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Google Home Mini – Wireless Home Control and Voice Assistant Speaker
Small, simple, and powerful. Say hello to Google Home Mini. This helpful voice-activated smart home speaker is powered by Google Assistant, giving you hands-free control of your smart home, including Nest, Philips Hue, Belkin, and WeMo devices. Ask the Mini questions, tell it do things, and get answers from Google using only your voice.
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The heart of your smart home: Google Home Mini is compatible with Nest, IFTTT, Philips Hue lighting, Belkin, and WeMo
The Google Home Mini brings Google Assistant into the home in a smaller form factor that can fit just about anywhere, and work with a variety of devices.
The Mini is, like its namesake implies, a miniaturized version of the standard-sized Google Home that previously launched in Canada in the summer. It’s basically Google Assistant in a small box, the digital assistant first introduced in the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones last year.
The puck-shaped Mini is so diminutive, it can be placed almost anywhere without looking cluttered. It only has the power cable plugged into it, with no other ports onboard, save for a switch to mute the device entirely.
Normally, tapping the top of the Mini would also bring it to attention, listening for a query or command, but as of this review, that feature has been disabled. The reason why is because of a glitch that affected a batch of units (given to journalists when the device first launched) that were constantly listening and recording whatever they heard. Without getting too technical, the glitch was as if the top button was stuck, which is why it was recording everything.
If that sounds alarming, you’re right to feel concerned. I checked my unit to see if the same thing had happened, but noticed it didn’t. Fortunately, I had one that wasn’t affected.
Google says it is disabling the feature until a permanent fix is rolled out via software update, even though it believes the issue isn’t widespread. Since the top button won’t do anything, you can feel assured that you’re not being monitored in any way.
Saying “Hey, Google,” or “OK, Google,” are the only ways to wake up the Home Mini, where four LEDs light up to indicate it’s listening. While the microphones inside are designed to hear you from a distance, the built-in speaker is limited in its range, and is clearly not meant for enjoying music. I mean, you could if you really wanted to, but I can’t see how you would enjoy it after a few tracks.
Getting the Home Mini up and running takes minutes through the free Google Home app on Android or iOS. The app will recognize the device, and all that was required was for me to connect it to my home Wi-Fi network, give it a name, train it to my voice, and that was it.
Setup didn’t end there though. The Home Mini can do the same things the regular Google Home can do, and that includes controlling compatible smart home devices, music services and Bluetooth speakers.
As an example, I set it to control my Philips Hue lights, Spotify music, and linked it to speakers that are either Bluetooth-enabled or work with Google’s casting protocol. Eventually, I’ll be able to link to my Sonos speakers when that feature rolls out sometime in 2018.
Support is pretty varied at this point, including a number of smart home vendors and their products, like Belkin WeMo, LIFX lights, Nest devices and more. Music services are currently limited to Google Play Music and Spotify in Canada, but you can use them as a non-subscriber, which I’ll explain a little later.
Being location-based, the Home Mini can provide contextual information based on where you live, so it doesn’t need to be set up to know about the weather, or about store locations nearby. It also ties in to Wikipedia and other Internet sources to help offer some basic insight into a person, place or thing.
Despite being trained to your voice, there is more than a little room for pranksters in the house to play tricks with you. The Home Mini can recognize up to six voices, but it responds to queries or commands from others too. Even if kids might not be able to tamper with smart home products this way, they could easily still pepper the device with redundant chatter.
Apart from the top button’s disability, volume controls are otherwise unaffected. Tapping the left side lowers it, the right side raises it. Alternatively, simply stating a number between 0-10 will also adjust it.