Easy setup • Decent sound • Splashproof • Easy Bluetooth connectivity • Light and easy to carry
No battery or on/off indicator • Hard-to-press buttons • Lacks some Google Assistant features • Sometimes unresponsive
The TicHome beats the Google Home Mini in some ways, but not enough to warrant paying double.
Not every smart speaker can be Google Home, but that doesn’t mean they’re not trying.
At $99.99, the TicHome Mini is significantly cheaper — and smaller — than most of its third-party competitors. And unlike its cheaper counterparts, the $49 Google Home Mini and $49.99 Amazon Echo Dot, it’s battery-powered and connects via Bluetooth.
The TicHome is a fine speaker with decent sound quality. But when it comes to smart home features, it doesn’t quite hold up.
The TicHome Mini comes in black, teal, white, and pink. At 9.73 ounces, 4.33 inch in diameter, and 1.69 inches high, it’s easy to fit in your backpack, purse, or even a large pocket. It’s a slightly bulky but portable 9.73 ounces, while the Home Mini and Echo Dot are at 6.1 and 5.7 ounces respectively.
It’s light enough that I was able to carry it to and from work in my briefcase, and on walks around the park, without a hassle. Its base is slightly too big for my hand to grasp, but hands that are even a bit larger than mine should be able to hold it comfortably. And luckily, even small-handed folks can carry it by the attached strap, which fit perfectly around my fingers.
Unlike the Google Home, which is mostly controlled through its app, the TicHome features physical buttons to control volume and power. These are convenient if you’re showering or swimming and your hands are too wet to use your phone, or if you’re busy biking or running and can’t take the time to open the app.
The buttons are, however, a bit of a pain to press — particularly the power button. I had to hold it down for quite a while, and several times, before I could get the thing to turn on and off. Once it was on, things got easier.
Just plug it in
Arguably, one of the biggest obstacles standing between smart homes and widespread adoption is the pain in the ass they are to set up.
On this front, the TicHome is… fine. All you have to do is plug it in and find it with your Google Home app. My phone took a few tries, but it eventually worked. Once that hard part was done, connecting other devices and setting up Google Assistant was smooth sailing.
A feature called TapConnect also allows you to, if you have an Android phone, pair it via Bluetooth instantly by tapping through NFC.
The TicHome charges via micro USB (it ships with a cable), and takes between three and four hours to fully juice.
It features a 2,600mAh battery. I got it to last almost (but not quite) its advertised six hours while playing music at medium-low volume, and occasionally relaying me the time, weather, or news.
This is good, but not great, as battery-powered smart speakers go. But it’s certainly more portable than the Home Mini and Echo Dot, which always need to be plugged in.
It’s also enabled with Bluetooth streaming. The TicHome can’t respond to voice commands when it’s not connected to Wi-Fi, but it can still play music while you’re out and about.
If you use the speaker the way most people use the Home Mini, however, it’ll probably be sitting on your desk or table, taking commands. This is where it runs into a few problems. The most annoying thing is that there’s no way to tell from looking at it whether it’s on or off.
When you talk to the Echo, for example, it lights up so you know it’s listening to you. No such luck with the TicHome.
Three (very faint) lights illuminate in the center of the device when it hears and executes your commands. These don’t show up until after you’ve commanded it, though, so there’s no way to know if it’s hearing you while you’re talking.
Additionally, the device lacks any sort of battery indicator when it’s not plugged in, so it’s very difficult to know how close it is to dying, especially if it’s been on standby for a while. That’s a problem for folks who may want to take it on a long drive or bike ride or who don’t want to get stranded without music.
It’ll occasionally blink a yellow warning light when it’s running out of power on standby, but it doesn’t always do this.
So what can it do?
The TicHome Mini can do most, but not all, of the things Google Assistant devices can do. It can play music from your favorite streaming services, including Google Play. You can make grocery lists, find restaurants near you, set alarms, or set sleep timers.
When you’re doing something else while listening to the music, the music doesn’t pause or go soft (like it does on the Echo), but fades to the background. So, you may find yourself setting your alarm, or making your shopping list, to the tune of “Despacito.”
While you control the speaker’s volume with physical buttons, you can still customize a number of Assistant settings through the Google Home app, including your default music service, alarms and timers, and night mode/do-not-disturb settings.
The sound quality is… fine. The speaker is located on the bottom of the device, which muffles things a tiny bit, and there’s a subtle and barely noticeable difference in sound quality when the device is upside down. It doesn’t approach the quality of the Echo or Google Home, but I felt it was a big step up from the Echo Dot and Home Mini.
I actually found its lowest volume setting still too loud for my office environment, and had to muffle it for battery testing. There are 13 different audio settings, but you’re really blasting when you get above the first three. A volume indicator (which only lights up while you’re changing the volume) lets you know what level you’re on.
When it comes to smart home-specific capabilities, however, there are a few things it can’t do. The TicHome can’t make calls or send texts. If you say, “Hey Google, make a call,” it responds, “Sorry, I can’t make calls yet.”
It also doesn’t yet work with Google Routines. When I say “Goodnight” to my Google Home Mini, it sets an alarm and turns off my lights. When I say it to the TicHome, it just responds, “See you later” or, “Happy hibernating.”
That’s cute, but not ideal for a system that’s supposed to be the hub of my smart home.
The TicHome (like many smart speakers) sometimes has trouble understanding you if you’re speaking too fast or too quietly. I often had to repeat commands two or three times until it registered them, and that’s not a problem I’ve ever had with the Home Mini.
When the speaker did hear me, it could hear me, speaking at a normal volume, from about eight feet away, though I had to repeat the commands an average of two or three times before it would pick them up. It couldn’t hear me through my closed bedroom door, even when I yelled loudly.
Overall, as a smart-home hub, the TicHome Mini is fine. It’s just fine. But it’s got a few limitations that keep it from doing as well as its competitors.
If you’re keeping it in your living room as a smart hub, rather than taking advantage of its portability or splashproof build, the lack of certain features means it’s probably not worth the extra cost.
But as a portable Bluetooth speaker, the TicHome is a fine option. The sound quality is significantly better than those of the Home Mini and Echo Dot. The strap makes it easy to carry, and you don’t have to worry about your shower, the pool, or the elements damaging it.
If you’re a music enthusiast looking for a portable speaker, the TicHome is worth considering. But it’s no Google Home.