It was 4:44 in the morning when the $100 Mobvoi TicHome Mini ($100 at Mobvoi) woke me up. To be fair, the smart speaker wasn't doing anything egregious, just blinking a yellow warning light to let me know it was running out of power. I had unplugged it a few hours earlier to see if its battery could make it through the night on standby. I don't know how much longer it lasted, as I chucked it out of my room and went back to bed. When I woke up with my alarm a couple of hours later, it was dead.
The TicHome Mini actually has a lot going for it as a battery-powered alternative to the $50 Google Home Mini ($49 at Google Store). Like the Google Home Mini, it has Google's digital assistant built in (just called Google Assistant). Issue a voice command and it'll search the web, set a timer, check your calendar, control your smart home and more. TicHome's advantage over the Google Home Mini is its 2,600mAh battery -- rated for six hours of life. Google's own smart speaker needs to stay plugged in.
However, that rude awakening wasn't the only time the TicHome annoyed me. For one, you can't actually tell by looking at it whether it's on or off. You can't determine how much battery it has left without plugging it in. When I left it plugged in overnight, it would occasionally lose its connection to my Wi-Fi network, requiring me to reboot it before it was willing to answer any of my questions. If you want a stationary assistant, Google's first-party products are more reliable, and if you're just looking to bring Google Assistant with you on the go, use your phone.does make the TicHome Mini capable of much more than an ordinary Bluetooth speaker, so if you want a portable speaker with a ton of features, it's worth a look.
Sizing up the TicHome Mini
You can buy the Mobvoi TicHome Mini for $100 now in the US and UK. The Mobvoi store currently checks out non-US customers in their local currency but according to the current conversion rate, so in the UK that equates to roughly 75 pounds. Mobvoi plans to launch the TicHome in Australia by the end of the month, with a local price specific to that country. Until that's revealed, the US price converts to around AU$130. Make your order on the company's site, and you can pick your color. Black, white and teal all have an estimated delivery date roughly five days out from your order for US customers. The company page shows a pink option as well, but you can't order it yet.
Once you get your TicHome, setup is simple. Hold the power button and use theto connect it to your Wi-Fi network. I was glad to use Google's official app with the TicHome, as it allows you to group the TicHome with other Google speakers and manage it just like a .
Say the wake words ("Hey Google" or "OK Google") for Google Assistant and you have access to almost the entire range of Google's voice-activated bag of tricks. With a voice command, you can play music, use TicHome as a personal assistant, stream content to any TV or speaker that has Google Cast enabled, or even use it as a smart home controller for Google's long list of compatible products.
Again, in this way it's quite similar to the Google Home Mini and even the Amazon Echo Dot ($40 at B&H Photo-Video). The latter two aren't battery powered, but they're both available for half the price at $50, and the Dot has a unique extra as it can plug into your own speaker system. The Dot, of course, doesn't use Google Assistant but . on the ongoing battle between Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa.
TicHome Mini vs. Google Home Mini vs. Amazon Echo Dot
||TicHome Mini||Google Home Mini||Amazon Echo Dot|
|Available colors||Blue, white, teal, pink||Chalk, Charcoal, Coral||White, black (more through cases)|
|Voice controls||Through Google Assistant||Through Google Assistant||Through Alexa|
|Size||4.33-inch diameter, 1.69-inch height||3.86-inch diameter, 1.65-inch height||3.3-inch diameter, 1.3-inch height|
|Weight||9.73 oz.||6.1 oz.||5.7 oz.|
|Physical Extras||Splash-proof. Buttons for volume, actions, and mute. Micro-USB port.||Touch controls, microphone switch, Micro-USB port||3.5 mm audio output port. Buttons for volume, actions, and mute. Micro-USB port.|
Google didn't give all of its best stuff to the third party TicHome. You can't make calls on the TicHome. TicHome's hearing also isn't quite as sharp as the Google Home Mini's. It heard me accurately without issues when I was facing it in the same room, but move a room away, and Google's speaker still picked me up every time while TicHome's was more hit or miss.
TicHome does play nice if you want to purchase it in addition to your Google Home or Google Home Mini. Say a command, and only the closest speaker will respond. Third-party Alexa gadgets don't yet have the same benefit and can overlap responses if you speak a command near multiple devices.
While you control the Google Home Mini with hidden touch controls, TicHome's speaker has four clearly labeled buttons on its surface. I actually prefer TicHome's approach here, as if I need to control the speaker with a touch instead of my voice, I don't have to remember where to touch it to do what.