Review: Apple's HomePod probably the best of the bunch when it comes to smart speakers

    1 of 3 2 of 3

      The HomePod isn't a large device, but it's heavy. Which makes sense given the audio components crammed into the cylinder. It's got a single, circular woofer to deliver bass tones and seven tweeters for the midrange and high-frequency sounds.

      And it sounds amazing.

      First released in February, the smart speaker didn't come to Canada until June 18. It's available for $449 in either Space Grey or White, and although that price might seem high, it's actually reasonable when you look at the cost of competitors.

      The Sonos Play:3 is $329 and the Google Max is $499. Amazon's larger Echo is only $130 regularly priced, but I'm not even sure the Echo is in the same category as the HomePod.

      Unequalled sound reproduction

      Apple decided long ago to focus on the experience of music as a driver of its products. And while the HomePod was a bit slow in coming to the smart-speaker category, it delivers on that experience.

      The HomePod delivers the best sound of them all. To my ears, Sonos speakers come close, but the Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers are inferior.

      Apple has played up the "spatial awareness" of the HomePod, which refers to the speaker's ability to adjust its output depending on which room—and where in the room—it is placed.

      I tested this by moving it around my home, and whether it was in the corner of a bedroom, along the wall of the living room, or on the counter of the kitchen, the sound was always clear and crisp.

      Let your preferred ecosystem be your guide

      If you're a committed Google user, though, there's little that the HomePod can do that is going to get you to switch.

      Amazon Echo users, though, may be convinced. Alexa is further ahead in the digital-assistant functionality, but the HomePod can be used as a speakerphone and delivers superior sound quality, not to mention having the better music service with Apple Music.

      If you've already got Sonos speakers at home, you'll find that the HomePod works nicely with them now that AirPlay 2 has been released.

      And if you're in the Apple ecosystem, you can throw audio to HomePod from any of your other Apple devices, including iPads, iPods, computers, and even Apple TV.

      Control your home with HomeKit

      The HomePod is also a way of collecting and controlling the myriad home-automation devices you might have. You can use simple voice commands to have Siri control everything from connected lightbulbs and thermostats to doorbells and door locks.

      In a sense, HomePod isn't anything special because it's simply giving you access to the range of productivity tools and apps that Apple has built into it's ecosystem.

      You can add and modify notes, reminders, and calendar bookings. You can send messages and use it as a speakerphone to make calls.

      The only thing that HomePod can't do, yet, is fully understand Canadian French. Support for that language is coming "later this year".

      Mon dieu.