This month, Apple unveiled the HomePod mini as the first addition to the popular HomePod lineup, with a new spherical design and the S5 chip. With a more affordable price tag of just $99, ?HomePod mini? is a much more accessible and versatile HomePod in a compact design.
The original ?HomePod? continues to be sold by Apple for $299. At over three times the price of ?HomePod mini?, should you still consider the larger, original ?HomePod?, or choose the new ?HomePod mini?? Our guide outlines the differences between the two HomePods and helps to answer the question of how to decide which may be best for you.
Comparing the HomePod and HomePod mini
The ?HomePod? and ?HomePod mini? share a number of key features, such as multiroom audio and Siri. Apple lists these same features of the ?HomePod? and ?HomePod mini?:
Stereo pair capable
?Siri? and upward-facing display
Seamless audio handoff
Smart home hub
Intercom, Find My, ?Siri? Shortcuts, Ambient sounds, and Music alarms
Available in White and Space Gray
Apple’s breakdown shows that the two HomePods share a number of important features. Even so, there are meaningful differences between the ?HomePod? and ?HomePod mini? which justifies the $200 price difference, including design, audio technologies, and spatial awareness.
Large, capsule design
High-excursion woofer and seven tweeters
Home theater with Apple TV 4K
Compact, spherical design
Full-range driver and dual passive radiators
Read on for a closer look at each of these aspects, and see what exactly both HomePods have to offer.
At just 3.3-inches tall, the ?HomePod mini? is much smaller than the original ?HomePod?, which is just under seven inches tall. The ?HomePod mini? also has a compact spherical design, while the original ?HomePod? has a bulkier capsule-like design. The ?HomePod? is larger than the ?HomePod mini? to accommodate more internal components for a fuller audio experience.
Both devices are covered in Apple’s audio-conductive mesh material. The ?HomePod? and ?HomePod mini? also share the ?Siri? waveform that appears on the top display to indicate when ?Siri? is engaged, and integrated touch controls for volume. Both HomePods are also dependent on a wired power cable, meaning that neither is portable.
The ?HomePod mini?’s compact spherical design is more discreet than its larger sibling, and will be the preferred device for tables and surfaces where you have limited space or don’t want it to stand out. Likewise, the larger ?HomePod? will be more appropriate on TV units and areas with more space.
Audio hardware is the most important area of difference between the two HomePods. ?HomePod mini? offers a single full-range driver, powered by a neodymium magnet and a pair of force-canceling passive radiators, which enables deep bass and crisp high frequencies.
On the other hand, ?HomePod? features a large, Apple-designed woofer for deep, clean bass, and a custom array of seven beam-forming tweeters that provide pure high-frequency acoustics, each with its own amplifier and with directional control.
Both devices use an Apple-designed acoustic waveguide to direct the flow of sound down and out toward the bottom of the speaker for an immersive 360-degree audio experience. This allows users to place ?HomePod? almost anywhere in a room and hear consistent sound.
However, the original ?HomePod?’s larger size allows it to achieve a wider, more spacious soundstage. The ?HomePod? will deliver richer, fuller sound compared to the ?HomePod mini?. The ?HomePod mini? will still likely deliver clean and functional sound, but there is no doubt that the added size and audio hardware in the larger ?HomePod? overshadows it significantly.
?HomePod mini? uses a three-microphone array to listen for “Hey ?Siri?,” and a fourth inward-facing microphone helps isolate sound coming from the speaker to improve voice detection when music is playing. The larger ?HomePod? uses an array of six microphones for the same reason.
These microphones help to cancel echo and enable ?Siri? to understand people whether they are near the device or standing across the room, even while loud music is playing. However, it is unclear if the added microphones on the ?HomePod? are to counteract its louder, larger sound profile, while the ?HomePod mini? simply doesn’t need a six-microphone array due to its smaller size, or if it is a point of material difference between the two models when it comes to sound isolation.
Processor and Software
The ?HomePod? uses the A8 chip from the iPhone 6, iPad mini 4, and ?Apple TV? HD, while the ?HomePod mini? uses the S5 chip from the Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch SE.
The ?HomePod?’s processor allows it to use advanced software for real-time acoustic modeling, audio beam-forming, and echo cancellation.
?HomePod mini? uses its processor to maximize the performance of its less capable audio hardware. In an attempt to achieve big sound out of a compact design, the Apple S5 chip in ?HomePod mini? works with advanced software to analyze the unique characteristics of the music and apply complex tuning models to optimize loudness, adjust the dynamic range, and control the movement of the driver and passive radiators in real-time.
The A8 chip in the larger ?HomePod? likewise performs some unique functions, such as bass management through real-time software modeling that ensures the speaker delivers the deepest and cleanest bass possible, with low distortion.
Ultimately, the ?HomePod?’s processor is not a very important consideration when it comes to choosing between the two models. The A8 is an older but more powerful chip, while the S5 is a newer but less powerful chip. Both chips run the same operating system and deliver appropriate computational audio with a comparable level of performance.
The larger original ?HomePod? uses spatial awareness to sense its location in the room. This allows it to automatically adjust and optimize the audio based on its location in the room for improved sound quality. The ?HomePod? can detect walls and corners, and uses this information with its directional tweeters to deliver sound evenly across the room, while reducing distortion and echo.
Only the original ?HomePod? has spatial awareness, and the ?HomePod mini? does not have this feature.
The ?HomePod mini? contains one feature that the original ?HomePod? lacks: the U1 chip. The Apple-designed U1 chip is an ultra-wideband chip which performs directional and proximity-based operations.
The ?HomePod mini? uses the U1 chip to detect when other U1 devices, such as the iPhone 12, are nearby. This allows it to more quickly hand off audio and interact with nearby devices, as well as display relevant information on devices that are close to the ?HomePod mini?.
Beyond this, however, the full potential of U1 in ?HomePod mini? does not yet seem to have been realized. In the future, U1 could facilitate close-range data-transfer, improve AR experiences, and track a user’s location within the home. Apple now seems to be adding the U1 chip to all of its new devices, with the chip appearing in the iPhone 12 lineup and the Apple Watch Series 6.
Adding a second ?HomePod? to your setup enables stereo sound to create a wider soundstage for richer, more enveloping sound. Each ?HomePod? is able to play its own channel of either left or right sound, while separating out both the ambient and direct energy. Both devices can perform automatic detection and balance of two speakers using both direct and reflected audio. Even though the two speakers act as one, each ?HomePod? communicates with each other so that only one speaker responds to ?Siri? requests.
While both ?HomePod? and ?HomePod mini? support this stereo pair capability, you cannot pair a ?HomePod mini? and an original ?HomePod? together. Instead, you can only pair two original HomePods or two ?HomePod? minis as stereo speakers.
Both HomePods support multiroom audio and can be mixed together using that functionality, but not to achieve stereo sound.
Home Theater with Apple TV 4K
The original ?HomePod? also supports Home Theater with ?Apple TV? 4K. This allows the ?HomePod? to provide a more immersive home theater experience when it is paired with an ?Apple TV? 4K, by offering surround sound and Dolby Atmos.
The feature is reliant on the directional and spatially aware capabilities of the original ?HomePod?, so it is not available on the ?HomePod mini?. Two ?HomePod? minis can nevertheless still provide stereo sound for ?Apple TV?, but not the full home theater experience of the original ?HomePod?.
If you intend to use the ?HomePod? or a pair of HomePods as TV speakers with an ?Apple TV? 4K, there is no doubt that the original ?HomePod? will provide a much better audio experience.
Overall, it’s clear that the ?HomePod? and ?HomePod mini? are products that have different purposes. The ?HomePod? is a more full-featured high-end speaker for excellent sound quality, while the ?HomePod mini? is intended to be more versatile.
This is reflected in the ?HomePod mini?’s more affordable price. The ?HomePod mini? may be better suited to areas such as hallways or kitchens, while the original ?HomePod? seems to be better suited to larger rooms where audio content is consumed more regularly, such as living rooms.
The main reason to buy the larger ?HomePod? will be due to its better audio fidelity. As an extension of this, if you want to use your HomePods with an ?Apple TV? 4K, the larger ?HomePod? is the preferred option. With its directional audio and spatial awareness, on top of its plethora of high-end audio hardware, the original ?HomePod? is the device for areas where sound quality is the priority.
In locations where the device may be used more for ?Siri? than music, ?HomePod mini? seems to be the better option. The ?HomePod mini? will be better when something more discreet is needed or if it is in an area where it would be used more in passing. The ?HomePod mini? will still perform well in multiroom audio mode, and its more affordable price tag allows users to acquire more of them for use around the home.
Generally speaking, if you want a ?HomePod? to achieve the best possible sound quality and volume, get the original ?HomePod?. Otherwise, the ?HomePod mini? will be more than sufficient for your needs.Related Roundups: HomePod, HomePod miniBuyer’s Guide: HomePod (Caution), HomePod Mini (Caution)This article, “HomePod Mini vs. HomePod Buyer’s Guide” first appeared on MacRumors.comDiscuss this article in our forums
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Author: Hartley Charlton