It’s been a big year for Amazon and Apple smart speakers. A new player is Apple’s, the company’s first miniature smart speaker. At $99, it’s one of the pricier mini smart speakers on the market, but it’s packed with features and boasts an aesthetically pleasing design. On the other side of the ring is Amazon’s fourth generation . The device offers a rounded look and better audio performance at half the cost of the HomePod Mini. But which of the two speakers is better?
If you’re thinking about grabbing one of these new Mini smart speakers, read along to the Apple HomePod Mini and Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen).
Both the HomePod Mini and Echo Dot are circular smart speakers. At 3.3 inches long, 3.9 inches wide and weighing 0.76 pounds, the HomePod Mini is available in white and space gray. The fourth generation Echo Dot is almost identical in dimensions to the HomePod Mini. Amazon’s speaker measures 3.5 inches tall, 3.9 inches wide, and weighs 0.75 pounds. The Echo Dot brings more color options to the table than the HomePod. Options include Charcoal, Glacier White and Twilight Blue.
In terms of button layout, the HomePod Mini uses a touchpad on top of the speaker for play/pause, track skip, and other commands. The Echo Dot goes for the more traditional button approach. Buttons include volume up/down, mic on/off, and an action button. Neither speaker is designed for wall mounting.
The HomePod Mini uses a full-range driver with dual passive radiators to deliver one of the best compact speaker sounds – not to mention Apple’s custom acoustic waveguide and computational audio features. These are calibration tools (powered by Apple’s S5 chip) that help balance the sound output at different volume levels. Jargon aside, the HomePod Mini delivers crisp and clear mids and highs without compromising much on bass. Apple’s small speaker works to deliver audio at par with some of the bigger smart speakers in the market.
The new Echo Dot uses a single 1.6-inch front-firing speaker. The latest-gen Dot packs an even bigger punch over its third-gen sibling. Due to its rounded design, the speaker is louder and brighter than previous Dot iterations. It also retains the 3.5mm jack for connecting to external speakers.
Controls and notable features
For the HomePod Mini, Apple’s Siri drives the show. One of the biggest benefits for Apple fans is the low-cost Apple HomeKit gateway device. Once connected, your HomePod Mini will be able to control your smart home devices, create and schedule schedules, search for news and weather, and access popular streaming services like Apple Music, Pandora, Prime Music, and more. You can interact with the smart speaker using voice commands before saying “Hey, Siri” or through the Home app on your iOS device.
One of our favorite HomePod Mini tricks is the speaker’s iOS casting capability. It goes like this: Let’s say you walk past your Mini and love the song she plays, but you’re on your way out the door. iPhone users will be able to rotate their phone by Mini, which can start playing a Mini song on your phone. This feature also works in reverse. If you have two HomePod Minis in the same room, you can pair both speakers together for stereo sound.
Echo Dot users will see the return of Alexa as Amazon’s voice assistant. Like the HomePod Mini, Alexa allows you to stream music, check news and weather, control smart devices, and more. Voice commands are preceded by “Alexa” when interacting directly with the Dot, and mobile controls are handled by the Amazon Alexa app on your mobile device.
While not exclusive to the latest Echo Dot, Amazon’s Alexa Guard feature is one of our favorite Echo features. When enabled, your Echo speaker will monitor for sounds like a smoke alarm and breaking glass. Once your Echo hears the sound, you’ll receive a notification on your phone. Alexa Guard Plus (a paid version of Alexa Guard) includes additional features such as access to emergency hotlines, monitoring of steps and other break-in sounds, and emitting sirens and dog sounds to ward off intruders.
Both the HomePod Mini and Echo Dot also have an intercom function (though Alexa is a bit more advanced). With HomePod Mini, you can deliver audio messages to HomePods throughout your home. The Echo Dot version of this feature is called Drop In. Once permissions are enabled in the Alexa app, Drop In will allow you to talk to your friend through their Echo speaker (and vice versa).
Price and Warranty
The HomePod Mini sells for $99 and comes with a one-year limited guarantee, along with 90 days of complimentary tech support. For an additional $15, you can choose to add AppleCare+ to your Mini. This covers you for an additional two years of accidental damage protection. Note that you are only allowed two accident claims per year, both subject to a $15 service fee and taxes.
The Echo Dot (4th Gen) is currently going for $49 and comes with a 90-day limited guarantee. There’s also the option to add between one and three years of extended casualty coverage, with plan prices starting at $5.
We’re calling it a draw. Apple fans will love the HomePod mini for its dedicated iOS functions and Apple S5-assisted audio technology. But apart from a few distinctive sound features, the Echo Dot can do as much (if not more), and for $50 less than the competition. Again, if you’re looking for the cheapest way to launch a HomeKit network, the HomePod Mini is an ideal way into Apple’s smart ecosystem at a relatively low cost. Plus, you’ll have a crisp-sounding smart speaker to play with.
For a separate breakdown of each smart speaker, check out our detailed reviews of both the HomePod Mini and Echo Dot (4th generation).