HomePod hands-on review: a smart speaker that sounds better

Posted January 27, 2018

I had a chance to listen to Apple's HomePod at a large apartment in NY for about an hour, and while I will need more time with the device to render a final verdict, I came away with some favorable - and some not-so-favorable - early impressions.

Shots have been fired at Apple just hours before its HomePod smart speaker is due to open for pre-order, as rival Sonos cuts the price of its own speaker, offering two for the price of Apple's.

Inside HomePod: tweeters, microphones and woofer (Photo: Apple)How does it look?

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The Sonos One speaker, which costs $199, includes Amazon Alexa voice controls and will add Google Assistant voice controls later in the year, Sonos said. The HomePod smart speaker is priced at a premium price of $349, which is a lot higher than the current smart speakers on the market available from Amazon and Google. HomePod will arrive in France and Germany this spring. With the Apple device, there are now no cheaper options. And while you can make calls using the speaker, you can only do so by dialing on your phone. Considering that the Amazon Echo can be purchased for under $100, one might wonder why anyone would choose to buy the HomePod, but Apple is obviously marketing its speaker as a serious musical device. The HomePod, however, will only support Apple Music.

The Apple HomePod is Apple's latest home device release. However, Amazon's Echo devices and the Google Home device play music, although they may not possess the impressive acoustics of the Apple HomePod.

So now the battle begins as the market decides what it wants more in a smart speaker device.

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This is when Apple showed us that it moves more like a huge ship turning in the ocean instead of an agile one turning on a dime. Meanwhile, other smart speakers already support multi-room music playing. This will mean that Apple should be listing the cable cord as an item in the box if it is separate from the HomePod itself.

Apple will lead you to believe that if they make it, they will come (and buy it). The future is smart homes. And little more than six years ago, you couldn't find any consumer device with a built-in voice assistant.

A brace of HomePods doesn't sound quite as expansive as a good pair of floorstanding loudspeakers, but then they're only seven inches tall. Three times in our short demo Siri failed to understand what was being asked of it. If you order your HomePod today, the deliveries will be commenced from February 9.

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Until we're able to test it further, there's no way to know whether HomePod's fantastic sound quality outweighs the downsides.