$99/£99 HomePod Mini aims to blow away Amazon Echo and Nest Audio

Will the smaller HomePod rival the bigger competition?

HomePod Mini
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple kicked its October event off with an update to its HomePod family. The Apple HomePod mini may seem like a small fish next to the new iPhone 12 line, but the new addition to the HomePod family brings in quite a few nifty features in its tiny frame that makes it worth looking into.

According to Apple, this little smart speaker that could delivers amazing 360-degree sound, smart home control capabilities, and expandability so you can have a multi-room sound system in your home. In addition, it's able to detect with high-precision when an iPhone is nearby as well as access and control Apple devices like iPhones and Macs.

More for staying connected with the members of your household, it comes with this feature called Intercom. With it, the HomePod mini will connect with all your Apple devices – including iPads, iPhones and CarPlay – in order to keep you and your family connected at all times.

Is the sound quality worth the price?

At $99/£99, the Apple HomePod mini is in direct competition with the likes of Nest Audio and the 4th-generation Amazon Echo. Smart speaker functionalities aside, it's hard to say whether or not it can compete in terms of sound quality.

Both the Nest Audio and the new Amazon Echo are bigger in size and have more space to accommodate larger drivers. More specifically, Nest Audio has a 75mm woofer and 19mm tweeter while Amazon Echo has a 76mm woofer and two 20mm tweetes. The HomePod mini has a single driver, which is more like the Echo Dot (though with some extras).

While Apple has not specified the size of the driver in the HomePod mini, the device itself is 84.3x97.9mm, which might mean enough space for a woofer to rival the others, though with no tweeter. If the woofer is smaller, it may mean a brighter and thinner sound.

To give it its due, it does have dual passive radiators as well. Passive radiators usually make smaller speakers sound fuller and bigger than they actually are, and with these inside the HomePod mini, it should offset if there is a thinner sound, giving this smart speaker better balance to its sound quality. 

On top of that, it also has a physical diffuser around the base that's meant to send the sound evenly in all directions so that it sounds good no matter where you are. This appears to be quite similar to the sound diffusion technique that B&O has used on some of its (much, much more expensive) speakers, which is a typical Apple thing to do.

Combine those with the computational audio the HomePod mini has for real-time tuning, which is kind of what Sonos does, squeezing better sound out of smaller systems, and it's highly likely that the Apple HomePod will produce a better sound than the other two.

That makes it a better value, especially if you're short on space and already invested in the Apple HomeKit ecosystem.

The Apple HomePod mini will set you back at $99/£99. It's available for pre-order on November 6 and will start shipping on November 13.

Michelle Rae Uy

Michelle Rae Uy is a tech and travel journalist, editor and photographer with a bad case of wanderlust. She is a regular contributor for IGN, TechRadar and Business Insider, and has contributed to Thrillist, Paste Magazine, Nylon, Fodor's and Steve's Digicams. Living mainly in California with her adorable cats, she splits her time between Los Angeles, London and the rest of the world.