Google Home review – At the centre of your smart home
The Google Home smart speaker is one of many smart speakers with more to come from the likes of Apple with the HomePod in 2018. Google Home has been out for over a year now and has progressed well in terms of adding features, so I thought it was time now to do the Google Home review.
As I have already said the Google Home has other competition from the likes of the Amazon Echo and the HomePod Smart speaker from Apple. The Smart speaker market is only going to grow and evolve, however, I suspect it will be dominated by the likes of Apple, Google and Alexa as we move into 2018.
As part of the Google Home review, I put the smart speaker at the centre of my smart home to see how it performed with my range of smart home accessories and services, so if you continue reading I will give you my view on design, google assistant performance, smart home and audio.
Must Read: Apple HomePod Preorder
Google Home review in Pictures
What is Google Home
Google Home is a Wi-Fi enabled smart speaker that also doubles as a home control centre with a Google Assistant built into power it. You can use it to playback music via third-party services throughout your home, ask Google assistant to control your lights and heating. You can also ask Google Home various questions and Home will use the power of its massive Google search engine to find you the answer.
How does Google Home work
Google Home listens out for the wake words “OK Google” or “Hey Google” and then, once it has woken up, start’s by sending anything you say to it to Google’s servers to interpret and send back responses.
Google Assistant is built into the Home and once you have spoken a command the query is sent to Googles servers and then the request is returned. All this is very quick and you would think it is all being processed within the Google Home itself
Google Home review: Specs and price
Power cable length
Supported audio formats
HE-AAC, LC-AAC, MP3, Vorbis, WAV, FLAC, Opus
– High excursion speaker with 2″ driver + dual 2″ passive radiators
– Far-field voice recognition
Ports and connections
micro-USB, DC power
Supported operating systems
– Android 4.2 and higher
– iOS 8 and higher
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Google Home review: Design
- Compact minimalistic design
- Interchangeable bases
- Capacitive touch panel to mute sound or adjust volume
I really like the design of the Google Home. And it blends right into the home with its unintrusive look. At least, far better than Amazon’s stark black design, and it’s more compact, too. You can even swap out the base with a colour of your choice, for it to blend in (or stand out) even more. I didn’t get chance to try different colours with the Google Home, however removing the base is very easy and you swop them out in a few seconds.
Google Home only has one button, a large microphone mute button on the back, if you want some privacy and don’t want Google listening to you. There’s is also a capacitive touch panel on the top, which you can use to adjust the volume – with the speaker’s four LED indicator lights changing to a radial volume indicator as you do so – or play/pause your music with a tap. A long press and Home will start listening, saving you from having to bark “OK Google” prior to every request.
Google has put a lot of thought into the Home and this shows by its design and quality into the materials used. I am looking forward to getting my hands on the HomePod to compare the build and will report back once the Apple Smart speaker arrives.
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Google Home review: Google Assistant performance
- Responses are near instant
- You need to be fairly precise when speaking
- Google Home works better if you use Google ecosystem
At the centre of Google Home is Google Assistant and based on my testing its great. Google Assistant has the entire backing of the search giants database and this is evident by the things you can ask Google Home. So, for instance, you can ask Google Home, “Whats the best route to my Office” and it will tell you the route and current traffic conditions, then ask you if you want the route sending to Google Maps. This works for both Android and iOS which is rather cool and great to see Google making sure features work across platforms.
You can also ask Google Home to remind you via a to-do list or add something to your shopping list, but unlike Amazon’s smart speaker it does not add it to an actual shopping basket for checkout later. Google Home works better when you use the Google Ecosystem and integrates really well with Google services. One of the big complaints people had about Google was multi-user support in the UK, but this was rolled out in 2017 and it works well.
I subscribe to Google G suite for business and use Google business services a lot to manage Active JR and my email and I found you don’t get full support with Google Assistant and Google Home which is a real shame given G-suite customers pay for the service, come on Google sort it out for us G suite customers!
You can also use Google Home to find cooking recipes, but one of the best features I found was finding the recipe via Google Assistant on a smartphone and then sending it to Google Home to take me through step by step. Whilst Home does a good job at taking you through step by step, if you want to repeat a step I did find it cumbersome and in some cases, it was easier to start the steps again.
So speaking of the phrases Google Home is good at listening, but you do have to be fairly precise when asking Google Assistant things. So, for instance, asking Google Home to put a radio station on “turn on capital FM’ will return a response “I cant do that yet” The proper phrase should be “play Capital FM’ I also found that some other phrases needed to be precise or it would not play nice.
Overall I am impressed with what Google Home can do, it shows the years of Google building its search engine to be the best in the world as really paid off and Google assistant integrates well to offer a great experience in the Google Home.
Google Home review: Audio performance
- Support for major streaming services
- Music can be streamed via Bluetooth from a smartphone
- Decent audio, but will not wow audiophiles
Google Home is actually a pretty capable audio device and the sound it produces is pretty good.
It can access all sorts of streaming services – Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Spotify and Pandora – and works as a Wi-Fi speaker thanks to its built-in Google Cast capabilities. You can also stream music from your smartphone, so if you are an Apple Music subscriber then you still get to use that service via Google Home, albeit via your smartphone.
Bringing it back to Googles own music service, you can ask it to play nearly any song you can think of, and it will either find it on Google Play Music’s 30-million-plus catalogue or, pull it up to YouTube Music. So by my crude counting that will put Google Home with the largest song library of any audio device on the market.
Whilst Google Home does not compare with the likes of Bose or Sono’s for audio quality for the audiophiles out there, it does produce some great sound and will be more than suitable for dancing around with tunes blasting out whilst cleaning or during a family gathering.
Google Home Review: At the centre of your Smart home
- Google Home integrates with third-party smart home accessories.
- Setting up third-party accessories is easy
- Shame Google has not released an app for Apples HomeKit to control everything
Google Assistant can control various smart home devices, including its sibling company Nest’s smart thermostat, Philips Hue and many others and it works in the same way as most smart assistants by interacting with the smart home accessory to carry out the command.
Setting up third-party smart home products is easy with Google Home when comparing this Amazon’s Echo. Adding Philips Hue or Neato Robot is easy and just requires you to pair Google Assistant with the service and then following a few configurations to assign rooms in the case of Philips Hue, you are ready to go.
Using Google Home with smart home products like Philips Hue is really good. You can ask Google assistant to turn down lights or set scenes that you have programmed for that accessory.
In my home, I use Apple’s HomeKit and Google Home to control my smart home accessories from Philips Hue, Neato Connected vacuum, thermostats and many others and I will often use the Home App from Apple if I was not in earshot of Google Home. Whilst Google Home with Google Assistant is great at controlling smart home devices, it would be great to see Google release an app similar to Apples HomeKit for those of us that like to control things with digital buttons.