Google Home vs. Amazon Echo: Which One Should Rule Your Smart Home?

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Google Home is the latest smart home device and Bluetooth speaker to feature a personal digital assistant. Basically, it's the company's answer to Amazon Echo. Both devices listen to your every demand—whether that's to turn off lights, order a cab, check the weather, or play music.

But Google Home has the company's search engine (i.e., the entire Internet) at its beck and call, and it knows everything about you, thanks to Gmail, Calendar, and various other services. So, merely saying "Good morning" to it results in a summary of your digital life.

But how does it stack up against Amazon Echo and Alexa? Let's compare. For the sake of this article, we'll stick to the original Amazon Echo, rather than the Echo Dot or Tap.

Design

The Google Home measures 5.62 inches tall and 3.79 inches around, so it's shorter and rounder. It weighs 1.05 pounds, and it comes in white, with swappable bases available in several colors and materials, including carbon, copper, snow, mango, marine, violet, and slate.

Google Home

By comparison, the original Amazon Echo is a cylinder speaker that measures 9.25 inches tall and 3.27 inches around and weighs 2.34 pounds. It's a bit tall for shelves but otherwise unobtrusive. It comes in black or white.

Google Home's aesthetic is inspired by candles and wine glasses, with a top half made of smooth, hard plastic that lights up with LEDs in four colors when it's listening. It also has a touch interface you can use to play and pause music, change volume, and activate the Google Assistant. On the back you'll see a physical Mute button. Google didn't give specifics about the Home's speakers except to say they are "high-excursion."

The lower half of the Echo is covered in tiny perforations for the speaker grille, while the top half has a volume ring that lights up whenever Amazon's voice assistant, Alexa, is activated. You'll also find two buttons: one that turns the microphone off, and a multipurpose Action button. The Echo has a seven-microphone array.

The Amazon Echo and Google Home use voice activation to control music playback, searches, and integrated smart home devices. To activate Google Home, say "OK, Google" or "Hey, Google." For Amazon, it's "Hey, Alexa" or simply "Alexa" or "Amazon."

Google Home's version of Alexa is Google Assistant, which we first saw in Google Allo, a messaging app. It taps into Google's 17-year-old search history, so you can ask very specific questions like "What is 13 percent of 72?" or "Who is Reb Brown?" By comparison, Amazon's Alexa would be confused, unless you ask for the definition of a word or term; then it taps into Wikipedia.

Google Home is also more conversational, and knowledgeable about your life than Amazon's Alexa. For example, you can ask follow-up questions like "What movies has he been in?" and Google Home will understand you're still asking about actor Reb Brown. Since Google can pull information from various Google accounts and apps, Google Assistant can tell you what's on your calendar for the day and how long your commute will take. Google Home can play music from, well, Google Play Music, Pandora, Spotify, iHeart Radio, and YouTube Music. Home can also share information with other Android devices, such as smartphones, and work with other Google products like Chromecast, something the Amazon Alexa can't do.

Meanwhile, Alexa makes it easy to play music playlists from your Amazon Prime account, as well as Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, and iHeart Radio. You can also find out the weather forecast and set alerts and timers. You manage settings through the Alexa app on your phone, where you can activate more than 3,000 Skills, which are third-party services such as Philips Hue or Uber. So, you can order or cab or a pizza, or ask PCMag for our top product picks.

Amazon Echo can also act as a platform for controlling many smart home devices with your voice, including lights from Philips Hue, door locks from Schlage, or thermostats from Nest. Echo also works with products from Honeywell, Wemo, and Wink.

Google Home has similar smart home functionality, but there's less product integration, at least at the start. At launch, Home will work with Philips Hue, Nest, SmartThings, and If This Then That (IFTTT). It can also talk to Chromecast and Google-powered speakers and TVs.

As for multi-room use, Google says the Home will work with multiple speakers, so you can play the same audio in different rooms. If you have more than one Home in close proximity, the closest Home will listen and respond. The Amazon Echo has trouble with this; if you have multiple Echo devices bunched together, they'll all respond at the same time.

Google Home costs $129, while the original Amazon Echo is more expensive, at $179.99. However, the Echo Dot only costs $50, and the Amazon Tap, a portable Bluetooth speaker, is $100.

Google Home offers some compelling features, especially the conversational Google Assistant, and Nest and IFTTT integration out of the gate. But the Amazon Echo has been out for a while, and already works with many more products and services. As for audio quality and whether or not the Assistant is actually helpful, stay tuned to PCMag for a full review of the Google Home when it hits stores on Nov. 4.

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