Like Rome and Carthage, Google and Amazon continue to try and seize footholds in each other’s territory. The drumbeats of war again resounded when Google revealed a new speaker during its Google I/O keynote in May. Google Home was seen as a direct response to the Amazon Echo, a smart speaker that can respond to users’ questions and commands. Amazon certainly had the head start in this competition, having launched the Echo in late 2014. The Echo was an impressive device at launch — as our review indicates — meaning the Home needed to make quite the splash to catch up with its worthy adversary. Now that the fateful day of digital assistant, smart-home reckoning is here, how do these two products stack up against one another in terms of design, features, and pricing?
As if to highlight the inherent differences between the Home and Echo, Google’s device features a plain white body, in contrast to the Echo’s dark chassis.
The Home features a touch-sensitive top with LED lights that indicate when the device is working. It also touts a modular base, so you can swap out the default base for one that better matches your living space. The petite, curvy device certainly seems friendlier than Amazon’s tiny monolith. Of course, the Echo is beautiful in its own way, with a sturdy build and matte black (or all-white) finish that conveys dependability. Judging purely by aesthetics, you will have to decide which device suits your decor better.
Like the Echo — but unlike the like-minded Amazon Tap speaker — the Home must be plugged in to function. This means you’ll have to consider its placement in your home — and you won’t be carrying it around — but Google promises that tethering it to an outlet makes it a better speaker. When we first reviewed the Echo, we noted that while it won’t win any audiophiles’ hearts, it’s a full-sounding speaker with a respectable amount of bass. It’s also loud enough to fill a fairly large room. Caleb Denison, Digital Trends’ senior home theater editor, thinks the Echo outperforms the Home on sound, writing in our review: “While Amazon’s full-size Echo has a very large sound with full bass that doesn’t go overboard, Google’s Home over-juices the bass, and ends up sounding like it’s trying too hard.”
With the Home, you can utilize other speakers via Wi-Fi and Google “Cast,” marking one of the biggest differences between the two smart devices. The Echo, however, can also sync with the Amazon Tap or Dot to give you great flexibility (and portability) when setting up your home audio system and smart home.
It appears that Google would prefer owners to sync their Home and Cast devices, or include several Homes, to fulfill the same role as the all-encompassing Echo, Dot, and Tap. By utilizing Google Home in unison with the supported devices, you are able to play music in various rooms across your home, while still reaping the device’s voice-controlled features.
Once the Home and all correlating devices are fully mapped, you can make very specific requests. Ask Home to “Play Santo and Johnny in the living room,” for instance, and the device will have Sleep Walk playing in no time. This makes Google Home similar to Sonos’ speaker systems, with the added benefit of voice-command technology. It shares similar functionality with Chromecast devices, too, letting you play YouTube videos on your TV by saying something like, “OK, Google, play the new Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 trailer on the living room TV.” Even in a house brimming with Google Homes, the company claims that only the closest unit will respond.
Both the Echo and the Home also utilize microphones with far-field technology. Google claims it has incorporated hundreds of thousands of various audio environments to ensure the Home can isolate speech even in an environment with added ambient sounds.
Winner: Home on adaptability, Echo on sound