Almost five years after the original HomePod was released, the HomePod 2 is finally available to buy. The original HomePod was met with critical favour but perhaps didn't take the market by storm as Apple had hoped, as it was discontinued in March of 2021 with no replacement lined up... until now.
So how does the new HomePod 2 compare to the original Apple smart speaker? With our final HomePod 2 review out, we’ve pitted the two side by side in our testing labs to see which comes out on top.
Apple HomePod vs HomePod 2: price
In a very un-Apple move, the new HomePod is actually cheaper than the original. The HomePod 2 costs £299 / $299 / AU$479, while the original retailed for £319 / $349 / AU$499. The savings aren't exactly life-changing, but it's a welcome change nonetheless.
It is, however, a lot more expensive than the HomePod Mini, which retails for £99 / $99 / AU$149 – although both of these products offer different propositions.
**Winner** Apple HomePod 2
Apple HomePod vs HomePod 2: design
Apple hasn't reinvented the HomePod's design for the second-generation model, instead opting for subtle updates throughout. The backlit touch display now stretches edge to edge on the top surface of the cylindrical speaker, with the rest of the visible surface area of the device wrapped in fabric mesh material – which Apple has once again made from 100 per cent recycled materials. The design language is even carried through to the power cable, which is now a woven fabric style. It's not detachable, too, which means it can be swapped out for a longer one if you want to position the HomePod 2 a long way from a power socket.
The similar design to the original speaker is a nice touch if you plan to incorporate a mix of original HomePods and HomePod 2s in a multi-room setup, as they should look reasonably uniform.
The HomePod 2 measures 6.6 inches tall, and 5.6 inches wide, and it weighs 2.3kg, making it every so slightly shorter and 200g lighter than the original. We suspect the weight difference is due to the new HomePod dropping two of its tweeters; more on that later.
** Winner: Apple HomePod 2 **
Apple HomePod vs HomePod 2: features
The HomePod 2 includes many of the same features found on the original model, including a control system built around Apple's voice-controlled assistant Siri. Much like Amazon's Echo speakers, you can prompt the assistant with a command phrase, here it's "hey Siri", and ask it to play music, answer questions, read the news and weather, control your smart home appliances and much more.
While it's undoubtedly useful, we found the HomePod over-relied on voice controls in our review. And Siri does, once again, dominate to a certain extent with the HomePod 2, but voice control has become more acceptable in recent years, and the controls via Home and Apple Music have improved a little.
The NFC handoff feature on the new HomePod was also available on the prior generation and Mini; this allows you to transfer music playback from your iPhone to your HomePod by just tapping the two devices together. The HomePod can now also transfer suggested playlists and podcasts to your iPhone when they are in close proximity too. You may notice that we specified the iPhone here, as Android users are left out in the cold by the HomePod yet again.
Much like the first generation HomePod, you'll need an Apple device to set up and control the HomePod 2 – so do not buy a HomePod unless you have an iPhone, iPad or MacBook on hand.
As for other more positive features that make a return, there's Apple spatial audio support with either a single speaker or two paired in a stereo configuration. On the topic of pairing HomePods together, you can also add a pair to an Apple TV 4K to output TV audio – love or hate Apple's ecosystem, it's here in full effect with the HomePod 2.
So what does the HomePod 2 do that the original can't? Well, this year it's all about Matter, a new wireless standard which creates harmonious union in your smart home. Other major tech companies such as Google, Samsung, Philips and Amazon have all signed onto this shared standard, meaning your HomePod 2 will be able to slot into your smart home set-up with little to no fuss. The HomePod 2 also has integrated temperature and humidity sensors, allowing for some useful smart home automation for those who are into that sort of thing.
** Winner: Apple HomePod 2 **
Apple HomePod vs HomePod 2: sound
While the outside of the HomePod hasn't changed much, Apple has totally redesigned the inside of the HomePod 2 in order to improve the audio performance.
As mentioned previously, Apple has actually ditched two of the tweeters in this new model, meaning the HomePod 2 now pairs the five-tweeter set-up with a four-inch woofer and five microphones. They are used for everything from receiving voice commands to automatically adapting the sound based on whether you place the HomePod in a corner or in a more central position. Like its predecessor, the HomePod 2 doesn't project into a room like more traditional, forward-firing speakers do, but it is slightly better in this regard than the last model. Plus its dispersive nature is more suited to how people are likely to place it.
Sonically, it's very impressive indeed. Vocals are clear and warm (especially with Dolby Atmos tracks), bass has more weight and presence than a speaker this size has any right to produce, and it's all delivered with the kind of boundless energy and rhythmic drive you can't help but find infectious.
Essentially, it's the same excellent HomePod sound we know and love, but with even more pep and excitement. It's rhythmically and spatially even better organised, and it's controlled, too, so that extra excitement absolutely never veers into brightness, sibilance or other irritation.
The original HomePod was no slouch, earning five stars in its review thanks to its weighty and authoritative sound, although we felt that the mid-range could be better defined at times. The new model doesn't get muddled in more congested parts of tracks, as its predecessor did – even when the going gets tough, the new HomePod marshalls proceedings effortlessly, giving every instrument and effect room to breathe, both in terms of timing and space.
Two HomePods working in tandem make a fantastic setup for Dolby Atmos tracks, with more openness and three-dimensionality, and very impressive spatial placement of voices and instruments. Add an Apple TV 4K and you’ve got yourself a viable home cinema system.
** Winner: Apple HomePod 2 **
Apple HomePod vs HomePod 2: verdict
This is a particularly easy conclusion to come to: the HomePod 2 is the original, excellent HomePod made even better. It's cheaper, smarter, has better compatibility, and it sounds much clearer, cleaner and more exciting.
With its upgraded smart integration and even better audio performance, the HomePod has made a triumphant return, admirably filling the full-sized-smart-speaker-shaped hole that's been in Apple's lineup for nearly two years now. Buy with confidence.
But what if you already own the original? Should you scrap the old model and splash out on a HomePod 2? To be honest, we wouldn't be in a major hurry to upgrade (unless you really want to, of course). Yes, the new model sounds better and offers some new smarts that might appeal to some people, but the original is still a very good wireless speaker.
Read our full Apple HomePod review
And our Apple HomePod Mini review
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