I purchased the original HomePod the day it was available to order with the intention of returning it after testing and reviewing it.
But after writing the review in which I couldn’t make up my mind whether the HomePod was a good speaker, let alone a good one. smart speakerI finally decided to keep it.
I wanted to get first-hand experience of Apple and its smart speaker offering over several updates. Over time, the HomePod started growing on me. I found myself using it for smarter speaker-related tasks and found the audio quality to improve over time.
So when Apple discontinued the HomePod, apparently replacing it with the HomePod Mini – which sounded good, I was disappointed that it looked like Apple wasn’t going to keep pushing its high-end smart speaker forward.
Review: HomePod Mini is for Sirious Apple users only
SO, Apple surprised us all by announcing THE Second-generation HomePod in January. After some delays thanks to the ice storm that swept across the Midwest, a pair of HomePods have finally arrived for testing.
I’m not ready to deliver a full review of the new HomePod, but I’ve been using this pair long enough to offer some first impressions and – excuse me – hands-on ears.
|audio||Spatial audio with Dolby Atmos|
|woofer||1x 4 inch|
|Size||6.6 inches tall, 5.6 inches wide|
|Connectivity||802.11n, Bluetooth 5, Wire, Material|
Using HomePods with an Apple TV 4K makes sense
The original HomePod launched with no support for using two of them in a stereo pair. This happened in a future software update. But I had yet to experience the full-size HomePod in a stereo pair.
Review: Apple TV 4K: Apple finally sells more for less
(At the time I wanted to buy a second HomePod, rumors swirled about Apple canceling the HomePod and I couldn’t bring myself to buy something that might lose software support soon. To Apple’s credit, the Original HomePod runs the same version software as the all-new HomePod.)
So when two HomePod test samples arrived, I started testing by connecting them to the AppleTV 4K as a stereo pair. Not only would it allow me to test the speakers instead of my Sonos Beam soundbarbut I was also able to test their ability to use my TV’s eARC connection to play all TV audio, whether from my Xbox series X or one laptop connected to my tv.
Setup was simple. After connecting the new detachable power cable to the HomePod and waiting for it to boot up, I followed some instructions on my iPhone. I repeated the process on the second HomePod and was immediately asked if I wanted to use them in a stereo pair. Once I confirmed this was what I wanted, the Home app then asked me if I wanted to use the speakers as the default output for the Apple TV 4K in the same room.
A few clicks later, I had two HomePods set up and assigned to handle all the sound coming out of my TV.
The most surprising part of this configuration? I expected there to be audio sync and lag issues when using a device other than the Apple TV. For example, when playing Call of Duty on Xbox, hearing nearby knocks or footsteps is essential to staying alive – and HomePods have no negative impact. I would actually say they sound a bit clearer, especially when it comes to the aforementioned sound effects, than my Sonos Beam.
When I watched a newscaster broadcasting the latest sports scores, I couldn’t discern any noticeable difference in the audio timing between what I was hearing and the movement of the newscaster’s mouth. The audio, as far as I can tell, is perfectly synchronized.
I’m going to leave the speakers configured as they are for a bit longer before breaking them apart and using them more as smart speakers, replacing a HomePod Mini or two.
Also: How to reset your HomePod Mini
But my first impressions of Apple’s $729 home entertainment setup — $299 per HomePod and $129 for one AppleTV 4K – is that it’s expensive, yes, but also that it looks and sounds fantastic. I may never go back there again.
Minimal design changes
The new HomePod is available in two colors: Midnight or White. To my eyes, the Midnight version looks slightly darker than the original HomePod’s black coating. But aside from the different colors, there are only two other ways to tell the new HomePods apart from the predecessor.
The easiest way to find out is to look at the power cable. The new HomePods now have a detachable power cable that plugs into the back of the HomePod. The first generation model had a permanent cord which was inconvenient.
Also: Don’t Waste Your Money on These Apple Products
The other way to tell the difference is to look at the screen above the HomePod. The first-gen screen was a decent size, but the new HomePod’s screen takes up almost the entire top of the speaker and appears to be much brighter with more vibrant colors.
Other than a few external design changes, the only significant design changes Apple has made to the HomePod are under the fabric cover.
Where is the ring?
The first-generation HomePod became famous for leaving a white ring that stained the surface it rested on. And while I’ve seen a few videos and photos of the new HomePod suffering from the same issue, I haven’t seen it in person.
I placed both HomePods on our TV stand, which is wooden and covered in a dark stain that is sure to show white rings. I let them sit unmoved for about 36 hours, then checked for a stain and found nothing at all.
Also: The Balolo Tripod Mount takes Apple’s HomePod Mini to the next level. Literally
I will continue to monitor as I move the HomePods between different surfaces for different durations.
More testing and more thoughts to come
I will continue to test and use HomePods in a variety of settings and situations. Sure, they sound great in a stereo pair when watching the latest episode of The Last of Us through an Apple TV 4K. But what about a side-by-side comparison of the first and second generation HomePod? Or, heck, throw a HomePod Mini into the mix just to see.
36 hours just isn’t enough to make a full judgement, but as I learned last time… HomePods have a funny way of growing on you.
More to come, soon!
Alternatives to consider
It’s a HomePod, but cheaper and smaller. You can buy three for the price of a standard HomePod.
Amazon’s most expensive smart speaker is also its best smart speaker.