Google Home Mini is a cheap, pebble-shaped speaker to rival the Echo Dot

A necessary move from Google

Google Home Mini is a cheap, pebble speaker

The Amazon Echo Dot is getting a bitesized smart speaker rival in the shape of the Google Home Mini.

Our verdict: Google Home Mini review

The smaller version of the company's Google Home smart speaker has been rumoured for some time and, after a plethora of images leaked recently, the dinky Home is now official. And it only costs $49, making it the same price as its Amazon competitor.

The Google Home Mini shrinks down the full-sized Home into a smaller, pebble-shaped device, letting you control smart home devices, play music and ask for information all with the power of voice. The top half is covered by a custom-made fabric by Google, so it can feel extra comfy in your home.

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Home Mini comes in three colors: coral, grey and charcoal. Google says it went through 157 shades of grey to get the perfect one - which sounds a lot less sexier than the novel, but we appreciate the effort.

One design similarity it does share with the bigger Home is the cord — the Mini will still see you plugging it in to receive power. However, unlike the bigger Home, you won't be able to customize the design after purchase.

Google's also adding more routines, which all Home users will be able to take advantage of. There are new routines for getting up in the morning or coming home at night, and you can now even say "Hey Google, find my phone" and Home will ring your smartphone.

You're also able to speak to Google Home Mini more naturally, so saying "Hey Google, make it warmer" will turn up your thermostat. Speaking of thermostats, Google is working with sister company Nest to build out some neat integrations.

These integrations will fold in other Google devices, like Chromecast, to make everything work just a little more seamlessly than if you weren't in Alphabet's ecosystem. For instance, if you have a Nest Cam you can ask Google Home Mini to show its feed on your TV equipped with Chromecast. If you have the new Nest Hello doorbell, and face detection is set up, your Google Home Mini will announce who it is while also putting the video up on your TV. Nest products will also be added into routines, by the way, so you can arm your security system by saying "Goodnight, Google."

Another new feature is the ability to broadcast messages to all of your Google Home devices, so you can tell Google to broadcast "do your homework" and if your kid has a Google Home Mini it'll blast them with a reminder.

Google isn't just thinking about the adults in the home though, it's also thinking about kids. Google Home can now do lessons, games and story time for kids. It's partnering up with a whole host of companies to make these pieces of kid-friendly content, including Sports Illustrated Kids, Study.com, DC Comics, PlayKids, Tellables, Quizizz, sporcle junior, ck-12 and Disney.

The Disney partnership is the big one here as it's exclusive to Google Home, so your kids (and kids at heart) will be able to play games with Mickey Mouse and the gang as well as the Star Wars characters. This is probably a much better way of working with Disney than that Beauty and the Beast "experiment".

All of this software stuff is also headed to the original Google Home, and has started rolling out via a software update.

As for the hardware? All in all, this is a necessary-yet-vanilla move that has been on the cards for some time — as we noted, the Echo Dot has been unchallenged on its way to becoming the brand's top seller online.

The fact Google Home Mini is being offered at the same price point as Amazon's equivalent makes sense, considering the two are hard to split in terms of features.

TAGGED   google   speakers

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