Google has two new additions to its smart speaker lineup: Home Max and Home Mini, with each acting as the company's answer to rivals Amazon and Apple.
The Home Mini is exactly like a standard Google Home, but way, way shorter and smaller. It's shaped like a palm-sized river rock, and is covered by a slick-looking fabric material with LED lights underneath. The Home Max, on the other hand, is the more impressive model. It's got two 4.5-inch woofers and a couple of tweeters underneath a similar fabric material.
Google Home Mini
Google's $49 smart speaker projects 360-degree sound for optimum sound quality. It also has far-field microphones that allow it to pick up commands even when there's noise or music playing in the background.
Home Mini comes in three colors: chalk, charcoal, and coral. The Verge thinks it's much more attractive than the Amazon Echo Dot, and that seems to be the case indeed. Design is subjective of course, but something about the Home Mini's toy-like shape and fabric cover makes it look sophisticated yet approachable.
For its size, the speakers sound good. It won't exactly replace bombastic Hi-Fi speakers, but it does the job and it should be good for light music or podcast sessions. Users can even stream audio to it via Bluetooth if they want.
This is Google's answer to the Echo Dot, which sells for the same price. The Home Mini isn't a "wow" piece of technology, but its basicness is its inviting quality. It's a no-frills, no-hassle smart speaker, and because it's cheap, people will likely buy them in bulk to put in as many rooms as possible. If this happens, Google succeeds making Assistant a significant part of day-to-day household operations.
Google Home Max
The Google Home Max is a lot more expensive at $399, but users get what they pay for: excellent sound, solid stereo separation, and just about what one would expect from a $399 device.
It's also meant to rival Apple's upcoming HomePod speaker, which is different from Google and Amazon in that it claims to offer excellent sound quality. But that was ages ago. Now that the Home Max is here, and because its audio quality is being heavily marketed, it stands to become the HomePod's chief competitor.
The Home Max is equipped with machine learning. It's designed to automatically adjust its sound depending on where it's placed inside a room. In one demo, an engineer moved the Home Max to the corner of the room. The sound changed significantly. But barely a moment later, the sound went back to normal, as if the device was never moved to begin with.
That's Google's strength — machine learning and artificial intelligence, and they're a big part of the new devices it unveiled on Oct. 4, including the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, the Google Clips camera, a new Pixelbook, and more.
But can Google beat Amazon and Apple in the fast-progressing smart speaker race? Time will tell.
Google Home Mini comes out Oct. 19 for $49. Preorders for the Home Max begin Nov. 13, retailing for $399.