Google Home or Amazon Echo, which is the best smart home assistant for you here in the UK? We’ve fully compared these two smart speakers to see which has the best features and integrates more easily into your voice-controlled home.
Forget fiddling around with remote controls. The future is all about commanding your smart home goodies with your voice. So luckily Google Home and Amazon Echo have finally landed here in the UK, to lead us into the sci-fi lifestyle we’ve always dreamed about.
Amazon was first to introduce the voice controlled home hub to the UK, in its smart connected Echo and Echo Dot speakers. The Echo has become incredibly popular in a very short time and now works with plenty of other devices, allowing users to show off in front of house guests by telling Amazon’s speaker to turn up the heating, play a song and plenty more.
Google wasn’t going to sit on the fence of course and has since launched its own version of the Echo, simply called Home.
So has Google’s mind-boggling amount of voice recognition data, compiled from its popular search engine, got more to offer than Amazon? Or is the Echo off to a winning head start? Here’s everything you need to know about the differences between Google Home and Amazon Echo.
Google Home vs Amazon Echo: Built to hear and be heard
Both Google Home and Amazon Echo are, at their most basic, speaker systems which can be plugged in at home to play music. Where they get a great deal more complicated is the built-in microphones – yes, that’s plural. Both speakers offer “far-field voice recognition” to recognise vocal controls from anywhere in the room that they’re situated. That means you get total hands-free control from a distance away.
Amazon’s Echo has a seven microphone array that can listen in 360-degrees, allowing anyone to talk to it from anywhere in the room. Even loud music doesn’t put the Echo off its stride, so you won’t need to faff around turning your tunes down before issuing commands. That down-firing speaker confirguration offers 360-degree audio with “dynamic bass response and fine-tuned crisp vocals”.
By comparison, Google has only equipped its Home with two microphones, for stereo pick-up. Despite that cut in the number of mics, the Google Home does actually offer comparable performance to the Echo with regards to accuracy.
The Home uses a single “high-excursion speaker”, which Google says offers “crystal-clear highs and rich bass.” A claim that we don’t dispute, even if Amazon’s larger Echo pushes out better sound overall.
On the design front, Home also offers various bases that can be swapped out depending on your mood and the company you keep, with six different colour options in all. Meanwhile the Echo only comes in black or white.
Read next: Amazon Echo tips and tricks
Google Home vs Amazon Echo: Smart assistants
Both speakers sport their own built-in assistant, which is the smarts behind the operation. Amazon has Alexa while Google uses its own Google Assistant, and both are on hand to obey your every command.
Alexa can be summoned to attention by saying its name, followed by a question or command. You’ll then get a verbal response – either to confirm an action before carrying it out, to ask for more details or to say it can’t help.
Natural language commands like “Alexa, quieter” or “turn the music down” and the like will work, so it’s smart enough to allow you to speak normally. You won’t have to memorise lots of specific phrasing. But Alexa is still lacking when it comes to quick information. For while it can help in the kitchen to convert things like grams to millilitres hands-free, other information from the web is less accessible. That said, Alexa is tapped into a limited selection of news streamers, weather reports, sports, commute times and more. That’s where apps come into play – more on that below.
The Google Assistant uses the company’s rather popular search database to offer similar information to Alexa on things like news, weather, commute times, sports and more. However, the Assistant can also draw upon an extra layer of data because, well, it’s a Google powered device.
We imagine that in the long run, Google will be able to offer some pretty in-depth services all custom tailored to your exact needs. Whereas Alexa is more app reliant, so will no doubt require more input from yourself.
Google Home vs Amazon Echo: Chatty apps
When it comes to apps, dubbed Skills by Amazon, Alexa has a head-start on Google with over 7,000 on offer at time of publishing.
Already available for the Echo are things like National Rail, so you can check trains just by asking. Jamie Oliver so you can ask for a recipe to go with whatever you have left in the fridge, and Meow that lets you meow to hear a cat meow back – really useful stuff at a dinner party. Then, of course, there are apps like TuneIn Radio and Spotify for playback of any music you ask for. You can even order a Domino’s pizza or Uber with your voice alone, using good ol’ Alexa.
Google doesn’t have as much on offer just yet but uses your data, if you permit it access, to tell you your day ahead. For example, it can tell you the time and weather where you are with a mention of a meeting you have lined up. It’ll even offer an instant translation of other languages – although at home we’d imagine this is a pretty specific need that’s not used much outside of homework time.
By using If This Then That (IFTTT), multiple actions can be strung together so when you tell Alexa or Home to turn off the lights it could also stop music players, shut down heating and secure smart locks in one command. This is very exciting for simplified future home automation.
Google Home vs Amazon Echo: Smart home voice control
One of the more exciting ways these devices show us a potentially voice-controlled future is in their ability to connect to smarthome devices.
Both the Echo and Home connect to your home WiFi network to control other devices like Nest, for example. That means you can say: “Alexa [or OK, Google], set downstairs to eighteen degrees,” to have the heating kick-in via your Nest thermostat.
This also works with smart lights like Philips Hue, allowing you to tell the smart assistant to dim the lights without touching a switch. Asking for a Barry White song and manually opening a bottle of wine is all it takes to turn yourself into a Lothario of the future.
The exciting part here is that smarthome gadget companies will all be eager to get onboard with these big manufacturers. So expect lots more areas of your home to be controlled by voice alone in the near future.
Google Home vs Amazon Echo: Multi-room smarts
It’s all well and good using your voice to control your home when you’re busy in the kitchen with your Amazon or Google connected speaker. But once you go to another room, it’s time to get your digits back to work controlling everything by hand – how old fashioned. Both Amazon and Google offer a solution to this problem, but it’s sadly not cheap.
Amazon offers its Echo Dot device, which is a mini version of the Alexa speaker and microphone array that can be placed in another room. Pop one in every room and you have voice control of your smarthome wherever you are. Of course at £50 each that’s a luxury plenty can’t afford.
Google’s Home is cheaper than Echo but you’ll have to pay full price for another if you want this in more than one room. That does also mean you get those speakers in every room and they work as a multi-room system so you can have the same music as you move about the house.
If that route is still too pricey, the Google Assistant is making an appearance on more and more smartphones, meaning when you’re out of range of Home, you can always fall back on your phone. Assuming of course that Google adds the same connected home smarts into the mobile experience. That’s something we’re still waiting for.
Google Home vs Amazon Echo: So which is better?
Amazon Echo is £150, whilst Google Home has just arrived in the UK at £129. Amazon’s Echo is not only pricier, suggesting greater quality, but also has been around longer and offers more apps.
The fact that Amazon runs a large chunk of the world’s servers means it has enough computing power for Alexa to learn and adapt fast. Of course, Google has plenty of power and the algorithms to back it up too.
So the reality is that right now these smart speakers are very similar, with Amazon Echo offering slightly more by way of its third-party Skills support. But as the two AIs grow rapidly, it’ll be interesting to see just how long it stays that way.