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2019 Google Home Smart Speaker Review

Google Home
Google Home
  • Basic Google Home
  • Good-quality audio

Google

$99.00

Google Home Mini
Google Home Mini
  • Small
  • Lower-quality audio

Google

$49.00

Google Home Max
Google Home Max
  • Large
  • Higher-quality audio

Google

$299.00

Google Nest Hub
Google Nest Hub
  • Small screen
  • Good-quality audio

Google

$129.00

Google Nest Hub Max
Google Nest Hub Max
  • Large screen
  • Summer 2019 release

Google

$229.00

Data effective 09/24/2019. Offers subject to change.

Overview
Google’s the master of the online search, but is the brand also the master of smart speakers? One thing’s for certain: the Google Home smart speakers are competitive products.

Keep reading this Google Home review to learn how the speakers differ, what you can do with them, how they compare to Amazon Echos, and whether Google Home is the perfect fit for your smart home.

Compare Google Home, Google Home Mini, and Google Nest Hub

So what are the differences between Google’s offerings?

Google Home

Google Home

Photo source: ASecureLife team

The Google Home is Google’s first foray into smart home products. Users talk to the cylindrical speaker’s voice assistant (straightforwardly dubbed the Google Assistant) to get answers to questions or to fulfill commands.

The Google Home’s technical specs are as follows:*

  • Size: 3.8″H x 3.8″W x 5.6″D
  • Weight: 1.1 lbs.
  • Cord length: 70.8 in.
  • Hands-free calling requires Wi-Fi; calls to 911 and premium rate numbers are not supported

*Pulled from manufacturer

 Google Home Mini

Google Home Mini

Photo source: ASecureLife team

The Google Home Mini is a pint-sized Google Home. The major difference between the Google Home and Google Home Mini is the Mini’s speaker quality. Since the Mini is so small, the audio’s not as good.

The Google Home Mini’s technical specs are as follows:*

  • Size: 3.9″H x 3.9″W x 1.7″D
  • Weight: 0.4 lbs.
  • Cord length: 60 in.

*Pulled from manufacturer

Google Nest Hub

Google Nest Hub

Photo source: ASecureLife team

Lastly, the Google Nest Hub is more or less a Google Home with a smart display. It has some extra functionality, like the ability to play videos and look at photos from your Google Drive.

The Google Nest Hub’s technical specs are as follows:*

  • Size: 2.6″H x 7.02″W x 4.65″D
  • Weight: 16.9 lbs.
  • Display: 7 in.

*Pulled from manufacturer

ASL Take Note

Google’s Nest acquisition

One of these things is not like the others. The Google Nest Hub isn’t labeled as a Google Home because it comes from smart home and security brand Nest. Google bought Nest in 2014 and rebranded many of its items by adding “Google” to the name. Throughout this review, when we refer to “Google Homes,” we’re including the Google Nest Hubs under that label.

We tested the Google Home, Google Home Mini, and Google Nest Hub. We didn’t test the Google Home Max, which is a Google Home with better sound.

We also didn’t test the Google Nest Hub Max—a larger version of the Google Nest Hub with a few extra video features. It just barely came out, so we won’t talk about it much in this review.

DeviceGoogle HomeGoogle Home MiniGoogle Home MaxGoogle Nest HubGoogle Nest Hub Max
What it looks likeGoogle HomeGoogle Home MiniGoogle Home MaxGoogle Nest HubGoogle Nest Hub Max
Price$99.00$49.00$299.00$129.00$229.00
Screen
No

No

No

Yes

Yes
Sound qualityGoodAverageSuperiorGoodGood
Colors availableSlate*Aqua, chalk, charcoal, coralChalk, charcoalSand, aqua, chalk, charcoalChalk, charcoal
Learn moreView ProductView ProductView ProductView ProductView Product
Device
What it looks like
Price
Screen
Sound quality
Colors available
Learn more
Google Home Google Home Mini Google Home Max Google Nest Hub Google Nest Hub Max
Google Home Google Home Mini Google Home Max Google Nest Hub Google Nest Hub Max
$99.00 $49.00 $299.00 $129.00 $229.00

No

No

No

Yes

Yes
Good Average Superior Good Good
Slate* Aqua, chalk, charcoal, coral Chalk, charcoal Sand, aqua, chalk, charcoal Chalk, charcoal
View Product View Product View Product View Product View Product

Data effective 09/24/2019. Offers subject to change.
*A fabric coral base can be purchased separately for a Google Home. Users can also buy metal bases in carbon and copper.

Like Amazon Echos, Google Home devices are technically smart speakers. They’re also so much more than that.

Google Home pros and cons

What sets Google Home apart compared to other brands? Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Standard industry pricing
  • Skills learned, not downloaded
  • Nest compatibility
  • Non-Google speakers connectivity
  • Bilingual capabilities
  • Easy setup

Cons

  • Separate app and monthly fee for music
  • Slightly unintuitive Google Home app
  • Google Nest Hub speaker on the back of the device
ASL Our Experience

Limited mobility use

A Google Home system is a perfect buy for someone with limited mobility. That person might be getting older, recovering from an appendectomy, or on bedrest with a twin pregnancy. Whatever the circumstances, they can use their Google Homes to make grocery lists, buy products, turn smart plugs and lights on and off, and make intercom announcements through devices in other rooms.

How much is Google Home?

Google Home smart speakers are a good price. At $99 for the basic speaker, the cost is on the level with Amazon Echos and lower than Apple HomePod speakers by $100+.

But surprise: you can’t just play the music you’ve downloaded on your phone. To listen to your favorite tunes, you need a YouTube Music Unlimited subscription. This’ll cost you $9.99 a month. Alternately, you can link to your Pandora or Spotify account.

Equipment and features

Equipment

A Google Home has a distinct look: its slanted top makes it resemble a melting candle. The Google Home Mini and Google Nest Hub are both more generic, though there’s a striking similarity between these devices and the Echo Dot and Echo Show.

Photo source: ASecureLife team

We love that these Google Home speakers come in lots of different colors. Neutral decor’s rampant on Instagram these days, so it’s fun to get a pop of color from your speaker.

Setup

Google Home devices are relatively easy to set up. The app gives you step-by-step instructions. And once you’ve set up one, the app senses others for quick adding.

Plugs

The only limit we found to where you can set your Google Homes is the location of your outlets. Each Google Home must be plugged in.

ASL How To

Should I add more plugs to my home so I can have more smart home equipment?

Before you decide to invest in power strips or add new outlets to your home for better Google Home use, you might want to consult with an electrician.

Speaker placement

The Google Home and Google Home Mini both have speakers that wrap around the entire device. You can hear their music or other sounds from any direction.

The Google Nest Hub, on the other hand, has its speaker on the back. You can’t hear audio as well when the screen’s facing you—which is odd, since the screen needs to face out for full use.

The Google Nest Hub’s screen is also a bit on the small side. We noticed the size less once we started using the device; everything that came up fit well on the screen. Still, the smallness might be an issue with longer content, like recipes. We can see why someone might hold out for a Google Nest Hub Max and its larger screen.

Distance

We got as far away from the Google Homes as possible and spoke to them. Google Assistant could still hear us saying, “Hey, Google.” But we noticed that the devices struggled to know which speaker was closest to us. Sometimes a device farther away would respond to the wake word.

We also found that even when we were close to the speakers, we had to be facing them directly. If we were near them but facing away at a 90-degree angle, Google Assistant didn’t always hear us.

Features

App

The Google Home app has a lot of white space, which makes it look nice but also draws your attention equally to every icon and every piece of text. We found it was hard to focus on just one thing. And the thing we noticed the least was the super-helpful banner of tips and tricks at the top of the screen.

Google Assistant customization

Unlike Alexa, who’s always female, Google Assistant can be either male or female. So if you feel more comfortable with one kind of voice, you do have options.

You can also make Google Assistant bilingual. Set it to speak two languages from six available options:

  • English
  • German
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Italian
  • Japanese

Answering questions

Google Home taps into the Google search engine to answer questions. This excited us! We found that Alexa’s not always accurate, so we hoped that the unparalleled power of Google would bring us better results.

ASL Take Note

How does Google Home work?
Google Home has two wake words: “Hey, Google,” and “Okay, Google.” After using a wake word, you can ask Google to answer a question or perform a task. Google Homes don’t use third-party skills; they learn as they go, so you won’t have to download extras. They’re also pretty flexible in understanding commands. You won’t have to spend as much time learning specific syntax as you would with another voice assistant.

Sadly, we had a similar experience with Google Assistant to the one we had with Alexa. Google Assistant was top-notch at things like finding the weather and telling us which Italian restaurants were nearby. But they struggled with a more complicated question, in this case, “Hey Google, when does the next Pixar movie come out?” They told us the next Pixar movie is Soul, which debuts in summer 2020. In reality, the next Pixar movie is Onward, which already has trailers and comes out three months before Soul.

This information is readily available on Google (how do you think we found it?), so we’re not sure why Google Assistant didn’t pull it up.

Playing music

Unless you pay for YouTube Music Unlimited, Google Assistant can’t play a specific song.

Similarly, we were thrilled at the prospect of pulling music from YouTube. But unless you pay for YouTube Music Unlimited, Google Assistant can’t play a specific song. They can give you only YouTube playlists that approximate your request. That’s fine if you’re not picky, but if you have specific music tastes, you’ll have to pay up. If you already have a Pandora or Spotify subscription, you can use that.

Speaker groups function

If you have more than one speaker, you can group them for synchronized music. In other words, you can walk through your home, listening to the same song on every speaker without gaps in the music. Perfect for when you’re doing mobile chores like loading laundry or sweeping the stairs.

Audiophiles might want to invest in at least one Google Home Max for the best sound possible.

Broadcast

The Broadcast function lets you record a message and send it to every Google Home in your residence. For instance, you could announce that it’s time for dinner. Other people in your home can respond to your broadcast by saying, “Okay, Google. Send a reply.”

Phone calls

Google Homes can make calls through your smartphone with either Android or iOS. It takes some leg work to get this feature set up, though. You have to export your contacts to Google Contacts and set up a calling service like Google Voice or Google Fi.

You can also send texts if you have an Android phone with IFTTT.

Google Nest Hub features

The screen on the Google Nest Hub gives it some extra features. Some of these things delighted us:

  • Image slideshows
  • YouTube videos
  • Citations for responses

The Google Nest Hub screen doubles as a sort of digital photo frame. We set our screensaver as a slideshow of photos of our friends and family from our Google Drive. The result was adorable.

We were also super excited about pulling up our favorite videos from YouTube. And we liked that when the hub got information from Google, it visibly cited the website the information came from.

Personality

It helps to like your voice assistant. You won’t get much use out of them if you dislike the way they talk or the sound of their voice.

We found Google Assistant to be pleasant sounding. They were a tad bit over-complimentary when we played a game of mad libs with them. (Seriously, they praised every word we chose.) But overall, Google Assistant was helpful and easy to live with.

Google Home compatibility

A smart speaker is the center of a smart home, and it’s the first step to getting the best home automation possible. You can connect your Google Home with light bulbs, thermostats, cameras, security systems, and more. Also, because Nest belongs to Google, you can easily find Nest products specifically designed for voice control through Google Home.

To get a taste of compatibility, we tested the Google Homes with the LIFX A19 smart bulb. We gave Google Assistant some simple commands:

  • “Hey Google, turn the light on.”
  • “Hey Google, turn the light off.”
  • “Hey Google, turn the light green.”

Google Assistant had no problem following these instructions. The Google Nest Hub even showed us a range of colors we could choose just by tapping the screen.

There are tons of other brands that work with Google Assistant, like Philips Hue and Samsung SmartThings. Read more in our guide to compatible devices for Google Home.

Google Home customer service

The Google Nest Help Center has some basic information about Google Home devices. If you can’t find what you need, you can also call reps, chat with reps, connect with reps on Facebook or Twitter, or get expert help from a support forum.

Calling and chatting are available 24/7, so if you need immediate help, that’s the way to go.

Google Home vs. Amazon Echo

DeviceGoogle HomeAmazon Echo
What it looks likeGoogle Home
Price$99.00$99.99
Brand music appYouTube Music PremiumAmazon Music Unlimited
Music app price$9.99/mo.$9.99/mo. ($7.99/mo. with Prime)
Brand voice assistantGoogle AssistantAlexa
Third-party music app compatibilitySpotify, PandoraSpotify, Pandora
Best at understanding our commands
No

Yes
Best at being flexible with commands
Yes

No
Learn moreView ProductView on Amazon
Device
What it looks like
Price
Brand music app
Music app price
Brand voice assistant
Third-party music app compatibility
Best at understanding our commands
Best at being flexible with commands
Learn more
Google Home Amazon Echo
Google Home
$99.00 $99.99
YouTube Music Premium Amazon Music Unlimited
$9.99/mo. $9.99/mo. ($7.99/mo. with Prime)
Google Assistant Alexa
Spotify, Pandora Spotify, Pandora

No

Yes

Yes

No
View Product View on Amazon

Data effective 09/24/2019. Offers subject to change.

We tested four Amazon Echos, and we have some thoughts on how they compare to Google Home. This table contrasts the standard Amazon Echo with the standard Google Home.

We found that these smart speakers were similar in many ways. The price is almost identical for both the up-front payment and the monthly music app subscription. And the voice assistants both have easygoing, helpful personalities.

You don’t have to use exact wording every time to get the results you want from Google Assistant.

But we also noticed that Google Assistant’s strengths are different than Alexa’s. Google Assistant is better at interpreting looser, less structured voice commands. You don’t have to use exact wording every time to get the results you want (something that’s frustrating about Alexa).

Alexa is better at knowing what the user’s looking for. Google Assistant’s more likely to misinterpret a clearly stated command and respond with something out of left field. For instance, when we were playing mad libs with them, they misinterpreted one of our (very basic) responses as a command to exit the mad lib game.

The Google Assistant’s flexibility could introduce this error. Or it could be that the microphones aren’t as good as the ones in the Amazon Echos. In either case, it’s annoying not to get the results you want.

Another (big) point of contrast is learning. Both voice assistants learn as they go and can be taught to recognize different voices and call users by name. But to get Alexa fully functional, you have to download third-party skills. Google Assistant doesn’t need the extra help. They learn on their own.

For a more in-depth look, read this summary of Google Home vs. Amazon Echo.

Google Home FAQs

Is Google Home worth it?

Google Homes are fun and useful. It’s nice to have hands-off access to music, information, and more while you’re cooking, cleaning, or otherwise away from your phone.

A Google smart speaker is especially beneficial for households with multiple people. Google Assistant can keep track of the voices, preferences, and schedules of up to six individuals. You just have to link each person’s Google account to your Google Home app.

Does Google Home work with iPhone?

You can download the Google Home app on your iPhone and set up your speakers, just like an Android or Pixel user could. But Google Home can’t access your contacts unless you export them to Google Contacts. That’s good if you want to keep that information private but bad if you want to make phone calls. Also, you can’t text from an iPhone using Google Home no matter what you do.

Lastly, if you have a collection of iTunes tracks, that thing’s useless from a Google Home standpoint. Like we mentioned, you’re going to need a separate app to play music, whether it’s YouTube Music Premium, Pandora, or Spotify.

Do I need more than one Google Home?

You can enjoy most Google Home features with just one device. But the beauty of smart products is their interconnectivity, so we recommend having other smart home devices of some kind.

If you do choose to have more than one Google Home, you can put them in all kinds of places: on the kitchen counter, the family room bookshelf, or your bedside table, to name a few.

How does Google Home manage my privacy?

Google collects data from its smart speakers for troubleshooting and improvement purposes. So to get some privacy, you can either mute your Google Home by pressing the Mute button or unplug it.

Google says that it guards collected data closely. Still, you may want to make a habit of deleting your audio search history.

Which Google Home is the best?

One of the biggest benefits of going with a Google smart speaker is having access to YouTube. If we were going to buy one of these for ourselves, we’d get the Google Nest Hub so we could watch Potter Puppet Pals on it.

On the other hand, if we wanted to listen to music more than anything else, we’d definitely go for a Google Home Max.

And if we just wanted nonstop access to Google, we’d choose the Google Home Mini. It’s less expensive than the other versions and is just as good, except for the sound. But we could always hook it to a Bluetooth speaker.

Our recommendation

Which Google Home is right for you? Let’s recap.

  • Google Home: Use Google Assistant to play games, find restaurants, turn your smart lights on, call your friends, and more.
  • Google Home Mini: Enjoy basic Google Home functionality in a tinier package.
  • Google Home Max: Enjoy basic Google Home functionality with a superior audio experience.
  • Google Nest Hub: Enjoy basic Google Home functionality with a small screen for photos and videos.
  • Google Nest Hub Max: Enjoy basic Google Home functionality with a large screen for photos and videos.

You can buy multiple Google Homes if just one won’t meet your needs. And if you’re not sold on the Google brand, you can always try Alexa.

Select images sourced from Kohl’s and Google and are the property of Kohl’s and Google.

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