Amazon’s Wi-Fi-connected smart speaker has been a surprising hit. But just as people began falling in love with Alexa, Google decides to make things interesting by showing everyone it can build its own smart home hub.
While it isn’t too shabby for an alternative, does the Google Home have enough to dethrone the hugely successful Amazon Echo? Let’s find out in this week’s Tech Showdown.
Tale of the Tape: Google Home vs. Amazon Echo
There may have been several smart home hubs in recent years but, these two marquee names undeniably sit on top of other popular contenders. Here’s what you need to know about the two:
Amazon Echo ($179.99)
Amazon’s voice-controlled hub comes with seven sensitive microphones and two downward-facing speakers. It hears commands from anywhere in a room (even with the music on) and disperses sound in all directions. However, it isn’t the best speaker on the market in terms of sound quality.
The Echo is powered by Amazon’s cloud assistant, Alexa. Today, she continues to wow everyone with her impressive ability to perform orders and deliver answers flawlessly. If there’s a query she can’t answer, she typically refers to Bing search results for help.
Google Home ($129.99)
A compact smart hub, Google Home delivers more than just visual appeal. It comes with four speakers and two microphones so it can adequately interact with you. Plus, it’s more affordable than the Echo.
It’s powered by the all-new Google Assistant. You can use all the voice commands you’ve used on your Android phone and even tell it to manage a few smart home devices. It also maximizes Google’s vast knowledge to answer all of your queries.
So how do they fare against the other?
The Home and Echo are almost dead even in terms of their ability to answer questions. Asking both about country capitals, presidents, and movies as a test, they accurately answered each of our queries correctly. They even provided the current time, the day’s weather forecast, and the next game in our favorite sports team’s schedule.
Where the Home pulls slightly ahead of the Echo is when we threw really random questions their way. Quizzing both about Skyrim strategies, the Google Assistant surprisingly gave a good answer when Alexa couldn’t. In hindsight, it shouldn’t have been a shock considering the Assistant is backed by Google’s vast knowledge base.
Winner: Google Home
Complete control of the music you want to hear—that’s the best thing about smart speakers. In this category, both work like a charm. Tell either to play some sad love songs and you’ll be amazed at what they’ll play next. Ask either to play the current top 10 on the Billboard and they’ll both come up with an appropriate playlist. The best part is that you can make your music requests even when you’re far away. Both the Home and Echo can hear what song you wish to listen to whether you’re standing across a room or doing the dishes (amidst all that background noise).
Still, it’s too bad that both devices have been built with subpar sound drivers. Although both still produce clear sounds, the Home seems to have a slightly fuller bass. It’s a negligible difference, really. If you ask us, you probably should pair them to budget-friendly surround sound systems when you’re after quality, crisp, and powerful audio.
By now, Echo is capable of using hundreds of third-party services (called “skills”) and the number continue to increase by the month. Meanwhile, all the Home can do is call a taxicab with Uber or create a music playlist (for now). The things you can do with Home, however, will multiply once Google opens the Assistant to software developers soon.
Although Alexa does perform more “skills”, we can’t help but notice that most are actually gimmicky than useful. Still, that’s better than just being able to do a handful.
To make the most of either Home or Echo, your best bet is to look up IFTTT recipes for Google Assistant or Alexa. They’re more practical, frankly speaking. This means that though the Echo enjoys a lot of third-party support, the Home still can do a lot of useful functions in its current iteration. In fact, you can tweet, turn the TV on/off, or turn on the sprinklers with Home. If you look closely, though, it’s obvious that you get to do more with Echo than its rival.
Winner: Amazon Echo
Smart Home Hub
Besides being great voice assistants, the Echo and Home function as smart remote controls as well. They help you manage a home that has several connected thermostats, appliances, and lights. Even if you don’t own a truckload of those, you can still run a smarter home with aid from the best smart plugs on the market.
In this regard, the Echo outperforms the Home by a mile. Sure, Google Home readily pairs with Philips Hue, Samsung’s SmartThings, and Nest thermostat out of the box, but Echo can pair with more smart home brands and devices. It’s interesting to note, though, that configuring everything on Google Home app is easier than with Amazon’s smart home app.
Verdict: Amazon Echo
For now, Amazon Echo has a slight edge over Google Home. That’s large credit to the fact that it has been on the market longer. It pays to keep in mind, however, that it won’t be long before Home performs at par.
Ultimately, your best bet is to get the Echo when you already own a bunch of smart home gadgets. If your daily life involves most of Google’s platforms or you wish to invest in a more promising future, though, getting Google Home is a logical choice.