The Google Home smart speaker brings the power of the Google Assistant into your home for smart home controls, music playback and quick answers to any questions you might have itching.
Google Home: What you need to know
- $79 price
- Google Assistant voice controls
- Cast controls
The Google Home speaker has been around for years as the company's answer to Amazon Echo. While Amazon has released three generations of its Echo, ever improving the hardware, Google has kept Home the same, only improving the software.
Thankfully Google got it right first time and, as such, the Home is still a super helpful smart home assistant that just keeps getting cheaper and cheaper as Google drops the price year after year.
Thanks to the Google Assistant you can voice interact with this speaker with pretty casual conversational language and it'll understand what you're saying nearly every time.
Google Home: Design and build
- Touch controls
- Four fabric colours
- Dual mics
The Google Home might not be a large speaker but it sure can make an impression in a room thanks to its minimal design. It's easy on the eye with no buttons, save for a mute button on the back. The top is purely touch controlled with light up indicators to show if it's listening or you're changing the volume, with simple swipes. Or tap to play or pause and hold to turn on the mic - but it's the voice controls that count here.
The Home features dual microphones, not quite the array that Amazon's Echo packs in with seven, but it seems to do the job. The only time this had an issue hearing was when music was really loud and you have to shout to turn it down again.
The speaker itself packs a 2-inch driver and dual 2-inch radiators. So while sound is decent enough, you don't get real bass like the latest 3-inch sub-packing Echo 3rd gen. There also isn't that much loudness as at the top end distortion kicks in for anything above seventy percent volume. But, as a kitchen speaker at this price, this does the job of playing music and controlling the smart home just fine.
Google Home: Features
- Google Assistant with Cast
- Free calls
- Google Home Routines
The Google Assistant is a really smart AI voice controlled tool which allows you to chat conversationally. By that we mean you can ask what the weather is today, and it'll know where you are to tell you the result. But then you can follow up with a question like "what about tomorrow?" and it'll give you that also. Amazon, by comparison, requires a new line of questioning each time. This also means phrasing can be pretty loose and Google will usually get what you're after and help.
Since this uses Google Search, rather than Bing as Alexa does, you can rely on results being accurate to what you're after. Ask this most questions and it'll give you a helpful answer right away.
You can also make voice calls from your Google Home for free in the US and the UK. This also lets you access your Google Contacts so you can call by name rather than having to remember the number like with Alexa, making it genuinely useful.
You can make broadcasts across your Google speakers in your home which is a nice way to let the kids know dinner is ready if you're putting the finishing touches on it in the kitchen and they're upstairs. You can also send audio directly to compatible speakers using Cast - ideal if you have Chromecast Audio already.
Google Assistant controls lots of smart home devices from Philips Hue lights to Nest thermostats. You can combine commands using the Google Home Routines so if you say "movie time", for example, it'll dim the lights and turn up the thermostat ready for relaxing time.
Google Home: Performance
- Decent voice recognition
- Good enough sound
The Google Home speaker isn't something that's going get audiophiles excited but it does offer enough bass and space to accommodate most songs to a good level. For kitchen listening while making dinner, it's plenty decent. Just don't expect to use this as a speaker at a party or something to sit back with to listen to the finer subtleties of your favourite multi-layered ear tingler.
Voice recognition is great and we mean that in both the sense that the dual microphones pick you up well and the Google brains understand you. As mentioned, the pick-up can be an issue when really loud music is playing but that's the same in most smart speaker cases.
Google Cast is useful to have but in reality, if used with something like Spotify, you're limited. You can only play one track at a time, across speakers, unlike the Sonos competition that lets you play multiple tracks on different speakers using the one Spotify account.
Google Home Routines is easy to use, allowing you to control multiple devices with one word. While this is great for big name devices like lights and thermostats, plus a few smart plugs, beyond that you might not have Google recognise it. So if you've gone budget on the smart home upgrades, it might be worth checking if Google Home Routines supports them.
Should I buy the Google Home?
If you want one of the smartest artificial assistants out there then Google Home is the choice for you. If you want that without spending a lot then this will also leave you happy. And if you want decent sound without being too particular then this could be your ideal device with good looks as the sweetener to the deal.
However, if you want genuinely decent and loud sound, a very open smart assistant for controlling your gadgets, and a proper multi-room speaker system that will hear you even when turned up loud, you might want to look elsewhere.
Google Home: Verdict
Google Home might have come after the original Amazon Echo but it has far surpassed it with software upgrades. Sound is decent enough, voice recognition is excellent and the AI is plenty smart. There is a good amount of smart gadget control while the Cast feature works well with players like Spotify.
However, with three generations of upgrades under Amazon's Echo belt and lots of dedicated speakers from the likes of Sonos packing in the Google Assistant - this Home unit it a little dated now and is definitely the more budget option. As a way to kit out your home with smart speakers this is an affordable option that will enhance the look of any room too.