Unless you're rich enough to have an actual butler, there are two choices when it comes to home voice assistants: go big with a smart speaker, or go small with mini hub.

Amazon’s Echo Dot has long owned the latter, but now it has an infuriatingly charming adversary in the Google Home Mini.

This furry little doughnut wants to be your gateway drug to the world of talking to lightbulbs and being proved wrong in front of family members on matters of fact.

But is it better than an Echo Dot? I spent a little time talking to one at Google's Pixel 2 party to find out.

Design: cute as a smart button

Round one definitely goes to the Home Mini – design-wise, it makes the Echo Dot look like a plastic toy.

Okay, the fabric look isn't exactly original (Libratone's being doing it on speakers since 2009), but it gives the Home Mini a 'good guy'  feel compared to its rival's Darth Vader black.

Both smart speakers are about the same size, with the Home Mini coming in three different colours (charcoal, chalk and coral). If your neutral lounge is in need of a dash of colour, then coral is definitely the one to go for.

Underneath that fabric are four LEDS, which light up to show that the Home MIni has heard you or that it's thinking about your request. 

One big missing feature compared to the Echo Dot, though, is the lack of 3.5mm jack, which means you can't hook it up directly to some old speakers to give them voice control. To do that, you'll need a Chromecast.

Instead, that button you can see on the underside of the Home Mini is there to simply turn the mic on or off. You know, if it's starting to make you feel a little paranoid.

Google Home MIni early verdict

Unless you've already filled your house with Echo Dots, the Home Mini is shaping up to be a great entrée to home voice control. 

It's nicer looking than the Echo Dot, costs the same and works better with Google services like Gmail, Maps and Calendar, particularly in busy households thanks to Voice Match recognition. Google Assistant is also better at handling random factual questions that tap into the Google superbrain.

Still, it's a slight shame that the Home Mini doesn't have an aux output for hooking up it directly to other speakers (without a Chromecast), so the Echo Dot still holds the advantage here. Amazon's rival is also naturally better for voice-ordering shopping, if that's your thing.

So while the Home Mini wins out on visual charm, it remains to be seen whether it can topple the Echo Dot as our favourite mini smart assistant. We'll bring you a full review before it starts shipping on 19 October.