Apple’s new HomePod (2023) is, at first glance, a dead ringer for the original HomePod, released in 2018. In the meantime, Apple released the HomePod mini, which was the company’s only speaker for nearly two years, as the original HomePod was discontinued in early 2021.
The new HomePod and HomePod mini share a similar set of features, albeit at very different price points. So, should you buy a HomePod or buy two mini HomePods (leaving you with a hundred bucks to spare)? Let’s dive.
Cute, small and colorful versus big and cute
Like the original, the new HomePod is cylindrical in shape and covered in woven mesh fabric, with volume controls and an animated touchscreen on top that lights up when you call Siri. The HomePod mini is smaller, better looking, and much lighter (5.16 pounds versus 0.76 pounds), but its basic features are the same: mesh fabric cover, touchscreen, and volume controls on top. However, it is much more colorful as you can get it in Space Grey, Blue, White, Yellow and Orange colors whereas the HomePod only comes in Midnight and White colors.
One difference is that the HomePod has a detachable cable, while the HomePod mini does not.
Credit: Stan Schroeder/Mashable
It is worth mentioning that, due to the difference in size, the HomePod is a much more striking and beautiful object to place in your home. Mini is almost inconsequential; I’ve had it for a year now, and over time it’s been pushed back from the TV by other objects like fruit baskets and candles. The HomePod, especially if you buy two, is something you definitely want to see.
The same feature set
In terms of features, the HomePod and HomePod mini are remarkably similar. Both support Bluetooth 5 and Wi-Fi 802.11n connectivity, come with an accelerometer, humidity and temperature sensors, and have sound recognition capabilities.
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Despite the HomePod mini having an older chip (Apple’s S5 versus the HomePod’s S7), it’s hard to pinpoint a feature that the HomePod mini lacks. It integrates seamlessly with other Apple devices, runs Siri just the same, and can be paired with another mini for stereo sound. It even has four microphones to listen for input, just like its bigger, younger brother. If you want to pick and choose, the HomePod has a detachable power cable, while the HomePod mini has a non-detachable USB-C cable that plugs into an external 20W power adapter. frequently; so once you set them up, you probably won’t notice.
The size difference is big; the difference in sound is also very big.
Credit: Stan Schroeder/Mashable
The similarities stop at the way these two speakers produce sound. The HomePod has an array of five tweeters firing in all directions, along with a 4-inch woofer. The HomePod mini is an entirely different design, with a single speaker and two passive radiators, which improve its bass response but fail to sound as deep as the new HomePod.
HomePod likes pop, HomePod mini likes rock
I compared the HomePod to the HomePod mini side by side. When you listen to each speaker separately, they sound similar, with plenty of bass and a surprising lightness to the sound. But when you compare them directly, moving from one to the other in the same volume, the difference is startling. Switching from the smallest speaker to the largest is like listening to a concert through a closed door, opening it and stepping inside.
The HomePod is louder and has more bass, but it also has much more clarity and definition across the entire frequency range. That’s not to say the HomePod mini looks bad; it just doesn’t measure up to the larger speaker.
The difference is most pronounced when playing bassy pop and hip hop, like something by Rosalia or Drake. Interestingly, while the HomePod still sounds better, the difference is much smaller when listening to rock music like Queens of the Stone Age or All Them Witches. The HomePod offers more clarity, but the HomePod mini has a better sound mix, with the instruments strung tight, the bass and distorted guitars happily churning out a punchy, deep sound. In contrast, the HomePod puts a lot of highs into the mix. I said it in my HomePod review and I’ll say it again here: it’s a shame Apple doesn’t offer any kind of equalizer for the HomePods, as both could benefit from some fine-tuning.
The real issue for potential buyers, I think, is whether to buy two mini HomePods for $198 or one HomePod for $299. Adding another speaker to the mix gives you stereo and greatly improves the overall sound. Given that the list of features between HomePod and HomePod mini is virtually identical, opting for two minis is a good budget option. Of course, if money is no object, choose two HomePods; folding down does wonders for sound and makes the speakers a great choice for home theater audio.