Mini Review: Google Home in the UK

Google Home UK

We have an Echo and Echo Dot in the Automated Home so when Currys asked us if we wanted to try the new UK Google Home we were keen to see how it stacked up.

While comparisons with the Amazon device are of course inevitable, these are subtly different machines. But is the Google Home better?

Design

It’s already been said, the Google Home looks like one of those plug-in air fresheners. That’s no bad thing, the Echo is very obviously a cylinder of tech and the Google device definitely blends in better in a contemporary home. You can also change the speaker grille to better match your decor.

Google Home Base Colours

Google Home SpeakersSetup

Setup is quick and painless and probably one of the best experiences we’ve had with any similar device.

Google’s attention to detail has improved so much over recent times and they really are knocking out some incredible hardware and software.

In Use

UK Google Home

The ‘Home’ impressed us and we consistently found the Google Assistant to be better up to the job of answering a multitude of random questions than the Amazon Echo.

TIP: Help the Google Home team to improve the product by saying: “Hey Google – File Feedback” then your suggestion

I initially tested the machine at work on fibre broadband and the speed of response was incredible. When you consider that your speech is being uploaded to the cloud for recognition, before going through several engines to work out what you mean, before finding the answer and sending it back down as speech, it’s pretty incredible.

However on our much slower upstream bandwidth at home this speed disappeared and there’s now a frustrating delay in answering. Not GH’s fault, but worth baring in mind if you have similar rubbish up bandwidth.

The speakers are decently bassy for the size and go pretty loud too, they can fill a room. You can set the volume from across your kitchen with commands like – Hey Google, set volume to 20% – or – Hey Google, set volume to 4 (out of a scale of 10).

Skills

The ‘skills’ on the Google Home include the ability to control Google Play Music, Spotify and TuneIn (no surprise that Apple Music isn’t here).

On the smart home front you can control Nest, Philips Hue, SmartThings, Belkin WeMo, Honeywell and Lutron Caseta amongst others. LightwaveRF is a recent addition and you can check out this up-to-date list of supported partners and services.

You can also use the ‘Home’ in conjunction with Google Chromecasts meaning you ask for video to be sent to certain TVs with just your voice.

Privacy

If you’re concerned with connected ‘listening’ devices like this in your home you can read the Google Home data security and privacy policies. But as most of us carry a smartphone with a camera, microphone, GPS and always on internet connection I don’t see it as an issue.

Verdict

Apples early lead in the digital assistant world has been squandered. Google’s assistant is available on the iPhone now (coming to the UK soon).

In the other corner the Amazon Echo is ahead for now in the skills stakes. But while there’s a good chance Google can catch up on this front quickly, I doubt Amazon could ever get close to Googles AI prowess.

Which makes the Googles device the little cylinder we like talking to most. Available now from currys.co.uk for around £130.

3 Comments on "Mini Review: Google Home in the UK"

  1. Interesting. I wonder if we’ll see more targeted advertising that tries to use the always listening feature. could be great, could be scary

  2. I think this is a great product, and the colour allows it to be adaptable to any home. I am concerned, however, that the poor quality broadband in homes affects sales of this sort of products, as they don’t perform to the level which is shown in adverts or on other blogs. We may have great phones and computers and wireless technology, but too many of us are unwilling to invest in truly fast connections within our homes, which leads to frustration and underperformance of these expensive gadgets.

  3. I have some Echo Dots and a Google Home and while it is true that the Google device does have better search and conversation skills at present, I find that the Google voice is way less intelligible, being faster, with less natural intonation and to my ears more distorted.
    Since the quality of spoken replies is a critical component for smart speakers to be useful, I prefer to use Amazon devices, which work well for me to control smart home functions.
    No doubt everyone will have their own personal preferences, but it is clear that all of the voice assistants will improve.

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