Apple HomePod mini review: It needs to be either better or cheaper

At a Glance

Expert’s Rating


  • Impressive audio quality for its size
  • Easy setup
  • Works as a Thread border router for Matter
  • “Intercom” feature lets you broadcast messages to family members
  • Temperature and humidity sensor was recently added, along with sound recognition for smoke alarms


  • No physical mic mute control
  • Intercom doesn’t support two-way calls
  • Supports third-party music services, but only a few are on board
  • We’ve heard better-sounding smart speakers in the Mini’s price range
  • Still pricey

Our Verdict

A series of post-launch updates has turned the smaller HomePod into a much more capable smart speaker. Even with its lofty price tag, the HomePod mini is a worth investment, particularly for Apple users.

Best Prices Today: Apple HomePod Mini


When Apple’s HomePod mini first launched in the fall of 2020, I wrote in my review that the smaller HomePod needed to be either cheaper or better. (Way harsh, Tai!) Well, nearly three years later, the HomePod mini still isn’t any cheaper, but it’s gotten a whole lot better.

At launch, the $99 HomePod mini felt more comparable to a $50 smart speaker like Amazon’s Echo Dot or Google’s Nest Mini. While the HomePod mini boasts better sound quality than either of those two budget speakers, its smart home capabilities were still limited compared to smart speakers in the same price range, like the second-generation Google Nest Hub or the fourth-gen Amazon Echo and its built-in Zigbee home hub.

But a lot has changed for the HomePod mini since 2020. Updates have added features like a (once-dormant) temperature and humidity sensor, which can be used to trigger HomeKit automations, while sound recognition can warn you if a smoke alarm is going off.

More importantly, the HomePod mini’s Thread border router functionality, which was little more than a curiosity at launch, now plays a key role when it comes to Matter, the new and unifying smart home standard. The HomePod mini’s ability to connect Matter devices to each other and the internet vaults it into a new league of smart home hubs.

For those reasons, I’m upping the HomePod mini’s originally 3.5-star rating to four stars, and I’m giving it a straight-up recommendation, particularly for Apple users. 

If you’re primarily a Google and/or Android user or you’re more partial to Alexa, better choices would include the Nest Hub display (which also acts as a Thread border router for Matter) or the Amazon Echo (ditto). The Nest Audio ($99) outperforms all the aforementioned speakers in terms of sound quality, but it lacks a Thread radio.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart speakers, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.

Apple’s HomePod line

When the Apple HomePod mini first arrived on the scene in the fall of 2020, the original HomePod was still on sale. A scant six months later, Apple unceremoniously discontinued the $299 speaker, which (up until that point, anyway) never quite took off in terms of sales. But the first HomePod gained a cult following over the ensuing years, and Apple ultimately revived the bigger HomePod in early 2023.

So that leaves us with two speakers in Apple’s HomePod line: the relatively new, second-generation HomePod at $299, and the three-year-old HomePod mini ($99) that we’re reviewing here. Roughly three times as expensive as the HomePod mini, the full-size HomePod undoubtedly holds the sonic edge over the smaller HomePod. That said, both are equivalent in terms of features and functionality.

While the HomePod mini is almost three years old, there haven’t been any whispers (or at least, no recent whispers) that Apple is looking to replace it with a new model anytime soon. So short of any surprises at Apple’s upcoming September iPhone event (and it would be a big surprise), you shouldn’t be too worried about buying a HomePod mini now only to see a new version pop up a few months later. And even if Apple did shock the world with a new HomePod mini, the original version would almost certainly play nice with both the new one and Apple’s overall ecosystem.

The Apple HomePod mini’s design

Remember when smart speakers all looked like hockey pucks? That started to change in the fall of 2020, when the Apple HomePod mini and fourth-generation Amazon Echo and Echo Dot landed with nearly identical spherical designs.

Besides being somewhat matchy-matchy in terms of shape, the HomePod mini and Echo Dot are almost exactly the same size, with the 3.3-inch HomePod mini a tad shorter but precisely the same width as the Dot. Indeed, when the HomePod mini and Echo Dot are sitting side-by-side, they look remarkably similar, save for the former’s flat top.

apple homepod with echo dot

Can you spot the HomePod mini in this picture?

Available in a rainbow of colors (including blue, orange, yellow, white, and Space Gray), the HomePod mini has a fabric covering that extends to the edge of the speaker’s touch-sensitive top panel, while a rubberized pad at the bottom keeps the speaker firmly in place.

It’s worth noting that the HomePod mini’s six-foot braided power cable is “captive,” meaning that it’s permanently attached. The cable terminates in a male USB-C connector, and a chunky 20-watt power adapter is included; fortunately, the adapter is designed to jut out from the outlet, meaning that nearby plugs are still accessible.

The HomePod mini’s buttons and interfaces

Similar to the bigger HomePod, the HomePod mini’s top, backlit touchpad has “+” and “-” icons, and the multicolored backlighting glows during music playback and pulses when you’re chatting with Siri. You can tap the “+” or “-” icons to adjust the volume, tap once to play or pause music, or double-tap to skip, while touching and holding the touchpad summons Siri.

A physical control that’s conspicuously missing from the HomePod mini is a mic mute button. Of course, you can just say, “Hey Siri, stop listening” if you want some privacy, and then press and hold the top of the mini to summon Siri again (at which point you can ask her to turn “Hey Siri” back on). But even if you do ask Siri to stop listening, the HomePod mini lacks a visual cue to confirm that its microphone is off. By way of comparison, both Amazon’s Echo speakers and Google’s Nest speakers have mic mute buttons and switches (respectively), and both have lights that glow (red for Echo speakers, orange for Nest) when their mics have been turned off.

apple homepod mini top

The HomePod mini has illuminated touch controls on top, but no physical mic mute button.

Similar to Google’s Nest and Amazon’s more recent Echo Dot speakers, the HomePod mini lacks a 3.5mm audio jack for connecting an external speaker; unlike Nest (and Echo) speakers, however, Apple’s smart speaker can’t send audio to a Bluetooth speaker, nor can you designate a wireless speaker as a “preferred” playback option for the mini. Now, given the HomePod mini’s solid audio quality (which I’ll detail a bit later), one could argue that there’s no need for a “preferred” speaker setting, but still, it’s worth mentioning.

Setting up the HomePod mini

Getting the HomePod mini set up on your home network is dead simple, and for me, it was over in less than five minutes.

Once I plugged in the speaker, I simply held my iPhone close to it (you’ll need to make sure you have both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled on your iOS device), and within seconds a “HomePod mini” pop-up appeared on my iPhone’s display, complete with a “Set Up” button.

Next, your iOS device will prompt you to designate the room in your home where the speaker will reside (“Master Bedroom,” “Office,” “Kitchen,” etc.), as well as whether you’d like to enable “Personal Requests,” which allow you or others in your home (Siri can recognize the voices of up to six family members) to check calendar events, send iMessages, set reminders, write notes in the Notes app, and so on. Finally, you’ll be asked to accept Apple’s terms and conditions, as well as transfer your Wi-Fi and iCloud settings.

Siri voice commands and Apple HomeKit

Powered by Siri, Apple’s 12-year-old voice assistant (time flies, right?), the HomePod mini can respond to a wide variety of queries and commands. For example, you can ask Siri to send a text message, track down an AirTagged item, add a to-do to your Reminders list, give you a weather report, get directions to an address, and more. Siri isn’t quite as chatty as Alexa or Google Assistant, but she’s also less prone to annoying “by the way”-type digressions.

Like the full-size HomePod, the HomePod mini works as a HomeKit “home hub,” allowing you to control your HomeKit devices even when you’re out of the house. You can also create Siri Shortcuts that perform a wide variety of actions, including HomeKit automations. Siri Shortcuts can be triggered on the HomePod mini with voice commands and can be quite powerful once you know what you’re doing, but building them entails a steep learning curve compared to creating Alexa and Google Assistant routines.

On the HomePod mini, Siri responded relatively quickly to my requests, and its four far-field microphones were able to pick up my voice from across the room, even when I spoke in a quiet voice.

Siri on the HomePod mini can also control smart devices that are compatible with HomeKit, Apple’s smart home platform. HomeKit doesn’t enjoy the wide degree of smart device support that Alexa and Google Assistant do; more than 100,000 smart devices support Alexa, while about 50,000 devices support Google Assistant. Apple hasn’t given a recent count for Siri’s smart device support. But many popular smart device manufacturers do support HomeKit, including Signify’s Philips Hue smart lighting brand, Anker’s EufyCam smart camera line, Logitech, Belkin’s Wemo brand, August, Yale, and Lutron.

Of course, the number of devices each smart home platform supports may become moot thanks to Matter, the new smart home standard that promises to (eventually!) unite the big smart home ecosystems, including Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, Samsung SmartThings, and Apple’s own HomeKit platform. That’s where the HomePod mini’s Thread radio comes in.

Thread and Matter support on the HomePod mini

A low-power, low-latency IoT protocol, Thread was little more than a novelty when the HomePod mini originally launched, and at the time, the HomePod mini was the only commercially available smart home devices that acted as a Thread border router, meaning it could connect other Thread-enabled devices to the internet. (The Amazon Echo and Google Nest Hub Max arrived with Thread radios in 2020 and 2019 respectively, but their Thread border router functionality wasn’t enabled until later.) Also at the time, there were just a handful of Thread devices on the market, including a pair of Nanoleaf “Essentials” lights and a handful of Eve products.

Since then, we’ve seen the emergence of Matter, which relies on Thread for connectivity. While Matter-enabled smart devices can connect to their controllers or each other via Thread or Wi-Fi, they can’t connect to the internet at large without a Thread border router. In retrospect, that early inclusion of a Thread radio in the HomePod mini looks prescient, essentially teeing up the smaller HomePod for a future role as a universal smart home hub.

As I mentioned earlier, the HomePod mini isn’t alone in its ability to work as a Thread border routers; Google’s second-generation Nest Hub and the Nest Hub Max can do so, also, along with Amazon’s fourth-generation Echo speaker. And yes, the bigger, second-gen HomePod is also a Thread border router (but not the original HomePod).

The HomePod mini’s sensors and sound recognition

Both the HomePod mini and the 2nd-gen HomePod can detect the temperature and humidity in their immediate vicinity thanks to a once-dormant sensor, which came to life with the arrival of HomePod update 16.3.

With the sensor up and running, you can ask Siri to tell you the temperature or humidity in any room with a HomePod mini or the latest HomePod. Even better, you can create HomeKit animations with temperature and humidity triggers. For example, a HomeKit automation could turn on the smart switch for a connected fan or lower a smart shade if the mercury rises above a certain level. Neat.

Another new feature for HomePod speakers (including the HomePod mini) is sound recognition–specifically, the ability to recognize the sound of a smoke and/or carbon monoxide alarm, similar to the Alexa Guard feature on Echo devices. Once enabled, your HomePod mini can send alerts to your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch if it hears a wailing smoke alarm.

Communication on the HomePod mini

When it announced the HomePod mini, Apple also unveiled Intercom, a new communications feature that lets you broadcast announcements to other HomePods, iOS devices, Apple Watches, AirPods, and even cars enabled with Apple’s CarPods system. (Curiously, Intercom doesn’t work with iMacs or MacBooks, or at least not yet.)

Apple Intercom

Intercom messages from the HomePod mini (or the bigger HomePod) arrive as interactive pop-ups on an iPhone.

Ben Patterson/Foundry

Using Intercom is simple. Just say, “Hey Siri, Intercom,” and then say whatever you want to broadcast to the iOS devices and HomePods connected to the Apple Home app. What happens next depends on the Apple device in question. iPhones and iPads, for example, will get a pop-up with a “play” button that lets you play back your Intercom announcement (you hear the person’s voice, not Siri’s), while HomePods, AirPods, and CarPlay devices will beep and play the message immediately.

By default, Intercom messages are sent to all supported Apple devices connected to the Apple Home app, but you can also ask Siri to send an announcement to a specific HomePod (“Hey Siri, tell downstairs that dinner is ready”). You can also ask Siri to reply to an Intercom announcement.

While Apple’s Intercom feature makes for an easy way to ask Siri on the HomePad mini to blast a message to Apple users in your home, the HomePod mini doesn’t let you make two-way calls, or at least not without the help of an iPhone. You can ask Siri on a HomePod mini to make a Facetime audio call, but when you do, it’s your iPhone that’s making the call, with the smart speaker basically acting as a speakerphone. Amazon Echo speakers, on the other hand, can natively “drop in” to other Echo speakers for two-way calling, and you can even ask Alexa to place a (free) VoIP call to any phone number in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico. Nest speakers and displays, meanwhile, let you make two-way audio or video calls using the Google Duo calling app, no phone required.

Music and audio on the HomePod mini

Understandably, the $99 HomePod mini lacks the impressive driver array of the $300 HomePod. Instead of the second-gen HomePod’s six drivers (including one woofer and five horn-loaded tweeters), the HomePod mini makes do with a single full-range, neodymium magnet-powered dynamic driver, plus a pair of force-cancelling passive radiators. An acoustic waveguide helps to spread audio from the down-firing drive in all directions, while Apple’s S5 chip analyzes your tunes and makes real-time adjustments to the sound.

So, how does the HomePod mini sound? While it’s obviously a downgrade compared to the bigger HomePod, the smaller version sounds surprisingly full-bodied and detailed for its size. Queuing up Carlos Kleiber’s legendary rendition of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony on Apple Music, the strings and the brass sounded clean, crisp and distinct, while the driving timpani sounded satisfyingly punchy. Jumping over to “The Ghost of Tom Joad” by Bruce Springsteen, The Boss’s vocals and reedy harmonica sounded textured and alive, while the rising synthesizer felt warm and relatively deep.

Compared to the OK-but-not-amazing audio of the fourth-gen Echo Dot, the HomePod mini sounds deeper and richer, with precise bass that avoids the muddiness that plagues the Echo Dot. Put another way, the Echo Dot merely lets you hear music, while the HomePod mini heads into true enjoyment territory.

Of course, the Echo Dot costs half as much as a HomePod mini (and even less when the Dot’s on sale, which it generally is), so it’s not that surprising that the cheaper Amazon speaker can’t keep up in the audio department. A more apt comparison would be with Google’s Nest Audio, a $99 smart speaker that ups the ante with a tweeter and a mid-woofer, both in a front-firing configuration. Listening to the two speakers side-by-side, the Nest Audio’s sound clearly wins out. Not only does the Nest Audio sound even clearer and richer than the HomePod mini, it also sounds quite a bit bigger and more powerful, and you can crank its volume considerably louder. Purely from a sound perspective, the Nest Audio remains the smart speaker to beat—at least at the $99 price point.

We should also compared the HomePod mini’s audio to that of its other big competitor in the $99 price range, the Amazon Echo, which boasts a pair of tweeters (for stereo sound) and a woofer. I haven’t heard the Echo myself, but TechHive Executive Editor Michael Brown has, and here’s his report:

It’s very close, but I’d go for the HomePod mini over the fourth-generation Echo, at least for near-field listening. Using Tidal to stream Rhiannon Gibbons’ “At the Purchaser’s Option,” from her album Freedom Highway, Gibbons’ mournful vocals resonated in a way they didn’t on the Echo. The larger drivers in the Echo, on the other hand, produce significantly more bass response. And if you want even more low-end thump, you can pair the Echo with the Echo Sub subwoofer. That fuller foundation also helped fill out the acoustic guitar and banjo strumming on the track, where those instruments tend to get lost on the HomePod.

As with the Nest Audio, the HomePod mini can be connected to a mate to create a stereo pair. Doing so widens the soundstage considerably (no big surprise) but doesn’t add up to a huge leap in sound quality.

You can also pair the HomePod mini (or, ideally, a stereo pair of them) to an Apple TV to use them as the speakers for Apple’s streaming box. Doing so might deliver marginally better audio than your TV’s built-in speakers, but not by much. You’d be far better off pairing your Apple TV with one of two HomePods, or–better yet–just plunk down the cash for a soundbar or A/V receiver with separate speakers.

The HomePod mini also (of course) supports AirPlay 2, good for using the speaker in multi-room audio setups or for casting audio to the speaker from an Apple device. And thanks to Apple’s ultra-wideband U1 chip, you can “hand off” music from the HomePod mini to your iPhone (or vice versa) when the two devices are in close proximity. The latter is a pretty cool feature, allowing you to take the HomePod mini’s tunes with you when you hit the road, and then hand them back to the HomePod when you get home.

In terms of music streaming, the HomePod mini supports Apple Music–now including lossless audio support, another post-launch addition–as well as Apple Podcasts, plus streaming radio stations such as TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and

But while Apple announced three years ago that the HomePod mini and the larger HomePod would finally support third-party music streaming services, only Pandora and Deezer have signed on so far, while competitors as Amazon Music, Tidal, Qobuz, YouTube Music, and Spotify don’t seem to be in any rush to join the party. For now, if you want to stream tracks from those services on the HomePod mini, you’ll have to cast them from another device via AirPlay 2. (Adding insult to injury, Spotify users with Apple devices can only cast their playlists via the older AirPlay 1 protocol, which lacks multi-room streaming support and suffers from a noticeable lag when pausing or skipping tracks).

HomePod mini pricing and availability

The $99 Apple HomePod mini is available at retailers such as Best Buy, B&H Photo, Staples, Target, Walmart, and (of course) Apple. One place where you definitely won’t find the HomePod mini for sale is Amazon–not surprising, since Amazon has its own smart speakers to sell.

The HomePod mini rarely sees any price cuts, although it occasionally gets brief $10 discounts during holidays and other occasions. If you’re in the market for a HomePod mini and you do see it for $10 off, grab it, because that’s generally as much of a deal as you’ll ever find. (I snagged my third HomePod mini at a brick-and-mortar Staples for $15 off and consider myself quite lucky.)

Should you buy the Apple HomePod mini?

The HomePod mini has seen many changes over the past three years, all for the better. With its Thread border router abilities for Matter plus its new temperature and humidity sensors, not to mention sound recognition, the HomePod mini feels like more of a well rounded smart home hub than it did at launch. That coupled with its solid (if not spectacular) music performance, deep integration with the Apple ecosystem, and overall longevity and resilience makes the HomePod mini an easy choice and a worthwhile investment for iPhone, iPad, and Mac users.

Updated on September 4, 2023 with details about new features, as well as a new rating and buying recommendation.



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