The Google Home is the most customizable smart speaker we tested. The voice match feature allows up to six people to add customized profiles. Once you have your default music service or Netflix account added to your Google Home account, those services track what you watch and listen to, and make recommendations based on your search history. You can also add location data to your account so you and a spouse can get personalized search results for important travel situations. You can ask Google what the traffic is like on the way to work, and it knows who is asking and where your office is.
The exterior of the Google Home is also customizable. You can choose from six interchangeable metal and fabric bases to match your smart speaker with your home décor. The different colored bases are easy to swap out because they attach magnetically. Each base will set you back an additional $20, but it’s a fun and easy way to customize the look and feel of your smart speaker.
The Google smart speakers have the best selection of compatible music streaming services. Once you set up your default streaming service in the Google Home app, you don’t have to tell Google where to get your music – you can simply say, “OK, Google. Play my road trip playlist,” and it will automatically look for that playlist in your default service. Google Home can also play any podcast from Google Play Music, but you can’t choose a specific episode. Instead, you’ll have to let the most recent episode start and then tell Google, “Play next.”
We tested the audio quality of each smart speaker by playing a wide range of musical genres and quickly switching back and forth between the 12 products we reviewed. The most obvious competition for the Google Home is the Amazon Echo, and the Google speaker was comparatively lacking in this test. It does a good job of projecting sound 360 degrees around the speaker, but the bass was flabby and distorted compared to the Echo. When we pushed the volume past conversational volumes, it reminded our reviewers of bass-heavy headphones or earbuds, with a compressed and muddy sound stage.
The Google Home has the best voice-controlled assistant for searching the web, but it's still lagging behind the Echo in terms of compatibility and sound quality. The ability to customize your account to recognize your voice is a useful feature and makes it easy to share your voice-controlled assistant with everyone in your house.