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CNET First Look
The Google Home Mini is great, but is it too late?This $50 smart speaker packs the full, voice-activated intelligence of the Google Assistant. Can it take on Alexa?
[MUSIC] Ok Google, let's talk about your new smart speaker, the Google Home Mini. It packs everything that people liked about the original Google Home into a much smaller, much more affordable package. It isn't as loud, but it's just as smart and it only costs 50 bucks. That's the same price and the same pitch as its rival, the Amazon Echo Dot. That product was and still is a smash success for Amazon, and Google wants in on the action, hard to blame them. So how do the two compare? Well, as you might expect they have a lot in common, they can both stream music, they can both answer random questions, and tell bad jokes, they can turn your smart home devices on and off, and a whole lot more. They both keep learning new tricks too, which makes it fun to own one. To set itself apart, the Home Mini sports a distinctive fabric top design that comes in your choice in three colors. It's a clean simple build, the only physical button is a switch in the back that meets the microphone. So you can tap the top to play and pause, tap and hold to wake up the assistant. Or tap the sides to adjust the volume It's fancier looking than the Dot. But I think there might be some style over substance here. For instance, you can't really pick the thing up without accidentally toggling those finicky volume controls and those white indicator lights are a little hard to see from across the room, especially on this chalk colored model. The Dot is much easier to see at a distance. For that reason, I recommend going with the darker gray charcoal [MUSIC] Cool color, if you're thinking of buying. Like the speaker that came before it the Home Mini can also distinguish between different voices, which lets the speaker tailor custom responses for different family members. Alexa still can't do that. The Home Mini's other edge over the dock is that it offers noticeably better sound quality, just listen to them both tell a joke. When is the door not a door? When it's ajar. Did you hear about the guy thrown in jail for refusing to take a nap? He was resisting arrest. Of course, if you really care about sound quality then you'll probably wanna hook this thing up with a stronger set of speakers. That's an option but only if those speakers are hooked up with a Chromecast audio. With the Echo Dot, you can connect with existing speakers directly via aux cable or Bluetooth No extra gizmo is necessary. That's a much, much better approach, and a smarter one, since connecting with external speakers is such a common use case here. I predict that lots of people are going to end up choosing the dot over the home mini this holiday season, for that exact reason. I can't really say that I blame them. In the end, if you prefer the Google assistant over Alexa, and there are plenty of reasons why you might, Don't hesitate to give the Google Home Mini a shot. It's a low cost, low risk way to take Google's mastery of machine learning for a test drive and a great way to expand the Google assistant's footprint in your home. That said, the Mini isn't the silver bullet and it doesn't distinguish itself enough to establish Google's unique vision in the artificially intelligent living space. If anything, it feels like a concession that Amazon got there first. [SOUND]