Google Home preview

Google announced Home earlier this summer, showcasing the standalone device’s ability to interact with users via voice control and complete a number of useful tasks. Now the search giant has revealed more details about this exciting new product. Here's our Google Home preview. See also: Amazon Echo review.

Also see: Best Black Friday Deals

Google Home preview: Price and UK release date

Amazon’s Echo, which will be the main rival for Home, costs £149.99 (with the smaller Dot version at £49.99) so we expected Google to price the Home towards the bigger Echo being as it has a decent built-in speaker. 

So far we know only the US price of $129, which includes a free six-month subscription to YouTube Red, the ad-free YouTube variant that also includes music streaming. Alas YouTube Red is also a US exclusive product, so it's hard to know if UK buyers will recieve a similar perk, but we'd speculate on a free Google Play Music trial to be bundled with Home over here.

Of course the big question is when we’ll see the device on this side of the ocean, and Google has not been forthcoming on this. At the moment there's no information on when Home will be released globally, but pre-orders open on November 4th for US customers.

Obviously we'll keep this article updated, so as soon as there is any news on the UK release and price we'll put it here.

Google Home preview: Design and Build

There’s no doubt that Google has been careful to make Home a subtle device that blends into the background. At first glance it can easily be mistaken for a lamp of some kind. The mesh style base and white angled-plastic top wouldn't look out of place in a Habitat store, such is the fresh,  modern design.

Google Home Preview

Aesthetics are something Google seems to be taking seriously with Home. Alongside the standard mesh base there will also be a number of additional models available in the Play Store that feature alternative patterns and colours. This makes sense as unlike the Chromecast 4K or Pixel smartphones Home is meant to be seen, and therefore needs to be easy on the eye.

Home is from the minimalist school, featuring only one hardware button at the rear which is used to mute the device. Google has included four LEDs which illuminate the top of the plastic casing to show when the device is in operation, and this area also double as a capacitive surface for simple commands. It’s an understated look, and one we like very much.

Google Home preview: Features and Specs

The main brains of the device are housed in the mesh base, which contains the far-field microphones (which can hear you from afar) through which all interactions take place. There’s also a speaker so that Home can let you know of any appointments you have coming up, respond to questions you might pose, and act as a WiFi speaker for streaming music.

Google Home Preview

Google Home uses the same technology as Google Assistant, so you can simply tell the device what you want to do - find out what’s on at the cinema, what the weather will be tomorrow, who you’re meeting on Saturday - and the device will speak back the answers. You can also schedule appointments and other daily tasks without ever picking up your phone.

In terms of specs we still don't know much about the innards of Home. There have been rumours that the technology is very similar to the Chromecast Ultra, which boasts a Linux-based OS, dual-core ARM CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a dual-band 802.11ac WiFi chip, but until Google confirm this it remains a bit of a mystery.

Google Home preview: Software

Home has no discernable interface other than the voice interaction. Essentially it's a more powerful version of Google Now that you'd find on your phone, but with a speaker built-in. The four LEDs on the top of the device will flash to indicate that Home is in operation, but this is primarily an aural experience.

That doesn't mean that it's limited though. Google announced that Home will work with a number of partners, including Spotify, YouTube Music, Google Play Music, Pandora, and TuneIn. You can request songs from each of these by name, or set one as the default service.

Home also supports playing music through external speakers that support the Chromecast platform, and can even control multi-room setups. So saying 'Play Bob Dylan on the upstairs speakers' will do just that. But like the large Amazon Echo, its built-in speaker is capable of "filling a room" with music according to Google.

Google Home Preview

Google Home can also control Nest thermostats, Phillips Hue Bulbs, Samsung SmartThings devices, and works with IFTTT,  plus you can use it with a Chromecast to send media content from services such as YouTube and Netflix directly to your TV. Nice.

Home is also an organisational tool which hooks into Google Calendar and Google Keep, so you can make appointments and take notes just by talking to the device. A useful new feature that we like the look of is called My Day. This is intended to be a kind of morning brief from your assistant which reads out your schedule for the day ahead.This is augmented with traffic conditions on the commute, weather conditions, and any reminders you have set.

Google Home preview: How does it compare to the Amazon Echo and Dot?

In this space the only real competitors around at the moment is Amazon's Echo and Dot. Both of these devices feature the same voice-controlled interface, with the Echo also boasting an internal speaker which enables it to answer questions and play music. The Dot can has a speaker for voice feedback but needs an external speaker for music, and this might be preferable if you already have a HiFi you like.

Google Home preview

It's hard to compare on price because we don't know how much the Google Home will be in the UK. As an indication though, Amazon currently sells the Echo on its US site for $179.99 and the Dot for $49.99. If Google Home offers the same conversion rate then its $129.99 would make the unit cheaper in the UK.

This becomes a moot point though if it's unavailable. So the current £149.99 Echo price and £49.99 Dot are a better deal because you can actually buy them.

There are a lot of crossovers in terms of compatible services. Both Echo and Home work with Spotify, TuneIn, Spotify, Google Calendar, and Philips Hue Smart light bulbs, but as Echo has come out first it has a few more UK focussed offerings.

Amazon has introduced something called Skills (basically apps) that allow the capabilities of the Echo unit to be expanded over time by companies releasing them into the Skills Store.

At the moment this gives Echo a big advantage over Home as there are Skills for Skyscanner, Uber, National Rail, various UK news outlets, and a wide range of smart home products such as Nest, Hive, Netatmo, WeMo, LIFX and Tado.

Google Home: Specs

  • Linux bases OS, dual-core ARM CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a dual band 802.11ac WiFi chip
  • Linux bases OS, dual-core ARM CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a dual band 802.11ac WiFi chip

OUR VERDICT

We're excited by the potential of Google Home, but until it makes it to these shores the Amazon Echo will continue to build up its lead. Don't wait too long Google.

Best prices today

Retailer Price Delivery  

Price comparision from , and manufacturers