Is Google Home the Lifestyle Assistant You’ve Always Wanted?

Look out, Amazon Echo. There's a new speaker in town.

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As part of Google’s on-going effort to integrate itself into every aspect of our lives (I’ll be honest: I love it!), the company recently announced its newest piece of hardware, Google Home. This voice-activated speaker powered by the Google Assistant is your personal infotainment hub, and competes directly with the Amazon Echo.

Retail price for Google Home is $129, and it’s scheduled to ship on November 4th, 2016. You can order it from the Google store, Target, Best Buy and Walmart.

Hardware Overview

Google Home has a compact footprint with a height of 5.62 inches and a 3.79 inch diameter. The entire top surface is touch-sensitive and displays different colors and animations when activated. A mute button puts the far-field microphones on standby, and a 2-inch speaker driver delivers rich sound through an interchangeable base that comes in seven different colors (each sold separately). Saying the phrase “OK Google” puts the device at attention, ready to listen for its next command or question.

The good thing about being able to buy Google Home at Target, Best Buy and Walmart is that you can take advantage of gift cards, coupons and other promotions that could include Google Home. For starters, if you have the Target REDcard you can save 5% right off the bat. And don’t be surprised if they throw in a gift card with your purchase during Black Friday.

Entertainment

Essentially a WiFi speaker, Google Home can stream audio from your phone or any Chromecast-enabled audio app. It can also play music from a variety of sources like YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, and TuneIn. Use voice commands to play, pause, skip, or adjust the volume.

Google Home can also be used to control other Chromecast-powered devices — stream music throughout the house via wireless speakers or play a video on a TV that has Chromecast plugged in or built-in.

google-home-3Productivity

Thanks to Google Assistant, you have the power of the Internet’s best search engine at the tip of your tongue. Ask Google Home to do math, define words, give you current news, translate languages, and so much more. It will even remember your recent questions so you can follow-up in a conversational manner without restating any previous information.

Maximize your productivity by asking Home to set alarms, manage your calendar, or give you a heads up on weather, traffic, or flight information.

A feature called “My day” gives you a look ahead based on everything Google knows about you like your commute, reminders, news preferences, and more.

Smart Home

Google Home is designed to work with many products from today’s connected-home manufacturers including Nest, Philips Hue, SmartThings, and IFTTT. Your voice commands can control the thermostat, lights, and anything else plugged into a smart outlet. For example, you can program the phrase “Elvis has left the building” to turn off all the smart bulbs in your house.

Should you buy one?

Now that the battle of virtual personal assistants has officially begun, people will most likely be asking: “Is Google Home worth the money?” and “How does it compare to the Amazon Echo?” I think the answer lies in the types of devices you already own and where you store your music and video libraries. It’s an easy sell for someone who currently uses an Android phone, has an extensive multimedia library on Google Play, and owns multiple Chromecast-powered devices because Home will bundle everything into one convenient ecosystem.

Despite not being able to access each other’s music and video libraries, both devices have pretty much the same capabilities. Echo might be better suited at the moment for shopping and requesting services since it’s been around longer and has lots of third-party support, but Google Assistant is launching an open developer platform in December. This leaves the personalities of Google Assistant and Alexa as the only remaining difference.

For someone who’s considering a voice-activated assistant and plans to create a smart-environment, Google Home’s $129 retail price makes a compelling argument over Amazon Echo’s $179.99. You also get a six-month trial of YouTube Red when you buy one. But don’t forget about Amazon’s second-generation Echo Dot which will be available on October 20, 2016 for only $49.99. The Echo Dot’s low price makes system expansion much more cost-friendly, whereas the only add-on option right now for Google Home is another full-priced Google Home.

The good thing about being able to buy Google Home at Target, Best Buy and Walmart is that you can take advantage of gift cards, coupons and other promotions that could include Google Home. For starters, if you have the Target REDcard you can save 5% right off the bat. And don’t be surprised if they throw in a gift card with your purchase during Black Friday.

It’ll be interesting to see what the next few years have in store for Google Home and Google Assistant. Have you pre-ordered yours yet?

Images courtesy Google.


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Andrew Chen

Editorial Content Manager Andrew Chen is a longtime PC gamer, an automotive journalist and an avid deal hunter. His first PC had an 80 megahertz processor with 4 megabytes of RAM, light years away from the powerhouse gaming rigs he builds today. You can follow Andrew's high-speed sports car adventures over at 6SpeedOnline.com. As a Slickdealer for over 10 years, nothing makes him more excited than getting a freebie! Chat with Andrew on Twitter: @slickdealsdrew

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