Apple debuted the HomePod mini back in October with an all-new spherical design and impressive list of features and specs priced at $99 — $200 less than the list price of its bigger brother. Read on for a detailed HomePod mini vs HomePod comparison.
Update 3/15/21: Now that the original HomePod has been discontinued you might be wondering if it’s worth picking one (or more?) up before they’re totally sold out. Or maybe you’re just curious about the unique features of the larger HomePod like Dolby Atmos, spatial awareness, and richer sound.
We’ve updated this article – particularly the differences and wrap-up sections – with more context in light of the HomePod’s discontinuation.
Table of contents
HomePod mini vs HomePod
What’s the same?
HomePod mini packs most of HomePod’s features in a smaller spherical design that keeps the same touch-sensitive top for controls. Notably, it even includes some enhancements that HomePod doesn’t include like the U1 ultra wideband chip and Thread. The U1 chip will enable an improved handoff that “you’ll feel” as well as personalized listening suggestions on your iPhone when you’re near HomePod mini.
Apple shared an brief overview comparing the two:
It’s great that the Intercom feature is available for both the new HomePod mini as well as the existing HomePod. Most of the other major features of the original HomePod are included with the mini like multiroom audio, stereo pair support, smart home hub, 360-degree audio, far-field microphones for Siri support, computational audio, and more.
Dolby Atmos, Spatial Awareness, more
Back in November with tvOS 14.2, Apple released the ability to set two HomePods as the default for Apple TV audio and enjoy stereo as well as surround sound with Dolby Atmos (you can also use Atmos with just one HomePod, Apple TV 4K required). That new feature is great but strange in light of HomePod’s discontinuation and the fact that Apple hasn’t made it available for HomePod mini.
Spatial awareness is also unique to the original HomePod which allows it to adjust audio based on its surroundings.
The HomePod mini tech specs page doesn’t mention the inclusion of direct and ambient audio beamforming that HomePod supports and the smaller speaker has 4 far-field microphones, instead of the 6 on HomePod.
Sound: Output and quality
The other major difference is going to be HomePod including a woofer and seven-array tweeter setup while HomePod mini uses a “full-range driver and dual passive radiators.” That means it can’t fully match the original HomePod’s audio performance overall.
I’ve been using both HomePod and HomePod mini for a while now. HomePod mini definitely puts out impressive sound for its size but the original HomePod provides much richer, fuller sound. To me HomePod is perfect for larger spaces like living rooms, kitchens, etc. while HomePod mini is a better fit for smaller spaces.
Particularly when you push the volume on HomePod mini, the sound feels noticeably thinner to me than on HomePod, which is understandable considering the hardware differences.
I absolutley think HomePod mini outperforms similar small smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo Dot. But it just can’t replace HomePod when it comes to full-range audio.
Here’s how Apple describes HomePod mini’s sound:
Jam-packed with innovation, HomePod mini delivers unexpectedly big sound for a speaker of its size. At just 3.3 inches tall, it takes up almost no space but fills the entire room with rich 360‑degree audio that sounds amazing from every angle.
As for processors, Apple’s S5 chip that powers the Series 5 Apple Watch is used for the HomePod mini, meanwhile HomePod uses the A8 chip.
Notably, HomePod mini has Thread functionality while HomePod doesn’t. It’s a next-gen smart home device P2P communication protocol that could be the future of HomeKit. Read more below for a detailed look at what Thread is and why it’s valuable:
- Deep dive looks at how Thread could be the future of HomeKit
- Eve unveils 3 new HomeKit accessories with Apple-supported Thread connectivity
As for size, HomePod mini comes in at 3.3 inches (84.3 mm) high, 3.9 inches (97.9 mm) wide, and weighs just 0.76 pound (345 grams).
HomePod measures in at 6.8 inches (172 mm) high by 5.6 inches (142 mm) wide and weighs 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg).
HomePod mini vs HomePod wrap-up
At $99, HomePod mini fits a variety of great use cases where HomePod is overkill for rooms, apartments, and other settings. It also looks like a great value proposition for those who want to stay in the Apple ecosystem without dropping $200-$300 on HomePod.
Worth it to pick up a discontinued HomePod?
This is a loaded question but it might be worth it to pick a discontinued HomePod if you’re a dedicated Apple Music user who values Dolby Atmos support and the overall fuller, richer sound. If you do, HomePod offers the best experience with Siri built in.
But admittedly there are a number of unknowns. Apple has said it will continue to support the original HomePod with software updates and service but didn’t say for exactly how long (historically Apple is really good about this).
Other factors include whether Apple could launch Atmos support for HomePod mini with a software update, no Thread support for the original HomePod, and in general, would you rather invest in something like the Sonos Arc Atmos playbar, Five, or other speakers that aren’t discontinued?
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