Google Home vs Google Home Mini full review
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 in 2017 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, the standard Google Home and the Home Max.
Google Home Mini has so far been the most popular choice in the UK, where the Max has yet to go on sale. In a YouGov survey published in April 2018, it was revealed that Google Home Mini holds 9% of the smart speaker market, compared to 7% for the standard Google Home.
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.
(Also see: Is Google planning an Echo Show rival?)
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, 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, and Argos.
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 costs $399 in the US, where it went on sale in December, so expect it to come in at around £399 in the UK.
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.
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.
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 from a connected device, as well as the ability to play audio through a separate Bluetooth speaker.
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.
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.
|Google Home Mini||Google Home||Google Home Max|
|Price||£49||£129||$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|
Google Home Mini: Specs
- Google Assistant
- 40mm driver, 360 sound
- Far field voice recognition with off switch
- Touch controls
- Dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi
- Android and iOS compatible
- Chromecast and Chromecast Audio built-in
Google Home: Specs
- Linux based OS
- dual-core ARM CPU
- 4GB of RAM
- dual band 802.11ac WiFi chip
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