sunsetsonwheels blog

a place to dump my thoughts.

HomePod mini on desk

I know, I'm really late to this, but I've finally caved in and bought a smart speaker. And it's a HomePod out of the myriad of other 'better' smart speakers?!

Why you may ask? Well, I recently got an Eufy Indoor Camera 2K (mouthful of a name I know, that camera has since been returned and replaced with an Aqara G2H), and without reading through HomeKit Secure Video properly, assumed it would work independently, and boy was I wrong. Turns out for HomeKit Secure Video support, you need to have a home hub sitting at, as its name suggests, home all day, connecting HomeKit devices together and allowing them to be used outside of your network. As of now, you've only got 2 options for home hubs, the HomePod mini or Apple TV. Since I don't have a personal TV where I am currently, I picked the HomePod, and after a few weeks of usage, I have some thoughts.

Unboxing it

HomePod mini box

In typical Apple fashion, getting the 'pod out of its packaging was a joy. The box matches the color of your speaker, mine being yellow.

Inside you'll find the HomePod with its 'permanently' attached power cable wrapped neatly beneath it. Also underneath are your paperwork and 20W power brick. Oh, and it does come with an Apple sticker to my surprise, though sadly the color doesn't match your device's.

Setting it up

Setup was really simple. Plugging in the HomePod mini instantly brought it to life. Once the initial boot has completed, a prompt appeared on my iPhone for setup. After a few taps, I was done and the HomePod was up and playing my Apple Music library.

This is something that's truly unrivaled among the smart speakers, others would have required me to download another app for setup. Not even Google Nest speakers support this seamless setup process on Android, which I find rather surprising as they have all the technology to power this as well (Fast Pair, Google Play Services, etc.)


HomePod mini colors

The HomePod has a design that is just nicely symmetrical, with different colors to match your environment. On top is the slightly transparent touch surface containing the controls, which light up differently depending on the activity at hand. The lightning reacts to ambient lighting conditions, lit up at the right brightness for the environment.

The rest of the HomePod is adorned in a acoustically transparent fabric in your chosen color. This material is stiffer than I expected, and shouldn't rip easily in normal use.

Finally, the attached power cable is braided, matching the HomePod color and terminates in a USB-C female connector, which is meant to be connected to the included 20W power adapter, or any compliant one of your choosing. I wish this cable was longer though, it would enable the HomePod to be placed in more positions.


Note: I'm not an audiophile, so take this section with a grain of salt.

Sound-wise, I like the HomePod's signature, after toggling the 'Reduce Bass' option in the HomePod's settings. It has the right balance of everything, and sounds way better than what you'd expect from such a small package. In terms of filling a bedroom with sound, I'm happy to report the mini doesn't have any trouble with that, unless you've got a massive space. It also does some adjustment (a.k.a computational audio) to suit its surroundings, though probably not as much as the larger HomePod.


Here is where the HomePods really shine compared to the competition. The HomePod mini is just the least creepy out of the smart speakers (if you don't count Sonos as one of them). Many commands are processed locally instead of being sent to the cloud, and if they are, speech data is anonymized instead of being linked to your Apple ID.

That being said, there is no hardware mute button, and Siri has accidentally triggered one or two times when I didn't ask for her, so that's a shortcoming that should be addressed in the next revision.


HomePod mini Siri

No HomePod (mini) review is complete without bemoaning about or complementing Siri. Yes, she still sucks at understanding some basic commands, performing web searches for easily computable/parsable information, etc., but I find that Siri is far better at one specific thing: 'strange' app names.

For example, I use a reminders app called TickTick. Siri would instantly understand my pronunciation of 'TickTick' with zero problems, and zero setup. Meanwhile, Google Assistant would constantly trip over and over again, correcting 'TickTick' to 'TikTok' or 'tictic'. Turns out you have to configure it through Google Assistant's apps website, but more on that in a bit.

Speaking of app integration, third-party apps mostly integrate smoothly with Siri thanks to Siri Intents/Shortcuts support. All you've gotta do is say the action name + app name as instructed by the app (e.g “Remind me to do ... in TickTick”) and the request will be fulfilled via your iPhone. On the one hand, this is more secure as you don't have to send another third-party (e.g Google, Amazon) your account's information, adding to the HomePod's privacy. On the other hand, these commands won't work without your iPhone on your local network, which is where the cloud solution of other brands has the advantage. I guess you win some, you lose some.

What I'm implying here is that while Siri is still quite the underperforming virtual assistant, I rather like it compared to the other two for what I use my HomePod for.

AirPlay shenanigans

AirPlay 2 with Overcast

AirPlay works fine most of the time, provided the app supports AirPlay 2 properly. Why the emphasis on properly you may ask? Well, some apps like a popular music streaming app with a green icon don't, and you're left with a frustrating ~2 seconds delay on whatever operation you're doing. Pause a track? Audio will keep playing for 2 seconds after you pause. Play a track? You won't hear anything until 2 seconds has passed. You get the idea.

Luckily, since AirPlay 2 has been out for a while, many other apps have taken the time to optimize their app and this is not a huge issue anymore, at least for me.

Some music/podcasts streaming services also support playback directly on the HomePod other than Apple's, enabling you to skip AirPlay's limitations, such as Deezer or TuneIn. Sadly there doesn't seem to be a way to set a separate podcasts service, which I'd like to see in a future update as not everyone listens to their podcasts and music in the same place.

Do I recommend it?

Yes, if you are invested in the Apple ecosystem and HomeKit, and is looking for a speaker option that doesn't break the bank while matching aesthetically with your working spaces. Siri may still be a downer when compared to the competition, but depending on what you actually demand from a virtual assistant, she might be just fine.

Addendum: This review was written a while before the release of the larger HomePod 2, and while I would love to try that one for the sound, I doubt I need the increased sonic performance given that I don't have a larger space to take advantage of it. I still adore my HomePod mini, and the rest of this review hasn't changed, except for the fact that the mini's dormant temperature and humidity sensor is finally unlocked and exposed to HomeKit, which I'm happy to report works very well and removes the need for an external one if you're not too touchy on accuracy.


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I used to be an owner of the famously hot 2020 4-port MacBook Pro 13” (quite the mouthful). It was…not great, and not bad at the same time. The 2020 model rectified the greatest limitation of the previous models – the infamous unreliable butterfly keyboard, replacing it with the much loved Magic Keyboard, but still retained the many annoyances of the outgoing machine, such as the Touch Bar, horrible thermal management and consequently, borderline unusable battery life for people needing to tap in to its performance while on the go.

Fast-forward a year later, Apple released the machine that would replace my 4-port model – the 14” and 16” MacBook Pros powered by the brand new M1 Pro and Max SoCs. After watching and reading the raving reviews, I knew this was my upgrade.

Around a month back, the base 14” model got a discount of 10% on both Amazon and Officeworks. Since I’ve saved up for quite a while, I decided to jump on the offer, and spoiler alert: I’m glad I did.



If you knew me in real life, something you’ll notice about me is that I’m a real box snob. There’s just something about them that makes an existing product that much better, and being an Apple device, the MacBook Pro 14” box didn’t disappoint.

In typical Apple fashion, the box is dense, and smells good. A graphical representation of the device is on top, along with the ‘MacBook Pro’ text and Apple logo. Towards the back, you’ll get the specs of the MacBook sitting inside.

Lifting the lid, the MacBook Pro in wraps is the first thing you’ll see, followed by the instruction manuals (bundled with black Apple stickers!), MagSafe 3 cable and USB-C power adapter.

The MagSafe 3 cable is now braided, which feels so much better compared to the old soft touch plastic material found on the USB-C cables. Compared to MagSafe 2, it seems slimmer, but largely does the same thing, so I’m really happy – no more destroyed USB-C ports because of my or someone else’s carelessness.



This new design is a stark departure from the tapered, rounder form of MacBooks of yore. Apple has forgone making the MacBook Pro as thin as possible, instead choosing to give much needed ports back to the Pro lineup, like a SD card slot and HDMI port.

Old vs. New

As a result, the 14” is quite chunkier feeling compared to the outgoing 13”. It’s apparently not much of a departure from the old model thickness wise, but the new MacBook Pro does feel much heavier in my hands, despite being only 200g more. Maybe I just have weak arms…


Another design change that I don’t see mentioned in other reviews is in the hinge area directly above the keyboard. It’s now much more ‘spacious’, leaving an adequate clearing for cleanup. This was quite annoying on the 2016-2020 MacBook designs, as dust would pile up in there and you’d have a hard time pulling all of it out due to the tiny clearance.

All that said, I can’t complain about a little extra weight, given the advances that this new design has given us – it looks great and is distinctly Mac-like.



Yes, there’s a notch on the display now. Do I mind it? Not so much.

On the one hand, you’re actually getting more display by having that extra area to the sides of the notch. The macOS menubar ‘seamlessly’ blends in around the notch, giving you a full 16:10 canvas to work on below, which is pretty valuable on a small laptop display like this 14”. I don’t even notice it’s there after a few hours.

On the other hand, I’m not really sure why the notch needs to be that big. There’s still no Face ID on the Mac, so all that’s up there are the light sensors, 1080p webcam + it’s accompanying privacy indicator. Yet it’s almost as huge as my iPhone 12 mini’s notch, which packs in much more than what’s on here.

Menubar issue

Apple also doesn’t provide a way to handle many menubar apps. I use an app called Hidden Bar for this, but it only helps so much. Once I launch an app with a long menubar like Xcode, menubar apps are removed temporarily to make space for the app's menubar items. It's quite frustrating when you do need to use a menubar app to check on something while having another menubar-intensive application open.

I’m not someone working with graphics content on the daily, nor do I view HDR content frequently on this panel, so I can’t really comment much on the display. It is definitely brighter relative to the 13” though, making work in sunny conditions much easier.


Xcode development

This is where the 14” truly leaves my Intel 13” in the dust. Everything just flies, from zipping through the web or compiling code, and best of all, there’s 0 fan noise in most workloads. The only time when I got the fans to kick in was while trying out X-Plane 12, and that also ran brilliantly at pretty much max settings. The Apple integration really does its magic in this laptop, and it shows.

The most mind-blowing thing is these two laptops are just a year apart, and one has half the RAM of the other. Yet the 14” manages to outperform the 13” in almost everything I do.


These speakers blow the competition out of the water (pun intended). The 13” speakers were already excellent, but the 14” just takes it a notch further. Everything sounds ‘fuller’ and more satisfying to the ears. You just have to try it out for yourself, or take my word for it.

The speakers weren’t the only audio thing to get an upgrade. An upgraded amplifier and DAC allows for high impedance headphones & Hi-Res lossless audio support, which should be great news for people with high-end headphones. I use the jack with my Etymotic ER2SE every day and everything sounds good through it.

Input devices

Keyboard and touchpad

The keyboard is still the same old Magic Keyboard experience that Apple has introduced since the 2020 Intel refreshes, except for a full height function row in place of the Touch Bar and several changed media keys. Speaking of which…

I’m glad the Touch Bar is gone. It was very unreliable in my experience, and as someone who mostly codes on their laptop, it didn’t provide much more utility compared to traditional function keys, since the vast majority of code editors and tools never bothered taking advantage of this hardware feature.

The touchpad remains as excellent as ever, providing a slick gliding surface as well as even clicking feedback anywhere you tap on its surface. Absolutely zero complaints there.


Apple gave the webcam some love with this MacBook generation too, upping the resolution from a paltry 720p to an okay-ish 1080p. You still won’t look the best in online meetings with this webcam, but at least you won’t be a watercolor painting.


There's just no comparison. This is the best MacBook or laptop battery life I've ever experienced, period.

I could go a whole day out and about without bringing my charger, and that's not just casual use. I frequently bring my 14” out of the house for a change in work/study atmosphere and I've never felt the need for the charger sitting in my backpack. By night, I usually still have around 20-30% in the tank, which is just unimaginable for Intel MacBooks of the past.

Would I recommend the upgrade?

Wholeheartedly. I don’t think there’s a better package out there for the money if you want a laptop that:

  • Is beautiful
  • Performs brilliantly
  • Has wild battery life

Pretty much what you’d want out of a laptop, right?

I may sound like a massive Apple shill (and maybe I am to an extent), but I’m truly impressed with what Apple has given us after all these years of subpar experiences.


If you enjoyed reading, it would help me out a lot if you liked and subscribed to my blog via Medium. My donation links are here if you fancy supporting this blog or my open-source projects. Thank you!

Picture of Craig Federighi on stage at WWDC.

It's that time of the year again – WWDC, this time with a twist compared to previous years' fully online conference: selected developers and media can attend in-person once again. As much as I would have loved to see everything with my own eyes over at Apple Park (and meet other developers), the cost just wasn't justifiable for my little university budget. So here I am, writing this blog post from home after the amazing online keynote as well as State of The Union.

Picture of beta profiles download page.

Right after the keynote ended, I was already on Apple's Developer downloads website refreshing frantically to get the beta profiles, and luckily, I arrived in time before the servers buckled up, 'snatching' the developer beta profiles and installing them immediately on my devices, and so far, so good!

Picture of all devices with their special features for the year.

I won't go into too much detail on the new features, for that Apple's website is a better reference. Instead, I'll just be pointing out some interesting new tidbits I noticed with the new OS releases.

Tweaked design

iOS design (at least in stock apps) has been tweaked in some areas, some immediately noticeable while others, not so much.

Picture of Apple Music Browse page.

Starting with the little details, section separator lines have been removed in some apps like, being replaced with a chevron after the bold section header. Personally, I'm a fan of this change, as it helps the UI have a less cluttered feel.

Picture of Apple Music Now Playing view.

The seekbar/range controls also got a facelift, removing the well known circle grabber with...nothing. If you hold on the seekbar, you'll enter seek mode, and the bar increases in height to denote that. Not really liking this one, it's not obvious that one could use it since there's no obvious grabber.

GIF of new editing popover

Editing popovers received a slight touch up, now available with popping animations and a new 'page' transition animation that's pretty slick. Definitely a huge improvement in responsiveness over prior versions.

Picture of thinner list row

List rows now have a noticeably lower default height than before. This is obvious in apps that use them, like Music, Podcasts, TV, etc.

Picture of native media player view

A more obvious change would be the native media player view. The play/pause and time seek buttons now have much more prominent placements in the UI. Since this view is commonly encountered within the OS, having it revamped for easier feature discovery is great.

New Apple TV episode end screen

Another addition to the media player view specifically in the Apple TV app is an end of episode page. The poster art for the next episode, or of a suggested show if there are no further episodes, is shown in the background, accompanied by a 'Next episode' or 'Go to show' button.

New button arrangement in TV app

Speaking of the TV app, the purchase & rent buttons are now on the same row instead of being on separate rows. Take that, 'Apple doesn't innovate' people. (/s)

GIF of page change animation

Last but not least, Apple Books removed the iconic 'curled' page turn animation in favor of a simple slide-style transition :(

Redesigned apps

Picture of new Podcasts sidebar on iPadOS.

Podcasts for iPadOS received the sidebar facelift that some Apple apps got in iOS 14 or 15. This makes it easier to use on wider, modern iPads such as the Air/Pro, and moves it in line with the macOS version of the app. While the new UI is great and all, I'm more curious to whether they've finally fixed the teething syncing issues with the app.

Other changes

Shortcuts for Mac now supports the share menu on macOS.

Shortcuts for Mac on Ventura now ships with a share extension, enabling you to use shortcuts that use the share sheet on other platforms to work almost identically on macOS. You will need to enable this in System Settings –> Privacy & Security –> Extensions though, for some reason it's not enabled by default.

Beta stability

Surprisingly, out of all betas, I find this year's macOS Ventura beta to be the most stable first build so far. iOS and iPadOS, not so much. I've been facing plenty of resprings and problems with the lock screen, especially on iOS. I have reported some of them to Feedback Assistant, and I encourage other beta users to do so. (even if they're not developers).


If you enjoyed reading, it would help me out a lot if you liked and subscribed to my blog via Medium. My donation links are here if you fancy supporting this blog or my open-source projects. Thank you!