Mobvoi would like to make a name for itself through connected devices like speakers and smartwatches. Recently the company launched the TicWatch E and TicWatch S, but its portable smart speaker might be the more compelling product. Google opened up access to its digital assistant in 2017; therefore, now anyone can implement Google Assistant on (almost) anything they'd like. Among the first to take advantage of that is Mobvoi.

The TicHome Mini's name says it all. Here you have a small, compact speaker and the smarts of Google Assistant. Not much else is going on. But that isn't a problem anyway. Mobvoi would like you to choose its portable smart speaker if you're trying to break free from wall outlets. Rather than having to go to a specific room or relocate a device just to access the strengths of Google Assistant, the TicHome Mini lets you take the digital assistant anywhere that has a WiFi network available.

There aren't too many Google Assistant-powered smart speakers of the portable variety on the market today, so let's see if this one is worth the $99 price tag.

Most portable speakers don't look modern or fun. The TicHome Mini, however, does. All you see is a circular design with a leather strap connected to the side for carrying. Rubber is the predominant material used, and that's beneficial to keep the TicHome Mini from collecting scratches and nicks over time. So you can rest easy knowing your TicHome Mini will continue looking sleek and stylish after a few drops and splashes.

By the way, you won't see cutouts for the speaker unless you flip the unit over. They're hidden away on the bottom just around the base, which is a brilliant design choice made by Mobvoi.

If you're not into the teal-colored unit in our review, don't worry. Mobvoi also sells its portable smart speaker in black and white. Regardless of the color you choose, you're getting a splash-resistant rubber body with a metal-like plastic accent around the rim.

You're going to control the TicHome Mini with your voice nearly every time you'd like to do something, but Mobvoi included physical buttons as well. And they're all on the surface of the smart speaker. Up top is an action button to get Google Assistant listening, and at the bottom is the power button that also mutes the microphone after a single touch. Then the volume buttons are split on the left and right sides. The layout is straightforward, and it's actually necessary considering you'll lose voice commands while away from a WiFi network.

Often it's "industrial" that we'd label a portable speaker. We can't apply that to the TicHome Mini, though. Since the speaker is hidden from plain sight, you're getting an attractive piece of hardware that blends in with any environment.

The company behind the TicHome Mini isn't too experienced in audio, so it's wrong to think sound should be on the same level as the JBL Link 20. Still, you're allowed to have standards. Prior to listening to music on the portable smart speaker, my hopes weren't high. It just seemed like a safe bet to assume the TicHome Mini would produce subpar sound. Turns out I was very wrong.

Streaming music from Google Play Music (or any other music streaming service) was really good at low or medium levels considering the size of this device. It's only when you raise the volume high that quality dips.

Using the TicHome Mini to listen to music, podcasts, and audiobooks is excellent. As long as you're entertaining just yourself or a small group, there shouldn't be any complaints about sound on this device. However, upgrade to a different smart speaker, probably not a portable one, if you'd like to fill a room with quality sound or have a lot of people to entertain with tunes.

Mobvoi definitely deserves a pat on the back for not rolling out a speaker that sounds dull, tinny, or lifeless. The 3W speaker inside the TicHome Mini packs a decent punch.

Really the big reason to buy this smart speaker, aside from its portability, is to have Google Assistant respond to your every word. Say "OK Google," and a set of warm LED lights will illuminate to let you know the digital assistant is listening. The digital assistant does everything identical to its performance on phones, tablets, and other smart speakers.

The same problem exists on every Google Assistant-powered smart speaker: WiFi or bust. In the event you stroll away from a Wi-Fi network or your connection is trash, you're left with a plain Bluetooth speaker.

Within the body is a 2600mAh battery, and truth be told it's small than we'd like. The TicHome Mini just doesn't get you very far on a single charge compared to other portable speakers, smart or not. The six-hour estimate seems to be generous and likely refers to standby time. Realistically, a single charge nets a hair more than two-and-a-half hours of use when streaming music.

So the TicHome Mini is attractive, fires 360-degree sound better than expected, and leverages the brainpower of arguably the smartest digital assistant. What's not to love? The limited use as well as its price. There's no denying it's frustrating that the TicHome Mini, like others in the category, lose a key selling point once a Wi-Fi network is gone.

Perhaps the biggest issue is pricing. It seems like, at $99, you're better off splitting into two devices with unique advantages while spending the same amount of money or maybe less. You can get the Google Home Mini for $49 and then shop on Amazon for a Bluetooth speaker. Then you're not spending a ton of money on one thing that looks stylish but can be matched performance-wise by a more affordable smart speaker.

Right now you can get the TicHome Mini on Mobvoi's site for $99, and the company will provide a discount if you pair it with another accessory like the TicWatch.

3 out of 5

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