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Apple HomePod (2023) review: Better than a soundbar for my Apple TV


pros and cons


  • Sound great
  • Stereo pair with Apple TV 4K is a solid experience

more buying choices

I bought the original HomePod the day it was available to order with the intention of sending it back after testing and reviewing it. 

But, after writing the review wherein I couldn’t make up my mind about whether the HomePod was a good speaker, let alone a good “smart” speaker, I ultimately decided to keep it. 

I wanted to have firsthand experience of Apple and its smart speaker offering as it went through multiple updates. With time, the HomePod started to grow on me. I found myself using it for more smart speaker-related tasks and found the audio quality to get better over time. 

So, when Apple discontinued the HomePod, seemingly replacing it with the HomePod Mini — which sounded just okay, I was disappointed that it appeared Apple wasn’t going to continue to push its high-end smart speaker forward.

Review: The HomePod Mini is for Sirious Apple users only 

Then, Apple surprised all of us by announcing the second-generation HomePod in January. After a few delays thanks to the ice storm that swept through the midwest, a pair of HomePods finally arrived for testing. 

I’m not ready to deliver a full review of the new HomePod, but I have been using this pair long enough to offer some first impressions and ears — excuse me — hands-on.


Audio Spatial audio with Dolby Atmos
Tweeters 5
Woofer 1x 4-inch
Size 6.6-inches high, 5.6-inches wide
Weight 5.16 pounds
Colors Midnight, White
Connectivity 802.11n, Bluetooth 5, Thread, Matter

Using HomePods with an Apple TV 4K just makes sense

The original HomePod launched without support for using two of them in a stereo pair. That arrived in a future software update. But I had yet to experience the full-size HomePod in a stereo pair. 

Review: Apple TV 4K: Apple is finally selling more for less

(By the time I wanted to buy a second HomePod, rumors were running wild about Apple canceling the HomePod and I couldn’t bring myself to buy something that could lose software support soon. To Apple’s credit, the original HomePod is running the same software version as the brand new HomePod.)

So, when two review sample HomePods arrived, I began testing by connecting them to the Apple TV 4K as a stereo pair. Not only would doing so allow me to test the speakers in place of my Sonos Beam soundbar, but I could also test out their ability to use my TV’s eARC connection to play all TV audio — be it from my Xbox Series X or a laptop that’s connected to my TV

Easy setup

Setup was simple. After connecting the new, removable power cable to the HomePod and waiting for it to boot up, I followed a few prompts on my iPhone. I repeated the process on the second HomePod and was immediately asked if I wanted to use them in a stereo pair. Once I confirmed that’s what I wanted, the Home app then asked if I wanted to use the speakers as the default output for the Apple TV 4K that’s located in the same room. 

A couple of taps later, I had two HomePods set up and assigned to handle all of the audio coming out of my TV. 

The most surprising part of this setup? I fully expected there to be audio sync and lag issues when using a device that’s not the Apple TV. For instance, when playing Call of Duty on the Xbox, hearing nearby shots or footsteps is critical to staying alive — and the HomePods don’t have a negative impact. I’d actually say they sound a little clearer, especially when it comes to the aforementioned sound effects, than my Sonos Beam. 

When watching a news anchor dish out the latest sports scores, I couldn’t discern any notable difference in the audio sync between what I was hearing and the anchor’s mouth moving. The audio, as far as I can tell, is perfectly in sync. 

I’m going to leave the speakers set up as is for a little longer before splitting them up and using them more as smart speakers, replacing a HomePod Mini or two. 

Also: How to reset your HomePod Mini

But my early impressions of Apple’s $729 home entertainment setup — $299 per HomePod and $129 for an Apple TV 4K — is that it’s pricey, yes, but also looks and sounds fantastic. I may never go back. 


Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Minimal design changes

The new HomePod comes in two colors: Midnight or White. To my eye, the Midnight version looks slightly darker than the black covering on the original HomePod. But outside of the different colors, there are only two other ways to tell the new HomePods apart from the predecessor. 

The easiest way to know is by looking at the power cable. The new HomePods now have a detachable power cable that plugs into the back of the HomePod. The first gen model had a permanent cord that was inconvenient. 

Also: Don’t waste your money on these Apple products

The other way to tell the difference is by looking at the screen on top of the HomePod. The first generation’s display was a good size, but the new HomePod’s screen takes up nearly the entire top of the speaker and appears to be much brighter with more vivid colors. 

Outside of a few external design changes, the only meaningful design changes Apple made to the HomePod are under the fabric cover. 

Where’s the ring?

The first-generation HomePod became notorious for leaving a white ring that stained whatever surface they were resting on. And while I’ve seen a few videos and pictures of the new HomePod suffering from the same issue, I haven’t seen it in person. 

I placed both HomePods on our TV stand, which is made of wood and covered in a dark stain and sure to show any white rings. I let them sit unmoved for roughly 36 hours and then checked for a stain only to find nothing at all. 

Also: The Balolo Tripod Stand takes Apple’s HomePod Mini to the next level. Literally

I’ll keep monitoring as I move the HomePods between different surfaces for various amounts of time. 

More testing and more thoughts coming

I’m going to continue testing and using the HomePods in various settings and situations. Sure, they sound great in a stereo pair when watching the latest episode of The Last of Us through an Apple TV 4K. But what about a side-by-side comparison of the first and second-generation HomePod? Or, heck, throw a HomePod Mini into the mix just to see. 

36 hours just isn’t enough time to pass full judgment, but as I learned the last time… HomePods have a funny way of growing on you. 

More to come, soon!

Alternatives to consider 

It’s a HomePod, but cheaper and smaller. You can buy three of these for the price of one regular HomePod. 

Amazon’s most expensive smart speaker is also its best sounding smart speaker. 


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