There’s no shortage of smart speaker deals this Black Friday, but if you’re trying to pick between a Google Assistant speaker and an Alexa-powered rival, which team should you join?
Voice-enabled tech has come a long way, with capable smart speakers now available for as little as £20. Whether you want to keep up with the day’s headlines or control other smart products in the living room with your voice, a smart speaker can help you out.
Below, we run through the key differences between Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, the two biggest names in voice assistants.
Best wireless and Bluetooth speakers – manage your smart home
What is Amazon Alexa?
Alexa is the brains behind Amazon’s smart products, from the entry-level Echo Dot to the chunky Echo Show with its 10-inch display. Simply saying ‘Alexa’ to a compatible smart speaker will wake the helper up, but you can also change its wake word to something different – Google Assistant doesn’t yet allow you to do this.
This voice assistant will suit you nicely if you’re a keen Amazon shopper. Linking your Amazon account to an Alexa-powered smart speaker will let you add items to your shopping basket using your voice. You’ll need to be an Amazon Prime subscriber to place orders, though.
Amazon Alexa can handle simple tasks such as alarms, reminders and weather updates. You can also control other Alexa-compatible products, such as an Amazon smart plug, if they’re operating on the same wi-fi network.
Both Amazon and Google Home products (including the smart displays) let you make voice calls to most UK mobile and landline phone numbers. But a word of warning – some third-party speakers (including the Ultimate Ears Megablast and LG WK7) don’t allow this.
Here are some of the commands you can ask Alexa:
- ‘Alexa, what’s the weather in London this weekend?’
- ‘Alexa, how long will it take to drive to work?’
- ‘Alexa, tell me a joke.’
- ‘Alexa, play True or False.’
- ‘Alexa, set an alarm for 7am.’
Convinced by Amazon’s assistant? See which model is right for you with our Amazon wireless, smart and Bluetooth speaker reviews.
What is Google Assistant?
Google’s voice assistant is a great companion if you’re used to using its own services, such as Google Calendar, Google Play and Google Mail.
It syncs with your Google account to offer updates on your upcoming events and, if you enter in a ‘home’ and ‘work’ address, it can give you traffic and weather updates before you head out in the morning.
With the power of the world’s go-to search engine behind it, Google Assistant can quickly run searches for nearby restaurants and points of interest. Keen cooks will want to give the recipe walk-through feature a go. Try saying ‘OK, Google, find me a paella recipe’ for example.
Here are some of the commands you can ask Google Assistant:
- ‘OK, Google, what Indian restaurants are nearby?’
- ‘OK, Google, let’s play a game.’
- ‘OK, Google, set a reminder for 10am tomorrow.’
- ‘OK, Google, how does my day look?’
- ‘OK, Google, play BBC Radio 4.’
See which Google smart speakers (if any) are worth your money. See our Google wireless, smart and Bluetooth speaker reviews.
Amazon speakers that have gone through the Which? test lab
Amazon Echo Dot (£22)
The palm-sized Echo Dot is the cheapest Amazon-brand smart speaker. This is the third-generation version, which flaunts a new fabric-covered design.
With an Echo Dot sat on the living room table, you can ask the smart speaker to play your favourite music, turn on the radio or dim your smart lights. Four physical buttons on the top of the Dot let you increase the volume of your music or temporarily mute the built-in microphone.
You can grab the Dot in a choice of colours: charcoal fabric (black), heather grey, plum fabric (purple) or sandstone fabric (white).
For more on this affordable smart speaker, see our full Amazon Echo Dot review.
Amazon Echo Show 5 (£80)
The Echo Show 5 has the same voice command support as the mini Echo Dot, but adds a screen into the equation. That means you’ll be able to watch YouTube tutorials while you’re whipping up a new recipe in the kitchen.
This Amazon smart speaker has a 5.5-inch touchscreen. If you want a bigger screen, you might be tempted by the Echo Show 8, which has an 8-inch screen.
Is this Amazon smart speaker deserving of a Which? Best Buy? Our full Amazon Echo Show 5 review has the answer.
Google smart speakers that have gone through the Which? test lab
Google Home Mini (£19)
The Home Mini is proof that you don’t need to spend much to get yourself a voice-activated speaker.
While there are better speakers for providing the soundtrack to a house party, this small device still supports thousands of voice commands. It can update you on traffic conditions, weather, sports scores, alarms, notes and more.
Built-in support for the Google Chromecast means you can use the Home Mini to play certain shows on your TV without having to reach for the remote control.
Is this the best cheap smart speaker? Our full Google Home Mini review reveals all.
Google Home Max (£199)
This is the priciest Google speaker you can buy right now. The Google Home Max is a major rival to Apple’s bass-heavy HomePod, combining voice-control features with powerful audio.
If you don’t want to use your voice to ask the Max to play your music, you can plug your phone into its aux-in port and play tunes from there. A touch slider bar lets you change the volume, while a simple tap on the top of the Google Home Max will play or pause your tunes.
To see how this smart speaker fared in our test lab, consult our full Google Home Max review.
We’ve tested the latest voice-activated smart speakers from big-name brands including Bose, JBL, LG and Sonos. See our full selection by heading over to our wireless, smart and Bluetooth speaker reviews.
How to buy the best smart speaker
Voice assistants are brilliantly convenient but, with so many different models on sale this Black Friday, how do you know which one is right for you?
When shopping for a smart speaker, consider these key questions:
- Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant? Amazon Prime members will feel right at home with Alexa. If you’re dependent on Google services, go with Google Assistant.
- What’s your budget? All Amazon and Google own-brand speakers support thousands of voice commands. It’s the sound quality and speaker size that your budget will have an impact on.
- Screen or no screen? If you’d like to watch videos on your smart speaker, you have a couple of options. Take a closer look at the Google Nest Hub, Google Nest Hub Max and Amazon Echo Show 5.
Get all of our expert tips with our guide on how to buy the best smart speaker.