It’s finally here, the Google Home Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo. Instead of Amazon’s “Alexa”, we have the “Google Assistant”.
I bought my Google Home as soon it was available as it was being announced.
I finally received it and had a chance to play with it for a while. Here’s my review.
Comparing Google Home to Amazon Echo
The Amazon Echo has been out for a couple years now. Amazon’s ecosystem to support Alexa has matured over time and it now supports a lot of integrations with third-party services to give Alexa new skills.
However, the Google Home, at launch, is a real contender to Alexa and there is even a lot more room for improvement as Google works on more integrations and skills.
One thing that Google has over Amazon is their technology in artificial intelligence. Google has been investing a lot of resources in the development of their neural network technology for artificial intelligence or the years and it is really starting to pay off.
I have seen many cases where the Google Home and Amazon Echo are asked the same question and Google Home gives a better answer. The reality is the Google Home has a lot more knowledge behind it since it’s coming from Google.
Let’s talk about the speaker quality of the Google Home.
This thing sounds fantastic. It’s so small yet it gives such a wide range of audio fidelity that it just fills the room and is very pleasant to listen to.
About the voice recognition, it does very well.
I have tested this out by trying to talk to it from the other room, and it usually hears me. Sometimes I have to speak up just as I would to talk to a real person in the other room, but still it’s very impressive.
Also, since I have a lot of kids, it was important to me that it can pick up my voice with a lot of background noise. Again, it does very well.
Another thing I was concerned about was if other people in my family could use it. With Microsoft’s Cortana on Windows 10 and Xbox, it was very specific to the account owner. This made my wife and kids frustrated that Cortana wouldn’t listen to them, but only to me.
Fortunately, this is one area where the Google Home shines. It’s not partial to just my voice, but it will hear anyone who talks to it. It even picks up my 5-year-old son’s voice when he says “Okay Google” or “Hey Google”. He usually wants Google to tell him a joke… which works very well (but many times are very corny).
Listening to Music
Listening to music on the Google Home is a great experience. You just asked the Google Assistant what you want to listen to and it starts playing immediately.
You can ask to play a genre, an artist, an album, or a single song. It will quickly find exactly what you’re looking for and play it.
When it’s done playing the requested music, it will even move on to other similar songs to keep the music going until you tell it to stop.
I have my Google Home configured to use Google Play Music, but you can use YouTube Music, Spotify, or Pandora. Just open the Google Home app on your phone, click the 3 dots in the corner of your Google Home, and you’ll find settings for your Google Home.
The Google Assistant’s Personality
One thing I wonder about before I received my Google Home was how different it would be from just using “Ok Google” on my Android phone. It has already been giving me facts when I asked for them and could do a decent amount of things.
However, one big difference is that you can just “talk” to the Google Assistant. You can ask how it’s doing and almost carry on a conversation. That’s new to the “Ok Google” experience.
The Google Assistant also has a fun personality sometimes. If you ask it to make you a sandwich, it will make a ding sound and say “you’re a sandwich”.
You can also play games with your Google Assistant. Ask it to play a game or tell it that you’re bored, and it will give you game options.
The trivia game is pretty fun. It will start off by asking how many people are playing and then ask for each person’s name. When you tell it your name, it will give you a new name which is always something silly.
Making Google Home Your Personal Assistant
One of my favorite features of the Google Home is the daily update.
Just say “good morning”, “good afternoon” or “good evening”, and it will greet you back with the correct reference of time of day, and then it will give you an update for the day.
It will tell you the time and date and the weather for the day. It will let you know of any calendar events you have for the day, and then it will give you your daily news feeds.
You can configure which news feeds you want to listen to in the Google Home app. You can even pick from your favorite podcasts.
Another great feature of your Google Assistant is that you can ask it to add items to your shopping list. It will add them to a shopping list in your Google Keep account.
Home Automation with Google Home
Getting a little deeper, you can use the Google Home to control your home automation or many other things online.
Google Home is integrated with the Samsung SmartThings Hub so that you can tell your Google Assistant to turn your devices on and off.
Google Home also has IFTTT (IF This Then That) integration so that you can control many of your online channels using your voice.
One thing I found handy with the IFTTT integration is that there is a Logitech Harmony Home Hub channel on IFTTT so I can tell the Google Assistant to turn on my TV and it tells IFTTT to tell my Harmony Smart Hub to activate my activity for watching TV. So, almost instantly, my TV, AV receiver, home theater PC, and LED lights all turned on. I’ll probably have another tutorial on that later.
When the Google Home launched, the Amazon Echo was $180 while the new Google Home was $130.
As of writing this, those prices haven’t changed. This difference was enough for me to sprint for the Google Home. You get a real contender to the Echo with the potential to be so much better, all for $50 less. Plus, if you have a lot of stuff in Google’s ecosystem, it makes sense to get the Google Home.
I was wanting to have a smart personal assistant speaker like this for a while.
I’ve been keeping an eye on the Amazon Echo, but I’ve been holding off on it due to its high price tag coupled with my hesitancy to wait for Google to come out with a competitor.
When it was announced and sounded like everything I was expecting, and for $50 less than the Echo, my decision to buy it was an easy one.
After using the Google home for a couple weeks now, I’m still very glad I bought it.
What do you think about the Google Home? Let me know in the comments below.