Amazon Echo vs Google Home: which smart speaker fits you the best?

Amazon Echo vs Google Home: which smart speaker fits you the best?
Smart speakers are a relatively new category of products that has been slowly embraced. They became a thing in late 2014 when Amazon launched its Echo – a tall cylindric speaker, with a built-in Alexa smart assistant, which you could control using your voice.

A few years later and we can see that the smart speakers market has developed a bit. Big manufacturers, such as Apple and Google, have already released their own AI-injected gadgets, making their first attempts to prevail in your home. And since there are more than a few options available, it can prove to be a difficult task to say which one is the best, especially if you're planning to buy one. That's why we've decided to make a comparison between two of the best smart speakers on the market right now – Amazon Echo and Google Home. Whether you're on your way to purchasing your first smart speaker, or you're just a curious tech-thirsty geek, don't be shy and have a read at our Amazon Echo versus Google Home article.


Purpose



Amazon Echo
The second-gen Amazon Echo is the successor of the market-defining product that was the first-gen Echo. Carrying the burden of the crown is a hard task, but the second-gen Amazon Echo does the job well. The design has stayed pretty similar to the first Echo, meaning it's still tall and cylindrical, the only difference being the addition of new build-material choices, like wood and metal. And because the Amazon Echo is first meant to be a speaker, it should be good in the audio department. And it is. To get the job done, the speaker has 2.5" woofer and a 0.6" tweeter on the inside, both powered by Dolby, to deliver a great audio experience, rich in crisp tones. The "brain" of the Amazon Echo is Alexa – Amazon's very own smart assistant made to fit its ecosystem of products. Alexa can do almost everything you ask it to, but we'll talk more about it in a second.




Google Home 
Released two years after the Echo, Google Home was meant to successfully rival its Amazon counterpart in every aspect imaginable. Google Home sports a slick-looking cylindrical design, which can fit well in any interior because of the customization options you have, but we'll get to that in a second. You can also change between different colors, making for a fully-customizable gadget. And because the Google Home is first and foremost a speaker, it needs to sound good. And it does – removing the fabric-coated grill unveils the main speaker, alongside two smaller ones. The sound those three produce is not bad – while you may not hear the clearest tones, the sound is loud and has some bass to it, which the Echo lacks. 


Compatibility



Amazon Echo
It doesn't matter whether a smart speaker sounds good or not if it lacks compatibility with other smart products (or you're Apple). Worry not, as the Amazon Echo can work with almost every smart gadget out there, allowing you to control it just by using your voice. We're talking about all sorts of security cameras, smart locks, lights, doors, appliances, you name it – the Echo works really good with those. However, some devices might require you to download an Alexa skill (basically a voice-based app) from the Alexa Skill Store, so keep that in mind.

Google Home 
This is one of the areas Google Home falls behind the Amazon Echo. Don't get us wrong – Google Home too can pair with and give you control over some of the most popular smart gadgets out there, including Philips Hue lightbulbs, all sorts of Nest cameras and thermostats, and much, much more. However, Google Home still lacks in compatibility compared to the Echo, examples being no support for Lightify smart bulbs, Insteon smart home products, and more, which puts it a step behind.


Features



Amazon Echo
There's no doubt the heart and soul of the Amazon Echo is its built-in smart assistant, called Alexa. Combined with the always-on mic, the artificial intelligence allows you to control the speaker by using the hotword 'Alexa', followed by whatever your request is. For example, 'Alexa, what's the weather on Monday?' would prompt the assistant to search it up and say it out loud. You can also use Alexa to make calls, send messages, add events to your calendar, set up your schedule and much, much more. Controlling the smart gadgets at home is also an option, in case those are paired with the Echo. Playing music is as easy too – you simply ask Alexa for a song of your choice, and she'll play it. Keep in mind the default music service is Amazon Prime Music, and if you want something to be played from Spotify for example, you need to specify it. 

'Routines' is another selling point of the second-gen Amazon Echo. Available both on-the-go and while at home, 'Routines' allows you to chain a set of activities together, which will be triggered by saying a particular sentence. To give you an example, saying 'Alexa, good morning!' could turn on the lights or raise the curtains (in case you've got smart curtains), raise the thermostat temperature, and turn on the TV. Everything said, 'Routines' is a relatively new feature and still has some flaws, not being able to choose the trigger phrase (the one which starts the routine) yourself, but Amazon keeps improving the feature by gradually releasing updates.


Another useful feature of the Echo is its list of Alexa skills. Those are downloadable voice-based apps, that enable all sorts of activities. To exemplify it, downloading the 'Hill's Pet Nutrition' app, enables you to ask Alexa about health tips for your dog/cat. The list of Alexa skills also includes voice-based games, like the popular 'Guess My Name', or 'Simon Tap', where you repeat a pattern by tapping Echo's lights. 


Google Home
Google Home has a smart assistant of its own, which helps it satisfy your needs. It's called Google Assistant and it's also available on your smartphone. It also happens to be a very knowledgeable assistant and will answer any question you throw at it. Did the Yankees win last night? What's the weather in Honolulu? When does American Air have a flight to Paris? You can ask those questions and many more by first waking up the speaker with the "Hey/OK, Google" hotword. What's more, if you ask another question within the context, Google will answer, making it feel like a real conversation. Speaking of conversations, Google Home will hear whatever you're saying even if you're a floor away because of its nearly perfect voice detection.

When it comes to playing music, Google Home is as easy to use as its Amazon counterpart – you name the song and artist and you'll be enjoying it in just a few seconds. Google Play Music is the default music streaming service, but you can also choose between Spotify, Pandora, YouTube Red, Apple Music, and so on. Amazon services are not supported, so no Audible or Amazon Prime Music. Streaming music from your phone is also an option for both the Echo and the Google Home.

Design


Amazon Echo
The second-gen Echo follows the design pattern set by its predecessor. It's still a cylinder, but it's a bit shorter and wider this time, reaching 5.9" in height and 3.5" in width. The speaker grills are located on the bottom-half of the speaker, and if they are visible or not depends on the Echo Cover you choose. Speaking of covers, you can choose between six different shells for your Amazon Echo. Those act like skins, which you can change whenever you like and are as follows:

  • Fabric Covers: Charcoal, Heather Gray, Sandstone
  • Material Covers: Silver, Oak, Walnut


And because you can control Amazon Echo physically, there are four buttons on top of it – volume up/down buttons, a button to mute the microphone (for those cases when you don't want Alexa to listen), and an action button, which can do different things, according to the situation.

Google Home
Have you ever seen an automatic air freshener? That's what Google Home looks like, and it can be easily mistaken for some kind of furniture if you're having non-geek guests. Google Home is shaped like a cone, reaching 5.6" height and 3.8" width, where its touch-capable controls are located, alongside some LED lights, which activate whenever you use it. On the front is located a button to shut down the mic.

Google Home can be customized, too. You can change the lower half of the device (Google calls that "base"), which hides its speakers, into one of four different options: black plastic, orange fabric, brown plastic, or gray fabric (comes by default).

 


Price


Amazon Echo 
The Echo usually sells for $99,99 at Amazon.com but the company sometimes runs discounts on it (as of the time of writing, Amazon Echo can be bought on a 15% discount for $85). You can also bundle Amazon Echo with another product to get a greater discount, which is a bargain, too. You can buy the second-gen Amazon Echo here.



Google Home
The Google-branded smart speaker is a bit more expensive than the Echo, priced at $129, but chances are you might encounter a discount, as Google runs them pretty often. There are bundle offers too, for example, if you buy a Google Home and a Google Home Mini, you'll save $25. You can buy the Google Home smart speaker here.


And the winner is... the Amazon Echo!



With its array of Alexa skills, the Amazon Echo can do pretty much anything you ask it for. Call a relative? Check. Write someone a message? Check. Routines that completely change your experience? Check. Amazon Echo can also fit into any interior as it has differently colored shells that you can swap between. 

Yes, Alexa is not as smart as Google Assistant and you can't do a contextual Q&A session with it, but the Echo offers too much value to be overlooked. The fact you can shop directly through Amazon using just your voice is a reason good enough to buy the Echo, but it's not just that it has to offer. The Alexa Skills Store is an amazing way to improve your smart speaker functionality, and the fact you can multitask using solely your voice via the Routines feature is indeed a gamechanger. No, we're not saying Google Home is bad – it's just that the Amazon Echo is better. In case you're looking for a fully-fledged, affordable smart speaker, which also happens to be your first one, look no further than the Amazon Echo.

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12 Comments

1. macawmatt

Posts: 138; Member since: Feb 20, 2012

Except natural language understanding and responses. Having to unplug your Alexa to get it to shut up because it doesn't understand a natural language command, major fail.

6. sgodsell

Posts: 7451; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Also if you have a Chromecast, then the obvious choice is Google Home. You can then ask about the weather and you can have it come up on your TV, or play music, movies, and YouTube videos using your voice.

12. applesnapple93

Posts: 315; Member since: Jan 06, 2016

Used both. I find myself frustrated when at my girlfriends trying to user he Alexa. Google Home is a much more fluid experience. I'm an Amazon prime member and can't natively use amazon music with the google home though which is a bummer...

2. TechSceptic

Posts: 1156; Member since: Feb 05, 2018

I would personally pick the Google Home, as i find it a better overall smart speaker, partly because Google Assistant is a better smart assistant. It's obviously a personal thing in the end, which means there isn't a "best" smart speaker when both of the smart speakers are really good at what they're supposed to do, which Amazon Echo and Google Home is. I have different priorities than the author, as i definitely don't personally agree with the sentiment below: "The fact you can shop directly through Amazon using just your voice is a reason good enough to buy the Echo" Whether or not i'm able to buy things on Amazon through my smart speaker is definitely not an important feature for me. There is a long list of features and priorities that is more important for me. When i buy things, i actually want to be able to browse and see what i'm buying. The amazon feature is made for people who buys a random product on an impulse, as Amazon wants to milk people for their money, if they can.

3. toukale

Posts: 648; Member since: Jun 10, 2015

Neither, I currently have both which I got for cheap this past holiday. I mainly use the google home for music listening and for voice search when I am lazy which is about a couple times a day. I mainly use the amazon echo to add stuff to my shopping cart and that is it. Those things are really not ready for prime time as far as the general public is concern.

11. TechSceptic

Posts: 1156; Member since: Feb 05, 2018

They can do a lot more than that. Did you even read the article? You can control just about anything, as long as it is a smart product. You could control the temperature, lights, speakers and so on.

4. Godlymansean

Posts: 337; Member since: Apr 14, 2017

My google home always just stops when hooked up to Pandora, pretty much only thing i use it for aside from the occasional question. But yeah kinda annoying when it just stops, seems to be no rhyme or reason either.

5. cmdacos

Posts: 4265; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Google home. Echo is gathering dust at my place

8. Skizzo

Posts: 403; Member since: Jul 14, 2013

I personally have the Google Home Mini. Main reason I got Google instead of Alexa is the Assistant. Google Assistant is hands down the better option when it comes to simply talking to the assistant, and how knowledgeable, accurate and quick it is. I tested both (as many tech reviewers on YouTube have as well) and while Alexa is pretty good, the Google Assistant is a clear winner in that regard, objectively speaking. The contextual conversation is also key, so I can just ask it the next question in context without starting from scratch. "Hey Google, what's the weather like outside?" (Answer) "...how about tomorrow?" (Answer) "...and this weekend?" (Answer) Something that is not as quick or as fluid on Alexa. Amazon shopping aside (since I'd wanna browse through options when making a purchase anyway) there is nothing that Alexa offers that Goggle doesn't do better in my experience. Another key thing for me is that I already have multiple Chromecast devices in my house, including a Chromecast Audio dongle, which is connected to a speaker system, so once I paired my Home Mini to my chromecast audio, the sound of the actual smart speaker itself is not important to me at all, as the only thing I'll hear coming out of it is the voice response. All music requests will come out of my speaker system via Chromecast Audio. Ex. "Hey Google, play some piano jazz"..."Okay, playing 'Soft Piano Jazz' from 'Spotify' on 'DnA Tunes' (name of my Chromecast Audio)." Music starts playing across the room from my sound system with sound a single smart speaker could never replicate. This something awesome I would recommend to anyone with a decent speaker setup at home. Buying a cheap little Google Home Mini, and a Chromecast Audo dongle, and bam, now you have an amazing sounding smart speaker for cheap!

9. Skizzo

Posts: 403; Member since: Jul 14, 2013

Do your research, and get what's best for you, but in all honesty, the Alexa voice assistant is the main reason to go for the Google Home option since the "smart" aspect should be the main reason to get a smart speaker in the first place.

10. mootu

Posts: 1530; Member since: Mar 16, 2017

I've not really been interested in smart speakers before but lately i've started to get curious. Been looking at the Sony smart speaker which runs on Google Assistant but with better design and better sound than the Home for around an extra £30. The Echo doesn't interest me at all, Alexa isn't as smart and i might shop at Amazon about once per year, so no real benefits for me.

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