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Apple HomePod Review – An Exploration into Sound and Smart Features
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Apple HomePod Review – An Exploration into Sound and Smart Features

by June 5, 2024
Overview
Warranty

1-year

Price

RM1459

Positives

+ Exceptional audio quality
+ Immersive spatial audio experience
+ Seamless Siri integration
+ Easy sharing with other Apple users
+ Convenient smart home control
+ Ideal for Apple ecosystem users

Negatives

- Reliant on Wi-Fi for functionality
- Subpar call quality
- Limited compatibility with non-Apple devices
- Lacks 5GHz Wi-Fi support

Pokde Scoreboard
Pokde Rating
Appearance
8.2
Efficiency
8.0
Materials
7.5
Performance
8.0
Portability
6.5
User Experience
7.9
Value
7.7
Bottom Line

The Apple HomePod isn't just a speaker; it's a sophisticated audio conductor for your Apple ecosystem. It delivers exceptional sound quality, immersive spatial audio, and seamless Siri integration. While reliant on Wi-Fi and less adept at handling calls, its strengths lie in its integration with Apple devices, making it a must-have for Apple aficionados seeking a premium audio experience.

7.7
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In the labyrinth of entertainment hardware, the audio department often emerges as the most discerning choice – perhaps because, once smitten, our ears rarely wander. My gadgets may flit through a revolving door of upgrades, but my audio companions tend to linger. Hence, when it comes to audio, I’m a tough critic. So, when not one, but two Apple HomePods graced my entertainment room, my ears perked up with anticipation. After a few weeks of harmonious cohabitation, let’s dive into the symphony of their performance.

Unboxing the Apple HomePod

Continuing their eco-conscious crusade, Apple delivers the HomePod in a refreshingly green package. No wasteful plastic wrap here – just 100% responsibly sourced virgin wood fiber embracing the speaker within. Unboxing reveals the HomePod itself, a sleek nylon-braided power cable, and the customary user guides. Once again, to my son’s disappointment, the Apple sticker was non-existent and so I had to take him out for a treat to compensate that.

Apple HomePod Specifications

Audio Technology
  • 4-inch high-excursion woofer
  • Array of 5 horn-loaded tweeters, each with its own neodymium magnet
  • Internal low-frequency calibration microphone for automatic bass correction
  • Advanced computational audio with system sensing for real-time tuning
  • Room sensing
  • Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos for music and video
  • Four-microphone design for far-field Siri commands
  • Multiroom audio with AirPlay
  • Stereo pair capable (up to 2 speakers max)
Touch Controls
  • Tap to play/pause
  • Double-tap to skip
  • Triple-tap to skip back
  • Touch and hold for Siri
  • Tap or hold + or – for volume up/down
Sensors Sound Recognition, Temperature and Humidity, Accelerometer
Wireless 802.11n Wi-Fi, P2P discovery for easy guest access, Bluetooth 5.0, Thread, Ultra Wideband chip for device proximity
Requirements
  • Compatible Apple Device:
    • iPhone SE (2nd generation or later)
    • iPhone 8 or later with latest version of iOS
    • iPad Pro
    • iPad (5th generation or later)
    • iPad Air (3rd generation or later)
    • iPad Mini (5th generation or later) with latest version of iOS
  • 802.11n Wi-Fi Internet Access
Colors Midnight, White
Dimensions 168mm (H) x 142mm (W)
Weight 2.3kg

Setting Up the Apple HomePod

Apple HomePod Review – An Exploration into Sound and Smart Features 36

In case you didn’t realize, the specifications mentions 802.11n Wi-Fi Internet Access as part of the requirements, and this is very important because if you do not have Wi-Fi, you would not be able to connect to the Apple HomePod even if your iPhone has internet access. I did try to setup the Apple HomePod outside of my Wi-Fi environment and it was almost impossible until I had to use one of my phones as a remote Wi-Fi device, connect my iPhone to that Wi-Fi network, and only then the setup commenced. It felt a little dumbfounded, but as I started using the Apple HomePod more, I immediately realized its heavy dependency of Wi-Fi and why it was important to get it right in the first place. Since I used my portable Wi-Fi to setup, there were too many problems that were happening like I was unable to switch between my Apple devices, among others. In the end, I had to hard reset the Apple HomePod (which I have explained how below) and set it up all over again, this time to my Wi-Fi router. So you really want to take this into consideration in case you are getting the Apple HomePod for an environment that doesn’t have Wi-Fi access.

However, once the Wi-Fi conundrum is conquered, setup becomes a surprisingly smooth symphony. Allow me to guide you through the harmonious steps:

Step 1 – Just bring your Apple device close to the Apple HomePod and a prompt to setup will appear. Hit the setup button and it will guide you through.

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Step 2 – Once it has initialized the setup process, it will ask you to centre the Apple HomePod in the frame. This is to identify which Apple HomePod you’re currently trying to connect to (especially if you have more than one to be setup)

Apple HomePod Review – An Exploration into Sound and Smart Features 38

Step 3 – This is the interesting part. You select which “Home” environment are you setting it in. It’s good to have your “Home” setup before you start adding devices so you can easily identify the area where you are placing this Apple HomePod.

Apple HomePod Review – An Exploration into Sound and Smart Features 39

Step 4 – The rest will be self explanatory. Whether you want your personal details to be synchronized (so it can share daily calendar and reminders on it), enable Siri, enable voice identification for better privacy, terms and conditions, among others. I highly recommend Siri here because the bulk of the experience that the Apple HomePod delivers is actually via Siri.

For those seeking a symphony of sound, setting up a stereo pair is equally effortless. Simply repeat the setup process for each Apple HomePod, ensuring they’re assigned to the same “Home” environment within the app. Then, with a few taps, designate them as a stereo duo, creating an immersive soundscape.  (Note: maximum two Apple HomePods can be paired together.)

And there you have it – your Apple HomePod is ready to serenade every Apple device linked to your account. But what if you crave a harmonious household, where every family member can conduct their own audio orchestra? Fortunately, sharing Apple HomePods is as simple as passing the baton. Apple orchestrates user access through individual Home apps, so all you need to do is to invite each user to your iCloud Home, granting them control over the HomePods through their own devices. The recipient would have to accept the invite and then the Home environment will be listed in their respective Home App. Some might find this as less intuitive solution, but hey, even the most harmonious orchestras need a bit of fine-tuning now and then.

Resetting the Apple HomePod

If you get into issues that leads you to frustration, you can just reset the Apple HomePod and start all over again. Much like I tried to setup without proper Wi-Fi, it got so clunky, I ended up resetting it and starting all over. Resetting the Apple HomePod is a little tricky. So you should read these steps all the way first, before attempting them.

Apple HomePod Review – An Exploration into Sound and Smart Features 42
  1. Unplug the Apple HomePod’s power cord and wait for 10 seconds to let it fully discharged.
  2. Plug the power cord back and wait for 10 seconds (really, count to 10).
  3. Now touch and hold your finger at the top of the Apple HomePod (and do not let it go now until I ask you to)
  4. The white initiation light will begin spinning. Keep pressing and don’t let your finger go still.
  5. Siri will announce that your Apple HomePod will be reset. Keep pressing.
  6. Once you hear three beeps, now lift your finger and it will begin the reset procedures.

Once you have reset the Apple HomePod, you can set it up again using the steps above.

The Good

The Apple HomePod isn’t merely an aesthetic addition to your living space; it’s a sophisticated piece of technology designed to seamlessly integrate with your Apple ecosystem. The more Apple devices you incorporate, the more robust and immersive the user experience becomes. Notably, the HomePod exhibits a hierarchy in how it prioritizes connections, with Apple TV taking precedence over MacBooks or iPhones. This prioritization aligns with the Apple TV’s role as the central hub of most home entertainment systems.

Apple HomePod Review – An Exploration into Sound and Smart Features 43

The pivotal question: how does it sound? The Apple HomePod delivers undeniably impressive audio quality. In my stereo setup, with each HomePod flanking my workstation, the spatial audio experience is remarkable. However, sitting closer to one speaker can create the illusion of sound emanating primarily from that source, especially at lower volumes. This immersive effect, while initially surprising, becomes more natural with continued use.

Apple HomePod Review – An Exploration into Sound and Smart Features 44
Photo Credit: Apple.com

A standout feature is the HomePod’s array of five beamforming tweeters, evenly distributed around the speaker’s base. This, coupled with the automatic room sensing technology, delivers a remarkably balanced audio experience. The HomePod utilizes built-in microphones to analyze sound reflections, effectively mitigating echoes and optimizing sound output for its environment.

But the HomePod’s audio prowess extends far beyond simple echo reduction. These bass-EQ microphones also play a crucial role in audio immersion. Beamforming tweeters direct primary sounds, such as vocals, towards the center of the room, while ambient sounds are reflected off the walls, creating a remarkably realistic acoustic environment akin to a live performance. This effect is particularly striking when experiencing Spatial Audio tracks from Apple Music.

Initially, my HomePod served solely as a music companion, delivering a delightful sonic experience. Then I got the Apple TV and this elevated this experience to new heights. While the Apple TV’s operating system may not be as feature-rich as my Nvidia SHIELD TV Pro, its content delivery, especially in combination with the HomePod, is exceptional. Experiencing Dolby Atmos content through the HomePod is truly transformative. The “Enhance Dialogue” feature, which intelligently prioritizes spoken words, ensures crystal-clear dialogue even amidst a bustling soundtrack.

Apple HomePod Review – An Exploration into Sound and Smart Features 45

The true magic of the Apple HomePod lies in its ability to seamlessly communicate and collaborate with other HomePods, including the HomePod Mini. Imagine wanting the entire house filled with a specific song, regardless of your location. Or perhaps you crave a weekend movie in the living room while your partner unwinds with their favorite music in the bedroom. The HomePod ecosystem makes it all effortlessly possible.

Apple HomePod Review – An Exploration into Sound and Smart Features 46

And for those moments when you need to rally the household, the “Intercom” feature transforms your HomePods into a futuristic PA system. With a simple “Hey Siri, intercom,” you can broadcast messages to specific rooms or the entire house. No more shouting up the stairs or sending frantic text messages – just a seamless, voice-activated communication network.

Speaking of which, Siri, seamlessly integrated into the HomePod’s core, emerges as its most indispensable feature. From setting reminders and sending messages to controlling smart home devices and curating the perfect dinner party playlist, Siri is your ever-present assistant, just a “Hey Siri” away. Managing your day and orchestrating your smart home environment has never been more effortless.

The Bad

The HomePod’s strengths are undeniably tied to Apple’s AirPlay technology, a seamless solution for those immersed in the Apple ecosystem. However, this reliance can be a drawback for households with a diverse range of devices running Android or Windows operating systems. While workarounds exist, they often involve third-party applications that can detract from the overall user experience.

As previously noted, the Apple HomePod’s functionality hinges on a Wi-Fi connection, specifically 802.11n on the 2.4GHz band. Without Wi-Fi, the HomePod remains dormant. While this reliance on 2.4GHz ensures compatibility with a wider range of routers and potentially greater reach within a home, the option for 5GHz connectivity would have offered advantages in terms of speed and reduced interference for those with newer routers. Fortunately, in my experience, the 2.4GHz band has not resulted in noticeable lag when accessing online data such as weather information or music playlists.

Apple HomePod Review – An Exploration into Sound and Smart Features 47

While the HomePod excels in many areas, making and receiving calls is not its forte. A noticeable 2-3 second delay in transmission, experienced with both internet and traditional calls, renders this feature impractical. Given the HomePod’s Bluetooth 5.0 capabilities, one might hope for a firmware update to address this issue. However, as of version 17.5 (21L569) at the time of writing, the call experience remains subpar.

Apple HomePod Verdict

Retailing at RM1459, the Apple HomePod delivers substantial value for those invested in the Apple ecosystem. Its audio quality is exceptional, the spatial audio experience is immersive, Siri integration enhances convenience, and sharing with other Apple users is seamless. For the ultimate entertainment experience, a stereo setup is highly recommended. The HomePod is undoubtedly a must-have for Apple aficionados.

At the end of our Apple HomePod review, I award this smart speaker our Silver Pokdeward.

Pokde-Silver
About The Author
Super Daddy
A proof that the real fun does not actually ends, but rather begins when you become a daddy. Enterprise Application Co-ordinator, Web Developer, Hardware Enthusiast, Gadgets lover, Android Evangelist, Desktop and Consoles Gamer, Metal Music Guitarist, Audiophile, Networking Freak, Radio Controlled Toys rat, Ferrari Crazy and above all - a daddy in every kid's dream.

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