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The Google Home Mini is, basically, Google's spin on an Amazon Echo Dot. It's a dinky device that comes with Google Assistant and can be used purely as a wireless speaker or as a smart hub, through which you can control other Google Home or Chromecast-enabled speakers around your house. At £49, it's a whole 99 pence cheaper than the Amazon equivalent.

Design and build

The Google Home Mini is a circular, puck-like design with a rounded top and sides. Google has designed a brand-new fabric just for this speaker. Why? Because it needs to be transparent enough for light and sound to pass through, and you need to be able to control the speaker through it too.

The Mini is available in three different finishes: Chalk and Charcoal are quite plain, while Coral gives the speaker a splash of colour.

Around the edge you'll find a micro-USB port for power and a switch that turns the built-in mic on and off, just in case you don't want Google Assistant listening in.

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Features

The Mini can be used purely as a speaker, or it doubles as a multi-room control hub for all your Google Home or Chromecast-enabled wireless speakers. It can even control the lighting and temperature in your house if you're using compatible smart-home kit.

Say "Okay Google" and a row of lights on top of the device wake up. Ask it to do something, like play a track from Spotify or send music to another speaker in your house ,and the lights pulse to indicate the Mini's carrying out your orders.

There are no physical buttons on top, but you can control volume by tapping on the left edge to turn it up and on the right edge to turn it down. If you consider the USB cable socket as the 12 o'clock position, then the touch-sensitive areas of the fabric are around three and nine o'clock.

Because there are no markings, the Mini is probably going to take a bit of time to get used to - there were certainly a few moments during our hands-on time when we didn't quite hit the right spot.

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Sound quality

It is tough to get a decent impression of sound quality at such a packed and noisy event, but we manage to have a quick listen to a couple of different tracks. We have to crank up the Mini's volume so it can heard above the hustle and bustle and, although it copes admirably, we get the impression the speaker sounds slightly out of its comfort zone. 

Obviously a speaker the size and shape of the Mini isn't going to be able to conjure up ridiculous amounts of bass, and Google does tell us the Mini has been tuned with an emphasis on the spoken word. Vocals sound quite prominent, if perhaps a tiny bit sibilant, but we really need to get one in our test rooms for a closer listen.

Initial verdict

The Mini has its fair share of talents, and we can see the appeal of using it as a multi-room controller and maybe a speaker in a second room where all you need is a bit of background music.

But if you're really into audio, chances are you already have one eye on the much larger Google Home Max. It's just a shame the Mini's big brother is currently only launching in the US. Fingers crossed it makes it across the pond during Q1 next year.

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