When it comes to voice assistants, Alexa remains the most popular option, with Google Assistant not far behind. Besides being able to pull them up using your phones, they can also be summoned using smart speakers. Thanks to them, homes across the globe today now boast nearly full automation, allowing us to turn on the lights, play music, ask a question, set a reminder, and more with simple voice commands. Two of the best smart speakers that you can buy are the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Both are currently available on Amazon and Walmart at awesome discounted prices. Save as much as $50 when you get them today.
When we first encountered Echo back in 2015, we were initially skeptical and rightfully creeped out by this device that seemingly came out of some sci-fi movie. Was this just some fad that will eventually be forgotten, or was it here to stay? Turns out, it was the latter, and now we have the second generation of the Echo. Echo 2.0 is smaller and cuter yet still cylindrical, 5.8 inches tall, and 3.4 inches in diameter. It comes in either cloth covers or sleek finishes (this particular deal is offering the Echo in a beautiful, limited-edition walnut finish). It has four buttons; two for adjusting the volume up or down, one for action, and one to turn off the microphone.
All Echo models are outfitted with Dolby speaker technology. The Echo, specifically, boasts a 2.5-inch woofer for a full bass sound and a 0.6-inch tweeter for clear treble. It now supports multiroom audio, meaning you can play a certain track in the kitchen while your family listens to something completely different in the living room. This is not an audiophile-grade speaker though. If you want next-level sound, you can hook up the Echo to a third-party audio system via the 3.5mm audio jack.
Setting it up is easy. Just plug it into the wall, and then you’ll hear Alexa say, “Hello, your Amazon Echo is ready for setup. Just follow the instructions in the Amazon Alexa app.” Once configured and connected to your Wi-Fi network, you can order Alexa to do almost anything, like add items on your shopping list, make a phone call, or play your favorite songs. Unfortunately, Echo cannot control any of your smart home devices. You’ll have to buy a bridge like the Wink to have this additional functionality.
The Echo normally retails for $80, but right now you can get a refurbished unit on Amazon for the incredibly low price of $70.
The Google Home normally comes in white with a gray base, but for a few more bucks you can get it in orange, purple, or teal fabric. The flat top is touch-sensitive and lights up with multi-colored dots when you summon Google Assistant. You can also use it to change the volume, play or pause music, or turn off an alarm or timer. Inside the speaker are two far-field microphones that have no difficulty receiving your voice commands almost anywhere in your home. Just make sure you place it somewhere in the center. To set it up, simply download the Google Home app on your phone (available on both iOS and Android) and follow the instructions. After that, it will be ready to do your bidding.
This smart speaker is good at figuring out what you’re asking of it. Even if you don’t phrase your questions or commands very logically, chances are it will comprehend you. Compared to Alexa, Google Assistant is smarter and more reliable, although we find the prompt “Hey, Google” a bit less personal. She also has a sense of humor (well, the artificial intelligence equivalent of it). Asking her where Carmen Sandiego is, the Home replied, “I hear she sneaks around the world. Try Kiev or Carolina.” Cheeky. Plus, eventually Google Assistant will have the ability to answer follow-up questions without having to say “Hey, Google” again.
The Home started out with the limited ability to control smart home devices. Now, it is compatible with roughly 5,000 devices and the list is still growing. It no longer just lets you control bulbs and thermostats. With Google Assistant, you can now switch channels or apps on your smart TV, play any song you want on YouTube or Spotify, and make hands-free phone calls.
Is it good as a music player though? The answer is yes. Though not as sonically impressive as a Bose, Sony, or Sennheiser speaker, the music sounded decent. Don’t crank it up too high, though, as the music starts to distort at full blast.
The Google Home is a remarkable little digital helper and a quite adequate music player. Get yours for the incredibly low price of $79 on Walmart.
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