Not 10 years back, a speaker in the home would more than likely have had a very simple purpose. In fact, most powered objects around the house just did one thing and that was it. Now, we’re seeing a surge in these everyday household items evolving to having at least some form of smart connectivity.
Google Home and Google Home Mini
The humble speaker is definitely one of those objects, and you’ll notice it’s not just audio brands that are tapping into this growing market. Far from the simple listening devices of yesteryear and more like a virtual home helper, Google has come in strong with the release of two smart speakers, the Google Home and Google Home Mini; both powered by the ever so user-friendly Google Assistant.
Google Assistant is smart, really smart
There’s a select amount of interactive voice controlled speakers out there, but few that feel as comprehensive as the Google Home and Google Home Mini. This is partly due to Google Assistant, which is just as powerful as what you’d find in their Pixel phone and top-tier Android devices – minus the screen, of course.
What sets Google Assistant as a cut above the rest is the way it learns on-the-fly from your interactions and voice prompts. A quick “okay Google” and you’ll have the speaker’s undivided attention, ask it something like “where’s the closest Japanese restaurant?”. Once it’s found the answer, you can dive deeper and ask contextual questions like “what’s the quickest route to get there?” or “can you find some reviews?”.
Because you have the entirety of Google’s search capabilities available to you, you can find out everything from how to jump start a car, or even specific fitness regimes if you need a hand with your fitness; “okay Google, what’s the best workout to improve arm strength?”, “how often should I do this each week?” and “are there any other exercises you can suggest?”. So far, communicating with the Google Home and Google Home Mini are the closest we’ve come to a fluid conversation with a personal voice assistant.
The microphone works even with a substantial amount of background noise, and this truly comes into play when you’re controlling your television. Providing you have a Chromecast, turning your television on, navigating through streaming services and YouTube alike is just a request away – equally useful if you’re multitasking, or if you can’t find the remote between the couch cushions.
Outside of entertainment, Google Assistant is also compatible with a variety of known names in home automation that can be controlled through the Home App – Elgato, LIFX, Philips Hue, and Sensibo to name a few.
We recently purchased some LIFX lights to try out with Google Home and although the setup was pretty straight forward, we did find ourselves frustrated with some aspects of the process. The connection between LIFX and Google Assistant proves a little tedious when you add new lights to the system, as there doesn’t seem to be a way to refresh Google Home App with your new additions without unlinking and then re-linking the LIFX account – this, however, is a small gripe against the many impressive features available with Google Home and Google Home Mini.
They’re elegant, yet tough
While their aesthetics differ substantially from each other, both look and feel beautiful. The Google Home is stout, built with a combo of durable matte plastic and fabric. It features an LED-lit touch panel atop the speaker for the basics like play, pause, back, next and of course volume.
The Google Home Mini is indeed mini. Spanning barely 10 centimeters, it’s a great option for a second speaker in the bathroom or bedroom. It’s wrapped in the same fabric that you’ll find on the bottom half of the Google Home for the most part, but the touch controls differ slightly with taps compared to swipes, given its compact design.
It’s not about the music anymore
The speakers themselves sound crisp and clear in both the Google Home and Google Home Mini, but their capabilities are limited when it comes to playing the more demanding music genres such as bass-rich electronica and heavier rock. This is more so the case with the Mini, you’ll find some distortion at high volume with most types of music.
But the Google Home and Google Home Mini can do so much more than just play music, and it’s really only worth forking out the respective $199AUD and $79AUD if you’re planning on connecting up other smart devices around the home. Both speakers allow for the intelligent home experience to be truly bespoke; Google Assistant is capable of recognising different voices, and has the ability to switch between up to six connected Google accounts—each with their own unique profile—as it hears them; perfect for the family home or a share house.
You probably won’t be entertaining a house party with the Google Home or Google Home Mini, but if you’re looking for some assistance around the house, these two smart speakers can do just that.