First hands-on review of HomePod is out touting impressive audio and smart features

Madeline Buxton of Refinery29 got to spend an hour with the HomePod ahead of the forthcoming launch, and she has shared what amounts to be the first mini review of the new smart home speaker.

Press and developers all got an early look at the HomePod when it was announced back at WWDC, but this is the first reviewer who has had more than a couple minutes, and actually got to try out Siri, the setup process, and other features.

As far as appearance goes, Buxton reports that the HomePod “looks good — really good”. She noted that the speaker is actually surprisingly smaller than it appears in the press photos, and comparable to the Sonos One.

Apple has been quite vocal in touting the audio quality of the HomePod, criticizing the other smart speakers like Amazon’s lineup of Echo devices. Clearly, audiophiles will share their opinions en masse once the HomePod is available, but from this early report it is clearly going to be well positioned.

Buxton notes that the sound was “consistently crisper and clearer on HomePod” when compared to the Google Home Max, the latest Amazon Echo, and the Sonos One.

Considering the size of the Google Home Max, this is quite impressive. Though similar in height, the Google Home Max sits at 13.2″ wide while the HomePod is merely 5.6″.

Microphone quality will of course be of concern to users; no one wants to shout at their speaker. Buxton reports that the microphone is quite sensitive, allows you to really get Siri’s attention from anywhere in the room by saying “hey, Siri” in a normal volume of voice.

The HomePod is only capable of using one iCloud account, meaning texts, reminders, and calendar notifications will only pertain to the primary user. She notes a nice touch where the HomePod is able to give you personal notifications, but will only do so when you’re home. That way, calendar appointments or texts won’t be read while you aren’t there. Of course, if you don’t fancy notifications at all, they can be disabled in the HomeKit app, of all places.

Buxton reiterates what we’ve all expected, and that is to get the most out of the HomePod, you need to be a subscriber to Apple Music. Siri’s enhanced music functionality, such as giving you details on a song or album, will only apply if that song is played through Apple Music.

The HomePod goes on sale this Friday, January 26 for $349. It will start shipping on February 9th. I’m certain we will see many more in-depth reviews before we get to that launch date.

What do you make of Refinery29’s first impressions? Has it swayed your opinion one way or the other? Let us know below.