If you’re new to smart home technology, you might be wondering which digital assistant and ecosystem you should go for. Google vs Amazon, which one is the best for you.
You’re in the right place as today we’ll be exploring Google Assistant and Alexa head to head.
Specifically, we’ll be focusing on Google and Amazon’s proprietary devices, Google Home and Echo. In the interest of fairness, we’ll also be including the Google Nest smart displays. While not strictly speaking Google Home devices, they are powered by Google Assistant.
Before we get started, we’d like to point out there’s no right or wrong answer here. When you’re building a connected home, only one thing counts: what’s right for you.
We’ll be examining these smart speakers and smart displays across the following metrics:
- Digital Assistants
- Smart Home Compatibility
With such an array of models, it’s easiest to summarize and say there’s an Echo or Google Home device to suit all budgets.
If you want something cheap and ultra-compact like Echo Dot or Google Home Mini, you’re looking at less than fifty bucks. In return for this, you’re getting all the smarts of either digital assistant at an almost throwaway price-point.
If you’re operating to a very specific budget, you have more choice with the Amazon line.
Now we’ve touched on how much these Amazon and Google devices will run you, how do they fare on the looks front?
We should preface what follows by saying none of these smart devices are much to look at. In many ways, consumers prefer tech like this to blend in rather than stand out. Both Google and Amazon succeed to various degrees on this front.
The original Google Home smart speaker is quite bulky and looks more like a mini dehumidifier or diffuser than audio equipment. Cylindrical, it stands 5.5 inches tall and measures 3.8 inches across.
You can opt for bases that change the uninspiring gray to copper, carbon, or pink.
Google Home Mini is a fabric-covered puck small enough to fit anywhere.
The range-topping Google Home Max comes with the same fabric speaker cover. Dimensions are 13.2 x 7.4 x 6 inches so this is a much beefier unit.
Google Nest smart displays have the edge over Echo Shows when it comes to appearance. They look sleeker and less clunky.
Amazon has gently tweaked the Echo range over the generations. Echo Dot looks broadly similar to Google Home Mini. The regular Echo and Echo Plus are marginally smaller and neater looking than the Google opposition.
While highly effective, the aesthetics of the trio of Echo Show smart displays are underwhelming.
It goes unsaid that design is subjective. Also, much like price, you’re highly unlikely to base your buying decision on either of these factors alone.
With that groundwork laid, how about the main event?
How do the respective digital assistants perform?
We’ll look at each of the AI-fueled virtual butlers so you can see which makes the best fit.
Spoiler: Both Alexa and Google Assistant are fairly equal across the board.
Whether you choose a Google Home smart speaker or one of the rebranded Google Nest Hubs, you’ll benefit from the many powers of Google Assistant.
Google Assistant comes with both male and female voices. Assistant is also multilingual and you can even break out interpreter mode when required. Do this and you’ve got a live interpreting tool.
You get a single wake phrase, “Hey, Google” and that’s all you need to fire up your AI butler.
To generalize, Google Assistant is easier to use than Alexa if you’re a complete beginner. You’ll likely run into less frustrating roadblocks and the overall experience is more fluid.
If you bark out a series of words, you’ll get more sense from Google Assistant than Alexa. With Alexa, the power comes in mastering the many exact phrases that yield better dividends.
Google Assistant is more adept handling general web-based queries.
Search is more robust with Google Assistant which comes as no surprise given Google’s core competency. Alexa tends to borrow heavily from Wikipedia which is less than ideal. Google Assistant’s search powers are more precise and also more wide-ranging.
With Google Assistant, your virtual helper is more conversational than Alexa.
If you’re stuck for inspiration when you’re starting out, here are 10 cool things about Google Assistant.
The inimitable Alexa is super-smart and the most popular digital assistant by some distance.
You can tweak Alexa’s accent and also change language.
All you need to do is say, “Hey, Alexa” to wake your Echo device followed by the specific command you’d like actioned.
Alexa is predictably far stronger than Google Assistant for shopping-related queries.
In general, Alexa relies on precise word sequences and offers less free-form interaction than Google Assistant.
Overall, you’ll get a free and easy experience with Alexa whatever Echo devices you have in the house. As with Google Assistant, where these AI-powered virtual butlers come to the fore is for smart home control so we’ll double down on that next…
Smart Home Compatibility
As long as you have an Echo Device, Google Home smart speaker, or Google Nest Hub, you can enjoy hands-free control of all compatible tech in your home.
For most consumers, this is the primary reason for buying these devices in the first place.
How does each fare, then?
Google state that Google Assistant works with over 30,000 smart devices. This interoperability extends across over 200 brands.
You can check out a list of compatible devices right here.
As with all digital assistants, once your devices are set up and paired, you’ll be able to take the helm with nothing but a “Hey, Google…”
According to Amazon, more than 100,000 smart home devices can be controlled with Alexa.
On this front, you have much more choice. Amazon makes things simple for developers and you, the consumer, directly benefit.
Here’s a list of compatible devices.
Just like with Google Assistant, Alexa allows you to take full charge of your smart devices hands-free and does a fine job of streamlining things.
While you might technically have more choice with Alexa, you can control so many devices with Google Assistant that compatibility really isn’t a meaningful issue.
How about when it’s time to get the music thumping, though?
Music is not the primary use case for most smart speakers. The vast bulk of customers in this vertical are looking for hands-free smart home control.
With that being said, it’s perhaps not surprising that smart speakers have historically underperformed on the audio front.
How do they each stand up with your favorite tunes, then?
As you’d expect, Google Home Mini doesn’t deliver a particularly powerful soundscape.
Step things up to the regular Google Home and things get a little more vigorous. A 2-inch driver and a pair of 2-inch passive radiators serve up an acceptable level of volume and sound quality for your favorite playlist.
If you’ve got deep pockets, Google Home Max is one of the few smart speakers that truly comes through audio-wise. You get a pair of woofers to supplement two custom tweeters resulting in a powerful and pulsing sound.
How about the opposition?
Amazon launched Echo Studio in late 2019 in an attempt to gain some ground on Google and Apple. Google Home Max and HomePod both left any smart speaker Amazon had to offer trailing far behind. With 5 speakers packed into the upscale Echo, you can finally listen to music as it was intended using an Alexa device.
That said, Echo Plus sounds serviceable with immersive audio.
As you’d expect, the smaller Echo devices are something of a letdown when it’s time to crank up the tunes.
Despite generally disappointing audio, smart speakers are still flying off the shelves so how do the big two perform model for model?
To round out, we’ll highlight the best of each ecosystem so you can see which smart speaker or smart display makes the neatest fit for you.
Since we regularly give all these smart speakers and smart displays so much coverage, we’ll finish up with a very brief summary of each rather than rehashing the same old smarts model by model.
Bottom line, there’s a Google Assistant or Echo device for everyone in 2020. All that counts is getting the most appropriate model for your needs.
We’ll kick off with the slimmer Google line-up…
The classic Google Home is reasonably compact and priced in line with the original Echo device. For an affordable and powerful way to bring Google Assistant and hands-free control into your connected home, roll with Google Home.
Priced in an almost throwaway bracket, the disc-like Google Home Mini affords you voice control of compatible smart devices in a tiny form factor. If your priority is hands-free control rather than music, Google Home Mini is a wise bet.
For anyone who places a premium on sound, Google Home Max packs a dramatic punch. This range-topping speaker is heavy and bulky but returns an exceptional soundscape to rival HomePod.
Marketed as a digital art display, the all-new Google Nest Hub competes head-to-head with Echo Show 8. With similar screen real estate and broadly comparable functionality, Chromecast comes baked in to further enhance your entertainment.
With a 10-inch screen just like the original Echo Show, Google Nest Hub Max is a superb tool for video calling while also allowing you to stream your favorite videos on a worthwhile display. Audio is superior and pricing roughly in line with Echo Show.
How about the broader and deeper Amazon bench, then?
The original Echo has come a long way since Alexa sprung into being in late 2014. Now into its second generation, this modern classic has been slightly tweaked on the design front while also benefiting from superior audio. Echo is still worth a look in 2020 but there are better options at your disposal including Echo Plus…
The key selling point of the pricier Plus is the Zigbee radio onboard. This makes your smart speaker into a de facto gateway and you can potentially avoid the need for a third-party hub. Audio is more than fit for purpose and you won’t need to dig too much deeper for Echo Plus, one of our favorites in the entire Echo range.
Ideal for use in crowded rooms, the minuscule Echo Dot also comes in a sturdy kids’ edition. If you’re looking to get started with voice control of smart devices on a budget, Echo Dot is a must.
The smallest smart display with a dinky 2.5-inch screen, Echo Spot adds a visual edge to search while Alexa still serves you up with hands-free control of your smart home.
If you have awkward spaces like stairways and hallways where you’d like access to your virtual butler, plug in the cheap-and-cheerful Echo Flex to make that happen. You can also maximize use of power outlets thanks to the USB port. Other devices can slide in, too. We’re looking forward to seeing what else Amazon brings to market beyond the night light and motion sensor. We are now close to Bezos’s desire of having Alexa everywhere.
The first smart display and still enduringly popular, the 10-inch Echo Show brings video to the entertainment mix. As with all these vehicles for Alexa, you’ll also benefit from the ability to ditch the controller or app and control your connected home hands-free.
The bedroom-sized Echo Show 5 comes with a screen half the dimensions so you can slip this dinky unit on your dresser and enjoy an Alexa command center to hand the moment you wake up. Get your days started the smart way.
Echo Show 8 comes in between its two brothers size-wise and gives you the same sized screen as you’ll find on Google Nest Hub. Ideal for the kitchen or the living room, Echo Show 8 is a welcome addition to the line.
By now, you should have a sound idea of which ecosystem makes the best fit for your needs. To underscore what we’ve mentioned several times, don’t look for a boilerplate solution here. What works for your friend or neighbor might not be ideal for you. Personalize your decision, firm up your budget, and buying the best Echo, Echo Show, Google Home or Google Nest device should be child’s play.
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