With the Google Home Mini now available in multiple markets (check out Jason’s review here), we’re finally getting time to play with Google’s latest smart speaker. However, before the Mini had even left the main stage at the Made by Google event concerns started to circulate about the quality of its single 4cm speaker.
Now I’m pleased to say that I was pleasantly surprised at just how good the single speaker performed when I picked mine up today, no it’s not as good as my original Google Home, and it definitely does not hold a candle to my “real speakers” but I will be adding at least two more Home Minis to my existing Google Home fleet.
Many people have lamented the lack of a 3.5mm audio jack on the Google Home Mini, like the Echo Dot has, to allow users to connect a more powerful set of speakers. However, Google has built-in another way of achieving the same goal, you can now set default audio and video playback devices for any Google Home device.
In the Google Home app jump over to the devices tab, select the Google Home device you want to edit and select settings. From there you’ll find a setting labelled “Default media playback”. This lets you set a default audio and video output for each device. At the moment any Google Home, Chromecast enabled device or Chromecast Multicast group is selectable as an output.
I tested this with my Sony portable speaker with a Chromecast Audio plugged into its line-in and it worked flawlessly. I then selected one of my cast groups and again it worked the first time. I now have several more ideas to try, the first is to plug-in a Chromecast 2 into my full 7.1 Yamaha system and use a Mini to turn it into a Google Assistant powered full Hi-Fi system.
Of course, you can still specify a different speaker if you wanted to send the audio elsewhere or even specify the device you’re speaking to if what you’re doing doesn’t need the better speaker. This setting will only re-route media playback all voice response etc will still take place on the Google Home Mini.
While I know some people will not see the benefit of adding a $35 device to a $79 device in order to replicate the functionality of a 3.5mm jack that will be costed by some as a few cents, and I can’t disagree, an additional option of a 3.5mm audio out would have been excellent.
However, this new functionality really does place the Google Home Mini as an intriguing gateway to the Google Assistant ecosystem and by adding a few Chromecast audio devices those who truly love their audio may just have the best of both worlds.