Is a 3rd party Google Assistant speaker better than the real thing? Zolo Mojo Speaker by Anker
Connected speakers are a pretty hot commodity these days, and CES 2018 was filled with new additions that plug into Google Assistant. Anker has now joined this coalition with a new speaker from their audio-centric Zolo brand. Their first take on Google Home is the new Zolo Mojo Speaker and I’ve been testing it for the last few weeks. How does a 3rd party perform using Google’s AI platform? Let’s find out in our full review.
The Mojo has a very solid construction. I was surprised at how premium this little speaker felt when I pulled it out from the box. I was also caught off guard on the size of the speaker. It’s only 3.6 inches in height and 2.6 inches around. It’s about the size of a small drinking glass overall, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel dainty or cheap.
The design of the Mojo immediately reminds me of a shrunken version of the original Amazon Echo. While it’s not completely circular like the Echo, there are certainly borrowed elements in the exterior look of the speaker. The bottom half of the Mojo houses the speaker and speaker grill. On top you find a touch-enabled LED area for volume and track controls much like the Google Home devices. Just below the top of the unit is a manual mic button to cut off the microphones entirely if you prefer. This is the only miss of the design in my mind. It’s very prominent on the front of the speaker. I think the 1st party offering from Google got this right by placing this button on the back of their speakers.
Another knock I have is the choice of AC power. It’s a proprietary solution, and while I’m sure Anker is reusing some power adapter already in their supply chain, it is really annoying to not see USB-C or even micro USB used here. As small as the Mojo is, I could easily see users wanting to move it around quite a bit and if you lose the current power adapter you’d just be out of luck. But if Anker would have chosen a more standard cable, I could easily have multiple adapters in different rooms and an easy replacement if it was lost or damaged.
Usage and Google Assistant
Setup for the Zolo Mojo is no different than with the Google Home Mini. With a few simple steps via the Google Home app, you’ll have the Mojo ready for you to scream out commands or play music via Chromecast. Speaking of the Home Mini, I did find that most things worked with the Mojo just as they do with the Google Home products. Chromecast, Home groups, and Broadcasting all work as you’d expect. However, one option that does seem exclusive to Google devices is calling. The Mojo gives a prompt that this feature is not currently available when asked to place a phone call.
The sound is pretty good with the Mojo as well. I’d put it on par with the Google Home Mini with impressive sound for the size, but it’s never going to make you cover your ears. The highs and mids are well rounded, but I will say that the bass could use a little extra punch. Either way, I didn’t find the lack of bass as an issue as I find the normal Google Home is too bass heavy. Overall, I’m happy with the sound for my needs but it will be a subjective result per consumer.
I really like the Zolo Mojo but I also struggle to find its place in the market a bit. It has a decent feature set and sound, but at the same time, it’s limited in comparison to the 1st party speakers offered by Google. At the retail price set at $99, it’s 50 bucks more than a Google Home Mini. Right now, it’s set at the same price for a limited time of $49, but both prices make it hard to justify over the Home Mini with zero limitations. Other than design preference, it’s difficult to see a consumer going with Anker’s model here. Despite this, I still think it’s at least worth comparison shopping the Mojo as an entry level smart home speaker if you are currently considering your first purchase of one.