The first reviews of the updated HomePod say the new smart speaker sounds excellent but doesn’t break much new ground.
Compared to Apple’s original smart speaker, the second-generation HomePod is more of an asset in a smart home than before. However, the device’s limitations on playing music from third-party sources mean that the home in question better be an Apple household.
HomePod 2 reviews: Positive but underwhelmed
If there’s a bottom line to HomePod 2 reviews published Tuesday by the likes of CNET, The Verge, TechRadar and TechCrunch, it’s that the new full-size HomePod is a fine choice for hardcore Apple users of means — but not so much for anyone else.
Why? At $299 — the cost of the OG HomePod after a $50 reduction from the price tag at launch in 2018 — the second-gen smart speaker delivers great sound and extra features, but it’s not as good a value as the $99 HomePod mini, which delivers the same smart-home chops.
“Apple’s second take on the HomePod doesn’t stray far from the original, but it’s better all around,” wrote The Verge.
Apple made sure HomePod 2 is most useful for folks steeped in the Apple ecosystem. You can use it with Apple devices through Siri voice commands, and AirPlay 2 via Wi-Fi, not with any old Bluetooth device. Plus, the speaker lacks an aux-in jack.
Who needs HomePod 2?
That said, if you’re all-in on Apple (and Apple Music), it’s a great smart speaker. And it’s even better when you pair two of them (if you don’t mind spending $600).
“For an out of the box experience, it’s hard (if not impossible) to beat HomePod,” said TechCrunch. “You’re up and running within seconds, and the sound is rich and full. I’ve picked up details I’ve missed in familiar songs. It’s also tuned things for the human voice.”
That review went on to list exactly who should buy at least one new HomePod: iPhone users who subscribe to Apple Music, want an easy system to set up, and are into developing their smart home.
CNET‘s review made it plain the new HomePod is not for Android users. And it praised HomePod mini as a better value:
If you are an Android user, on the other hand, then the HomePod is not for you (you need an iOS device to set it up). The Echo Studio or Sonos One are better options for non-Apple people and both cost less than the HomePod. And if you want most of the features available in the HomePod at a reduced price, the Apple HomePod Mini is an exceptional value. It is the better of the two Apple speakers for the money.
Excellent audio quality
All reviews praised HomePod 2’s rich, well-balanced sound from bass to the high end. Some said the bass is a little thinner than the original’s, and the volume doesn’t crank up quite as high.
“If you’re the target market — music lovers who go big on Apple devices — nothing else sounds as good for the same price, especially if you step up to a pair of them,” said TechRadar.
Reviews tended to agree that spatial audio really pops in the new speaker.
“The company’s focus on spatial audio means the tech is front and center on the new version, and I heard a bigger sound than the speaker’s dimensions indicate,” said CNET. “The HomePod 2 sounds [better] than the original and more refined than the competing Amazon Echo Studio.”
Easy to use with Apple devices
The new speaker’s ease of use with Apple devices (and limitation to them) rang as a constant refrain in reviews. It’s a positive for Apple fans, overall.
TechCrunch was a big fan of Apple’s music handoff feature when devices are near each other, for example:
One nice feature borrowed from the Mini is handoff. This utilizes the S7 chip and ultra-wide band (UWB). You’ll need to hop into settings to enable the feature, but it’s worth it. Start a song with Apple Music on your iPhone, hold it near the HomePod and it will start playing there, accompanied by a satisfying haptic fist bump. Move the phone near the speaker again and you can transfer it back. I really like this feature. It’s a good example of how nicely hardware can play together if you make your own devices, software and chips.
In his video review, which you can watch below, Marques Brownlee called the new HomePod confusing. While it sounds excellent and now comes with a removable power cord, the second-gen speaker still comes up lacking in the smarts department, he said. The HomePod’s dependence on Siri, and the fact that it’s locked into the Apple ecosystem in a variety of ways, make it a pretty bad “smart” speaker.
As for the confusion, Brownlee said he wonders why Apple thinks the upgraded HomePod — which still comes with a premium price tag and basically the same features — will succeed. The original HomePod flopped, so why would this one fare any better?
Bottom line: HomePod 2 is best smart speaker for Apple fans
TechCrunch stated a bottom line about the HomePod 2 well, putting it above Sonos One and other contenders for full sound but understating any wow factor about its other features:
… if you sit in the sweet-spot demographic for the HomePod – an all-Apple house, with Apple Music to take advantage of its upgraded Dolby Atmos skills – the HomePod 2 is perhaps the best-value speaker out there. It’s cheaper than what you get from the hardcore hi-fi brands (such as the Naim Mu-so Qb 2), and with a more full sound than the Sonos One can deliver.
And its new smart-home skills are welcome too, though we’d flag them as ‘nice bonuses’ rather than ‘reasons to buy in the first place.’
And regarding the colors, reviews seem to agree they’re white and, basically, black. (Apple’s “midnight” only shows glimmers of blue in certain light, apparently.)