First impressions of the $49 Google Home Mini

Today, Google showed off its answer to Amazon’s Echo Dot. It’s called the Google Home Mini.

It’s $49, comes in three colors and is actually a pretty snappy little device that’s worth taking a look at. We had some time to get up close and personal with the device; here are some of our first impressions…

First off, the audio is a bit punchier than the Echo Dot. It doesn’t feel a lot louder, but it is much less tinny, which is great.┬áIn practice, the mic input is about as good as the regular-sized Home, as in it works fine in normal use but struggles when the room gets loud. In my opinion, Amazon still has Google beat here in distinguishing background noise from audio the device is playing.

It’s the size and shape of a donut and comes in coral, gray and charcoal colors. The design is definitely less obtrusive than the Dot, though it is a bit larger. Design-wise it seems it’s aiming to be a little less futuristic, with the entire top of the device being coated in fabric. It’s not exactly unobtrusive, but fits the hipster aesthetic that Google was driving with its Daydream headsets last year. The device also loses the swirling multi-color dots for a line of four white LEDs on top.

I’m a little concerned about how the coral color would stand up to dust and dirt, but it seems like the gray and charcoal options would hold up well enough.

Controls are all tap-based. You tap the right side of the donut to raise the volume, the left to lower. A tap in the middle pauses or plays the music and a long press calls up Google Assistant. There’s also a physical switch on the bottom edge of the device to turn off the device’s listening features.

The biggest disappointment is the lack of audio output jack, so you’re not going to be able to use the device as a controller for tunes, you’ll have to rely on a Chromecast Audio dongle for that. Because of this, the Google Home is really a different type of device, and Google seems to be imagining this as part of a multi-room setup with this device in the bedroom, while the larger regular-sized Home or Home Max sets up shop in the kitchen or living room.

For $49 this is a very tight product that feels fairly high-quality, audio isn’t crazy loud but the device is certainly capable for some light listening and utilization of some of Assistant’s growing feature set.