Mobvoi TicHome Mini Review: A smart speaker with two jobs that isn’t great at either one Review -ZDnet

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In August, Google announced it had begun working with partners to bring Google Assistant to more speakers. Instead of limiting its voice-activated personal assistant, Google is leveraging third-party manufacturers to help push the Google Assistant platform further into our homes, and our lives.

One of the companies named in that original announcement is Mobvoi and its TicHome Mini speaker. Powered by a battery, the speaker doubles as a dedicated Bluetooth speaker and Google Assistant interaction point.

I’ve been testing the speaker, and while the idea of a completely portable smart speaker is exciting, I’m not entirely sold on the idea.

Design


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The Mobvoi TicHome Mini looks like a giant hockey puck, only instead of hard rubber, it’s made of plastic and has a smooth finish to it. Four buttons are found on the top, each one inset into a dimple. Volume controls, an action button, and a mute/power button is all present. There are three colors available: black, white, and teal

It stands 1.69-inches tall, is 4.33-inches in diameter and weighs 9.74 ounces. It’s big enough to be spotted on a countertop, but not too big to make it a burden to carry around in a bag or backpack.

On the backside is a microUSB port used for charging, with a small leather carrying strap. Along the bottom is a series of vents for the 360-degree speaker, while dual microphones on top of the device. There are also four indicator lights on top of resembling the same colors found on Google Home and Home Mini.

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The TicHome Mini is equipped with a 2,600 milliamp-hour battery, with up to six hours of standby battery life.

Portability

The main selling point of the TicHome Mini is its portability. Instead of having a Google Home (or Home Mini) placed in a single room, the TicHome Mini can move from room to room with you.

In addition to portability, the speaker can handle a splash or two thanks to its IPX6 rating. It’s not designed to be submerged in water (what speaker is, really?) but makes for a good shower companion if you want to have a conversation with Google Assistant.

In my time with the TicHome Mini, I’ve found that I use it primarily in one room for an amount of time, and only move it when I want to use it as a Bluetooth speaker with my iPhone X. Then it stays in that room until I once again need a speaker.

It’s portable, but not something I have with me at all times.

OK, Google… OK GOOGLE

After unboxing the TicHome Mini, setup was a breeze. Connect it to a charger, turn it on, and follow the prompts on the Google Home app on an iOS or Android device to give it a name and connect it to your Wi-Fi network.

Pairing it with a smartphone is just as easy. “OK Google, Bluetooth pairing” and then connect to the speaker as you would any other Bluetooth piece of tech.

With Google Assistant built into the TicHome Mini, it can read you the news, answer questions, and add stuff to your reminders list just as Google Assistant on a compatible smart speaker or smartphone can do.

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Where I struggled with the TicHome Mini is getting it to hear me. With Google Home or any of the Echo devices I currently have, I can use the wake command and more often than not, the speaker hears me and continues listening.

With the TicHome Mini, I found if I was facing away from the speaker, regardless of how close I was, it wouldn’t always register “OK Google.” Of course, the issue got worse the further away I got from the speaker.

Mobvoi doesn’t list battery life outside standby time, but I was able to get just over five hours when using it as a Bluetooth speaker. It’s not the best battery life I’ve seen out of a wireless speaker, but those speakers don’t have Wi-Fi and Google Assistant. Also worth mentioning, there isn’t a method to check the current battery level of the TicHome Mini.

The sound quality of the TicHome Mini gets distorted at higher volumes but isn’t a deal breaker. I don’t have access to a Mini Home, so I can’t compare the two speakers. CNET did compare them, though, and found the Home Mini’s sound slightly better of the TicHome Mini.

Conclusion

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Think of the TicHome Mini as a two-for-one speaker. It’s small enough to throw in a bag and take with you pump out tunes when next to the pool as Bluetooth speaker. Then when you’re around a Wi-Fi network, Google Assistant is just a voice command away.

With Google’s similarly designed Home Mini priced at $49 ($29 until the end of the year), the only reason I can see buying the TicHome Mini over the Home Mini is for its portability.

Until December 26, Mobvoi has priced the TicHome Mini at $59, which makes it more appealing.

If you’re looking for a Bluetooth speaker to stream music, and like the idea of having a dedicated Google Assistant speaker when at home, then the TicHome Mini is worth checking out.

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