- Jason Cross, Macworld
Apple's smart speaker sounds great but feels unfinished.
- Megan Wollerton, Cnet
HomePod has excellent bass and consistently superior sound quality across a wide variety of music genres.
|Wireless Inputs||Airplay, Bluetooth|
|Size||17 x 14 cm (6.7 x 5.5 in)|
|Suggest a correction|
Apple missed out on creating the smart speaker market by 4 years, but what they might lack in innovation, they make up for in finesse. The HomePod isn’t the cheapest smart speaker on the market, but the budget crowd has never been Apple’s audience. Considering the huge head start Alexa has, does the HomePod stand a chance?
Looks-wise, the HomePod's sleek simplicity fits right in with the rest of the Apple lineup. Its cylindrical design makes it easy to stash in the corner. The muted beige or standard black color options help it blend into any home decor option.
Don’t be fooled by its slim contours and 6.8-inch height, the speaker is hefty—weighing in at 5.5 pounds. That’s because Apple stuffed it with a woofer, seven tweeters, and an internal power supply.
The weight, and the built-in power cord, make it a little less mobile, though it’s easy enough to pick it up and move it to the next room. But you can’t bring it outside or on road trips without a power inverter or other power source.
Apple focused heavily on the sound of the HomePod. In addition to the speakers, it also put in an A8 processor (the same one found on the iPhone 6) to actively manage sound.
What does this mean? In theory, it should optimize sound quality based on its environment. When placed against a wall, it will notice a change in the mid-bass region and compensate by reducing certain frequencies.
Reviewers were blown away by how good the speaker sounded in testing. It also helps that overall sound quality is its best feature with some calling it “sublime.”
Thanks to the 4-inch woofer, it provides strong bass without being overpowering and clear mids and highs.
Even at max volume, they noticed no distortion. With that said, its max volume wasn’t very loud. The Google Home Max drowned out the HomePod when critics tested them against each other.
An array of seven microphones are always on alert listening for the phrase, “Hey Siri.” In general, experts had no issues with it performing commands. They only ran into issues when trying to use it in a room with multiple people speaking.
Like other smart speakers, the HomePod can take notes, play music, and even control other HomeKit-compatible smart home devices. While more and more devices are entering the HomeKit ecosystem, the market for third-party devices compatible with the Echo or Google Home is much larger.
Siri is also limited in what it can do. It cannot pull information from your calendar, pull up recipes, or set multiple timers at once. Many also found it couldn’t answer as many types of general knowledge questions as Alexa or Google.
The biggest drawback is how reliant the HomePod is on Apple products and services. You’ll need a device running iOS 11 or higher (so iPhone 5 Plus and above) to set up your speaker. You’ll need an Apple TV or compatible bridge to control your smart home devices if you want to control them while you're away.
Further, to take full advantage of Siri, you’ll need a subscription to Apple Music or iTunes Match as you can’t use voice commands to control Spotify, Pandora or Tidal.
And if you’re thinking of a plugging the HomePod into another speaker or streaming it via Bluetooth, forget it. There’s no auxiliary jack, and it doesn’t support Bluetooth streaming.
Overall, while reviewers were wowed by the audio quality, they had a hard time recommending it to anyone but diehard Apple fans. Digital Trends states, “It’s made for iPhone owners who love Apple Music... if you’re anyone else, though, we think the HomePod probably isn’t the right choice for you…” Time adds, “Ultimately, the decision to purchase... should come down to whether you’re willing to spend considerably more money for great sound but inferior voice controls…”
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