Google Assistant is a powerful tool, but its usefulness depends on the hardware you use it on. You can take Assistant everywhere with your phone or watch, but nothing beats how convenient a Google Home is. Now that Assistant is extending to more form factors, we’re really going to see how well it can integrate into our lives, and the TicHome Mini by Mobvoi is one of the most flexible pieces of Assistant hardware to date.
The best gifts for Android users
The TicHome Mini is currently unique in the Assistant ecosystem. For now, there’s nothing else that can come around with you wherever you go. Thus, the Mini has a pretty unique design compared to everything else.
The entire device is made from plastic with some accents. There are several color combinations available, but the white and silver one I tested looks nice. The circular design fits in most situations and the leather strap at the top suits it well.
One unfortunate aspect, however, is that the TicHome Mini is charged over microUSB. It would be great to see USB-C on this, especially since, if that were the case, you could charge it with the same cable as your phone. There is a cable included in the box though.
Really, the hardware on the TicHome Mini isn’t anything stunning. It’s subtle and meant for everyone, and it accomplishes that goal well.
Obviously, battery life is a pretty key part of this hardware. Powering the TicHome Mini is a 2,600 mAh battery which lasts around 6 hours. In my use, that estimate is pretty much accurate, but my main complaint is just how difficult it is to tell how much battery you have left at any given time. LEDs tell you battery percentage in fourths, but it felt unreliable.
The bottom line is that you’ll need to charge the TicHome at least once a day. The 6-hour life is great for taking it into another room, using it during a shower, or even chilling out in the yard, but you will have to plug it back in soon after. Luckily, the Mini can still be used while charging.
Microphones that match everyone else
With these always-listening assistants, how well they can hear you is important. Thankfully, Mobvoi has done a pretty great job here. The microphones up top easily picked up my voice from pretty far away, but they had a little trouble when trying to work through lots of background noise. I was glad to note, though, that because the speakers themselves are on the bottom, they don’t interfere with the microphones all that much.
A surprisingly solid speaker
Speaking of, the 3W speaker on the TicHome Mini is actually really good. It won’t blow you away and other dedicated Bluetooth speakers are better, but I was very pleased overall with what you’re getting here.
The overall sound is balanced with a bit of emphasis on the lows, but the sound carries easily through a room and cranks up pretty loud as well.
Why should you buy this over a Google Home Mini?
The real question about the TicHome Mini, though, is why this $99 speaker is worth it over the $49 Google Home Mini. In all reality, it probably won’t be for most people. This speaker is a niche product where the Google Home Mini is something just about anyone and everyone can use, especially at its price point.
At $99, the TicHome Mini is still going to be the better choice for a lot of people though. It’s main selling point will be portability. You can use it in multiple rooms, potentially ditching the need for multiple Google Home Minis, and also take it with you outside, away from power (as long as you have a WiFi signal).
What’s lost on this versus a Google Home/Mini?
Unfortunately, there are still things that require a proper Google Home in order to use though. The biggest example I have so far is calling. Outside of a Google Home, calling isn’t available. Aside from that, most major functionality is still available.
At the end of the day, it’s not hard to recommend the TicHome Mini, but it will likely only be worth it to those who really value its portability. Like I said, this is a niche product that won’t be for everyone. The Google Home Mini, on the other hand, is an “insta-buy” product. Regardless, at $99, the TicHome Mini is an excellent product. Pre-orders are open now.