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?
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.