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HomePod mini vs HomePod: What’s the difference between the Apple speakers?

HomePod mini vs HomePod: Apple has announced a new smart speaker in the HomePod mini, a smaller version of its existing HomePod. 

The HomePod mini doesn’t go on sale until November 6th (it starts shipping November 16th), so there’s time to weigh up the option of going for the full-sized speaker or the smaller version.

To help you make a decision, we’ve come up with this guide. So, what’s the difference between the HomePod vs HomePod mini?

Related: Apple unveils £99 smart speaker to rival Amazon and Google

HomePod mini vs HomePod — price

The original HomePod cost £339 when it first came out in 2018, and received a price reduction early in 2019 to bring it down to £279.

The HomePod mini costs £99, which is £180 less. Of course that doesn’t mean the mini is the better speaker out of the two, but it does make it a lot more affordable.

HomePod mini vs HomePod — design

Despite being smaller – the mini is about half as tall – much of the design language of the full-sized HomePod has carried over to the smaller version.

It’s spherical in shape rather than cylindrical, going down the same route Amazon’s new Echo speakers have taken. Like the original HomePod it comes wrapped in a seamless mesh fabric that’s intended not only to look good but aid acoustic performance.

Both speakers feature a backlit control surface on top. It’s there where Siri appears as a ball of light and where touch controls will appear for volume and playback when playing audio.

We are making the presumption that the HomePod mini will have a single capacitive cable that powers the unit. It’s the one aspect of the HomePod we were never sold on, as if it’s damaged you’ll need to send the entire unit back.

Both come in space gray and white variations, with the most significant differences between the two speakers being the dimensions (naturally) and the weight; the mini weighs 345g compared to the HomePod’s hefty 2.5kg.

HomePod mini vs HomePod — features

Apple unveiled features we weren’t expecting and a few that we were. Our guesswork leads us to think that some features won’t make their way to the original HomePod, and that they’ll be a point of difference between the two smart speakers.

The HomePod mini uses the S5 processor compared to the original speaker’s A8 processor. We’re not going to compare the processing grunt of the two since they appear to be for different purposes (the S5 sounds like it’s for smaller devices). Another difference is that the six array mic set-up on the HomePod drops down to an array of three mics on the mini.

What the main HomePod won’t have is the Ultra Wide Band feature Apple mentioned during its presentation. UWB allows for iOS products to sense when they’re close to one another and talk to each other, enabling faster data transfer and more accurate location tracking.

An example given was the mini knowing when an iPhone was nearby and music transferring seamlessly between the two. UWB tech is a feature the OG HomePod does not have, and therefore we don’t think it’ll be able to perform these functions.

The automatic stereo pairing functionality is unlikely to be available in the HomePod either, as it supports manual pairing through the Home app. Two minis placed close together can sense each other and automatically convert into a pair. Apple didn’t touch on whether the mini could be stereo paired with the HomePod, but we imagine that’s unlikely. A HomePod and mini can be connected together via AirPlay 2 for multi-room purposes, however.

One thing that the OG HomePod will be able to do that the HomePod mini won’t be able to do is output 5.1, 7.1 and Atmos sound. This will be available when two HomePods are connected to the an Apple TV box. Considering the HomePod doesn’t have Atmos upfiring speakers this will likely be the virtualised version of Atmos.

We are expecting other features to crossover. Apple looks set to open up integration with other music services such as Amazon Music and Pandora (which exists in the US). That we can see made available on both speakers, with the HomePod receiving a firmware update.

The updates to Siri should be available too. Apple says she’s now capable of deep integration with the iPhone and she’ll fill you in with the latest updates to your schedule, news and reminders when you say ‘Hey Siri’. Siri has always had the talent of recognising the voice of each member in a household (she can recognise six people with the HomePod), and now she integrates better with Apple CarPlay. If you make a suggestion about a location to Siri, it’ll pop up on the dashboard display of CarPlay when you get into a car.

We also reckon the Intercom feature will work with the first HomePod too, allowing users to send an audio message from one device to another.

Related: What is Apple Intercom?

HomePod mini vs HomePod — sound

As we’ve not yet tested the HomePod mini, we have little to say about how it sounds. The mini will have to live to the HomePod’s expectations considering it’s the best-sounding smart speaker on the market.

The HomePod comes with a high-excursion woofer with a custom amplifier, and an array of seven horn-loaded tweeters, each with its own custom amplifier. The mini can’t compete with that, featuring a full-range driver and dual passive radiators for bass and high frequencies.

Both speakers use computational audio for real-time tuning of the speaker’s sound, with the mini’s S5 chip working alongside “advanced software” to optimise loudness, adjust the dynamic range, and control the movement of the mini’s drivers and passive radiators 180 times a second. Apple says it’s capable of producing a sound similar to a bigger speaker.

And both have an acoustic waveguide that directs sound out from the bottom for a more evenly dispersed audio experience. Even without hearing the HomePod mini, based on what Apple has said we imagine its characteristics will be very similar to the original HomePod.

Related: Apple HomePod Mini vs Amazon Echo Dot

Which speaker should you get?

Even though we’ve not tested the HomePod mini, we have an idea of its features and attributes. While it’ll be similar to its bigger and older sibling, it’ll differentiate in other ways too.

The HomePod mini does seem for all intents and purposes to be a smaller HomePod, keeping the same design aesthetic and acoustics principles in a more affordable form.

That suggests that which speaker you go for will depend on your what you want from a speaker. Are you looking for a big, room-filling sound? The original HomePod would be our pick. If you’re after something that takes up less space, and comes with what looks like better and improved smart features (especially if you have iOS devices), the HomePod mini looks like the better bet.

We’re definitely intrigued by the HomePod mini, and look forward to reviewing it to see how it stacks up to the original.

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