Amazon's Echo family is finally getting some real competition. Behold: The Google Home line of devices, aimed squarely at Amazon's equivalent Echo line of devices.
We're not talking about Bluetooth speakers here — we're talking about speakers that live in your house, permanently plugged in and connected to the internet, which you can command using your voice. In the case of Amazon's Echo line, you're speaking to Alexa; in the case of Google's Home line, you're speaking to Google Assistant.
Following the announcement of two new Google Home devices earlier this week, Amazon and Google are on more even ground than ever before. But which to buy? Here's how the two families of devices stack up.
Amazon Echo: Amazon's main Echo device is capable of playing music, giving you directions, ordering you an Uber, and a whole mess of other things. You can ask Alexa to re-order items from Amazon, or you can ask Alexa how far Pluto is from Earth. It's the gold standard in smart speakers, and the second-generation speaker both costs less and looks better than the first model.
Google Home: Google's main Home device is nearly identical, in terms of functionality, to Amazon's main Echo. It can play your music and answer questions and whatever else, all powered by "Google Assistant" — the name for Google's smart-ish AI assistant (Google's Siri, in so many words).
At $30 less, and nearly identical in terms of functionality, Amazon's Echo is a no-brainer here. The Google Home seen above is nearly a year-old device at this point, whereas Amazon's second generation Echo is still fresh. Not only will you pay less with the Echo, but you'll get a newer device. Win-win.
Amazon Echo Dot: Amazon's Echo Dot is an Echo in every way except loudness — we're talking about a tiny little device. If you were expecting serious sound out of this little hockey puck, you've got another thing coming: The Dot is an extension device, enabling you to network your Echo devices and play music in multiple rooms. You could use the Dot as an alarm clock, or you could just use it to hear the morning headlines ("Alexa, tell me the news").
Google Home Mini: Like the Dot, Google Home Mini is an extension device. It does everything that the Dot does, but it has one notable difference: A broadcast feature. Here's how it works: Say you're a parent, and you're in the garage waiting by your car for your kids to come downstairs. You've got a Home Mini in the garage, and various Home devices all over your house. You ask Home Mini to broadcast the message, "Get down to the garage before I freak out." And it will! Pretty fresh.