Sunday , December 17 2017

Mobvoi TicHome Mini — Australian Review: Google Assistant in all the speakers!

Google Assistant is appearing in everything, or at least it will be if Google has their way. Prior to IFA in September, Google announced Google Assistant would be arriving in third-party speakers and also teased that the Assistant will be appearing in appliances as well. I haven’t got a fridge to review yet, but we have got the TicHome Mini from Mobvoi.

The speaker was among the first wave of third-party speakers with Assistant built-in to be announced, while other speakers were quite decent the TicHome really caught my eye as it was the first splash proof speaker to be announced with a built-in battery. Most of the speakers we’ve seen so far have been similar in style to the Google Home offering bigger, or louder options – but I have a Google Home, several Chromecast Audio powered speakers and the TicHome Mini offers something a little different.

It’s either quite well priced, or expensive depending on how you source it. Mobvoi are selling it quite cheaply at around $126AUD with free shipping on their website, or if you want to walk into a store then Jaycar will be selling it in-store next month but with a decent markup at $179.

It’s a Bluetooth speaker as well as Chromecast target, it’s portable and it’s splashproof. So, is it the new hotness when it comes to Google Assistant powered speakers? Well, let’s find out.

What’s in the Box

Not a lot actually, there’s just the TicHome Mini and a 3ft long lay-flat microUSB cable and an envelope with a user guide, certification info and Google Assistant brochure. The speaker has a plastic overlay on top letting you know what each of the buttons on top do, and that’s literally it.

There isn’t a charging puck/plug in the box, which makes it easier for Mobvoi to sell internationally and keeps the price down. Some people may be upset by this lack of accessories but I have literally tens of these 1.5A/5V chargers laying around the house and after a few phones I’m sure most people do too. If it’s really an issue though, head to Jaycar and grab a cheap one.

Setup

Taking the TicHome Mini out of the box of course you plug it in. You see green LEDs which indicate the battery capacity, once it gets to 4 LEDs lit it seems to be charged.

Once you’re charged, turn it on and then load up the official Google Home app, exactly as you would for a Google Home or Google Home Mini/Max. The setup is pretty simple, turning on the speaker you’ll find it takes about 20 seconds to boot up and you’ll get the familiar Google Home startup sound when it’s ready to rock.

Once it’s on, the Google Home app finds the speaker and it’s a matter of following the bouncing ball to setup the speaker. When you turn the speaker off/on it doesn’t lose the config so that’s pretty great.

Google Home
Google Home
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free

Design

I really like the design of the TicHome Mini, it’s solidly built without being too heavy making it easy to carry around. The majority of the unit is made of a nice plastic making it a durable little speaker, but the very top and the base touching the bench or floor is rubber offering a non-slip area when you place the speaker down. There’s also what seems to be a metal band encircling the top of the unit, a tick towards the premium feel of the unit.

Though completely circular you’ll note there’s a leather loop coming out of the back which allows you to hang the speaker from a hook, or tree branch if you’re out on a picnic. I’d prefer something like a velcro loop to allow me to attach it to say a towel rail in the bathroom, but it’s still nice and the fact it’s leather adds a premium quality to the speaker.

The TicHome Mini has an IPX6 rating, meaning it’ll take a good splash, but it’s not designed to be immersed in water. The technical definition for an IPX6 is thus:

IPX6 Powerful water jets Powerful water jetsWater projected in powerful jets (12.5 mm nozzle) against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects. Water projected in powerful jets (12.5 mm nozzle) against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects.

Test duration: 1 minute per square meter for at least 3 minutesWater volume: 100 litres per minutePressure: 100 kPa at distance of 3 m

Underneath the unit is also where you find the speaker grilles for the TicHome Mini. It’s almost completely circular, with only a break where the leather strap attaches, and also where the microUSB port is. The downward facing speaker grille is a great idea if you have the speaker on a bench or flat surface allowing it to reflect sound quite well giving a more 360-degree style sound.

The top of the TicHome has four buttons on it as well as a dual Mic Array which picks up your voice quite well even from the shower, the microphones can be muted easily with a button on the top so that’s a bonus.

The buttons are soft touch rubber so it feels nice. There’s a volume up/down on the left and right side. There’s 12 volume steps so you can bring the volume right down low, or pump it right up as you see fit.

There’s an Action button at the top which acts as a play/pause button as well as a manual way to call the Google Assistant, press it for a second and the LEDs light up (4x white LEDs) to tell you the assistant is listening.

Finally, there’s a mute/power button on the bottom – press it to mute the mic (4x orange LEDs show it’s muted) the speaker will tell you the mic is muted and when you press it again, the speaker tells you the mic is back on, hold that button down longer and the speaker powers off/on.

Sound

The sound is pretty decent from such a tiny speaker. It measures a very compact 110mm in diameter and is a mere 43mm high housing a 3W speaker. I didn’t tear it down to see exactly what speakers are inside but it sounds good.

The speaker volume is excellent, but as you’d expect the sound is more treble than bass. That said, I was more impressed with the sound from the TicHome Mini than the Google Home Mini speaker – though you’d expect that from a speaker that costs more. It does peak out at the top of the volume though with a bit of distortion.

Overall though it’s powerful enough to play me ‘My Day’ from Google Assistant in the shower, and then hear me ask it to play podcasts or a Google Play Music playlist.

There’s no 3.5mm input into the TicHome Mini, but I think we’re quite frankly past that stage. The TicHome Mini acts as a Bluetooth speaker as well if you prefer that – or are using it outside of the range of a WiFi network. To pair the speaker to your phone hold the Action Button + Volume Down button for 5 seconds – the four LEDs blink Blue in pairing mode. There’s apparently NFC tap to pair in between the action and volume down buttons, but I couldn’t get that working.

Usability

It’s pretty straight forward to use the speaker. It listens for you to use the Hey/Ok Google hotwords to respond, lighting up with four LEDs when it’s listening but unlike the Google Home there’s no audible tone to tell you it’s listening. Then again, Google Home Mini doesn’t do this either so it’s not a big deal, it just means you need to be in a position to see if the LEDs light up to tell you it’s listening.

As a battery powered speaker there’s also no battery indicator on the TicHome Mini and I couldn’t find any way to find this out. You can ask Google, but it hasn’t got any idea about the speaker and there doesn’t appear to be a way to find out unless you turn the speaker off and on again. It does start blinking a yellow LED when it gets low in battery, but that’s not enough for me. I’d rather some other indicator.

Battery life

Mobvoi says you’ll get 6 hours out of the battery, this is about right. I used it flat out from fully powered until it went flat and got just over 5.5 hours, so I’m pretty Ok with this. That’s not how I’d really use it all the time though, My wife and I used it for the better part of a week in the bathroom – it has an IPX6 rating, why wouldn’t I? – and it lasted the entire week turning it on when we went into the bathroom and turning it off when we left.

The main downside to the battery is that there’s again no indicator light that the speaker is on, so you have to be very careful to turn it off as you leave or the next time you go to use it, you’ll find the speaker flat. Again, the inclusion of a dual-purpose indicator light that tells you battery status and whether the unit is on would be very handy.

Charging is simple, but I wouldn’t mind getting a bigger battery in there. At 2,600mAh the battery is pretty decent for the size and weight that it is.

Should you get one?

As a Google Home Mini replacement the TicHome Mini has a lot to offer, it’s offers decent sound, portability and the obvious functionality of Google Assistant without being too heavy. It’s also splash proof so it can fill that gap of being able to sit in the bathroom without worry that an errant spray will render it useless.

It’s not going to replace your hifi or even a Google Home unit, but it fills a gap. I’m pretty happy with the TicHome Mini and it’s now so integrated into my morning routine in the bathroom that I can’t let it go.

I can’t say I recommend buying from Jaycar with the price of the unit from Mobvoi directly so much cheaper. Personally I’d find two other people to go in on an order and get their 3-pack which comes with a 25% discount, that’s a pretty good way to get one of these bad boys.

It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough to recommend based on what it is. If you’re into hanging around the pool, or want a speaker for the bathroom this is the speaker for you.

Daniel Tyson   Editor

Dan is a die-hard Android fan. Some might even call him a lunatic. He’s been an Android user since Android was a thing, and if there’s a phone that’s run Android, chances are he owns it (his Nexus collection is second-to-none) or has used it.

Dan’s dedication to Ausdroid is without question, and he has represented us at some of the biggest international events in our industry including Google I/O, Mobile World Congress, CES and IFA.

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2 Comments on "Mobvoi TicHome Mini — Australian Review: Google Assistant in all the speakers!"

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Oh man, How did you get a custom black with beige strap? Looks way better than mine that is all black! 🙁

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