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Mobvoi TicHome Mini review: Google Assistant and a battery can't save the TicHome Mini

This battery-powered Google Assistant speaker has a lot going for it, but it lacks polish.

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Andrew Gebhart
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Andrew Gebhart

Senior Producer

Andrew loves writing about cool, futuristic technology. He's reviewed everything from vacuum cleaners to beer brewing robots in pursuit of the perfect smart home. He wants the smart home to make him feel powerful, and it's getting there.

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6 min read

It was 4:44 in the morning when the $100 Mobvoi TicHome Mini 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.

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7.1

Mobvoi TicHome Mini

The Good

With Google Assistant built-in, the Mobvoi TicHome Mini can do almost everything the Google Home Mini can do, plus it's battery-powered, splash-proof, and it even sounds a little better than the Google Home Mini.

The Bad

The TicHome doesn't hear as well as the Google Home Mini. Its battery-life isn't great. It can't make calls like the Mini, and I wish it had a power and battery-life indicator.

The Bottom Line

Minor annoyances hold the TicHome Mini back from being a true Google Home Mini alternative, but it works well enough to warrant consideration as a feature-rich Bluetooth speaker.

The TicHome Mini actually has a lot going for it as a battery-powered alternative to the $50 Google Home Mini. 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. Google Assistant 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.

The Mobvoi TicHome Mini works like Google Home with a battery

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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 the Google Home app to 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 Google Home.

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. 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 Amazon's assistant, Alexa. Head here for more details on the ongoing battle between Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa.

TicHome Mini vs. Google Home Mini vs. Amazon Echo Dot


TicHome MiniGoogle Home MiniAmazon Echo Dot
Price $100$50$50
Available colors Blue, white, teal, pinkChalk, Charcoal, CoralWhite, black (more through cases)
Voice controls Through Google AssistantThrough Google AssistantThrough Alexa
Size 4.33-inch diameter, 1.69-inch height3.86-inch diameter, 1.65-inch height3.3-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 port3.5 mm audio output port. Buttons for volume, actions, and mute. Micro-USB port.
Battery powered YesNoNo
Wi-Fi enabled YesYesYes
Bluetooth streaming YesNoYes

Google didn't give all of its best stuff to the third party TicHome. You can't make calls on the TicHome as you can on Google's speakers. 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.

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TicHome has a button to activate the mic, a power/mute button, and two volume buttons.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

I wish the top had some sort of light to indicate when it was on. That's not something you need to think about the with Google Home Mini, as it's always on when it's plugged in. Part of the usefulness of both Amazon's and Google's smart speakers comes from being able to issue a command, whenever I think of one, as long as I'm in shouting range of the device.

Managing TicHome's battery takes away from that peace of mind a little bit. Yes, you can leave it plugged in, but it still doesn't give you an indication if it's actually on or just charging. Plus, TicHome doesn't offer any way to check its battery life short of plugging it in.

Battery life and sound quality

As far as that battery, with 2,600mAh, it's rated for 6 hours of life, but in our tests, it lasted more like 5 and a half hours when playing music at medium volume. That's not bad, but Amazon's battery-powered speaker, the Amazon Tap, lasts 8 hours with its microphone turned on. The UE Boom, a Bluetooth speaker without an always-listening assistant, lasts 15 hours.

The TicHome's other big advantage over Google's Mini speaker and the Echo Dot is that it's splash-proof. You can also connect it to your phone with a cool TapConnect feature. Turn on your Android phone's Bluetooth (the feature doesn't work with iPhones) then just tap your phone on the top-left corner of the TicHome and it'll pair instantly through NFC. TapConnect is neat when it works, but it only successfully paired for me about half the times I tried.

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TicHome is splash-proof.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You'll need to connect it to your phone if you're actually going to take it on the go. TicHome needs a Wi-Fi connection to respond to voice commands, but if you want to bring it with you to the park, you can still use it as a Bluetooth speaker. Get your music playing and you might be pleasantly surprised by the sound quality coming from such a small speaker.

TicHome sounds good. It's a significant step up in sound quality from the Echo Dot and a little bit better than the Google Home Mini, too. It's quieter than the Google Mini at full volume, but has a little less distortion. Don't get me wrong, the TicHome isn't going to satisfy discerning audiophiles, but it definitely serves its purpose for casual listening.

The verdict

The $100 Mobvoi TicHome Mini is a competent battery-powered smart speaker with good sound quality for its size. If you're looking for a smart speaker, and your top criteria are portability and features, the TicHome deserves your consideration. Yes, TicHome annoyed me from time to time, but like that flashing yellow light that woke me up in the middle of the night, none of its sins are egregious.

They do serve as a warning that the TicHome isn't quite good enough to be a full Google Home Mini replacement, especially because it costs twice as much. If you're primarily interested in a petite, always-listening and feature-rich voice assistant, both the Google Home Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot are better than the TicHome. If you just want to take Google Assistant with you on the go, remember you can do that now with your smart phone. Google Assistant is built into a number of Android devices and you can download it as an app on your iPhone. The TicHome doesn't quite do enough to set it apart from the growing crowd of smart speakers, especially with more third-party Google Assistant speakers on the way.

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7.1

Mobvoi TicHome Mini

Score Breakdown

Features 8Usability 6Design 7Performance 7
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