They both tell decent jokes, they both stream BBC4 if you ask for news, and they give recipes and random facts with ease. They can quickly tell you how to get somewhere, play you a song and will never forget your birthday. These are voice controlled smart assistants after all—and the longer you have them the better they know you.
Amazon’s Echo has been around longer and as such has some advantages, albeit not price point. The Amazon Echo costs £149.99. The Google Home will cost $129 (roughly £99) when it ships on November 4. That being said, Amazon also offers the Dot, a smaller, speaker-free version of the Echo, which costs £50. You will want Dots if you intend to build a fully voice-controlled home with a unit in every room.
Amazon Echo’s Alexa is capable of understanding simple commands, or even a series of simple commands, but they are fairly basic. And the default search engine is Bing. By contrast, Google Home has the distinct advantage of… Google! As such, it doesn't just have a wealth of information – but rather it is built right into Google's overall architecture. Tell Google Home your shopping list and “Assistant” (perhaps they should name him/her?) will be able to reproduce that in your phone later.
Google Home also boasts two-way conversation based on Google’s own natural language processing algorithm. “Assistant” is context-aware, as such conversation should be more natural and less like a stilted list of commands. The example Google used was: "What is Adele's real name," followed by, "How many Grammys has she won?" The Google Assistant is able to infer from context who "she" refers to.
Google Home is a Wi-Fi speaker that is supposed to deliver rich bass and clear highs thanks to dual side-facing passive radiators. You can either stream music directly from the cloud, or you can send music from your Android or iOS device through Google Cast. But more importantly, with Google Cast support you can use Google Home to control other connected speakers and enjoy multi-room playback. Moreover, you can control your video content. For example, if you want to watch your favourite cat video, just issue a voice command to Google Home and the content will appear on your TV.
Amazon Echo is a Bluetooth speaker, so it can play music and be controlled from any device that supports Bluetooth audio streaming. To be specific, it is a 1.0 channel speaker, meaning it is a single speaker with one tweeter and one woofer. Most reviews don’t rate sound as one of the highlights of Echo. And the Amazon Echo doesn’t currently support multiroom audio.
Both services work with Nest, Philips Hue and Samsung SmartThings. The Echo works with Hive, but the Google has IFTTT (if this, then that).
Google Home can be a control centre for your entire home. Not only will it let you do the basics like set alarms and timers and manage to-do lists and shopping lists, but it will also connect your smarthome devices and includes support for popular network systems. That means you will be able to control smart lights, switches, doors, and more.
At launch, Google Home works with Nest, SmartThings, Philips Hue, and IFTTT. Google Home also acts as a Chromecast receiver. So with only your voice, you will be able to ask it to adjust your Nest Thermostat or turn off your Philips Hue lights… or fling content via Chromecast to your TV.
The Echo can also respond to your voice commands, and control any Alexa-enabled products, such as lights, switches, thermostats, and more. Simply ask Alexa to switch on a lamp, turn on the fan, dim the lights, or increase the temperature. Some products work directly with Alexa and other smart home ecosystems require a compatible hub.
Featured brands that work with Echo include Samsung SmartThings, PhilipsHue, Wemo, Insteon, Wink, Honeywell, but there are more. Because Echo has been around for a couple years longer than Google Home, it got a head start and already has tonnes of partnerships lined up.
Our conclusion – you can’t go too wrong with either, but we will probably opt for Google Home. Despite not having a name, “Assistant” sounds more natural and warm… and she even says complementary things about Alexa.
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