Introducing the Google Home Assistant
Get real-time answers including the latest on weather, traffic, finance, sports, local businesses and more with the Google Home Assistant. A simple voice request triggers Google Home to play music, podcasts or radio from services like Google Play Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, Pandora and more. With your permission, Google Home will learn about you and retrieve your flight information, set alarms and timers, and even tell you about the traffic on your way to work.
Google Home connects seamlessly with smart devices like Chromecast, Nest and Philips Hue, so you can use your voice to set the perfect temperature or turn down the lights. Cast your favourite movies, videos and shows to your TV. Just ask Google Home. With a simple voice command, play tunes from services like YouTube Music, Google Play Music, Pandora, and Spotify. Enjoy even more compatible audio services by streaming directly from your phone to Google Home. Get answers to things you want to know including the latest on weather, traffic, finance, sports, and more.
With your permission, Google Home can help you with things like your commute, flight information, and more. Plus it’s a whiz at setting alarms, starting timers, and adding items to your shopping list. Simply ask Google Home to stream videos to your TV with Chromecast or to turn up your Nest thermostat. Google Home’s high excursion speaker delivers HiFi sound quality. It can also hear you reliably thanks to far-field microphones.
Google Home still looks fantastic. It’s been designed as something you’ll want to put on show, looking less like a speaker and more like a fancy lamp or diffuser.
To keep the speaker’s design as uncluttered as possible, there’s only one physical button on the Google Home. It disables the microphone, if you don’t want the speaker to listen in on you.
As far as physical buttons go, there’s just the one: a large microphone mute button on the back, should you be a little privacy-conscious and don’t want Home listening in on you 24/7. There’s 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.
Out of the box, it’s fair to say that the Google Assistant is smarter than Alexa. Thanks to the range of Google services in the background, the Assistant can tell you the address of a local business, for example, and then follow up with directions to get there. Amazon’s Alexa AI still only offers driving instructions between two points that you set in the app, and often fails to find addresses when asked.
Google is more conversationally aware and more accessible to talk to. While Alexa often requires you to use very specific language to achieve something, Google’s approach to language is more natural. It’s context-aware, too. For example, ask “What’s the weather like today?” and you get an up-to-date forecast. Follow up with, “And tomorrow?” and Google understands that you want weather information for tomorrow. Alexa simply can’t do that, and you have to say the full command for everything.
Home can connect to many IoT-enabled smart devices in your home, too, and you’ll be dimming your lights with the power of your voice and controlling your heating with Nest in no time flat. There’s a long list of third-party devices you can connect to, from Samsung SmartThings to Philips Hue and, excitingly, anything that supports IFTTT as well.
Now, it could be my thick Lincolnshire accent, but I found Home wasn’t so good at picking up a few of my commands. I was in the mood for Daft Punk’s Alive 2007 album on Spotify the other night, but Home insisted on playing Babybertè Live 2007 instead, whatever that is. It called me “Nay-thon”, too.
That’s not to say the sound is poor – far from it, in fact – but I found it just a smidge too bass-heavy for my tastes. There’s not quite enough definition to pick up some of those subtle organ nuances in Hans Zimmer’s excellent Interstellar soundtrack, and mid-bass notes had a tendency to overwhelm rather than underpin.
When comparing audio playback on Home and Echo, both have their pros and cons. Google Home offers meatier bass and a more rounded sound, but the new Echo goes much louder. Google Home’s 100% volume wasn’t as loud as I’d expected it to be, and once you get to about 70% it starts to feel a little distorted.
Google Home Assistant: Verdict
If you haven’t already splashed out on an Echo, Google Home is an essential purchase. Aside from a handful of teething problems, it’s a remarkable little home helper, and one I can’t recommend highly enough. Amazon’s Echo just isn’t as all-encompassing as Home and, as such, no other personal assistant comes close.
One of the best things about Google Home Assistant is that its main purpose isn’t in driving ecommerce or purchasing goods, as with Echo. Google’s architecture is so much more fleshed out than Amazon’s, and it’s great to take full advantage of this.
- Cheaper than Echo
- Wide IoT support
- Easy to use
- Some features unavailable in other countries
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