Computer Shopper - - SMART SPEAKERS -

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As a speaker, it’s merely de­cent, but the Google Home has the smartest dig­i­tal as­sis­tant in the busi­ness

CON­SID­ER­ING THE BREADTH of Google’s prod­uct cat­a­logue, it was in­evitable the tech gi­ant would pro­duce not just smart speak­ers but its very own dig­i­tal as­sis­tant as well.

The Google As­sis­tant, which had al­ready ap­peared on An­droid phones by the time Google Home launched, is by some de­gree the best of its kind. This is mainly thanks to how con­text-aware it is, which makes query­ing easy: for in­stance, if you ask ‘What’s the weather like to­mor­row?’ and fol­low up with ‘And at the week­end?’ af­ter re­ceiv­ing the ini­tial re­ply, the As­sis­tant will un­der­stand that you want ad­di­tional weather in­for­ma­tion. Siri and Alexa aren’t that smart, and re­quire each in­ter­ac­tion to be much more care­fully worded.

Be­cause it’s linked to Google’s search func­tion, as well as apps such as Gmail, Google Maps and Google Cal­en­dar, it’s also great both for seek­ing out new in­for­ma­tion and con­sult­ing more per­son­alised de­tails. To give just one ex­am­ple, you can ask what the traf­fic is like on your way home; if you’ve got

your home ad­dress listed in Maps, Google As­sis­tant will know the route with­out you hav­ing to spec­ify any­thing. There’s sup­port for mul­ti­ple Google ac­counts, too, so dif­fer­ent mem­bers of a house­hold can use their own, and voice recog­ni­tion means there’s no need to man­u­ally switch be­tween ac­tive ac­counts be­fore you can make a query.

There’s also sup­port for video and mu­sic stream­ing (such as com­mand­ing Home to play a Net­flix show on your TV), as well as smart home in­te­gra­tion. Alexa is more fully fea­tured than Google As­sis­tant in this re­gard, with its ex­pand­able Skills, but you can still in­ter­face with a range of hard­ware from Nest, SmartThings and Philips, and or­gan­ise de­vices into sep­a­rately con­trol­lable rooms.

The Home is a ca­pa­ble mu­sic speaker, too. It’s equipped with a 2in high-ex­cur­sion speaker and dual 2in pas­sive ra­di­a­tors. As we’ve seen on the Ap­ple HomePod, high­ex­cur­sion speak­ers can pro­duce bet­ter sound by hav­ing its cone move fur­ther than on reg­u­lar speak­ers. The Home doesn’t sound as lush as the HomePod or the Sonos One, and it doesn’t have any fancy po­si­tion­ing tech that al­lows for op­ti­mal play­back wher­ever the speaker is placed. It’s clos­est, qual­ity-wise, to the Ama­zon Echo 2nd Gen­er­a­tion; the Home has more bass, but the Echo goes a lit­tle louder. Other­wise, there’s very lit­tle in it.

As good as the Google As­sis­tant, this prox­im­ity to the Echo begs the ques­tion of whether the As­sis­tant alone makes the Google Home worth buy­ing, es­pe­cially when there’s also the Google Home Mini avail­able for much less. We don’t think it’s that sim­ple, though – true, the speaker isn’t a standout piece of tech, and you should con­sider oth­ers first if au­dio qual­ity is para­mount, but it still sounds much bet­ter than the Home Mini. In the ab­sence of any ma­jor flaws, then, the qual­ity of the ac­com­pa­ny­ing Google As­sis­tant makes this a worth­while pack­age.

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