Hands on: TicHome Mini Google Assistant speaker review

Puck-sized, Google-powered

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

Set to be an affordable, pint-sized take on the Google Assistant speaker bracket, what the TicHome Mini lacks in flash it makes up for with convenience.

For

  • Puck-sized portability
  • Affordable price promised

Against

  • Speaker needs work
  • Google Assistant is Wi-Fi reliant

Want the convenience of the hands-free Google Assistant voice-activated helper, but would rather it was in a package with more portability than a Google Home, and beefier speakers than a smartphone? Chinese brand Mobvoi with their TicHome Mini hopes to fill that gap, on show for the first time at IFA 2017.

The TicHome Mini is, as its name suggests, a miniature smart speaker. Measuring just 110mm in diameter and 43mm tall, it’s billed as a sort of Google Home alternative that you can easily take around the house with you.  

Splash-proof with an IPX6 rating, Mobvoi wants it to be as at home in the shower as in the kitchen, with a built-in 2600mAh battery good for 6 hours of standby battery life per charge. That may not sound like much, but when you consider the connected skills built in, it’s more acceptable. With Google Assistant built in, a simple voice-activated trigger word can have the TicHome Mini do everything from control your home lighting to play a song from your favorite streaming service. A dual mic is used to pick up your voice, but it’ll be interesting to see how it performs in a busier, noisier party setting that such waterproof portable speakers are usually perfect for.

Wi-Fi reliant

In terms of connectivity, you’ve got dual band 2.4GHz & 5GHz Wi-Fi channels with support for 802.11a/b/g/n, and Bluetooth 4.2 hooking up mobile devices. There’s also four buttons on the circular device, covering action keys, volume, power and mic muting for when ‘OK Google’ commands aren’t appropriate. It’s a clean design, with an LED array pointing out when the Google Assistant is working its magic, and lightweight enough to move around the home without much hassle. There’s even a leather hook strap, should you want to hang it temporarily in different spots, with a range of colors (white, black, teal and pink) offering enough options for different decors.

It’s worth noting though that, to take full advantage of the Google-connected features, you’re going to need to stay within range of a Wi-Fi zone – there’s no built-in way to piggyback off of mobile networks, which limits the portable appeal a little. Bluetooth connectivity will keep the tunes pumping through from other audio sources regardless.

The speaker itself goes reasonably loud considering the palm-sized puck design – at only 3W, it’s got a bit more oomph than your smartphone or tablet’s built in loudspeaker, but not necessarily enough punch or clarity to soundtrack a party by itself. Think of it as more of a supplementary Google-connected speaker instead in that respect – this is the one for listening to your news brief or recipe info, or for controlling smart systems around the home, rather than for chin-stroking album sessions.

Early verdict

With a price tag that’s promised to land at less than $100 (around £80 / AU$125) there’s a lot squeezed in for not a lot of money. We’ll be keen to put it through its paces in more depth soon, and see if this little Google pod can punch above its weight.

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What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.