If you have been to a family member or friend's house and commented on their smart speaker, you probably heard them talk about how great it is and how it is so much better than its competitors. Although, the truth is, the Amazon Echo and Google Home are actually quite similar.
Here are things you may want to look for, as well as a breakdown of each of the two most popular smart home speakers, and how you can decide between the best.
How to choose the best smart speaker.
If you are looking for a standard-sized smart speaker, then you probably can expect one that is around 6 inches tall and about 4 inches wide. The size between brands can vary, but this is usually the average for a standard-sized smart speaker.
Larger models like the Echo Studio or the Home Max can range from about 7 to 8 inches tall and are usually between 6 to 7 inches wide. Smaller models like the Echo Dot or the Nest Mini are usually around 2 inches tall and 4 inches wide.
The size of the speaker can depend on how good the actual speaker is, what functions it has, and more, but it does not always mean that the smaller models are lower quality. When it comes to the name brands like Amazon and Google, the quality is practically the same, but the larger models do tend to have more features.
You have probably noticed that, as with the Amazon and Google smart speakers, many of the models out there are cylinder-shaped with a flat top, which is where the non-voice controls are.
This design allows for better 360-degree surround sound and noise distribution, meaning it may be harder for you to find a square-shaped model, but there are a few out there like the plug-in Echo Flex or the large Home Max.
Speakers by Google tend to have a more angular curve and round shape (excluding the Home Max, of course) while those from Amazon tend to have more subtle angles at their tops and bases.
The weight of the speaker can depend on its size; the smaller ones look heavier than how they feel while the larger ones are actually much heavier than how they look. Most mini smart speakers (like the Echo Dot and the Nest Mini) tend to weight just at or under a pound.
On the other hand, the larger models (like the Home Max and the Echo Studio) tend to weigh anywhere from 1 to 2 pounds.
This is one area where speakers by Amazon would win the prize as opposed to those by Google. Google speakers typically come in 1 of 2 colors, chalk-white or charcoal grey, but with a bit of searching, the Nest mini can also be found in coral and light blue.
However, it is not hard finding an Amazon speaker that comes in a non-neutral color, but the colors are limited to the speaker model. For example, the Echo can come in charcoal, heather gray, sandstone, twilight blue, and limited edition red. Although, the Echo Dot (mini version) can usually only be found in charcoal, heather gray, sandstone, and plum.
There are also some who sell custom skins for the speakers, too, but these can be expensive depending on the shop and/or the design.
Nearly all smart speakers are connected through wifi and have Bluetooth connectivity, but nearly all of the Amazon smart speakers also come with a standard-sized audio jack that you can use to plug your device directly into the speaker for music and/or phone calls. Unfortunately, the only Google speaker that has this feature is the Home Max.
All of these speakers also require a power cable that is plugged into a wall; no, smart speakers are not battery-powered like some would believe.
You might not think so, but some of these smart speakers have more than just one microphone inside of them. The larger models like the Echo Show and the Home Max have around 5 to 6 microphones each while the smaller models like the Nest mini have around 2 or 3.
Standard speaker sizes, like the Home, usually have around 2 microphones.
This is one of the biggest factors that many people want to know because it can help them determine if the speaker they are looking at can do what it can, and the big secret is that Amazon and Google smart speakers can pretty much do the same things.
Both can be linked to other home smart devices like camera doorbells, smart lights, and more. Both can be given verbal commands, though there are a few differences in how you give the commands or how the speakers respond, and both have basic functions programmed into them like a clock, alarm clock, timers, calendars, address books, and nearly every other basic tool that you can find on your phone or computer.
It is also common for a speaker to be able to tell you a story, play music from a personal music account, play a game, answer a question through an internet search, and so much more.
What are the advantages of a smart speaker?
Smart speakers are like personal assistants that live with us, and they can do a variety of tasks, provide many answers, and can be available at a moment's notice (as long as you have power and an internet connection).
With technology growing, you can use a smart speaker to tell your smart coffee maker to start making coffee, turn the lights on and off, lock or unlock the door, make a phone call, send a message throughout other smart speakers in the house, and even more with just saying a few words like "Hey, Google" or "Alexa".
This can be especially convenient for people who are in a rush, find it hard to move around and get across the house at a moment's notice, and even for those who just need a little help, whether on a regular or occasional basis.
Things to look for that differentiate these products.
Other than the features that were mentioned above, the only other things that you can look at are the speakers (if you are familiar with the technical aspects of them), but some of the companies do not disclose what size/type of speaker they use.
You can also take a look at the brand since there are a few 'knock-offs' that are usually more affordable, but these tend to have either shorter lifespans or the most technical issues.
The most significant thing to look at though is the music settings, if you plan to listen to music regularly. The Echo can play music from Amazon Music while the Home can play music from Play Music and YouTube Music, but both speakers can also play music straight from the apps on your phone like Pandora, Spotify, and more.
What is the best way to use a smart speaker?
Some of the power cords are not that long, so you will want to find a nice spot close to an outlet where the cord will not get tripped on or pulled, knocking the speaker off or dangerously pulling it out of the outlet.
It is also a good idea to keep it away from moist, humid areas like the bathroom, especially if you have poor ventilation and moisture builds up easily.
Make sure that you have it set up through your phone and/or through your voice before you start trying to talk to it. This process can take anywhere from half an hour to an hour or so depending on how familiar you are with these types of devices.
Once everything is set up and you are ready to start using it, speak clearly and try to face or look at the speaker when you are talking. Depending on which size you chose, mini, standard, or large, and how many microphones it has, it might pick up on your voice easily or poorly depending on its placement and the size of the room.
Whenever you are cleaning, do not spray your smart speaker or wipe it with a wet rag. Instead, unplug it, wipe it down with a dry, clean cloth, put it back, and plug it. You could also use sanitation wipes, but try to avoid any electrical plugs and any fabric material on the speaker's body.
Which is better? Amazon or Google?
This is one of the most controversial arguments smart speaker users have, and as you have probably noticed, it is all a matter of preference when it comes to one being better than the other.
Both have many of the same basic functions, and both come in several sizes/models. Although, when it comes to more choices, Amazon speakers would have to win since nearly all of their models come with audio jacks and they are also available in different colors.
However, some music players recommend Google speakers more because of their higher-quality bass support, regardless of the model.
There is also a slight difference when it comes to the price, but it is usually a 10 to 15 dollar difference depending on where you are buying it from and if there are any sales or promo codes that are available.
Although, these points are just for the speaker brands in general, and you can check out a review and comparison for the standard-sized speakers themselves below.
Prerequisites and precautions for using this type of product.
If you are planning on saving some money and getting an off-brand smart speaker, you may want to think again since many of them do not come with internalized security like those from Amazon and Google; this means that off-brand smart speakers are more likely to open the cyber door for hackers to steal your information.
Regardless of which speaker you use, know that you will need a smartphone with your Google or Alexa account information to get started setting up your speaker device, and you will also need internet; otherwise, the speaker will not work until it gets connected to a wifi signal.
If you plan on using the smart speaker with smart devices, you should make sure that they are compatible first before buying products that might not work with each other. There are many devices that are advertised as 'smart' that do not connect with a smart speaker.
Finally, and this is one of the most important, stress the importance to everyone who lives there about how to make (or not make by accident) emergency calls. These speakers themselves cannot make calls, but devices like Ooma can be linked with your smart speaker so that you can tell your speaker to call 911. It is difficult to do by accident, but make sure any children who are new to using a smart speaker know that a voice command like that is not a game as soon as you get it or finish setting it up.
Comparison of Amazon Echo and Google Home
The Echo is a symmetrical cylinder, which provides 360-degree surround sound, that is covered with a fabric-like material, has a ring light around the edge at the top, and a hard-surfaced control center on the top (the face). The fabric material can come in several colors (charcoal, sandstone, heather gray, red, and twilight blue), and it is also dust resistant.
The on-board controls include 2 volume controls (up and down), an action button that wakes up the speaker, and a mute button that shuts the mic off so the speaker is not listening. Below, parallel to the volume up button, are the power and AUX ports.
The Home has a very similar design to the Echo, but instead of having a flat top, it is at an angle to help distinguish which is the front and which is the back. Half of the sides of the speaker are the same hard-plastic material that the top is made of while the bottom half is made of the same dust-resistant material that the Echo is made of.
The controls on this speaker are a little different since the controls are not just on the top like the Echo; the mute mic button is on the front side of the Home. The top controls are not marked, but the controls can be found in either the Google App while you are setting it up or on the instructions.
One of the more notable differences is the lights on the top of the Home. Unlike the Echo, the lights move in a specific way whenever there is a certain action; for example: talking to the Home, the Home is looking up an answer to a question, etc.
For choosing which was the better smart speaker, we looked at the reliability, listening quality, and variety when it comes to choosing either the Echo or the Home; the other features that you can look at are mainly a matter of your personal preference; they do not affect the quality much if at all.
Taking only these features into account, it is clear that the winner is the Echo due to its reliability when listening and responding to commands, connection compatibility with Bluetooth, and the variety when it comes to the speaker also being able to connect to a device through an AUX cord.
On the other hand, the Home is the winner when it comes to sound quality, but it did get knocked out of first because of the known issue for not always being sensitive enough to be heard when called and occasionally disconnecting Bluetooth devices or not connecting to them completely.