With Christmas just around the corner, my inbox and messenger have started to fill up with messages from friends and family - not to wish me well, but instead to ask me which personal/home assistant device they should purchase.
With both Google and Amazon reducing the price of these devices for Black Friday it seems that everyone is getting on the bandwagon.
Having had both Google Home and Amazon Echo for a while I thought it was about time I came off the fence and give my recommendation, but then I realized that there are hundreds of technical reviews out there already, so instead, I've decided to ask my family which device they prefer and why.
So here it is, the Lees' family review of both the Google Home (and mini) and Amazon Echo. But before we begin let me quickly introduce the family. My wife, Lianne and I have two kids, Molly who is 15 and Harry 10. We have several Smart TV's, Chromecast devices and even a Chromebit. The house is also full of IoT devices from Philips Hue bulbs, Nest alarms, and an Internet heating system. We use Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Google Play for our music and films. OK, so we're a bit geeky.
Look & Feel
Being the teen of the house, Molly has strong opinions on how things should look and feel. Unfortunately, Molly felt that the Amazon Echo was too "functional looking", ugly in fact and relegated the device to the kitchen tucked away in a corner. She loves, however, the design of the Google Home and the Google Home mini, which takes pride of place in her bedroom while the Google Home is in the family room.
Features and Functionality
Both devices main function in our house is music, and both perform extremely well here. The only issue I'd say we have is with Amazon Echo not always finding the right track and often playing a sample from Amazon Music. When asking Alexa to play music from Spotify you have to be very specific, "Alexa play Hello by Adele on Spotify", and if your track name is too long Alexa often comes back unable to locate the track even before you've finished asking. Google, on the other hand, is brilliant, you don't need to specify you're using Spotify simply ask for the track or playlist and you're away.
And this is really where the true difference between Alexa and Google is. Alexa seems to only be capable of understanding fairly basic commands. By contrast, Google is conversational and feels much more natural, and this is noticed more by the kids who talk to Google Home while they actually shout at Alexa.
So when asked which they prefer both Harry and Molly definitely prefer their Google Home minis, especially as Google recently added "broadcast" allowing Google Home devices to broadcast messages around the house.
However, there are some features that they can only use the Amazon Echo, specifically "Alexa Fart" (thanks Harry) and other such "skills" as well as being able to call their grandparents Amazon Echo device.
It's a close run thing and as I've already said it really depends on what you want your device to do. Google is miles smarter than the Echo, and interaction with Google's Assistant feels much more natural. It is able to answer fairly complex questions and is great for helping with homework. On the other hand, Echo has a lot of skills, and some really fun games and apps, this makes the Echo feel much more useful. So sorry, but we can't decide, the kids love their Google Home, but Lianne and I find the Echo more useful and can forgive it for being a little dumber than Google.
What's coming next?
But wait, there's more. Amazon is ahead of the competition as they launch a series of new Alexa powered devices.
- The Echo Show, which enables video calling. (But don't play Netflix or YouTube)
- The Echo Look, which is intended for fashionistas.
- The Echo Spot, which is like a really fancy alarm clock.
- The Amazon Tap, aka portable Echo.