Mobvoi TicHome Mini review: Google Home on the go

Google recently announced that they were opening up Google Assistant to accessory manufacturers, which means customers can buy a Google Home clone from their preferred brand of wireless speaker.

There are a ton of possibilities for Google with that initiative, including Google Home speakers with different form factors, varying costs, and specific use cases that just aren’t covered by the Google Home, Google Home Mini, and Google Home Max.

One of the first brands to launch their own speakers is Mobvoi, who showed off the TicHome Mini at IFA and seriously impressed us. It’s basically a Google Home Mini, but it’s 100% portable and offers some weather resistance, making it a fantastic option for someone that wants to carry a device around instead of leaving it plugged into the wall.

It’s a great idea on paper, but how well does detaching Google Home from a wall outlet actually work? Let’s find out.

The design of the TicHome Mini is actually fairly similar to the Google Home Mini, albeit a bit more chunky and less discrete. The top sports four buttons, including an action button and a mute button, plus two volume buttons. In between the four buttons are LED indicators.

These LED status lights will alert you that the TicHome Mini is listening, running low on battery, and so on. They mimic Google’s own LED setup on the Google Home Mini, and even though you won’t really be looking at them often, they add a nice touch.

On the bottom of the TicHome Mini is a 360-degree speaker, a micro USB charging port, and a leather strap built into the back. For what it is, I really can’t complain about any design choices.

The finish is soft and rubberized, making it very easy to carry around, especially with the wrist strap. It’s IPX6 rated, which means a few splashes and raindrops won’t hurt the speaker, and it should be easy to grip even when it’s wet.

Those outward firing speakers at the bottom are 3 watts, making this a surprisingly loud speaker. Even outdoors you can set this up just about anywhere and have everyone in the vicinity hear it clearly, and it can easily fill a room with sound for small parties and gatherings.

However, there’s a big catch if you’re picky about audio quality. The TicHome Mini is impressively loud with a ton of other great features, but it does lose some points in the sound quality department. The bass is already lacking at lower volumes but maxed out it sounds incredibly thin, pretty much killing any chances of powering a raging house party. If you’re wanting this primarily for its portability and rugged capabilities, that probably won’t be a major problem since most outdoor speakers in this price range have some of the same problems, but if you wanted to use this mostly indoors while plugged up, it’s going to sound rough next to some of your other speakers.

So while sound quality isn’t world-class, the microphones work extremely well. The top of the TicHome Mini sports dual microphones to pick up your voice and react to “Hey Google” commands, and whatever Mobvoi did to tune them worked fantastically.

Even with music playing, the TicHome Mini almost never missed the hotword prompt. Sitting next to it wasn’t a problem, obviously, but I didn’t expect it to be.

To test it further, I put it at the other end of my living room and loudly talked (not yelled) at it. Still picked up my voice over the music.

Next test? I turned on more music on my computer right next to the TicHome Mini to simulate a room with noise in it. Still had no trouble, so I combined the two tests by turning on a totally separate set of music and standing roughly 10 feet away, and still managed to have it pick up my voice at a reasonable volume. It really only struggled once I started cranking up the other set of music to drown out the TicHome Mini’s speakers, so I think as long as you’re not using this at a rock concert, you’ll be okay.

Outside of music, the speakers were perfectly acceptable. Google Assistant came through crisp and clear, answering just about every question I threw at it.

Setting it up was painless and done through the Google Home app, which also asks for some account stuff so you can set up payments and addresses and things to make Assistant a bit smarter. It will also link you to some apps that are compatible with Google Assistant by default to help you build out what your speaker can do, which is really nice.

There’s another catch here, though. If you leave the range of your WiFi network, the TicHome Mini loses its Google Assistant functionality. That’s not necessarily a fault of Mobvoi because Google Home devices are designed to use your home WiFi network exclusively and they’re not really made with a mobile hotspot in mind, but that means once you’re out of the house, you effectively just have a mediocre Bluetooth speaker.

Battery life is rated to last around 6 hours, and that’s about what I experienced using it heavily for music with the oddball question thrown in every once in awhile. As a speaker, that’s decent. As a smart home device, it’s not great. Mobvoi did cram a lot of functionality into this little guy though, so you can’t expect everything, especially at this size.

At $99, is the TicHome Mini worth a steep premium over the Google Home Mini? Well, that seriously depends on what you want to use it for.

Google Home’s biggest fault is that it can’t follow you around your house. If it’s set up in your kitchen, that means you can’t control your smart home accessories from your bedroom. The TicHome Mini completely solves this problem but has its own set of drawbacks.

Battery life is just okay, so if you want an Assistant speaker all over your house all the time, you’ll want to have micro USB cables everywhere. That’s a pretty common connector, and they’re crazy cheap, so that’s an easy thing to do. However, you can also buy two Google Home Mini devices for the price of one of these, which you can set up and forget about forever. No loose cables, no charging, just Google whenever you ask for it.

You also can’t drag the Google Home Mini out of your house or anywhere that it might get wet, so if you like to listen to music outdoors or while you’re showering, the TicHome Mini wins points there, too. If those things don’t appeal to you, you’re overspending for no reason.

It’s a great device, and at $99, it’s priced almost perfectly. If you like listening to music outdoors and regularly use multiple rooms in your house, it’s a no-brainer. It also comes in more colors than the Google Home Mini, including a teal and pinkish bronze color, which might be enough to tip you over the edge.

Buy it now: Mobvoi

About the Author: Jared Peters

Born in southern Alabama, Jared spends his working time selling phones and his spare time writing about them. The Android enthusiasm started with the original Motorola Droid, but the tech enthusiasm currently covers just about everything. He likes PC gaming, Lenovo's Moto Z line, and a good productivity app.