The Google Home smart assistant was released just over a year ago, and a lot has changed since then. At the time of launch, a lot of people were disappointed at its ability vs the Amazon Echo, which had already been on the market for almost 2 years. During these 2 years, hundreds of developers had already created custom voice commands to control your Amazonian hardware with your voice, which makes the Echo and extremely interesting prospect.
A year is a long time though, and Google has made a huge amount of improvements in this period. At Google I/O 2017, the company announced things like hands-free calling and visual Chromecast support which help to make the Google Home a lot more exciting.
So is Google Home finally ready to dethrone the Amazon Echo? Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences in this Amazon Echo vs Google Home battle, so you can decide for yourself.
Amazon Echo vs Google Home – Aesthetics
Many publications have said that Google Home looks quite a lot like an air freshener, and we’d tend to agree. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. Your smart assistant is made to be kept in your house, and it is important that it integrates as seamlessly as possible into the space. While the top half of your unit is going to be a consistent white color, the base can be changed out with a number of different options from Google. It comes stock with a grey fabric base that works well in many circumstances, but you can purchase Mango, Marine, or Violet fabric bases as well as Carbon, Copper, or Snow metal bases to help your Home fit into any room more naturally. The fabric options will each run you $20 USD, while the metal options bump that up to $40.
There is only one physical button present on the Home, being the Mute/Deafen button for when you don’t want it to listen to you or make a substantial amount of noise. Otherwise, most of the features can be controlled using your voice alone, though the touch capacitive top can be used for adjusting the volume and halting timers and alarms.
There are red, green, blue, and yellow lights that will light up and spin while giving voice commands, and the animations it produces are nice and bright. The cable tucks neatly from under the base and is fairly long, so you should be able to position your home in a variety of locations without adding too much clutter.
Overall, we think this is a nice looking option, though there are some who would rather have something more striking to show off to their friends and family.
The Amazon Echo is a tall cylinder with speakers all around and comes in Black or White varieties. Most will likely opt for the Black model since it is arguably more discrete in a number of settings, but the White should blend in nicely with some more modern households. While it doesn’t echo the look of any particular appliance or piece of furniture, it is simplistic enough that it shouldn’t stick out too much at all, and would make a great addition to almost any countertop or shelving unit.
The Amazon Echo uses a physical circular dial on the top of the device to adjust the volume manually, and a Mute/Deafen button for when you don’t want it to talk or listen. There is also another button on top which will activate the voice assistant in case you don’t want to say the “Alexa” keyword, or if it is having trouble hearing you.
The Echo looks decent overall, but isn’t anything to write home about. That being said, it is supposed to be integrated seamlessly into your life, so from a stealth perspective, it does a pretty darn good job.
Amazon Echo vs Google Home – Music and Entertainment
Both the Google Home and Amazon Echo have the ability to stream major audio offerings like Spotify and Pandora from your connected account. That being said, the Home is limited to Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music and YouTube Music where the Echo can do Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Audible, Amazon Music, Prime Music, and Amazon Music Unlimited. You can stream various apps such as Pocket Casts and all Chrome tabs to the home via Google’s cast feature though, so that is a huge benefit to the Google Home. Obviously a lot of the Echo sources come from Amazon, so this specification really comes down to which ecosystem you are invested in as well. Google has also just added the ability to use free Spotify accounts, where Amazon’s Echo is still limited to premium users.
Both speakers get quite loud, though Amazon’s Echo technically gets 4.5db louder. The Echo uses an omni-directional speaker, while Google Home uses one primary front-firing driver with passive radiators on the side. However, the Home has objectively better bass response, and tends to fill a room much more dramatically compared to the Echo. You may have to test the audio yourself to decide which is the best for you, but the Echo will likely work better in the center of a room while the Home would likely handle better in the kitchen or a corner. If you want to fill your entire house with music at once, you can actually link multiple Google Homes to one audio source to bump audio throughout your place of residence.
One problem that both speakers suffer from is the issue of sometimes being unable to hear keywords when playing music or other audio. Both speakers use your voice to trigger listening for commands, so playing music loudly can obstruct this quite a bit. Google’s option listened quite a bit better in our tests however, and continued to hear us at higher decibels than Amazon’s offering.
With Google Home, you can use your voice to control video on your television via your Chromecast. This is really useful if you’re hanging out in front of your TV and don’t have your phone on you, or just want to jump to something quickly. The Chromecast can currently utilize both YouTube and Netflix, and integration with HBO Now, Hulu, and others are coming soon. Amazon’s Fire TV which is arguably the main competitor to Google’s Chromecast does not currently have this integration, you unfortunately you’re not going to be able to jump quickly to your favorite show if you go with Amazon’s option.
Both Google Home and Amazon Echo have a number of fun entertainment uses that you can enjoy - though their offerings do differ
These differences are mitigated a bit if you have the Logitech Harmony remote, however. The remote can hook into the Echo to allow you to turn on your TV and jump to different services, and even allows you to set custom keywords to use different channels and services. We won’t go too far into this though, because this is between the Google Home and Amazon Echo as they stand today.
Both Google Home and Amazon Echo have a number of fun entertainment uses that you can enjoy as well. They can both play games like trivia, though again all of the Echo games are built into different “skills”. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as it means that there are many, many different games that you can enjoy with your Echo. Just search through the various skills that Amazon has to offer and choose the games you want to include. Google’s games are fun and all, but there are only a few to play compared to the hundreds available on Echo.
You can ask both systems to do things like tell jokes and sing songs, and these are really just all meant for a quick laugh. The engineers have obviously spent a lot of time working through the thousands of responses these things can use, and there are a lot of unique and funny ones out there if you look hard enough. Both will sing you happy birthday, but the Google home has an arguably much more melodic voice for use cases like this.
Amazon Echo vs Google Home – Personal Assistant
If you want to use your device for more practical measures, both Google Home and Amazon Echo have many similar features. They can both tell you where the nearest store of your liking is, though Google can hook into its Maps services to give you an estimated time by car, where the Echo will only tell you how far away it is. They can both give you the weather, though they seem to grab from different sources, since they gave us different answers upon testing.
Both the Google Home and Amazon Echo will tell you the latest news from a variety of news sources, and they each default to NPR to give you an hourly briefing. You can also ask both of them for updates on things like sports scores, and can pull information from Wikipedia when asking more random questions. The Google Home can understand context, meaning you can ask something like an actors age and then proceed to ask what movies they were in immediately afterwards. You do have to say “Ok Google” between each and every question however, which can be cumbersome compared to simply stating “Alexa”. Either way though, restating these keywords over and over can get tiring after a while, and we’re hoping Google or Amazon finds away around this in the future.
One of the biggest benefits of having a personal assistant like this is having the ability to control smart home appliances like lights. Both options can hook into a variety of smart lights like Phillips Hue and LIFX, and allow you to control groups of them with your voice. After you set up rooms you are able to control groups of them at once or individually depending on their names, so you can walk into your home and tell your Echo or Home to turn on the kitchen, living room, or simply “all lights”. Both the Echo and Home work pretty seamlessly with these lights, though the Echo requires you to install the specialized skill in the Alexa app while Google’s Home has a “Home Control” section built right into the Google Home app.
Google Home hooks into a number of Google services such as Calendar to set up events under your Google account, and you can mark a time and place to blot out your schedule. It only works with Google Calendar though, whereas the Amazon Echo can plug into services like Microsoft Outlook. When it comes to some of the simpler tasks though, Google still falls a little short. The Home still isn’t able to do things like adding reminders and creating to-do lists, though Google says this is something they are working on. Both assistants can set timers to let you know when something is going to be ready, and they both work fantastically for things involving your kitchen. Both options can take you through thousands of different recipes, though Google’s is baked into the service while the Echo needs to hook into something like AllRecipes. Google Home has a slight edge on this front however, as it can guide you through cooking at a much more comfortable pace. if you miss a step, you can say something like “what was that last step?” and the Home will walk you through it again in just as calm a manor as before. In addition, you can browse over 5 million different recipes on your phone, then send them to the Home to guide you through them. Pretty nifty.
One interesting new feature added to the Google Home is support for multiple users. You and up to 5 others can train your Home to your specific voice, so when asking it specific questions like how long your commute will be, the Home will answer based on your particular route. There are quite a few interesting use cases we could see this being extremely beneficial, and we’re sure Google will continue to develop it in the future.
The Amazon Echo has had the ability to call other Echos for quite a while now, and has just added the ability to call others with the Amazon Alexa app. This was great for a while, but was recently stumped by Google’s new ability to call any phone with your voice, for free. The Home uses VoiP to make phone calls, meaning you should get a great connection anywhere you are assuming you have a stable internet connection. This is a huge benefit for the Home over the Echo at this point, so if making calls is a make or break feature for you, this might be worth looking into.
We did a quick test to see which unit was faster to respond to voice commands, and the Google Home won 10 out of 15 times.
Both options can make orders to places like Dominos, though Google has just added end-to-end payments to its system. Once you set this up in your Google Home app you’re set, and can order from multiple locations with ease. Amazon requires you to enable skills for each location you wish to order from with your voice, though this isn’t that much of an issue is you order from a similar location consistently. Both should be able to guide you through the menus depending on the place you are ordering from, so your next pizza is just a few keywords away. If you’re an avid Amazon shopper and really value the ability to make orders with your voice, the Echo definitely has a leg up. Amazon also puts on various promotions that give you discounts for ordering with your voice, so this is a huge benefit for the avid online consumer.
We did a quick test to see which unit was faster to respond to voice commands, and the Google Home won 10 out of 15 times. On average, it took Google Home 1.56 seconds while the Echo responded in 1.66 seconds. This is probably nearly immeasurable by the human ear though, so try not to make this metric make the decision for you.
Amazon Echo vs Google Home – verdict
So in the Amazon Echo vs Google Home debate, which reigns supreme? Honestly, it depends on your wants and needs. Both smart speakers have very strong positives and negatives, though Amazon Echo remains the most popular option with the widest level of device support for smart home setups and more.
Still, whichever personal assistant you decide to go with is ultimately up to you. It’s clear that Google has dramatically improved the Home in the past year it’s been on the market, though Amazon seems to be betting on third-party developers to help make the Echo great. With free hands-free calling, Chromecast support and more, it’s hard not to choose the Google Home if you are already locked into the Google ecosystem. That being said, Amazon does offer multiple versions of its Echo to suit multiple users.
If you want to get both the Google Home and Amazon Echo on the cheap, you can always invest in the Echo Dot. The Dot offers all the same benefits of the larger model, though the audio quality is not going to be nearly as good. However, it does have an auxiliary jack built in, and you can even hook it up to Bluetooth speakers to get a better audio experience. If you want access to both experiences, you can purchase the Google Home and Amazon Echo Dot for essentially the same price as one single standard Echo, which will give you the best of both worlds.
Did our Amazon Echo vs Google Home guide help you decide which one is better? They both offer a lot of the same and a lot that is different, so you’ll really have to evaluate what’s important to you in order to make a smart purchasing decision. Google’s consistent updates over the last year have made it a seriously impressive contender however, so watch out for more feature updates in the future.