We spent over a year living with the voice-controlled speakers Amazon Echo and Google Home, listening to music, asking foolish questions, getting news reports, and begging them to turn the lights off.
Both models are pretty good at playing music when you ask them to, but the Echo’s two-year head start means it can do more things, especially for controlling smart-home gear. But the best smart speaker for your home can vary depending on your priorities, the stuff you already have, and the services you already subscribe to.
Amazon offers several other Alexa-enabled smart speakers in addition to the standard-model Echo: the smaller Echo Dot, which is a good choice if you want to connect it to your own (higher-quality) speaker system; the Echo Plus, with a built-in Zigbee smart-home hub;
The portable Echo Tap; and the video-enabled Echo Show, along with the smaller Echo Spot and the fashion-focused Echo Look. There are also some third-party options available, including the Sonos One and the Eufy Genie from Anker.
The Google Home has the advantage of Google’s search and voice-control expertise (and the ability to tie in to multiple Google accounts, so you can check your calendar for the day, set and manage reminders in Keep, and report traffic conditions on your commute using Maps data).
When you use it with more than one account, the Home can even differentiate users by the sound of their voice. But the “Google” portion of the Google Home isn’t quite as capable as we’d like. It generally provides more detailed answers than Alexa, but in day-to-day use, it’s not noticeably more capable at performing simple tasks—for example, the process to add events to your Google calendar is needlessly awkward.
And while it has some smart-home integrations and third-party “Actions” comparable to Alexa’s Skills, it has fewer of either than Alexa does, though as of November 2017, the Google Home can understand two commands at once. The one indisputable advantage of the Home is its ability to serve as a controller for a Chromecast Audio multiroom audio system.
This means you can use voice commands to stream the same song or podcast to several synchronized speakers in different rooms simultaneously. While Alexa recently added similar capabilities, Chromecast still boasts more options and a better track record.
Budget-oriented Google Home Mini and upgraded Google Home Max models are also available.