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Google Home vs Amazon Echo: Which smart speaker will win the battle for your living room?

Mirror logo Mirror 27/03/2017 Sophie Curtis

If you thought that speakers were just for listening to music, it's time to think again.

A new battleground has emerged in the war for the "smart home". Web-connected speakers that not only play music but offer helpful information and obey spoken commands are jostling for a place in your living room.

At the end of last year, - over a year after launching the device in the US.

Echo comes with an integrated voice assistant called Alexa that can answer questions, make to-do lists, set alarms and provide weather, traffic and other information in real-time.

Now Google is , called , with its own voice assistant that can perform many of the same tasks.

Credits: REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

So how do the two devices stack up? And which one will win the battle for your heart, and your home?

Design

Amazon Echo is a 23.5 cm tall cylindrical speaker with a diameter of 8.3cm. It is fairly heavy compared to other wireless speakers, and somewhat monolithic in appearance.

The bottom half of the device is covered by a speaker grille, while the top of Echo has a ring of light that you can turn to adjust volume, and buttons for mute and activation.

The speaker only comes in black and white colour options.

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By contrast, Google Home is quite squat - with a shape supposedly inspired by wine glasses and candles.

It has a sloped top, with a touch-capacitive display and four coloured LED lights to provide visual feedback, and a single physical mute button on the back, which you can press to prevent Google from listening to "hot words".

The bottom of the unit is covered by a speaker grille and can be swapped out for different coloured shells to suit your personal taste. There are six shell options in fabric or metal.

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Sound

If you're going to invest in a speaker, the most important thing is that it sounds good.

Amazon Echo is a 1.0 channel speaker, meaning that it is a single speaker with one tweeter and one woofer. That's pretty basic considering that, for most people, playing music will be its primary function.

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Meanwhile, Google Home boasts a "high-excursion driver" with a "dual passive radiator" design that Google claims delivers "crystal-clear highs and deep lows". That means a lot of big sound from a small package.

Google Home speakers can also be synced together, or used to control other speakers that have a device plugged into them, essentially creating a multi-room speaker system.

Voice assistant

Amazon's voice assistant Alexa is capable of understanding simple commands, or even a series of commands, but she can't conduct two-way conversations.

Alexa's default search engine is Bing, meaning that responses to all the questions you ask will be derived form the Microsoft-owned search engine.

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You have to phrase your questions in the right way to get the answers you want, but Amazon claims the more you use Echo, the more Alexa will adapt to your speech patterns, vocabulary and personal preferences.

Google Assistant taps into the superior power of Google's search engine, allowing you to ask more complex questions in a more natural way.

You can also ask follow-up questions, so it feels more like a conversation.

Moreover, the Assistant on Google Home is the same as the Assistant built into Android smartphones, so data can be shared across both devices.

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The irritating thing about Google Assistant is that it doesn't have a name, so whereas you can wake up Amazon's assistant by just saying "Alexa", with Google Home you have to say "OK Google" every time you want to talk to it.

Compatibility

Where Amazon Echo excels is in its compatibility with other apps.

The speaker already boasts Uber, Skyscanner, National Rail, and JustEat among its "skills", as well as several smart home appliances such as Hive, Netatmo and Philips Hue.

In fact, Amazon claims that more than 130 apps are supported by Amazon Echo and Alexa voice commands.

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Google Home can link up with Philips Hue, Nest, Samsung SmartThings and IFTTT - as well as its own Chromecast devices - but that's about it so far.

Both the Echo and Home are compatible with the most common music streaming services - most notably Spotify and TuneIn.

With the Echo, you can tap into Amazon's own music library and Prime Music offerings, while the Home links up with Google Play Music and YouTube Music.

Price and availability

Amazon Echo echo went on sale in the UK on 28 September, at a price of £149.99. It is available at , , , , and Tesco, as well as from itself.

Google Home is not yet available in the UK, but has gone on sale in the US for $129.

Credits: Reuters © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Reuters

Reuters

Even if Google decides to convert that number into pounds when it crosses the pond, it will still be over £20 cheaper than Amazon's rival.

Verdict

In many aspects, Google Home seems to come out on top in the battle of the smart speakers. It's smaller, more customisable, and its voice assistant is powered by Google search, which many regard as superior to Bing.

On the other hand, it's early days for the device - no one in the UK has had a chance to put it through its paces yet, and it lacks the breadth of integrations with third party apps that Amazon Echo boasts.

If you're hungry to get your hands on a smart speaker in the UK now, your choice has already been made for you, as Google Home is currently only available in the US.

However, if you're willing to hold out a little longer, you may find that Google Home has more to offer.

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