Google Home is Google’s response to Amazon Echo, released in November 2016. It has seen its fair share of updates since then, and some claim it has exceeded by far or at least matched the capabilities of its main competitor.
There are also people who claim Home no longer has a place on the market since the release of its big brother, Home Max, and of its little brother, Home Mini. The former offers power and sound quality, the latter offers compactness and portability.
For all those who want better sound quality and more volume than the Mini can offer, and more portability and a lower price than available with Home Max, Google Home could be the perfect solution. Keep reading to find out more about it and what it has to offer!
About Google Home
An excellent solution for casual listening, this device is available for sale directly from Google and through major retailers in several countries worldwide. Its price ranges between $99 and $130, being comparable to that of Amazon Echo.
The package contains, besides the device itself, a power cable and a quick start guide. In order to work, the Home will need access to a Wi-Fi network and pairing with a compatible, Wi-Fi-enabled device.
Google Home setup is quite straightforward, involving only 3 easy steps:
- Plugging the power cord into the device
- Plugging the power adapter into a power supply
- Downloading and running the Google Home app on a mobile device
The Home app works on both Android and iOS devices and integrates the device with Google Assistant. Embedded for the first time in Google’s Pixel phones, the virtual assistant uses Google’s services to provide personalized responses to voice commands.
Several language options are available, and Google ads new ones to the list regularly, so there should not be any issues regarding the device’s setup, settings, or use. Moreover, the Home has a modern, friendly device that makes it look good anywhere, from the various rooms of a house to an office or even a commercial space.
Its design reminds of Glade air freshener canisters and their slick, elegant look. The white body rests on a grey base, but further color options are available at an extra cost: purple, teal, orange, and metallic tones of black, white, and copper.
Google Home’s top is angled and sensitive to touch. It spreads multi-colored light dots when you activate the Assistant. To activate it, you can use voice, saying “Hey, Google” or “OK, Google”, or you can touch its surface. A touch on the surface also lets you adjust the volume, play or pause music, or turn off an alarm or timer.
A microphone button located in the back of the device lets you turn it off to prevent it from listening. At the interior, Home has only two far-field microphones, compared to Echo, which has seven. However, the number does not seem to matter, since testing shows it responds well to commands launched from a distance. When several devices are spread around a room, only the nearest one will respond.
What Can Google Home Do for You?
The functions of this device are numerous, and they enrich and improve with every new update.
Here are some common tasks it can perform upon request:
- Play music and the news
- Add new items to your shopping list
- Mark new events on your calendar and announce incoming ones
- Set and snooze alarms
- Set timers
- Review and share the weather forecast
- Analyze traffic and help you prepare for commuting to work
- Answer questions based on Google search results
- Perform calculations
- Make phone calls
- Give you a brief daily report of the weather, traffic, news, and more.
User Experience, Home Control, and Entertainment Potential
Calling Google to get it to work doesn’t feel as personal as calling Alexa. It would probably be more fun if the software acknowledged nicknames like Noodle, Doodle, or Poodle, but it doesn’t. As for the questions it can answer, they range from general, practical questions, like “what will the weather be like today”, to “will I need a coat today?”.
The virtual assistant processes questions quite well and does a great job selecting appropriate answers in most situations. It seems to outsmart Alexa when it comes to informal questions, understanding them better and providing more adequate answers.
When Google Home was first launched, it supported only one user account, meaning that it used to call all users by the same name. Now it supports up to six accounts and uses Voice Match to recognize users and access their information and settings. Thus, you can be sure that, if you ask Google to add an item to your shopping list, the item will indeed appear on your list and not on the list of another user.
You can now choose from six different voice options, including a male voice that Alexa cannot offer. John Legend’s voice should be part of the package anytime now. While the company still relies on actor voices, it uses advanced artificial intelligence to build on those voices and make Google Assistant sound more natural, more human.
Leaving the virtual assistant function aside, Google Home is pretty impressive as a home control unit too. At launching, it was only able to control SmartThings devices, Philips Hue bulbs, and Nest. The updates it received in the meantime have been very helpful, as it now supports over 5,000 devices, including August smart locks, GE washing machines, and Neato Botvac robot vacuums. The Routines feature allows the Assistant to perform several tasks following a single command.
In terms of entertainment, Google Home works with Chromecast to stream videos and photos to the TV screen, and with Google Play to stream movies. When it comes to TV series, you can ask it to play your favorite episode, the previous, or the next one, but it will not be able to identify and stream specific episodes upon request.
It also supports YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, and iHeartRadio. If you don’t want to specify the app to use every time, Home lets you select one as default. In terms of sound quality, the home will not disappoint you. Depending on the type of content you listen to, you may occasionally feel it is trying too hard and overdoes it with the bass. It also begins to distort sound when turned too loud, being slightly inferior to Amazon Echo and Echo Tap from this point of view.
However, it serves its purpose quite well. It does a great job as a hands-free device as well, allowing you to make phone calls to any U.S. number except 911. Just be careful to update your contacts and delete multiple entries for the same person, as it may need additional clarification when you ask it to make a call.
There are many other things Google Home can do for you, and their number increases by the day, as the device gains new skills and its maker releases new updates. A brief review of its main features may help bring some light onto its capabilities.
Main Features Overview
- The device measures 3.79 inches in diameter and 5.62 inches in height. It weighs 1.05 lbs. Its power cable is 9 ft long and the power adapter weighs 4.58 oz.
- Its body is white and its base is made of slate fabric. Additional fabric and metal base options are available as accessories: mango, coral, marine, and violet for fabric and carbon and copper for metal.
- It supports several audio formats: LC-AAC, HE-AAC, MP3, WAV (LPCM), Vorbis, Opus, and FLAC, including 24-bit/96KHz high-resolution streams.
- When relying on a wireless connection of 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz or 5 GHz), it ensures high-performance streaming.
- Its dual 2’’ passive radiators and 2’’ driver make it a reliable high-excursion speaker.
- It uses far-field voice recognition software to differentiate between users and provide the best experience including for hands-free calls.
- Powering it requires a 16.5V, 2A source and a DC power jack (provided)
- The oldest operating systems it supports are Android 4.4 and iOS 9.1.
- Overall, the package contains the device, its power supply, and a quick start guide.
- The Home allows pairing with over 500 Wi-Fi enabled devices.
Google Home Pricing and Warranty
The list price of the device is of $129. At the time of this review, its price had been reduced to $99. There were no discounts available for ordering multiple devices at the same time. Shipping is free. The manufacturer offers a one-year limited warranty.
To benefit from this warranty, we recommend buying the device directly from Google or its authorized retailers and keeping all proofs of the acquisition. Judging by the buyers’ feedback available so far, there should be no need to use the warranty, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
Google Home Strengths and Weaknesses
We love the Home’s attractive design and its ability to match any interior décor. We appreciate its portability and ease of installation and use. Google Assistant is one of its most important strengths and has pretty impressive capabilities.
It will surprise you with its ingenious answers to almost any question, no matter how tricky, and with its ability to recognize users by voice and personalize its answers according to each user’s profile. Whether you want to adjust the lighting, open a lock, or make a hands-free call, Google Home will not disappoint you.
You may be somewhat disappointed if you expect impeccable sound and complex functions, like taking notes, recording voice memos, or cracking packages. However, Google seems to work hard on eliminating all flaws and improving their product, so it shouldn’t be long until you get to enjoy such capabilities as well.
The Bottom Line about Google Home
No one can tell you what to spend your money on. However, if you want a taste of what virtual assistants can do, if you don’t mind “Google” as a name, and if you can live with good but not excellent sound quality, the Home could be just what you’re looking for.
Its price is now comparable to that of Amazon’s Echo, its Assistant is even more human and capable than Alexa, and its design is clean and friendly. The best part is that the device gets better and gains more functions by the day. The least you can do is to give it a chance.
If you decide to try Google Home, don’t hesitate to share your opinion on it in a comment below. We would love to find out if you think the device is worth its price and if it lived up to your expectations. Let’s help one another make safer and more worthwhile acquisitions!