Google Home Mini vs. Amazon Echo Dot: Which is better?

Google Home Mini vs. Amazon Echo Dot: Which smart speaker should run your home?


Editor’s note: Google just announced the new Nest Mini Smart speaker at its Pixel event 2019. We have yet to review this product, but it may affect your decision of which product to buy.

Google Home and Amazon are well-matched competitors with a slew of feature upgrades, device integrations, and new hardware. With good looks, great pricing and just about all of the features available from its big brother, the Google Home Mini is perfectly positioned both as an entry-level gateway to the Google Assistant and supporting accessory for homes already equipped with Google Home.

On the other side of the fence, Amazon and Alexa are old hands at cute and compact smart assistants. Now on its third generation, the Echo Dot has been wowing Alexa fans for years. Recently, Amazon announced a new version of the 3rd generation Echo Dot that’s set to release on October 16, 2019. The new 3rd generation Dot is just like the existing 3rd gen Dot, except it has an LED display that can show the time, tell you the temperature outside, or serve as a timer. The LED display also adjusts based on the lighting in the room, getting brighter or dimmer accordingly.

While both speakers — the original 3rd Generation Echo Dot and the Google Home Mini — originally retailed for around $50, you can often find both the Home Mini and the Dot on sale, which makes them even more enticing. If you opt for the newest iteration of the 3rd gen Dot, the retail price is a bit higher ($60).

So, Google Home Mini versus Amazon Echo Dot — which is best? We put the two devices side by side and ran them through the gauntlet (OK, not literally) to find out which device is better.

It’s showdown time!

Specifications

google home mini vs amazon echo dot 2018 3rd gen review xxl
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

While you could be forgiven for thinking that Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo Dot are similarly priced devices offering similar specifications, a dig into the spec sheets reveals some important differences. Yes, these are both entry-level, compact, smart assistant controllers, but there are nuances of which you should be aware.

The third-generation Echo Dot has a 1.6-inch speaker, and you can connect the Echo Dot to a larger speaker if you want. You can also improve the sound on your Google Home by connecting a more powerful speaker through the Google Home app. With an array of four far-field microphones, advanced Bluetooth audio support, and a 3.5mm audio jack, the Echo Dot is a low-cost Alexa controller.

In contrast, the Google Home Mini only has two far-field microphones for voice detection, but it does have a 1.57-inch driver. There’s Bluetooth support, but the device lacks an audio port. Integrated Chromecast and Chromecast Audio streaming and enhanced audio format support demonstrate Google’s belief that Home Mini can serve as a competent, if compact, stand-alone speaker, alongside other duties. But, the Echo Dot 3rd gen still has the Home Mini beat.

Google Home Mini Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Gen
Price $49 original retail, but you can often find it cheaper  $50 original retail, but you can often find it cheaper. The Echo Dot with Clock retails for $60
Colors Chalk, Charcoal, Aqua or Coral 3rd Gen Comes in Charcoal, Heather Grey, Plum, or Sandstone
Dimensions 3.86 inches x 1.65 inches 3.9 inches x 1.7 inches
Weight 6.1 oz 10.6 oz
Audio formats HE-AAC, LC-AAC+, MP3, Vorbis, WAV (LPCM), FLAC AAC/MP4, MP3, HLS, PLS, and M3U
Networking 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4 and 5 GHz) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 (input), Chromecast & Chromecast Audio Built-in 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4 and 5 GHz) Wi-Fi Bluetooth Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) A/V Remote Control Profile (AVRCP)
Voice support Google Assistant Amazon Alexa
Controls Touch controls & mic mute switch Volume buttons, action button, mic off button
Display Four LED lights Top-mounted color light ring. The Echo Dot with Clock also has an LED display screen
Speaker 360-degree sound, 1.57-inch (40mm) driver 1.6-inch speaker, 3rd gen has a larger driver than the previous generations 
Microphone Two far-field microphones Four far-field microphone array
Ports Micro USB (Power) Micro USB (Power), 3.5mm audio output

Winner: Amazon Echo Dot

Design

When it comes to aesthetics, Amazon and Google have taken slightly different approaches. The Echo Dot very much resembles what you’d expect to happen if someone stomped on a regular Amazon Echo. The puck-shaped device has an attractive fabric cover. It’s very slightly rounded off, and its overall design is more attractive with color choices of sandstone, heather gray, plum, and charcoal. It also has a build quality that’s far more refined than you’d expect to see with a device at this price, and the compact size is unobtrusive in the home.

The Dot and the Dot with Clock both retain the iconic blue and orange LED status ring. It adds a little interest, but also makes the Echo Dot more noticeable. The Echo Dot with Clock can also serve as a good bedside companion, given its auto-adjust display.

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While the Google Home suffered more than a few barbs regarding its resemblance to a certain brand of air freshener, there was a clear attempt to visually differentiate the device from other tech in the home. Google offers a range of textured covers for the device that allow homeowners to better integrate the smart speaker with its surroundings.

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Google Home Mini

That mission continues with Google Home Mini, available in chalk, charcoal, aqua, and coral. Again, build quality is excellent, and Home Mini’s pincushion form gives the device its own identity. Google’s designers have even spent time crafting Home Mini’s circular power adapter, which fits neatly in the hand and protrudes from the wall far less than the Echo Dot’s power supply. There are even clips on the power cable to tidy up any slack. These are small touches, yes, but they demonstrate a level of design detail and care that’s the hallmark of a great device.

Winner: Google Home Mini

Connectivity

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Amazon’s Echo Dot has been around much longer than Google Home Mini, so that has given Amazon time to build out a relatively strong ecosystem. From calling features to whisper mode to doorbell concierge to Blueprints that let you make (and even publish) your own Alexa skills, Alexa seems to learn new stuff almost every day. Alexa’s reminders and routines are getting more advanced too, allowing users to set location-based reminders and create advanced routines (you can have Alexa turn off your lights, wait 15 minutes, and then turn off the TV for instance). You can also announce messages through all of your Echo Dots throughout your home.

Both devices can connect to and control a swathe of smart home stalwarts like Philips Hue lighting, power outlets, smart locks and more. Google is working with partners to rapidly build out hardware integrations, but Amazon still has its nose in front. Alexa can control more than 85,000 smart home devices, compared to Google Assistant’s roughly 30,000.

Alongside hardware connectivity, both devices can also access “skills” or “actions” that deliver enhanced features like news reports, recipes, reservation bookings, jokes, quizzes, and more. Again, the Echo Dot leads here, with a plethora of different types of skills available for the device (some of which you may actually wish to use). Google’s offering is certainly smaller at this point but is expanding quickly, adding features like a multilingual mode, a translator mode, and step-by-step cooking instructions.

Before jumping in with Amazon Echo or Google Home, be sure to review the streaming entertainment services you currently use. As per usual, Amazon very much sees Echo as a gateway to service subscriptions and heavily promotes Amazon Music over other options. However, Amazon has begun to support more services on Alexa like Spotify Premium, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio, and even Apple Music.

With Google Home Mini, there are fewer compatible music services sources, but you can use Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, Deezer, and Google Play music.

Overall, the Echo Dot proves to be a more welcoming partner than Google Home Mini.

Winner: Amazon Echo Dot

Ease of use

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One thing you should know before purchasing either smart speaker is that both Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant are in active development with perpetual changes. This means both devices are regularly enhanced with new features, but you may also find that commands that worked previously no longer work or might require a slightly nuanced voice instruction. Or, they might seemingly work for everyone else except for you. It can be a real frustration with both Amazon and Google services.

That said, both devices work well at picking up voice commands as long as you enunciate, even when you’re blaring out tunes at full volume. The Echo Dot’s design, with an overt LED status ring and physical buttons for volume, mic muting, and triggering Alexa on the top of the device, gives Amazon a slight edge in terms of usability. Google Home Mini supports microphone muting via a rear switch and subtle, touch-sensitive volume controls on either side of the device, all of which work well.

Winner: Amazon Echo Dot

Audio output

The third-generation Echo has a larger driver and the sound is much better than ever before. The Home Mini has 360-degree sound and a large driver that make it a “smart speaker for any room” (according to Google). But how do they stack up?

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Google Home Mini delivers louder audio with punchy bass. At full volume, the speaker manages to keep distortion in check, but there’s a lot of treble, and it’s quite harsh. There’s little-to-no separation, and the overall effect is muddy. You can use the equalizer to adjust the treble and bass; and sure, it’s a step up from your phone’s speakers (and the second-generation Echo Dot, for that matter), but $50 (or $30 on sale) won’t buy you a match for a decent, dedicated Bluetooth speaker.

If this was between the second-generation Echo and the Mini, it would be no contest. The Home Mini wipes the floor with the Echo Dot 2nd gen in terms of sound. Since Amazon upped the sound game on the third-generation Dot, the Dot has the 3.5mm jack, and the Dot 3rd gen is louder and boasts a much richer, fuller sound, it edges out the Home Mini.

Winner: Amazon Echo Dot

Which should you buy?

If you’re already invested in a smart assistant ecosystem, neither Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home Mini delivers compelling reasons to switch.

Amazon should be celebrated for creating this compact, smart controller category with the original Amazon Echo Dot, which delivers much of the magic of its big brother(s), but at a fraction of the price. With the sound upgrades, it’s moved from simply being an entry-level smart speaker that controls your home to an entry-level smart speaker that controls your home and lights it up with sound.

It’s clear that Google’s engineers and designers have spent time understanding and then building on the Echo Dot’s foundations. It looks better, and while it lacks the Echo Dot’s wealth of integrations, Google is catching up quickly.

If you are a die-hard Amazon customer, you’ll want an Echo Dot so it agrees with your existing devices (like Fire TV). However, if you don’t have Amazon or Google products, the decision becomes more difficult. If you do find yourself staring at the Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini, wondering which one to take home, it’s Amazon’s Echo Dot that should win the day.

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