Google knows everything, it seems. The very word itself has become synonymous with an internet search, so it only seems appropriate that Google would design a smart speaker to give you access to the endless resources it can offer to manage your home through voice commands. Whether you’re considering a full Google Home system or a Google Home Mini, we have the lowdown on the features, functionality, and things to consider when purchasing a Google Home device.
What does Google Home do?
Designed to compete with Amazon’s Alexa system, Google created three smart speakers to have access to all of the Google functionality you know and love. Google Assistant (it doesn’t get a clever name like Alexa) started simply with the original $100 Google Home. The $50 Google Home Mini is a more compact device with lower quality music playback, but it maintains full access to Google functionality. The $300 Google Home Max is designed to deliver premium sound — that’s its biggest selling point, making it primarily attractive if you plan to use Google to play your music.
Use the wake-up word, either “Ok, Google” or “Hey Google”, and use a command that your Google Assistant understands. You can ask for the weather, have Google call you an Uber, order items from Google Express, or look up information. Like Alexa, you can set up routines to be activated with a certain command or at a certain time of day, and Google Assistant integrates easily with a range of smart home devices like the August Smart Lock Pro, Philips Hue Lights, and the cutest little programmable button-pushing robot, the SwitchBot.
The perks of Google
With so many people already using Gmail accounts and Google calendar, the integration of your schedule, emails, and other Google features is seamless. Teach Google to recognize each household member’s voice, and Google Home can give individual information about schedules, traffic on commutes (Google maps knows!), or read emails aloud.
Make your house a Smart Home with Google Home
With multiple speakers located in different parts of the house (if your wifi reaches, even in your She Shed!), you can control your entire home with your voice from one single speaker. Turn off the lights in your kitchen after you’ve already gotten in bed, turn down the thermostat as you’re running out the door, or tell Google to cue up your favorite romantic playlist when your sweetheart is about to walk in the door.
Google Home has also rolled out its partnership with the Nest smart home system. If you already have Google Home set up, it’s a fairly simple integration by opening the Google Nest app on your NestHub screen, tablet, or laptop and following the instructions on the screen. You can then use your Nest screen to navigate and organize the various systems or use your Google Home app, where you can organize devices into groups or set up “routines”. Did you know your new garden decor could include a watering system set on a timer — controlled by Google Home?
A few bumps in the road
Every technology has its evolutionary hiccups, and Google Home is no different. Some people feel nervous about having a device that is always listening, and a glitch in the Google Home Mini that had it actually constantly recording made some even more squeamish. The bug has since been fixed, and Google has been quick to respond to concerns.
Since this is a Google Home review, we would be remiss if we didn’t also note the so-so sound quality in the Google Home Mini. Marketed as a compact and affordable option, anyone who really appreciates music will want to opt for another speaker. Google Home does now work with Sonos as well as a number of other Google Assistant-compatible speakers, so there are options.
All of this becomes a bit complicated the moment you want to move Google Home to a new WiFi network — say, if you wanted to bring it on vacation — but all in all, the set up is fairly straightforward. You’ll just need to use your tablet or phone with the app to get your Assistant squared away.
Once, the popular housewarming gifts were traditional items like rice, brooms, or even potted plants. Could the gift of the future be a tiny speaker with the power of Google at your command?