A First Look at the Google Home Mini
Home Automation. Don’t tell it that I said this, but my home isn’t very smart. I do have a Chromecast for the TV and a couple of Chromecast Audios in the house. Since no smart lights or appliances reside in our home I didn’t see a need for a Google Home right away. Sure, I was tempted to pick up a Google Home or something in the Amazon Echo family of products, but I just never saw a pressing need.
After the heavily rumored Google Home Mini was announced, this Google Phanboi just had to get one. The $49 price tag and the $25 coupon for a future purchase from Walmart via Google Express made it very difficult to resist. My first home automation product arrived in our home on October 19th. Here are my first impressions.
The setup was incredibly easy. Since I already own aforementioned Chromecast devices, I already had Google Home installed on my phone and had my Chromecast devices set up within Google Home. I opened the box, discarded the paperwork that came in the box, and plugged in the Mini. After about five minutes, I had my Mini setup and working.
The Google Home Mini responds to voice commands. I’ve been using “Hey Google” instead of “Okay Google” so that other devices in the home don’t activate. Every morning I can get a weather report, my agenda for the day, road conditions on my two-mile commute to my office, and the latest news by calling out “Hey Google. Good Morning!” The news source(s) can be modified using the Google Home app.
The Google Home Mini does use a micro-USB cable for power. Yeah, micro-USB is so 2016, but despite the complaints of others in the tech world, I don’t see a problem with using micro-USB for the Mini. The Mini stays plugged in and is not portable. So, once you plug it in, you’re pretty much just going to leave it in the same spot.
The sound on the Google Home Mini comes from an upward facing, single “360 degree” 40mm driver. Since this is my first device, I don’t have a Google Home or Amazon Echo/Dot for comparison, but the sound is good enough to fill the room with sound. The output on the Mini was enough to prompt my wife to
strongly suggest ask me to turn it down.
The Google Home Mini can be used to make phone calls. You set up your phone number in the Google Home App. You can choose from your Google Voice number, your cell number, or a custom number. You will receive a text to verify that you own the number, so don’t try spoofing numbers! The call quality is poor and I would not recommend using the Mini to make phone calls unless you were planning on ordering a pizza. I tested this feature by calling my dad: “Hey Google. Call my dad.” The Mini then informed me that Google Home cannot call 911 and I should not use it for emergency situations. I was then asked to identify who in my contacts is “my dad” and then I was asked to confirm if I really wanted that person to be labeled as “my dad.” My dad, who was unaware that I was going to be placing a test call on the Mini could not hear me at first. Then he told me that, “…it sounds like you’re calling from the bottom of a barrel…” and he insisted on calling me back.
I am enjoying using the Google Home Mini. It is my intention to continue to add other IoT items to my home, including lighting and switches. First up on my list will be a switch to allow me to control the Christmas Tree this year.
The only negative I see so far is the lack of an AUX port. This is probably a money thing on Google’s part, but if there was an AUX port, then I could treat the Google Home Mini like a Chromecast Audio and then free up one of my existing Chromecast Audio units to be used elsewhere in the house.
Considering that you can get 2 ½ Minis for the same price of the Google Home, you can get a Google Home Mini for everyone on your shopping list this year. However, you may want to wait and see if there are any Black Friday or CyberMonday deals before you buy.
The Google Home Mini is available from several retailers, such as Walmart and Target (both partners in Google Express) or you can purchase online from Google Express. If you already own a Google Home, then you can just ask it to order you a Google Home Mini. Just don’t look for it on Amazon, because like the Chromecast, it isn’t carried by the online retailer. Links to buy the Mini are below!Walmart (get a $25 coupon for a future purchase from Walmart via Google Express - Offer expires 1/15/2018)Buy from the Google Store