VERDICT £109 • From store.google.com
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.