HomePod Mini vs. HomePod Buyer's Guide

This month, Apple unveiled the HomePod mini as the first addition to the popular HomePod lineup, with a new spherical design and the S5 chip. With a more affordable price tag of just $99, ‌HomePod mini‌ is a much more accessible and versatile HomePod in a compact design.

homepod mini homepod
The original ‌HomePod‌ continues to be sold by Apple for $299. At over three times the price of ‌HomePod mini‌, should you still consider the larger, original ‌HomePod‌, or choose the new ‌HomePod mini‌? Our guide outlines the differences between the two HomePods and helps to answer the question of how to decide which may be best for you.

Comparing the HomePod and HomePod mini

The ‌HomePod‌ and ‌HomePod mini‌ share a number of key features, such as multiroom audio and Siri. Apple lists these same features of the ‌HomePod‌ and ‌HomePod mini‌:

Similarities

  • Multiroom audio
  • Stereo pair capable
  • ‌Siri‌ and upward-facing display
  • Audio-conductive fabric
  • Seamless audio handoff
  • Smart home hub
  • Intercom, Find My, ‌Siri‌ Shortcuts, Ambient sounds, and Music alarms
  • Available in White and Space Gray

Apple's breakdown shows that the two HomePods share a number of important features. Even so, there are meaningful differences between the ‌HomePod‌ and ‌HomePod mini‌ which justifies the $200 price difference, including design, audio technologies, and spatial awareness.

Differences


HomePod

  • Large, capsule design
  • A8 chip
  • High-excursion woofer and seven tweeters
  • Six-microphone array
  • Spatial awareness
  • Home theater with Apple TV 4K


HomePod mini

  • Compact, spherical design
  • S5 chip
  • Full-range driver and dual passive radiators
  • Three-microphone array
  • U1 chip

Read on for a closer look at each of these aspects, and see what exactly both HomePods have to offer.

Design

At just 3.3-inches tall, the ‌HomePod mini‌ is much smaller than the original ‌HomePod‌, which is just under seven inches tall. The ‌HomePod mini‌ also has a compact spherical design, while the original ‌HomePod‌ has a bulkier capsule-like design. The ‌HomePod‌ is larger than the ‌HomePod mini‌ to accommodate more internal components for a fuller audio experience.

apple homepod space gray

Both devices are covered in Apple's audio-conductive mesh material. The ‌HomePod‌ and ‌HomePod mini‌ also share the ‌Siri‌ waveform that appears on the top display to indicate when ‌Siri‌ is engaged, and integrated touch controls for volume. Both HomePods are also dependent on a wired power cable, meaning that neither is portable.

Apple homepod mini white

The ‌HomePod mini‌'s compact spherical design is more discreet than its larger sibling, and will be the preferred device for tables and surfaces where you have limited space or don't want it to stand out. Likewise, the larger ‌HomePod‌ will be more appropriate on TV units and areas with more space.

Audio Technology

Audio hardware is the most important area of difference between the two HomePods. ‌HomePod mini‌ offers a single full-range driver, powered by a neodymium magnet and a pair of force-canceling passive radiators, which enables deep bass and crisp high frequencies.

Apple homepod mini internal hardware overlay

On the other hand, ‌HomePod‌ features a large, Apple-designed woofer for deep, clean bass, and a custom array of seven beam-forming tweeters that provide pure high-frequency acoustics, each with its own amplifier and with directional control.

HomePod internal parts

Both devices use an Apple-designed acoustic waveguide to direct the flow of sound down and out toward the bottom of the speaker for an immersive 360-degree audio experience. This allows users to place ‌HomePod‌ almost anywhere in a room and hear consistent sound.

However, the original ‌HomePod‌'s larger size allows it to achieve a wider, more spacious soundstage. The ‌HomePod‌ will deliver richer, fuller sound compared to the ‌HomePod mini‌. The ‌HomePod mini‌ will still likely deliver clean and functional sound, but there is no doubt that the added size and audio hardware in the larger ‌HomePod‌ overshadows it significantly.

Microphones

‌HomePod mini‌ uses a three-microphone array to listen for "Hey ‌Siri‌," and a fourth inward-facing microphone helps isolate sound coming from the speaker to improve voice detection when music is playing. The larger ‌HomePod‌ uses an array of six microphones for the same reason.

These microphones help to cancel echo and enable ‌Siri‌ to understand people whether they are near the device or standing across the room, even while loud music is playing. However, it is unclear if the added microphones on the ‌HomePod‌ are to counteract its louder, larger sound profile, while the ‌HomePod mini‌ simply doesn't need a six-microphone array due to its smaller size, or if it is a point of material difference between the two models when it comes to sound isolation.

Processor and Software

The ‌HomePod‌ uses the A8 chip from the iPhone 6, iPad mini 4, and ‌Apple TV‌ HD, while the ‌HomePod mini‌ uses the S5 chip from the Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch SE.

The ‌HomePod‌'s processor allows it to use advanced software for real-time acoustic modeling, audio beam-forming, and echo cancellation.

Apple homepod mini white siri

‌HomePod mini‌ uses its processor to maximize the performance of its less capable audio hardware. In an attempt to achieve big sound out of a compact design, the Apple S5 chip in ‌HomePod mini‌ works with advanced software to analyze the unique characteristics of the music and apply complex tuning models to optimize loudness, adjust the dynamic range, and control the movement of the driver and passive radiators in real-time.

The A8 chip in the larger ‌HomePod‌ likewise performs some unique functions, such as bass management through real-time software modeling that ensures the speaker delivers the deepest and cleanest bass possible, with low distortion.

Apple HomePod Siri screen

Ultimately, the ‌HomePod‌'s processor is not a very important consideration when it comes to choosing between the two models. The A8 is an older but more powerful chip, while the S5 is a newer but less powerful chip. Both chips run the same operating system and deliver appropriate computational audio with a comparable level of performance.

Spatial Awareness

The larger original ‌HomePod‌ uses spatial awareness to sense its location in the room. This allows it to automatically adjust and optimize the audio based on its location in the room for improved sound quality. The ‌HomePod‌ can detect walls and corners, and uses this information with its directional tweeters to deliver sound evenly across the room, while reducing distortion and echo.

HomePod interior placement

Only the original ‌HomePod‌ has spatial awareness, and the ‌HomePod mini‌ does not have this feature.

U1 Chip

The ‌HomePod mini‌ contains one feature that the original ‌HomePod‌ lacks: the U1 chip. The Apple-designed U1 chip is an ultra-wideband chip which performs directional and proximity-based operations.

The ‌HomePod mini‌ uses the U1 chip to detect when other U1 devices, such as the iPhone 12, are nearby. This allows it to more quickly hand off audio and interact with nearby devices, as well as display relevant information on devices that are close to the ‌HomePod mini‌.

homepodhandoff

Beyond this, however, the full potential of U1 in ‌HomePod mini‌ does not yet seem to have been realized. In the future, U1 could facilitate close-range data-transfer, improve AR experiences, and track a user's location within the home. Apple now seems to be adding the U1 chip to all of its new devices, with the chip appearing in the iPhone 12 lineup and the Apple Watch Series 6.

Stereo Sound

Adding a second ‌HomePod‌ to your setup enables stereo sound to create a wider soundstage for richer, more enveloping sound. Each ‌HomePod‌ is able to play its own channel of either left or right sound, while separating out both the ambient and direct energy. Both devices can perform automatic detection and balance of two speakers using both direct and reflected audio. Even though the two speakers act as one, each ‌HomePod‌ communicates with each other so that only one speaker responds to ‌Siri‌ requests.

Apple Homepod Stereo Pair

While both ‌HomePod‌ and ‌HomePod mini‌ support this stereo pair capability, you cannot pair a ‌HomePod mini‌ and an original ‌HomePod‌ together. Instead, you can only pair two original HomePods or two ‌HomePod‌ minis as stereo speakers.

Both HomePods support multiroom audio and can be mixed together using that functionality, but not to achieve stereo sound.

Home Theater with Apple TV 4K

The original ‌HomePod‌ also supports Home Theater with ‌Apple TV‌ 4K. This allows the ‌HomePod‌ to provide a more immersive home theater experience when it is paired with an ‌Apple TV‌ 4K, by offering surround sound and Dolby Atmos.

The feature is reliant on the directional and spatially aware capabilities of the original ‌HomePod‌, so it is not available on the ‌HomePod mini‌. Two ‌HomePod‌ minis can nevertheless still provide stereo sound for ‌Apple TV‌, but not the full home theater experience of the original ‌HomePod‌.

If you intend to use the ‌HomePod‌ or a pair of HomePods as TV speakers with an ‌Apple TV‌ 4K, there is no doubt that the original ‌HomePod‌ will provide a much better audio experience.

Final Thoughts

Overall, it's clear that the ‌HomePod‌ and ‌HomePod mini‌ are products that have different purposes. The ‌HomePod‌ is a more full-featured high-end speaker for excellent sound quality, while the ‌HomePod mini‌ is intended to be more versatile.

This is reflected in the ‌HomePod mini‌'s more affordable price. The ‌HomePod mini‌ may be better suited to areas such as hallways or kitchens, while the original ‌HomePod‌ seems to be better suited to larger rooms where audio content is consumed more regularly, such as living rooms.

The main reason to buy the larger ‌HomePod‌ will be due to its better audio fidelity. As an extension of this, if you want to use your HomePods with an ‌Apple TV‌ 4K, the larger ‌HomePod‌ is the preferred option. With its directional audio and spatial awareness, on top of its plethora of high-end audio hardware, the original ‌HomePod‌ is the device for areas where sound quality is the priority.

In locations where the device may be used more for ‌Siri‌ than music, ‌HomePod mini‌ seems to be the better option. The ‌HomePod mini‌ will be better when something more discreet is needed or if it is in an area where it would be used more in passing. The ‌HomePod mini‌ will still perform well in multiroom audio mode, and its more affordable price tag allows users to acquire more of them for use around the home.

Generally speaking, if you want a ‌HomePod‌ to achieve the best possible sound quality and volume, get the original ‌HomePod‌. Otherwise, the ‌HomePod mini‌ will be more than sufficient for your needs.

Related Roundups: HomePod, HomePod mini

Top Rated Comments

ipedro Avatar
12 months ago
I wonder if the original HomePod will have a quiet refresh as they run out of existing stock, adding the U1 chip. Having the all new Handoff feature only work on the cheaper HomePod doesn’t make much sense.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MauiPa Avatar
12 months ago
I have 4 HomePods, 2 in each house. Love them, Piano, guitar sounds like they are right there. also use them as stereo pair and use with AppleTV. Best speakers ever! My son-in-law streams Spotify to them (hopefully Spotify will release an app soon for him, I use Apple Music.

Can't wait to try the mini's. sound better for the bedroom and small spaces, but honestly, I have no complaints with he HomePods.

My daughters have the google mini's no one listens to music on those, they are bad. And contrary to what some say, Siri works better than google (at least for us). The toddlers do like to hear animal and fart sounds on the google's - they are good for that, I will admit
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ipedro Avatar
12 months ago
Apple pushed out a Siri update for HomePod. They do this periodically typically without any announcement. I use Siri on my HomePods constantly throughout the day so I absolutely noticed an improvement in speed and behaviour.

Siri has (finally!!) stopped saying “One moment” or “just a sec” or “stand by”. If something takes 1 or 2 seconds. she just lowers the music for a moment and the silence let’s you know she heard you and an answer is coming. A prompt to standby is appropriate if something is taking longer than expected but Siri was set to overuse that prompt, even if a response was just a second away.

Also new: When you ask Siri for information that has visual information, she’ll tell you a summary verbally and send you the information to your iPhone so you can continue to read about it on a screen.

This is incredibly useful as it begins to disrupt the need for a smart speaker with a screen like Google nest Hub and Echo Show. It would be good if HomePod displayed this information on a nearby screen connected to an tv. I currently have 2 Echo Shows because I like the visual but if HomePods could use nearby TVs to display information, I’d prefer that instead.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Jazz Guy Avatar
12 months ago
I bought a solid maple 1945 AM AC/DC radio and gutted it. I'm going to be using it to play jazz music all night while I sleep. The HomePod would just barely fit in the case. The mini will fit in with plenty of room to spare. I think the mini is the best selection for a low volume requirement like this.



Attachment Image
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BornAgainMac Avatar
12 months ago
I am glad I am not missing out on anything as an original HomePod user. I got two of those bad boys on sale and they sound great. Glad I didn't wait.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AppleFan91 Avatar
12 months ago

HomePod mini does link with HomePod via airplay 2. It just can’t be used as a stereo pair with 1 mini and 1 regular. It makes sense, you would get uneven sound.
The mini will hopefully have less bass, which will be better for smaller echoey rooms and apartments.



you can use both the Homepod and Mini for multiroom audio.
Thank you, both. I will update my post. I was unaware. Thanks!
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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