The war of assistants is in full swing and this has not escaped Google who presented at the beginning of October a Max version of his assistant and a miniaturized version. The Google Home Mini, released in Spain this week, has arrived at the editorial office. The opportunity for us to assess its performance ... not so minimal as that.
The Google Home Mini shows a lot of discretion.
After leaving the field open to Amazon for two years in the home assistants segment, Google has decided to take the second. Even the third. Shortly after the release in Spain of the very first Google Home, the Mountain View firm is now releasing a Mini version of its assistant. The Google Home Mini comes directly to hunt on the lands of the Amazon Echo Dot which enjoys unshakeable success in the United States. It is difficult here to speak of a "smart speaker". The concept is such that the miniature version of Google Home makes it possible to multiply the assistants and to install them in the different rooms of the house. Thus, the whole house can be controlled by voice - and is wiretapped, of course.
Google Home Mini is therefore the little brother of the first Google Home. It comes in the form of a small pebble running Google Assistant, Google's artificial intelligence. Accessible in Spanish since last summer, Google Assistant was launched on Google Home, first of the name and continues to grow over the weeks. An entertainment, assistance and control system for connected objects, capable of responding to the user's voice requests, the Google Home Mini can also access all the services offered by the Web giant.
Google Home Mini
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Two omnidirectional microphones and a 40mm speaker (compared to three for its big brother) are gathered in this plastic case. Unlike the web giant's first assistant, volume control is not performed on the top of the device. User is asked to tap on the left side of Home Mini to decrease the volume and on the right side to increase it. The LEDs light up more or less intensely to indicate the sound level. This is not necessarily innate, nor really practical in use. Especially since the system is not always the most reactive on contact with the finger. Pity.
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At the back of this speaker, we find the one and only physical touch of the device. This is supposed to activate or deactivate the assistant's microphone. However, a question nags us: if we are to believe the words of Google, the assistant only listens to its user when we pronounce the key phrases - and a little off-putting - "Ok Google" , "Hey Google" or even "Hey Google". In this case, what is the point of adding a physical touch if not to reassure users who are a little suspicious about the use of personal data? We are still looking for the answer ...
This 9,5 cm diameter pebble displays 174 g on our scale. In fact, it fits perfectly in the palm of the hand just like the B&O Play BeoPlay A1. Its sober, compact and sleek design gives it a certain discretion and there is no doubt that the Home Mini will easily find its place in any interior. The fabric cover is available in three colors. If at first glance, the Google Home Mini may seem a little fragile, its assembly is of quality.
The Google Home Mini fits perfectly in the palm of your hand. Its power supply is via micro-USB.
The configuration of this assistant is carried out exactly the same way as that of the Google Home first of the name. It only works on mains. If its compact format may presage a nomadic product, it is not. The assistant can be used all day, in case of repeated requests, a battery would not last long. When plugged in, the leds on the top of the device light up and a female voice invites the user to download the Home application. When it's done, the configuration is very simple: the application detects the device and the user must enter the access codes to connect it to the Wi-Fi network. Synchronization is carried out in less than two minutes. in hand, after which the Google Home is ready to use. If we regret that the Google Home power goes through a proprietary port, that of the Home Mini goes through a micro-USB cable. All in good time !
Since the Google Home test last August, we have not noted any clear improvements or real enrichments. This is not necessarily problematic since the system had been very responsive. Like Google Home, Google Home Mini intends to answer almost all questions. It can go through very simple sentences: "What is the capital of Spain?" or by services "What's the weather like in Bordeaux?", "How long to go to Porte Dauphine?", or even "What is my schedule for the day?" ("planning" not being recognized by Google Assistant, prefer the term "agenda"). In order to evaluate the performance of Home Mini, we submitted the same 6 questions that we asked the first assistant; questions that we will also ask other home assistants such as the Amazon Echo, Apple HomePodet others, in a similar sound environment. We positioned ourselves one meter from the assistant in a relatively quiet room (around 40 dB).
Here is the panel of selected sentences: "Ok Google, in what year was Napoleon I crowned Emperor?", "Ok Google, who is Jean de la Fontaine?" (for generalist questions) then "Ok Google, what's the weather like in Paris today?", "Ok Google, what is my agenda for the week?", "Ok Google, what are the news for the day?" , "Ok Google, set an alarm for 7 am tomorrow" (for services).
When listening, the LEDs of the Google Home Mini light up.
We wanted to assess the latency time between the moment we ask the questions and the moment when Google Home Mini reacts. In addition to having answered all our requests, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the assistant took barely 2 seconds to provide an answer, where the Google Home put 3. Out of curiosity, we wanted to check which one assistants (large or small) were the most responsive. Placed next to each other and after pronouncing the key phrase "Ok Google", the miniaturized version always answered first.
Google Home Mini has exactly the same features as its predecessor: it only very moderately likes to be cut off, it manages to memorize things (such as where your passport is stored), it can complete your list of races and authorizes the recording of requests. For more details on these features, refer to our first use of Google Home, in the paragraph "Questions ... reactions!". Ditto for everything related to the connected home and compatible equipment.
To have discussed at length with Google Home Mini, it should be noted that the assistant supports natural language; except for a few details. If Spanish still needs to be improved - and this will be done according to updates - interactions with Home remain pleasant and ultimately quite free.
Since the release of the first Google Home, a new feature - and not the least - has appeared: the management of multiple user accounts. Thus, each assistant of the Web giant can accommodate up to 6 accounts. This enrichment is essential for a product that wants to be at the heart of the household. In fact, the different members of the family will be able to consult their own diary or launch their Spotify playlist. During configuration, a learning phase is necessary so that the assistant can recognize the voice.
Finally, Google Assistant provides a "Night Mode" which allows the user to define time slots during which the sound volume of the speaker and the intensity of its lights are reduced. The idea is to make the product a little less aggressive on the eyes and ears when it is called upon at a quieter time, typically in the morning or in the evening. This operating mode is supplemented by a second mode, called "Do not disturb", which will mute notifications, but keep programmed alarms.
For now, we are still waiting for the male voice of the assistant, promised by Google a few weeks ago.
The Google Home Mini has clearly created a surprise when it comes to sound. It must be said that we did not expect exceptional performance, the size of this device could not provide incredible power. However, the sound rendering is quite correct for those who wish to use it in a small, quiet room.to read also: 2NEWS: Home automation assistant
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Google Home Mini frequency response measurement: current standard position (black); loudspeaker aimed directly at the listener (purple).
If the Home Mini does the job, you shouldn't ask too much of it either. On this ground, a dedicated enclosure will be more efficient. To take advantage of the features of Google Home on a competition speaker, you will need to use a Chromecast Audio. Remember, however, that most of the time, a Chromecast Audio requires a power source to operate, unless the USB port of the speaker to which the Chromecast is plugged in is powerful enough to be powered. On the other hand, some equipment directly integrates Chromecast (the JBL Playlist speaker, the LG SJ9 sound bar or the Onkyo TX-NR474 and TX-8270 amplifiers are examples).
Finally, let us add that the Home Mini does not have a 3,5 mm mini-jack audio output, which is a very closed ecosystem. This absence can prove to be penalizing, moreover on this type of equipment.
The Google Home Mini is the right solution for those who want to taste the joys of Google Assistant without breaking the bank. Google's Mini proposal has proven to live up to our expectations, both in its design and in its functionalities, and even in its sound rendering which is not unworthy. Ideal in a secondary room, kitchen or bedroom type, the Mini version of Google Home has serious arguments that could make its elder blush, offered at € 100 more (Google Home is sold at € 159 when the Home Mini is offered at € 59 ).