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Amazon Echo v Google Home: Battle of the smart speakers

There’s no time like the present to try out a smart speaker. Amazon was the first to successfully launch with the Echo, which was such a hit that a wireless Echo and the smaller Echo Dot soon joined the family. But the recent release of Google Home is making it tough to decide between the veteran smart speaker or the newbie with its fresh Google Assistant tricks.

Granted neither are perfect devices, but they sure make listening to music, controlling smart home tech and showing off at parties a lot more fun. So which should you get, Amazon Echo or Google Home? Read on to find out.

Amazon Echo v Google Home: Design

Amazon Echo v Google Home: Battle of the smart speakers

Echo’s seven directional far field microphones live inside a tall, cylindrical speaker that looks similar to other table top speakers. There are a few buttons – one for muting and the other to manually activate Alexa. You can also turn the top of the device to control the volume.

Read next: Amazon Echo tips and tricks

Google Home’s design is also sparse with only one mute button that sits on the back. However, Home is white with interchangeable bases that bring a much needed spark of colour. Home is also smaller than Echo and pear-shaped with a slight slant on top that’s touch capacitative for volume control. There’s are fewer far field microphones in Home – only two to be exact. However Google says they’re still capable of hearing you from across the room.

While some may like the larger look of Amazon Echo, Google Home wins the most style points here. It simply can blend in with the rest of your living room, kitchen or bedroom better, thanks to its squat frame and colourful customisation.

Amazon Echo v Google Home: Performance

Amazon’s only just released Echo in the UK, but for a while it wasn’t doing well at picking up on non-American accents. It seems to be much better now and is able to understand a wider range of voices.

Google Home hasn’t had many issues understanding us and seems slightly better at it overall. This might be down to its ability to have contextual conversations and the need for Home to pick up on more nuances. We’ll touch on this more in the features section.

In terms of speaker performance for music, both Echo and Home are able to blast a hearty dose of sound to fill the room. You’ll get decent range with the speakers and little to no distortion on the highest volume. But neither are capable of replacing expensive sound systems, simply because they’re much smaller.

Amazon Echo v Google Home: Features

Amazon Echo v Google Home: Battle of the smart speakers

At the moment there are tons of skills you can download for Amazon Echo with more being added almost daily. You can find workout skills, games, trivia, news, Uber, Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify and lots more. You can even ask Alexa to control your synced up smart home devices like Nest and August Smart Lock. Sonos and certain GE appliances (think fridges and washing machines) can also be controlled with your voice.

On the whole, Alexa can’t do much when it comes to other languages. Google Assistant is able to say various phrases in different languages back to you, while Alexa tells you to open the Echo app on your phone. And like in the Home commercials, Google Assistant can play a variety of animal sounds if you ask. There’s a lot of random noises it offers, and it can differentiate between what a lion, leopard and cat sounds like, but not every request can be played back.

Right now, Home can also use Chromecast Audio-connected speakers or several Home units to play music simultaneously. You can also voice-cast content to any TV that has Chromecast plugged or built in. During our time with it, Google Home quickly played YouTube videos through voice casting without getting confused.

Aside from YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music and TuneIn are the other platforms you can use to find music.

Amazon Echo v Google Home: Battle of the smart speakers

You can also have contextual conversations with Google Home. This means you can keep asking the Assistant questions about one subject and it will keep track of what you’re talking about. The example we used in our review was about the first president of the United States – the Assistant was able to answer our initial question “Okay Google who was the first president?” then questions about his age, birthday, middle name, holidays and so forth were also answered without needing to say “George Washington” each time. The only hindrance was that the wake words – either “Okay Google” or “Hey Google” were required each time.

For the most part, the general features like music playback/control, news, weather, party tricks and calendar syncing are all available on both devices.

Amazon Echo v Google Home: Price

At $179 Amazon Echo is pricier than Google Home’s $129.

The Echo is larger and packs a few more mics inside, however you can also opt for the Echo Dot which is much cheaper at $50 and can do basically everything the larger smart speaker can.

Amazon Echo v Google Home: Final verdict

Amazon Echo v Google Home: Battle of the smart speakers

There’s no denying that Alexa can do a smidgen more than Google Assistant. Alexa simply has a larger library of skills you can skim through to use – but honestly, it won’t be long before Home has new abilities too.

When that happens the scales will shift, and it’s very possible that Google Home will dethrone Echo, thanks to its voice casting abilities. The little air freshener lookalike is also more visually striking and customisable, plus it boasts a larger musical library with might of YouTube onboard.

Essentially, Google Home is where Echo was when Amazon hadn’t released its SDK to developers yet. So what you get is a speaker missing a few smarts. Regardless, it’s still enough to hold you over as Google works on making your Assistant better.

Until then Amazon’s Echo, and its Echo family members, can sit comfortably as the smartest speaker you can get right now.

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