Google wants to embed itself in your home, like Amazon does with its Echo range of devices. As a result, Google offers the Home family, which consists of Home, Home Mini, Home Max and Home Hub.
This is everything you need to know about Google Home, including what it is, how the Google Home devices work, what devices work with Google Home and where you can buy these speakers.
What is Google Home?
- Wi-Fi smart speaker
- Google Assistant and smart home control
- Three colours: Mango, Marine, and Violet bases, Carbon, Snow, and Copper tops
Google Home is a Wi-Fi speaker that doubles as a smart home control hub and a personal assistant for the entire family. You can use it to playback entertainment throughout your home, effortlessly manage everyday tasks, and ask Google things you want to know. It's essentially Google's version of Amazon's Echo.
The device itself has interchangeable bases available in various colours and finishes (such as metal and fabric, allowing you to match it to your decor). Underneath that swappable shell there is a speaker that can playback songs and allow Google Assistant to talk to you, while at the top, there is a capacitive touch display with four LEDs.
This display allows users to interact with Home, trigger Assistant, adjust volume, and so forth. Dual mics listen for your voice, but there is a single mute button on the shell to turn the microphones off. Google Home can filter and separate speech from noise and the speaker inside features dual side-facing passive radiators, which deliver full range, clear highs, and rich bass.
What about Google Home Max and Mini?
- Both offer Google Assistant
- Same capabilities as Home but different specifications
Google expanded the Google Home line-up in 2017 to include the Google Home Max and Google Home Mini. The Google Home Max is a premium speaker product, offering better sound capabilities than the standard Home. Meanwhile, the Google Home Mini is more like an Amazon Echo Dot. It's a compact, affordable speaker that brings Google Assistant to your home without requiring you to spend a fortune.
Both the Google Home Max and Google Home Mini have Google Assistant and they both offer the same capabilities as the Google Home. They have different speaker specifications and technical specifications, but you can use any of them for music and video playback, smart home control, and usual voice command queries.
What is Google Home Hub?
- Google Assistant
- 7-inch display
Google further expanded the Home portfolio in 2018 with the addition of Home Hub. Like the Home, Home Max and Home Mini, the Home Hub offers the same features as the other three Home speakers but it adds a 7-inch display to the mix, making it ideal for smart home control and video playback.
It's speaker isn't as powerful as the Home or Home Max, but the display allows you to watch YouTube videos for example, read news snippets and control any smart home devices you have using the touchscreen. Of course, it too offers Google Assistant so you can use your voice to control everything too, as you can with the rest of the Home devices, but the display brings everything to life.
How does Google Home work?
Music and video playback
Google Home is a Wi-Fi speaker and it can therefore stream music directly from the cloud. You can access songs, playlists, albums, artists, and podcasts from your favourite music services with just your voice. Or, if you prefer, you can send music from your Android or iOS device through Google Cast.
With Google Cast support, you can also use Google Home to control other connected speakers in your home. You'll even get multi-room playback, meaning you can add one or more Google Home devices to a group of speakers in order to blast tunes throughout your house, if they are compatible.
Google Home can also control your video content through Google Cast. Let's say you want to watch your latest episode of Daredevil on Netflix, or a cat video on YouTube. Issue a voice command to Google Home and the content will then appear on your TV. This only works if you've set up both devices in the Google Home app, however.
Smart home hub
Google Home devices can be a control centre for your entire home. They will allow you do the basics like set alarms and timers and manage to-do lists and shopping lists, but they will also connect your smarthome and support popular network systems. It's worth mentioning that you will need the Google Home app to set everything up.
Once you set up your Google Home device and all your smart devices in your home in the Google Home app, you will be able to control them. This applies to smart lights from various companies, switches, plugs, Google's own Nest products and pretty much any smart home device that is compatible.
It's also possible to control things beyond the home too, such as book an Uber or order dinner. Bear in mind that you will have to ensure everything is setup first though. The best part is all this is done with just your voice, though as we mentioned, if you have the Home Hub, you can also use the display to control your smart home devices.
Google Home devices allow you to ask Google anything, from the weather to specific facts. Google's years of search experience is behind Google Assistant so you can ask specific questions like "how much fat is in an avocado?" or "what is Wayne Rooney's shirt number?", but Google Assistant is also capable of conversation so you can ask follow up questions too like "where did he go to school?".
Google Home devices will be able to connect the "he" pronoun to your previous question about Rooney or whoever in order to serve up an accurate answer.
You can ask complex stuff too, such as: "OK Google, what was the US population when NASA was established?". Google Home devices will give you immediate answers each time and they can read the relevant parts of webpages back to you, or show you on the Home Hub.
Which services does Google Home support?
Google Home works with numerous music services, including YouTube Music, Deezer, Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music and TuneIn. The list has grown considerably since the original Home device was first announced. Home devices are also compatible with various news outlets, such as the BBC, Telegraph, and Guardian in the UK, among others.
You'll need to connect your accounts of these services to your Google Home, in the Google Home app but you'll be prompted to do this when you set your Home device up. Connect as many accounts as you have for the best experience.
With support for these various services, you can ask: "OK Google, play that Shakira song from Zootopia." Without having to name the song, Google Home can figure it out and play it from your favourite app. Thanks to Google Assistant and its machine-learning capabilities, Google Home knows you and your preferences and learns over time.
Google Home also works with a multitude of smart home companies. The list isn't quite as rich as Amazon's Alexa yet, but it is continuously growing and there are plenty of compatible services. Nest, SmartThings, Philips Hue, IFTTT, Ikea, TP-Link, Arlo, Hive and Netatmo are among the services compatible which means you'll be able to control these smart home devices and activate your IFTTT recipes using your Home device.
Google Home also acts as a Chromecast Audio receiver. We know we sound repetitive, but again, you must set these up with the Google Home app.
What is Google Assistant in Google Home?
Google announced Google Assistant in 2016 as an adaption of Google Now and OK Google. The service improved the two-way conversation experience of the previous offerings with AI and machine learning.
These advances essentially add context to your questions. For instance, when you say, "OK Google", followed by "What's playing tonight?", Google Assistant will show films at your local cinema. But, if you add, "We're planning on bringing the kids", Google Assistant will know to serve up showtimes for kid-friendly films.
You could then say "Let's see the Jungle Book", and Assistant will buy tickets. You can even ask, "Is the Jungle Book any good?", and then the assistant will display reviews, ratings, and a trailer. Google Assistant is able to string your questions together in order to determine context and serve up the right information.
It can do basic stuff like retrieve your travel itinerary, daily schedule, commute time to work, package delivery information, and more. Google Home devices aren't the only devices with access to the Google Assistant, however. You'll also be able to use the assistant with Android devices and Android Auto.
Assistant on Google Home devices is the same as Google Assistant on your smartphone. Data is shared across your devices.
When and where can you buy Google Home?
All four Google Home devices are available in the US and UK. Below you'll find a list of places you can buy the Google Home, Google Home Max, Google Home Mini, and Google Home Hub, along with what they each cost in those places.
Google Home Max
Google Home Mini
Google Home Hub
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