Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo is now available to buy. Its smart hub and wireless speaker is powered by Google Assistant to help you control internet-enabled devices and manage daily tasks.
When it comes to buying a smart hub, there are now plenty of models to choose from. This new arrival from Google has lots of nifty tricks up its sleeve, and it joins a family that also includes Samsung SmartThings, the Panasonic Home Hub and Apple’s HomeKit.
Read on as we take a closer look at the Google Home, its key features and how it shapes up compared to its rivals.
Smart hub reviews – get more from your internet-connected devices
How much does Google Home cost?
The new smart hub from Google costs £129. On top of that, you have the option to customise the base of the device depending on your style. A fabric base costs £18, while the metal alternative is slightly pricier at £36.
Google Home manages to undercut the £150 Amazon Echo, which is no doubt an intentional move to try and one-up its key rival. Visit our Amazon Echo review to find out how it performed in our tests.
Home is available now from online retailers including Argos, Currys and John Lewis. You can also grab the wireless speaker from Google’s own online store.
Google Home – key features
At the heart of Google Home is Google Assistant, which was first spotted on the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones. It’s a voice-powered service designed to help you manage tasks throughout the day. Simply say ‘OK Google’ and the gadget will spring into life, ready to deal with what you throw at it.
You can use it to set reminders, for example, or have it play the latest news headlines. Translations, handy unit conversions and music commands are also on board. Once we get Google Home off to our test lab, we’ll be paying close attention to see how well the hub can handle quickfire commands.
Control other smart devices
As smart hubs evolve, we’re seeing more and more accessories in stores that can make your home that little bit more intelligent. Google Home can pair with smart light bulbs – handy if you want to dim the lights but can’t pull yourself away from the TV. Devices that are plugged into smart switches and plugs can also be turned off remotely, as can compatible thermostats like Nest (right).
Music streaming and app support
Google Home is compatible with popular music-streaming services including Google Play Music and Spotify (right). In fact, if you already own speakers with Chromecast Audio built in, you’ll be able to use Google Home to link them together for a louder, more powerful sound. In theory, you could have music playing through several speakers in your home that live in different rooms, all talking to each other via Google’s new hub. It’s worth noting that the Amazon Echo doesn’t support music playback to multiple devices, however.
Of course, there are loads of music-related voice commands that Home can deal with. You can ask to hear specific songs or playlists from your own collection, or have radio stations play live through the speaker. It could serve you well as an alarm clock.
Google Home vs Amazon Echo
The new Google Home and the Amazon Echo are both voice-powered hubs, but there are several differences between them. For starters, the Echo is controlled using physical buttons on its top, whereas Home uses a slightly more sophisticated touch-sensitive panel.
Google Home is powered by Google Assistant, but the Echo uses Amazon’s Alexa. One key strength of Google Assistant (which we first spotted during our Pixel review) is that it copes very well with follow-up questions – something that can be hit or miss on the Echo. For example, if you ask ‘How old is Big Ben?’ and then go on to ask ‘How tall is it?’, Google Assistant will know what ‘it’ is. Amazon’s hub and wireless speaker uses Bing as its search engine of choice, but we’ll have to wait for our test results to see which device offers the better user experience.
A key strength of Google Home is the hub’s ability to draw on information from your other Google apps. As it’s a part of the Google ecosystem, you can use Home to check Gmail, Google Maps, Google Calendar and more. It’s a nice bonus if you’re looking for a quick overview of your day.
Both Google Home and the Amazon Echo can stream music but, unsurprisingly, the Echo chooses to showcase Amazon Prime Music, while Home has Play Music.
The latest smart hub reviews
Every smart hub we test is put through its paces in our lab to see if it deserves a spot in your living room. We take a close look at how easy each smart hub is to set up for the first time, what other devices they’re compatible with and how they can effectively offer privacy and security.
We’ve had our hands on a range of products from big-name brands including Panasonic, Samsung and Swann, with the most expensive model costing over £200. Even if you’re a buyer on a budget, there are still some hubs to consider. The Amazon Echo Dot (right), for example, is available for just £50. For the price you pay, you’ll get a voice-controlled home assistant that won’t make your wallet too unhappy. You’ll have to head over to our full Amazon Echo Dot review to see how the device scored in our lab.
To find out which smart hubs breezed through our tests, head over to our smart home hub reviews.