The ‘Mini’ in the Google Home Mini’s name immediately gives away the fact it is the smallest device in this line-up, as does the ‘Max’ in Google Home Max. These three devices can be looked upon as little baby, mummy and big daddy, and have audio muscle power to match.

Google Home Mini is a small pebble-shaped device just 3.86in in diameter and 1.65in in height. It’s a touch wider than the 3.79in Google Home, but much shorter - Google Home is 5.62in tall. Meanwhile Max is much larger at 13.2x7.4x6in, with a rectangular design and rounded corners - it works in either landscape or portrait mode.

In weight, as you might expect, Google Home Mini is the lightest at 6.1 ounces, while Max is the heavyweight at 11.7 pounds. The standard Google Home weighs in at 1.1 pounds.

While the standard Google Home is available only in white, but with a range of coloured fabric and metal bases available that can be swapped in, the Mini comes in Chalk (grey), Charcoal (black) and Coral (pink). The Google Home Max, when it reaches the UK, will come in black or white.

Google Home

The design has changed somewhat for the two newer devices, and the mesh material that covers the base on the customisable Google Home now adorns the top surface of both Mini and Max. Neither can be swapped out for a different colour, so choose carefully when purchasing.

Originally all three supported touch interfaces as well as voice input, but Google has removed this functionality from the Mini following reports that it was overly sensitive and listening in on conversations when it shouldn’t be. You can still adjust the volume using touch, but you can invoke Google Assistant only by voice.

The standard Google Home features a touch-sensitive top surface that lets you wake the Assistant, pause and resume audio playback, and adjust the volume. Max also supports touch control.

LEDs are activated on the top surface of all three devices when they are listening: both Mini and Max have a line of four LEDs, whereas on the standard Google Home they are arranged in a diamond shape.

Connectivity

When the Google Home was first announced it did not support Bluetooth, so it wasn’t possible to directly stream audio from a paired device. This has been added via an update, so all three Google Home models now support Bluetooth streaming.

802.11ac Wi-Fi also features, and if you buy the Google Home Max you’ll get a 3.5mm audio jack for physically hooking up additional speakers or earphones.

Always-on devices, Google Home requires a constant source of power. For the standard device this is delivered via a DC power jack, which requires a mains power plug. The Google Home Mini and Google Home Max are more versatile thanks to their Micro-USB and USB-C ports respectively.

Google Home Max

Audio

If you’re an audiophile, do not buy the Google Home Mini. With a single 40mm driver audio quality is not going to be anything to shout about, and though it will be sufficient for interacting with the Google Assistant for getting stuff done it should not replace the main audio system in your home.

The standard Google Home has a 2in driver and two 2in passive radiators, and thus is much better at filling the room with sound. It’s not the best speaker we’ve ever heard, and certainly not the loudest, but for most users it does the job.

Google Home Max is a tricky one because we’ve not yet had the opportunity to test its audio quality. If you’re paying this much for a speaker, you really want it to offer excellent audio - particularly when it’s up against several other high-end speakers from Sonos, Sony, Panasonic and even Apple.

With two 4in woofers and two 0.7in tweeters audio should be significantly improved over the other models in the line-up. Google also suggested it was “obsessed with bass” during the Home Max launch event. Promising, yes, but we’ll let you know when we know for sure.

Key specifications

  Google Home Mini Google Home Google Home Max
Price £49 £129 (£119 online) $399 (UK price TBC)
Audio 1x 40mm driver 1x 2in driver, 2x 2in passive radiators 2x 4in woofers, 2x 0.7in tweeters
Ports 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Micro-USB 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, DC 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB-C, 3.5mm audio
Dimensions 1.7x3.8in 5.6x3.8in 13.2x7.4x6in
Weight 6.1oz 1.1lb 11.7lb

Google Home: Specs

  • Linux bases OS, dual-core ARM CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a dual band 802.11ac WiFi chip
  • Linux bases OS, dual-core ARM CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a dual band 802.11ac WiFi chip

OUR VERDICT

At $399 it would be irresponsible of us to recommend the Google Home Max without having tested its audio quality. In any case, we expect the Max will appeal to only a select group of users with particularly keen ears, and that for most users the standard Google Home will do the job at a much more attractive price.

Google Home Mini is an interesting prospect, though. As the budget option we’d recommend it if you’re still not convinced by the whole smart speaker phenomenon and you fancy giving it a try, or you already have a Google Home and want to extend its functionality around the home. We would not rely on Google Home Mini as our only audio-playback device, however.