HomeTechnologyNewsBig sound in a small size – Review Geek

Big sound in a small size – Review Geek

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Ratings:
7/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Trash
  • 2 – Classify warm garbage
  • 3 – Very flawed design
  • 4 – Some advantages, many disadvantages
  • 5 – Acceptably imperfect
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Excellent, but not the best in its class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with some footnotes
  • 9 – Shut up and take my money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $299

Tyler Hayes/Review Geek

The second-generation Apple HomePod isn’t a perfect speaker, and its $300 price tag skews its value, but it delivers full music fidelity with easy-to-use features. And because of its convenient total package, it’s a worthwhile addition to the home of any Apple user with a budget for it.

This is what we like

  • Wonderful sound in a compact size
  • Faster response than the previous model
  • Can be connected to an Apple TV 4K

And what we don’t do

  • Siri’s smart home functionality can be frustrating
  • The price is a bit high for it to be a great value

Review Geek’s expert reviewers get right down to business with every product we review. We put each piece of hardware through hours of real-world testing and benchmark it in our lab. We never accept payments to endorse or review a product and we never add other people’s reviews. Read more >>

HomePod design and styling: Nearly identical visually

  • Size: 6.6 x 5.6 inches (16.76 x 14.22 cm)
  • Weight: 5.16 lbs (2.34 kg)
  • Sensors: Recognition of sound, temperature and humidity, and accelerometer
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 5.0, Thread, ultra-wideband chip for device proximity
  • Audio: 4-inch high-excursion woofer, five horn-loaded tweeter array, four-microphone design

Whether you’re aware of it or not, the HomePod 2 (announced in January 2023) is actually completely different than the first. The size, weight, and design of the new HomePod made every change from the previous model. The key point is that those things didn’t change enough to make a difference one way or the other. The power cord is now easier to remove on this new one, but again, it’s not a factor in whether or not you buy it.

The few media controls stayed the same. Tap on the top multicolor screen to toggle play and pause. Double tap to skip songs. Or press the plus and minus buttons to adjust the volume.

The speaker is available in white or midnight colors. The midnight color on the iPhone and Apple Watch tends to appear blue in bright light. I did not see the same here. In all lighting conditions, the color of midnight only appeared black to me. You should consider it black when deciding between it and white.

Sound: Great in the right spaces

HomePod sitting in a cabinet showing its power cord
The new HomePod looks similar to the first generation, but this time it has a removable power cord.Tyler Hayes/Review Geek

In addition to the minor exterior changes from the first version of the HomePod, there are also internal sound changes. There are fewer audio components inside, including two fewer microphones, but surprisingly it wasn’t noticeable. Siri heard me say commands from anywhere in the room and even from the next room.

I spent a lot of time listening to music and then switching from the original HomePod to this new one. The new model sounded very similar, and the times it didn’t sound basically the same, it seemed to have a little more resonance.

I went through modern hits like The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights,” Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now,” and Childish Gambino’s “Summertime Magic,” and the speaker handled these smashing pop hits beautifully.

The acoustic folk songs were bright and delicate, and the jazz songs had a rich midrange. The HomePod was also able to handle Ludwig Goransson’s wide-ranging eclectic theme song “The Mandalorian.”

While this new HomePod was a sound powerhouse for its size, it performed the best in smaller rooms. For example, in a 14 x 12 foot room with a 10 foot ceiling, the HomePod boomed and sounded brilliant. When I used it in a larger family room that had a 25-foot-high ceiling, the HomePod struggled to shine just as well. As the volume increased, the bass did not achieve the same impact as when it could reverberate better off the walls.

The HomePod, even since the first version, has used its microphones to automatically calibrate its sound. This happens automatically without any intervention from listeners. While it’s hard to confirm, I suspect the HomePod may be trying to overcompensate in my larger space.

Listening to music in the cavernous room wasn’t a deal breaker or even a bad thing, but it just exposed that the HomePod had its limits. For comparison, a Sonos Five handled the same space with a beefier sound.

One way to combat the fatigue of a single HomePod in a large open space is to add a second and create a stereo pair. I tried that, and the sum was certainly greater than the individual parts.

Buying two HomePods for a $600 sound system isn’t outrageous. It sounded amazing. But the most practical use for the speakers would be to use them connected to an Apple TV 4K for home theater sound. Doing this produced great audio results, but the process of setting up wirelessly to an Apple TV 4K box can be frustrating to troubleshoot if things don’t work the first time.

I think there are two minor things Apple could do to make a big difference. Firstly, adding some sort of user-adjustable EQ or information about your automatic room calibration might help the audio edge cases. Second, a visual indicator of whether the HomePod offers Dolby Atmos, 5.1, or 7.1 surround sound when connected as home theater speakers would be helpful.

Adding those software features wouldn’t significantly alter the performance of the HomePod, but it would make the speaker more attractive and useful to those who buy one.

Smart home features for a smart speaker

A HomePod showing Siri activated on the top screen.
Siri is more responsive with a faster chip inside, but not necessarily more accurate.Tyler Hayes/Review Geek

Siri is no different on this HomePod than the assistant on the first generation HomePod or HomePod mini. However, Siri is faster on this new device, which makes the feature a bit more appealing than on the other products.

My supposed smart home with HomeKit-enabled Philips Hue smart lights and switches went through an existential crisis in recent months, with certain items not responding to voice commands like they did in the past.

Even with a new HomePod in the house, those same issues taunted my family. Asking Siri to turn the lights in the living room on or off was still hit or miss. All of us in the house noticed that the voice assistant responded quicker and commands were executed with more enthusiasm and enthusiasm. That’s probably thanks to the fact that the HomePod uses an S7 Apple Silicon chip, the same as in an Apple Watch Series 7.

The S6, S7, and S8 chips all run at roughly the same speed and are a step up from the S5 chip found in the HomePod mini. It might seem strange that the chip in a smartwatch is also powering wireless speakers, but the S5 in the mini was a step up in performance from the first-gen HomePod. The S7 in this new HomePod wasn’t far behind in fast response times for queuing up music or answering questions.

The HomePod 2023 also has a temperature and humidity sensor inside so you can run automations based on that information. Want the Apple Home app to trigger a task when a room reaches a certain temperature? HomePod can now do that (and so can the mini after a software update). That worked fine and was clean, but ultimately felt lesser in the $300 price range.

Another nice addition is the Thread radio inside which is used to communicate with Matter smart home products. As of now, those communications happen behind the scenes, so there’s little to prove, but it could provide real (subtle) utility to a household, either now or in the future.

This second-generation HomePod was better at doing smart home tasks than the previous model, but that shouldn’t be the sole purpose of buying this product, plus an added bonus, since its focus is clearly on playing music.

Should you buy Apple’s new HomePod?

A HomePod placed in a cabinet next to a plant.
Tyler Hayes/Review Geek

The number of people who should go out and buy the newest Apple HomePod is small. There are other smart speakers for less money, that still deliver solid audio performance. Rather, this second-generation HomePod is a breath of fresh air for Apple centrists who want that all-in-one audio system in an easy-to-use package.

The other candidate for this HomePod is someone who has dabbled in the HomePod mini and likes what it offers, but wants something more substantial and capable of more volume and bass. He got loud and banged up, usually without breaking a sweat. Unfortunately, it’s just not the best value due to its high price.

This is what we like

  • Wonderful sound in a compact size
  • Faster response than the previous model
  • Can be connected to an Apple TV 4K

And what we don’t do

  • Siri’s smart home functionality can be frustrating
  • The price is a bit high for it to be a great value

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