Two giants are battling for your home. Both Amazon Echo and Google Home want to be the device that you use at home to answer questions, play music, and control all of your household devices. They are both are very easy to set up and very similar in their capabilities. Each listens for their trigger word, respond to your orders, requests, and questions. There are, however, some major differences. Here are just a few that you should consider.
The Amazon Echo’s trigger work is “Alexa” which can be changed to “computer” or “Amazon”, if you like. The Google Home device responds to ‘Hey, Google’ or ‘Okay, Google’. The name Alexa seems easier to say and certainly has a friendlier feel. Syllable-wise, “Hey, Google” is the shortest, but it feels a lot more artificial.
Hardware & Price
The Amazon Echo comes in three versions. The full-sized Echo is about 9” high and 3” around. It sells for $179.99. The Echo Dot ($49.99), at 1 ½” tall, is a short version of the Echo Dot looks like an over-sized hockey puck. It has no surround speakers, but otherwise functions pretty much like the bigger Echo. The Echo and Echo Dot come in black or white. Both plug into the wall. The Echo Tap is a portable Echo, sized between the two others. At $129.99, it is also priced between the other two Echos. You must tap this device to wake up. It comes in black with optional colored cases. Both the Echo and the Echo Dot have a light ring around the top that lights when Alexa hears her name.
Google Home currently has only one version that plugs into the wall. It is shorter than the full-sized Echo. Looking a little like a large room freshener, it sells for $129. The top is white the lower third comes standard with a removable grey textures mesh cover. Other color covers are options. The top of this device is slanted and has a ring of colorful lights that tell you when the Google Assistant is listening. The light on the Echo is much better because it can be seen from any angle. You can talk to the Google Home from anywhere around it, but you can only see if the Assistant heard you if you are in front of the device.
Intelligence – Tie
Both Google Home and the Amazon Echo have adequate artificial intelligence. While one may know an answer to a question that the other missed. Neither is even close to perfect. Also, there are many times that you may have to rephrase the question. Both can be used with IFTTT to perform additional tasks. The real beauty of these devices is that they both keep getting smarter and smarter. In the future, one may overtake the other, but currently they seem to be on the same level.
Skills – Advantage Echo
Both devices can do a lot, but the Echo has hundreds of skills that are listed in her app. She can play fun games like Jeopardy and 20 Questions. She can even tell you how to make a martini. While Google Home can perform some of the same tasks, her list of skills is much shorter. Also there is no easy way to know exactly what she can do other than trial and error.
Controlling Home Devices – Advantage Echo
The Amazon Echo has been on the market for several years, while Google Home is only a few month’s old. So Amazon has been able to amass a wealth of companies that work with Alexa. Google Home has done a bang up job of creating associations. They recently announced 11 new partnerships ranging from Logitech Harmony, to Wink to TP-Link to the Anova sous-vide cooker. So now, both work with all the major players. Amazon, however, has a big lead. Alexa is even showing up in several different automobiles. Google is catching up quickly, but Amazon has a big lead.
Listening to Music – Advantage Google Home
One of the main functions of these devices is allowing you to listen to music. The Amazon Echo supports several free and paid music services including Amazon Music, Prime Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Spotify Premium, Pandora, TuneIn, iHeartRadio and Audible.
Google Home currently also supports free and paid music services including YouTube (free and Red), Spotify, Pandora, Tunein, iHeartRadio, and Google Music.
As long as you are an Amazon Prime member, the Echo gives you an adequate selection of music. You can also hook up to pay services like Amazon Music Unlimited and Spotify. However, in my testing, I found that Google Home’s connection with YouTube (free) or YouTubeRed ($10 a month) is even better.
The thing that gives Google Home the edge here is that several Google Home devices can play the same music at the same time. This is a feat that Alexa cannot perform. Also Google Home works with Chromecast, Chromecast Audio, and Chromecast-enabled devices to provide a fairly inexpensive whole-house audio solution.
Video – Advantage Google Home
The Echo cannot play videos. With the addition of a $35 Chromecast on your TV, however, Google Home can. Just can ask Google Home to play music on your television. She will play some of YouTube’s tens of millions of music videos on the TV while you listen through the Google Home or television speakers. You can also add Chromecast-enabled speakers or a Chromecast Audio device to give you surround sound. It is the most fun I’ve had with a voice-activated device.
Both the Amazon Echo and Google Home devices can work with higher end Harmony Remote Controls. Neither is currently perfect, but both are adequate. It’s fun to simply say, “Alexa, turn on the television” or “Hey Google, ask Harmony to change to the History Channel”.
Google Home can also play Netflix. Just say, “Hey Google, Play The Crown” or any other movie on Netflix and she will start Netflix right where you left off in the movie or the episode.
Reading Books – Advantage Echo
The Amazon Echo can read many Kindle books to you using Alexa’s voice. It can also read Audible books in the voice of the narrator or author. Alexa keeps track of exactly where you are in the book. If you have more than one Echo, you can start a book in one room and finish it in another. Google Home can’t perform these tasks.
Both of these devices are wonderfully useful companions. Both are constantly getting smarter and adding new capabilities. If you are into music videos or want whole-house audio, Google is your choice. Alexa will be your best friend if you love audio books. If you can’t decide, buy them both. I have Alexa right next to the Google Home and they both get a lot of use.