Electronics

Connect one-on-one with a Computer Technician who will answer your question

Connect one-on-one with a Computer Technician

Amazon Echo, featured, and Google Home are two of the most popular smart assistants.

Experts weigh in on Amazon Echo vs. Google Home

1K views
Editorial TeamVerified

We help people get

expertise on-demand

★★★★★
100k+ positive ratings
Polling Experts

We polled our computer Experts so that you can get real answers about your smart speaker questions.

If you are getting ready to buy a smart speaker, your decision will probably come down to Amazon Echo vs. Google Home. To help you make your decision, we took a poll of the electronics experts at JustAnswer to find out which device they prefer.

The competition for smart speakers is really a part of the larger competition to establish the smart home. In addition to playing music, these devices come with a virtual assistant that offers you a wide range of capabilities, from calendar reminders to answering questions to simple online ordering.  The two competitors are roughly even in terms of performance, making it a matter of preference or the demands of your intended usage that will tip the scale.

This sets the stage for an epic struggle, where a single advance or update could push either brand into the lead.

Introducing the competitors

As the first smart speaker to hit the market, the Amazon Echo has had the most field testing. It is already on its second version, and is the standard by which other speakers are judged. The virtual assistant, Alexa, listens to your commands and can set reminders, perform internet searches using Bing, and interact with other smart devices throughout your home.

  • Amazon Echo: While the original Echo was mechanical looking, the second generation has improved controls and comes in a variety of finishes to make it a more attractive addition to your home. It has a sound system that can function as a stand-alone system, though it won’t compete with a dedicated sound system. 

  • Amazon Echo Dot: The dot is a mini version of the Echo that trades sound quality for size and affordability. It features full access to Alexa functionality in a much smaller body. If you were already planning to integrate the speaker with a sound system in your home, the dot could be a great way to save some money. 

  • Amazon Echo Plus: For Amazon’s best all-in-one experience, the Echo plus is the best offering, with better speakers and built in hub that gives it an improved ability to interact with other smart devices in your home.

In addition to the basic Amazon Echo family, there are also a few specialized Echo devices that are integrated with other technology for specific purposes. 

  • Amazon Echo Show: As the only smart speaker with a touchscreen, this device allows you to check visual items like security cameras, and make video calls. 

  • Amazon Echo Tap: This is a battery powered Bluetooth enabled portable smart speaker. It is useful if you want to have a speaker on your porch or patio. 

  • Amazon Echo Look: It doesn’t get more specialized than the Echo Look, which is designed to take full body selfies and research and offer fashion tips.

Newer to the market, but designed with the advantage of the Echo’s learning curve, is the Google Home. The device is elegant in appearance, with an organic shape based on the shape of a wineglass. The virtual assistant, with the not-so-personable name Google Assistant, performs searches on Google and interacts with other Chromecast enabled devices, allowing you voice command for Netflix and YouTube on your smart TV.

  • Google Home: The Home is Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo, and although it is a newer offering, it is rapidly gaining ground on it’s predecessor. It is playing catch-up with the Echo, falling just short of its competitor in many categories, but it is closing this gap quickly and features a lower price tag than the Echo.

  • Google Home Mini: A corollary to the Echo dot, the Home mini is a smaller and more affordable version of the Home. It features a better sound quality, but can only connect to other wireless speakers through a Chromecast dongle, which is something of a hidden cost for the device.

  • Google Home Max: Intended to compete with Sonos wireless sound systems, the Home Max is the largest smart speaker and features a high-quality sound that dwarfs other smart speakers. It also has a physical bulk and a price tag and that manage to do the same.

There is very little that one brand can do that the other can’t also manage. To start to differentiate between them, you need to explore some of the specifics of their functionality.

Using the virtual assistant

The big thing that sets the smart speaker apart from any other sound system is the voice activated smart assistant, and this is where the two brands start to diverge. Many people have chosen to go with the Dot or the Mini simply because it is the cheapest delivery system for the virtual assistant.

Amazon has focused on ease of online ordering and dovetails nicely with your prime account to make it simple to make Amazon purchases. Alexa can also answer simple questions using Bing as its search engine, and allows you to do all the basics, such as adding items to your calendar, prepare a shopping list, make a to do list, check flight statuses, track packages. The Echo allows you to add a second adult account, and permits family sharing from either account.

Google has taken a different approach, using deep data to provide a more intelligent assistant. Google Assistant can access Google maps, provide a personalized daily briefing with real time traffic information and news, and is able to understand follow up questions better than Alexa. It can recognize up to six family members and react with trained personalized responses, but has struggles if different people sound too much alike.

Otherwise, when looking at Echo vs Home, both assistants are comparable, offering similar capabilities and having many of the same limitations, such as struggling with accurate voice recognition.

 

Which personal assistant do you find more natural to interact with?

Expert Consensus: In terms of interacting with the virtual assistant, our experts were split between Alexa and Google Assistant.

Controlling your smart home

As a voice activated hub for your smart home, the Echo is still a little bit ahead of the Home. Amazon’s assistant can interact with more smart devices, though Google is quickly coming up to speed and can handle most of the same interactions. What sets the Echo apart in this category is the use of apps, called skills, that allow Alexa to indirectly control smart devices that it can’t manage directly. This adds a second layer to your commands, as you need to instruct Alexa to issue directions to the app, but the enhanced interactivity is well worth the minor increase in complexity.

Google Home doesn’t have Alexa’s skill set to build on, but it is able to respond to an expanding list of voice commands. Google assistant can recognize context between questions; if you ask which album has ‘Wish You Were Here’, and follow the answer with ‘play it’, the system can track the context and will start playing Pink Floyd – a feat that Alexa struggles with. The home is also able to understand two-part instructions, letting you shorthand your interactions. 

 

Which device do you find can interact with more elements of a smart home?

Expert Consensus: The versatility of those skills allows the Echo to pull ahead in terms of interaction with other smart home devices, even though Google is working hard to catch up.

 

Which approach to smart control do you prefer?

Expert Consensus: Among the experts, the versatility of Amazon Echo’s skills allowed Alexa to pull ahead, despite the simplicity of Google Home’s functions.

Both Amazon Echo and Google Home are comparable in the devices they interact with, and the list is expanding quickly for both. They are both able to use IFTTT (IF This Then That) logic to create personalized responses to unique commands, which opens up a world of functionality.

Making phone calls

Both devices allow you to make phone calls, but the Echo is limited to calling other Alexa-enabled numbers. Google can manage calls to all domestic contacts. It is worth mentioning here that the Echo Show is the only smart speaker that is currently able to support video calls, if that is a priority.

Listening to music

It is strange that this is almost an afterthought when discussing a smart speaker, but the virtual assistant is a more important factor and steals the show. Both brands offer good-enough sound quality for their size, so unless you are a true audiophile this won’t be a deciding factor.

If sound quality is a consideration, both brands can connect to an external sound system with Google using Chromecast and with Bluetooth for Amazon.

The primary difference between the two brands in this area is the source of your music choices. The Echo works with Amazon music, while the Home works with Google Play. Both can interact with an expanding list of online music sources such as Pandora, allowing you to listen to almost any music you desire.

Understanding the differences between smart speakers

In broad brushstrokes, the Home is a little smarter and easier to interact with, making it a better personal assistant, but the Echo has broader functionality with its extensive skill library making it more useful for online shopping and around the house utility. That said, there is little that one can do that the other can’t. Amazon Echo compared to Google Home is a toss-up, as the two devices are so evenly matched in capability and performance, leaving many customers scratching their heads trying to choose the right device. 

 

Which of the following features do you believe are most important? 

Expert Consensus: Many people struggle to evaluate the different features that each device offers, making it harder to come to a decision. For this question we asked the experts to rate the following features in the order of importance.  

  • Accuracy of answers

  • Ease of online ordering

  • General information such as weather or news

  • Interaction with other smart devices

  • Music selection

  • Organizational tools

  • Sound quality

For our experts, accuracy of answers and sound quality were the most important, and music selection and ease of ordering were the least. 

 

Which device do you believe is easiest for a novice to set up and use?

Expert Consensus: These days, you almost need to be a computer scientist to understand all your tech devices. In terms of keeping the system easy to set up, the Amazon Echo pulls to the head of the pack, with the Echo Dot and Home Mini close behind. 

 

Which version of the smart speaker do you believe offers the best value for the features it offers?

Expert Consensus: When it comes to value for your money, the experts favor the Amazon lineup, though they are divided about which iteration is the best. 

 

Which smart speaker do you find is least likely to have technical issues? 

Expert Consensus: Another notch in the ease of use category, Amazon still performs better as a plug-and-play system, and is less prone to technical problems. 

 

Which of these kinds of problems do you believe are the most common for smart speakers?

Expert Consensus: Speaking of technical problems, our experts were between set-up and configuration issues and trouble with connectivity as the most common types of problems that are encountered with smart speakers.

Did we cover everything?

Finally, we opened the floor to the experts