In this series of reviews, we have reviewed some of the best smart hub controllers market today. Although they vary in functionality and features, there is no doubt that currently, the Amazon Echo is the undisputed king for smart home voice control.
Now, a few months back in late 2016, Google finally launched their contending product to the Amazon Echo, dubbed the Google Home. Anyone with decent Android phones nowadays should know how Google Now, Google’s voice assistant has improved, and with the integration of Google’s powerful infrastructures and apps (Gmail, Calendar, Google Classroom, YouTube, Maps, etc.), arguably Google Now has overtaken Siri as the new king of smartphone voice assistant.
Google Home is an attempt to bring the Google Now to your house, and of course, the main advantage of the Google Home over Amazon Echo and other competing products is the native access to Google’s powerful search engine, allowing the Google Home to understood you better via your web history, Gmail metadata, GPS records, and your overall online behavior.
Google Now‘s main advantage over other voice assistants is its proactive behavior. For example, it can recognize that you frequently browsed and searched about the Falcons or Lakers. Hence, when their games are playing, it will suddenly show you the curent scores and remind you to watch their game. It can also tell you the weather, traffic, and updates about your favorite TV shows. In a sense, it truly acts like a personal assistant, instead of only answering your questions.
Now, imagine that powerful, proactive assistant powering your home, and controlling your smart home system. With that feature alone, the Google Home can yet be the strongest contender for the Amazon Echo as the home voice assistant king. However, a home voice assistant is not only about feeding you information, but also saving energy by automation, managing your home security, and a lot more.
How then, will the Google Home compare to Amazon Echo, or other smart home control products like Samsung SmartThings or Wink Hub? Let us find out together. First, let’s discuss it’s key features.
The Google Infrastructure
With the native integration to Google’s search engine, Gmail metadata, your Google Maps behavior, and many more, you can expect that the Google Home can provide you with better answers compared to other voice assistants. Not only it will answer your questions, it can even give proactive suggestions, telling you the weather and the traffic on your way to work, and many more.
Smart Home Control
The Google Home comes with an IFTTT support and is currently able to control and automate your thermostat, smart lighting, and smart switches. For now, the Google Home supports smart products from Wemo, Samsung SmartThings, Nest, Philips Hue, and Honeywell. Knowing Google, expect the list of supported products to grow in the months and years to come.
One thing that might distinguish the Google Home from its competitors is its ability to entertain you. For example, you can ask for YouTube recommendations to be played on your living room TV, as well as having more intelligent conversations with you compared to the Amazon Alexa (more on this later).
First things first you will notice about the Google Home is its design, it features a two-tone design similar to the one Google Used on their new Pixel Phone. While the Pixel Phone design received mixed reactions, we felt that they applied it just right to the Google Home. You might notice that the design of the Google home seems similar to a canister of air fresheners, giving it a friendly and fun feel. Who says that a smart product should be futuristic and robotic?
Setting up a Google Home is very simple, which can be expected from Google’s products. First, as usual, you will need to download a Google Home app on your smartphone or tablet. Once you plug the Google Home to your power outlet. After you synced the Google Home to the app, it will provide you with a step-by-step instruction to add your devices.
Overall, we feel that the setup and device integration process on the Google Home is among the best and friendliest among other competitors. However, the number of products supported now are still fairly limited, so it will be hard to judge based on current situations.
There will be two different aspects that will need to be reviewed in the Google Home’s case: its ability as an assistant, and its ability as a smart home controller. First, let’s discuss how it fares as a smart home controller.
As mentioned, Google Home only has a quite limited number of supported products right now: Nest, Philips Hue, and SmartThings, although it can trigger IFTTT recipes. However, what’s really amazing is Google Home’s ability to distinguish your voice commands seamlessly, giving you up to three different phrase options to control any activities and devices. For its voice command feature alone, it is better than Amazon Echo, and we can expect it to continue to grow with more product supports and integrations in the future.
As an entertainment and personal assistant, it also performs great. As mentioned, you can command any specific TV to play YouTube videos or a specific speaker to stream music. Unfortunately, the video platform supported today is only limited to YouTube, but Google promised a Netflix integration pretty soon.
Unfortunately, there are some of Google’s staple features that haven’t been supported, such as adding entries to your Google Cal, giving you directions, and even set reminders. We can, however, expect these things to be added in the future, considering the Google Home is fairly new.
Now to answer the big question, is it successful in dethroning Amazon Echo? For us, the answer is not yet. The limited supported products cannot compare with Amazon’s more than 3000 Skills at the moment.
However, the product itself, and Google’s infrastructure can turn things around as it continues to evolve in the future. Considering the Google Home is also priced cheaper than the Amazon Echo (standard version), we feel that it will be a worthy investment for the future.
- Excellent voice command recognition can recognize multiple continuous phrases related to the same subject
- Google’s powerful infrastructure
- Great design and very well-made
- Affordability, cheaper than the Amazon Echo
- Limited third-party integration for now
- Limited support for Google’s own apps, can’t directly replace your phone’s Google app as of now
You Should Get This If
If you believed in Google’s future-proof strategies and development, you can bet that the Google Home will continue to improve in the future. The existing product itself is a great value for now.
Let’s end our Google Home review with a verdict:
Being a fairly new product, the third-party support is still lacking at the moment. However, Google Home is by itself a very excellent product, and we can expect continuous improvement by Google in the future. Being cheaper than the Amazon Echo, it will be a valuable, future-proof investment with an amazing potential.