2023 HomePod review roundup: similar sound, same price
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Reviews are in for the new large HomePod, with them saying that while Siri is faster, and it has a similar sound, a high price make it hard to justify the product for round two.
Apple reintroduced the HomePod on January 18 at the same $300 price point it had when it was discontinued in 2021. It has a tweaked external design, a reconfigured speaker layout, and new sensors for improved audio reproduction.
Despite being the same price and size, it has two fewer tweeters and two fewer microphones. New sensors include temperature, humidity, and a dedicated system sensor for the audio algorithm.
Apple didn't spend any time comparing the new model to the old one in its announcement, so there was no clear promise of how audio might sound. However, early previews wowed some listeners and new tech seemingly ensured at least equal, if not better, audio.
The new HomePod ships to customers on Friday, February 3. Here's what initial reviews had to say about the revived smart speaker.
The Verge: better all around
The Verge praises the HomePod's sound quality, new sensors, and fast Siri responses. But, they say that it isn't a perfect speaker with its high price, which doubles when buying the better-optimized stereo pair.
The high cost is a sticking point, according to The Verge. They note that competitors have premium smart speakers closer to the $200 range.
That, and the review also says that large HomePod doesn't offer any special features beyond better sound compared to the $100 HomePod mini.
The user-removable plug is a bonus, as Apple has adopted a standard figure-eight adapter. The review highlights hardware additions like a temperature sensor and the U1 chip bringing welcome new functionality to the speaker.
The sound quality is comparable to the original, with some subtle improvements in how music is rendered. However, the audio doesn't offer much warmth and is described as "clinical."
The review goes on to say that Siri is still the same, as in it won't respond to requests any differently. However, it is much faster and more reliable at providing answers.
The consistent sound and returning $299 price tag make it seem like Apple is playing it safe to The Verge.
MKBHD: Confusing product
MKBHD calls the new HomePod "one of the most confusing new Apple products I've seen in a long time."
However, the first HomePod also had amazing sound at a similar price, so Apple's play here doesn't make sense according to his review. If the first model flopped, it doesn't seem like Apple didn't do much to prevent that from happening again is the essential take on Brownlee's review.
Brownlee adds that it is both an amazing speaker and a bad product. Siri can be bad at times, Spotify can't be set as a default music player, and the price is hard to justify.
Most people will be better off with a HomePod mini or a competing speaker, depending on user preference and needs. He also notes that it still leaves a ring on some finishes, so use a coaster.
TechCrunch: new tricks, familiar look
TechCrunch describes the new HomePod's audio as "full." The highs are high, and the lows are low.
As always, having a stereo pair is better, according to the reviewer. Audio separation is great with one speaker, but two leave more space for the instruments. The low end can be overwhelming.
The review says that customers considering the HomePod need to have an iPhone, subscribe to Apple Music, and are building a smart home. Otherwise, the product doesn't make sense at that price.
TechCrunch concludes with calling the second-generation HomePod a good speaker that will work well for a select cross-section of consumers. It isn't for everyone, but it seems likely that Apple wouldn't have it any other way.
Engadget: a smarter smart speaker
Engadget says the new HomePod is best suited for those who have committed to Apple's ecosystem. It has more tools, a better Siri, and a lower price than the original did at launch in 2018.
The review cites great sound quality, improved smart home abilities, and the lower price point as positives. For the most part, the HomePod sounds amazing, but some choices in audio processing won't appease everyone.
The audio over emphasizes voice, which isn't ideal for some content according to the reviewer. Users will also need to fork over more cash for a second unit for maximum audio quality. And the lack of alternate inputs or even Bluetooth isn't ideal.
The Engadget review wraps up with a note that the HomePod is built for dedicated Apple users, and the only suitable alternative is the HomePod mini. The new HomePod is better in some ways because Apple had more time to define its smart speaker toolset and improve Siri, so it should only get better from here.
PCMag: more competitive
PCMag put the new HomePod through its paces with various audio tracks to test its performance. It can get loud and won't distort audio, but it isn't going to blow the roof off your house.
The review's testing revealed that songs like The Knife's "Silent Shout" would drive the HomePod to deliver powerful bass thumps at all volume levels. Though, songs like Kendrick Lamar's "Loyalty" would push against the lower limits of the main woofer's range.
To its credit, according to the reviewer, the HomePod can deliver robust lows for the most part, just not the deepest subwoofer-realm lows.
The review goes on to say highs and vocals perform well too, and listeners should enjoy the bass-forward and bright sound signature, though some will find it too sculpted. The lack of an EQ does present an issue, as users can't customize the sound to their preference either.
PCMag wraps up to say that the new HomePod is a notable improvement over the original and delivers far more bang than the HomePod mini. It earned the publication's Editor's Choice award.