Zolo Mojo Voice Activated Speaker REVIEW More Mojo than the Google Home Mini

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If you kept up with CES 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada, you would have likely followed the trend of the Smart Assistant. The running joke over the past two years has been about the integrated assistant. Does the device have Google in it? Does it have Alexa in it? Does it have Siri in it? Does it have…? Perhaps in the next few years, we can ask Google to ask Alexa to Tell Siri to Tell Cortana to turn on my lights or to play that song. Either way, it seems that the personal assistant craze is here to stay. Some companies have struck out, but not Anker. The Zolo Mojo seems to be a better choice than the Google Home Mini.

The Mojo device arrived in a glossy white 4 3/7 inches wide by 6 7/8 inches tall by 3 1/4 inches thick retail package. The cover provided an attractive life-sized, slightly raised image of their speaker and promised a WiFI certified, Bluetooth 4.1, microphone speaker with built-in Google Assistant. I appreciated the visual and tactile feel of the glossy full-color image, the yellow accent, and the raised silver soundwave effect along the bottom. The back of the packaging detailed the features of the speaker: Google Assistant built-in, Far-Field Voice control, STreaming music via Bluetooth, 2.4/5 GHz WiFI, Powerful and Clear Sound, Multi-Speaker Synchronization and Google Home App for Android and iOS. To access the speaker, cut the tape along the edge holding the slipcover to the inner yellow box. You can then use the yellow hook to pull the inside box out of the case.

Inside of the box, you will find the 3 7/8 inches tall by 2 3/8 inches diameter black Zolo Mojo speaker, AC power adaptor, and a multi-lingual instruction manual. I was initially pleased with the AC adaptor, which conveniently shipped with a generous 59 inches long cable. However, the excitement soon faded when I realized that the input was not micro-USB, Lightning nor USB-C. Rather, they chose to use a proprietary input plug. A second weakness was that the wall adapter was too bulky. This is where other speakers remain in the lead in the integrated speaker race. The ability to accept USB input drastically opens up the use of the device when you can power it by computer or USB Hub. The 1 7/8 inch x 1 7/8 inch wall adaptor was shaped like a square with rounded corners. The glossy black backing of the wall port adaptor has an elegant silver Zolo” logo. On the reverse side, I found a centered type-A wall plug, which allows you to use either the upper or lower wall port, with a single caveat. You can plug the power adaptor into the lower port with the cord angled down or reverse this for the upper port. Since the cable extends 1/2 inches below the adaptor, it will interfere with the lower port.

To start, plug the wall adapter into a wall port and then the AC end into the speaker. With built-in Google Assistant, the device can respond to voice commands similar to the Google-Home. Out of the box, this does not work without a few steps from the user. After plugging in the speaker, you can say Okay Google to activate the always-listening speaker. Without the app, you will hear “Your device isn’t set up yet. To get started download the Google Home App on a phone or tablet.” Navigate to the iOS App Store or the Google Play store and download the Google Home App. Swipe through a few opening sequences and then confirm your account. I already had a Gmail account, so I chose that as an option. If you do not have a Gmail account, you can choose “Use another Account.” I chose my Gmail account, and the app immediately found the Zolo Mojo_#### (4 digit ID code).

Setup requires an interplay between the app and the speaker. Once the app completes setup, the Mojo will ding, and the app will ask if you heard the sound. You can press “Try Again,” or “yes.” If you press “Try Again” the Mojo will ding again. When finished press “Yes >.” You will then need to tell the app where the device is going to be used: attic, backyard, basement, bathroom, bedroom, den, dining room, entryway, family room, front yard, garage, hallway, kitchen, living room, master bedroom, office, shed, or add custom room. Following location selection, you will need to choose the WiFi network and then device permissions. The device asks for permission to access web and app activity, web searches, chrome history, browser content, device information like contacts, calendars, apps, music, battery life, sensor readings, voice, and audio recording to know your voice. I already feel monitored so I chose “Yes I’m in.” You will then need to program the voice recording, by saying twice “Okay Google” and then “Hey Google.”

You can link music services such as Google Play Music (Free Service), Pandora, YouTube Music and Spotify. The speaker was incredibly responsive, and the commands were easy to discover/utilize. The app will teach you many of the commands: Increase/decrease volume, set the volume to a certain percentage, play some music, ask the assistant to tell me about my day, set the timer, tell me a joke, and so much more. My kids and I had had a great time when we realized that we could ask what sounds animals make. You cannot ask the assistant to mute the sound. Instead, you will have to press the button yourself. Some other speakers will allow you to mute the speaker, but I did not miss the feature. I asked the Mojo the following questions, and it told me that it could not verify my voice: “What’s my address, what’s my wife’s name, how many children do I have, what’s my phone number?” Interestingly, it did not know the information about me. I did not yet realize that the app setup was only partially complete. I was able to add my address, work address, phone number into the app.

The speaker has a bank of LED across the upper front and a capacitive touch panel across the top. The location of the lights on the black soda can frame was perfect. You can use voice commands to increase volume, increase to max/minimum or a given percentage, or you can swipe left/right to increase/decrease the volume. You can tap the top of the speaker to play/pause music or hold the top for three seconds to activate the assistant. The LED dots conveniently alert you to the status of the speaker. As a consumer, I love when companies add pro-consumer features like the LED lights. Not only do the LED colors provide status information, their brightness provides information as well. For example, when all four of the white LEDs are fully illuminated, this represents 100% volume. If you swipe left the right LED will dim, extinguish and this will continue down the bank of LED until there is no sound. You do not have to lift your finger from the surface to change the volume. Instead, imagine that this is a slider bar that you can adjust. There is a mute button across the front, which has a really nice click-feel. If you press the mute button, all of the LED will turn red and the assistant will alert you that the microphone is muted. Press this again, and the assistant will alert you that the “microphone is back on.”

This little speaker provides a great deal of sound and is more responsive than I initially thought. This is not the heaviest bass speaker I have used, but for the size of the device, I could not complain. From within the app, I opened the Pandora App. At first, the music played only on my phone. However, I noticed a little Chromecast mirror icon along the bottom. Touching this icon allowed the speaker to play the music, instead of my phone. If you have multiple speakers (I only have one), you can use each to play songs independently, or you can link them to play the same music. A single speaker may not be big enough for an outdoor venue, but multiple speakers positioned throughout the venue can give you the sound you need. A single device is perfect for a dorm, office, living room or general listening. From near quiet to full volume, the device did not sound tinny, nor harsh/buzzing. At full volume, my kids and I loved to have dance parties in the living room. I do not currently have an August lock, a Nest thermostat, Wemo, or many of the other Google Assistant powered devices. Additionally, I was unable to use apps like Amazon Prime Music. You can link the speaker by Bluetooth mode and use some of those extra app features.

I was able to link the speaker to my Vivint Smart Home. I was able to ask questions about any of my devices to include my downstairs/upstairs thermostat, the status of door locks, and alarm activation status. I have been a huge fan of the Amazon Echo but disliked the integration of activities/tasks. For example, to lock my front door, I have to say “Alexa ask Vivint to lock my front door.” This would result in the locking of my front door automated lock. With the Mojo, I say “Hey Google lock my front door,” or “is my front door locked,” and this is done. Similarly, I have to ask Alexa to ask Vivint to change my thermostat versus asking google to increase/decrease the temperature of my downstairs/upstairs thermostat. The rapid integration does give this a leg-up over the Amazon devices. The speaker, similar to the Amazon Echo is dependent upon a power source and is not designed to be a portable system. However, I feel that the Mojo missed out on the charging cable opportunity.

In summary, the Zolo Moho device from Anker is a steal at the sub-$50 level. For a price compatible with the Google Home Mini, you get a Google-integrated speaker, better sound and similar ability to interact with your home. I would rate the Zolo Mojo at 4.5/5 stars, losing points for the charger. The remainder of the review proved positive, refreshing and exciting. The decision to buy at least one of the Mojo speakers should be a no-brainer. The ability to link them together seems even more exciting.

Learn more about the Mojo device.
Follow Zolo Mojo on Facebook and Twitter.


Originally published at macsources.com on February 27, 2018.

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