Google Home review: Price, performance and features compared
The ultimate example of science fiction's take on a smart, digital assistant to manage your life is undoubtedly Iron Man's J.A.R.V.I.S. Able to respond to every whim of the billionaire playboy Tony Stark (in the dulcet tones of Paul Bettany, no less), J.A.R.V.I.S. can not only control practically every element of Stark's life, but also anticipate his needs, allowing him to suit up to become a super hero. Google Home is the closest thing Australia has to J.A.R.V.I.S., but it's going to be a long time before any of us suit up in iron armour to save the world. While Home manages to do a great many things well, it's also evident that this is a first-generation product, with plenty of room for improvement.
- Compact design makes placement easy
- Limited colour options in Australia
- Solid audio quality that maintains clarity at high volumes
- Easy to set up
- Supports a wide range of smart home functions
- A strong start to Australia's smart speaker market
Should you buy it?
Google is at a definite advantage in Australia with the Google Home smart speaker. It's been launched almost six months before Apple's HomePod will be released and Amazon's Alexa – the de facto leader in the US – is nowhere to be found in Australia.
But despite the head start, it's still abundantly clear that this is a market in its infancy. The brains behind the platform still have a long way to go before it becomes the centralised hub that digitally helps you with every aspect of your life.
The Google Home speaker is not J.A.R.V.I.S., but there's still plenty to like about it. As a speaker, it does a good job of playing back music and it can be useful for getting a quick snapshot of your day or the latest news headlines.
The fact that you can set up the speaker with up to six Google accounts is fantastic, allowing multiple users to take advantage of personalised responses. It would be even better if Google launched its Family Link service so that kids under 13 could really take advantage of it, but I expect that will come in the not too distant future.
On the downside, it's frustrating that you can't combine two calendars to one account. I don't think it's uncommon that I have a work and a personal calendar, and while Google can share that information, Home will only read out events from the main calendar of a single account.
The fact that the speaker works with Netflix and Stan, but not Google Play Movies, is mind-boggling too. You have to hope that we'll see that integration introduced soon.
There's an argument that there's an ongoing privacy issue when giving Google another access point to your personal information and it's a legitimate point. But that same argument can be applied to all of Google's products. For the vast majority of people, small sacrifices of anonymous private information is a worthy price to pay for the convenience of voice control.
It will be exciting to see how many companies jump on board with Google Home's technology in the coming years. Within a week of having the Home speaker, I've already started planning out replacing all my light bulbs and researching smart ceiling fan controls, smart door locks and power management devices to take advantage of the speaker's skills.
At under $200, the speaker feels like good value, although a lot of that value is placed in anticipated improvements, rather than how it performs right now. That said, if you are thinking about picking up a speaker and portability isn't an issue, then it's hard to see why you wouldn't opt for a smart speaker like this.
It may not be J.A.R.V.I.S. yet, and it may never be. But even J.A.R.V.I.S. started somewhere, and it eventually became Vision. Let's hope for a similar development.
Pricing and availability
Google Play Music
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