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Should you buy a Google Home?

By Martin Pratt

Google Home is a voice-activated speaker, smart hub and personal assistant. But how well does it do what it's supposed to, and is it worth your money? 

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Talking to a piece of tech may be an odd concept to some, but the Amazon Echo proved there's an appeal to being able to fire off a quick voice command to turn on your lights or play an album. 

The Google Home is Google's answer to the Echo. It can listen and respond to myriad commands, and do everything from control your smart tech, such as thermostats and Chromecasts, to telling you what's on at your local cinema and even booking you a ticket.

There's a built-in speaker and, once you've logged into a Google Play Music or Spotify account, you can ask it to play virtually any song you like. But is Google's smart hub a useful home assistant, or an extra hassle when using an app would be better? You can find out in our table of test results below.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive ratings of the Google Home in the table. If you're not yet a member, sign up for a £1 trial to get instant access.

Google Home test results

Google Home

Typical price £129.00
Which? score 64%
Reviewed May 2017
Connectivity:
Member exclusive
Devices:
Member exclusive
Lighting:
Member exclusive
Entertainment:
Member exclusive
iOS privacy:
Member exclusive

An excellent smart hub needs to be easy to set up, have an intuitive app and work with a good range of devices. Does the Google Home fit the bill and is it any good at recognising your voice?

How does Google Home differ from other smart hubs?

The Google Home's headline feature is hard to miss. You'll be interacting with it almost exclusively with your voice, and that is the key difference between the Home and more conventional smart hubs, such as the Samsung SmartThings hub.

The way you use a Google Home may be different, but that doesn't mean it's not a proper smart hub. It connects with multiple devices from different manufacturers, as well as some of Google's own. If you have a Nest or Hive smart thermostat at home, you would typically open a smartphone app to control the temperature. Asking your Google Home to turn the heating down, or adjust the temperature to 21 degrees, will have the same effect.

Voice commands aren't limited to controlling your smart tech, either. Being internet-connected means the Home can search Google on your behalf and answer millions of questions, from 'Who was in that film?' to 'When did apartheid end?'. These interactions can become conversations of sorts, since the Google Home remembers your previous question. So if you ask, 'When will the new Ford Fiesta be released?' followed by 'And how much is it?', the hub will know you're referring to the car. 

What are the drawbacks of the Google Home?

Given that you don't use an app with the Google Home, it's not very useful for monitoring the feed from a wireless security camera, and any compatibility it has with cameras is limited. You'll also need to be in the same room for the Google Home to hear you - no good if you're in the bath and you want to change what song is playing (unless you don't mind shouting through your house).

To get the most out of a Google Home you'll need to buy a few peripherals, too. If you'd like to use your existing speakers to play your song requests, you'll need to connect a Chromecast Audio to your hi-fi first. The same goes if you want to your Google Home to control what's on your TV. Once you've invested in a Chromecast and connected it to your TV, you can ask the Google Home to play videos from YouTube and Netflix. 

Both the Chromecast and Chromecast Audio will set you back £30.

What's the Google Home compatible with?

 

Many smart hubs, including popular models such as the Samsung SmartThings hub and the Panasonic hub, come with smart tech to get you started. Smart plugs, wireless security cameras and motion sensors are common, but you won't get any of these with a Google Home.

Google owns Nest, so its thermostats are compatible, as are Philips Hue and LIFX smart light bulbs. Smart hubs are updated often and become compatible with new devices, and the Google Home is no different. But it's worth checking to see if your existing devices, or devices you plan to buy in future, are compatible.

For the full list of every device compatible, head to our Google Home review.

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