Sony has just launched its very own LF-S50G smart speaker with integrated Google Assistant functionality, to take on the Alexa-toting Amazon Echo and Google’s own Home device. We played with the Sony LF-S50G at IFA 2017 and here’s our early thoughts.
The likes of Amazon, Google and Apple have already launched their own form of smart speaker, designed to offer hands-free information and smart home control in your household. Now you can add Sony to that list, with the launch of its catchily-titled LF-S50G device.
Using the Google Assistant AI, this speaker offers the same core functionality of the Google Home device, with a different design and some additional motion-based controls.
Sony’s speaker is certainly chunky, with a short, squat appearance compared with the tall and lean Echo. You get a 360-degree speaker, so the LF-S50G will be best positioned somewhere around the centre of a room. Audio output is clear and on top volume music sounds strong, although we personally wouldn’t have chosen the obnoxious pop that our demonstrator went with.
Unlike the Echo, you actually get a digital display built into the side of Sony’s speaker. This is an LED panel that’s integrated seamlessly into the speaker, for a clean finish. We certainly like the look of it. This screen shows the time by default, while a series of animated dots indicate when the Google Assistant is either listening or thinking.
Thankfully the LF-S50G’s built-in mic seems to happily pick up a call of ‘OK Google’ from a decent distance away, so you shouldn’t have to speak up to issue commands. That was in a pretty noisy IFA demo room too.
Google Assistant can return any kind of information you need, direct from the web thanks to the speaker’s WiFi support. You can also control your connected gadgets, from supported TVs to your lights and thermostat. There’s also support for multi-room speaker synchronisation, a feature that’s just come to Amazon’s Echo family. And of course you can get Sony’s speaker to simply blast a few of your favourite tunes, streamed over the web, while you get busy with some housework.
Sony has also built some basic gesture control into the speaker, if you don’t fancy using your voice. These don’t require you to actually touch the device, which is good news if you’re gonna be using the LF-S50G in your kitchen, with messy mitts. Instead, you simply hover your hand over the top surface. Wave your palm either clockwise or counter-clockwise to change the volume, while a swipe can skip the current track.
These gesture controls weren’t quite as responsive as we expected on the demo model, sadly. Even the demonstrator’s hand motions were occasionally ignored, with a couple of attempts required to get it to work. Here’s hoping the final retail model behaves itself.
If you’re planning on sticking the LF-S50G in your bathroom or kitchen, the splash-proof design will ensure that it doesn’t suffer any harm when spattered with water accidentally.
The Sony LF-S50G Smart Speaker will go on sale in the UK in November 2017, for 200 pounds. That unfortunately makes it more expensive than the Echo and Google Home, although so far it’s shaping up to be a solid rival.
Check out our round-up of the best smart speakers you can buy now and coming soon, and take a look at our video hands-on with the LF-S50G below.