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Which Smart Speaker Should You Buy?

Control your smart TV (and home) and buy stuff, all with the command of your voice.

Google, Amazon

Last November, we determined that the Google Home was superior to the Amazon Echo. Since then, Amazon has released more Alexa-enabled products, and Google keeps adding new features to keep up. With smart speakers rumored from Apple and Microsoft later this year, the answer to “which smart speaker is best” is constantly changing.

Today, Amazon offers three different smart speakers and has built Alexa into its tablets, expanding where the service can be used. As for Google, the Home is the only smart speaker featuring Google Assistant, though there is an Assistant app for both Android and iOS. The two digital servants have become increasingly similar, leaving few, but significant differences.

So, what’s so great about Google?

First, the Google Home speaker is $130, competitively priced against the Echo’s $180 tag. But, that aside, what really matters is performance.

A fundamental test for an assistant is asking random questions. Right off the bat, the Home outperforms the Echo. Google is the largest search engine in the world, and the answers are, rather unsurprisingly, more detailed.

You can use these smart speakers to watch TV. And you should. Google Home will easily stream content to your Chromecast with voice commands. Alexa can stream to Amazon’s Fire TV stick, but it needs to be turned on first. If you ask your Google Home to play Netflix, it’ll just do it.

Google knows a lot more about you than Amazon (and that’s a good thing). The Home can tell you about your upcoming meetings (since it links with Google Calendar), and can give you directions and traffic updates from Google Maps. Amazon doesn’t offer either of these features yet — another win for Google on the practical side of things.

Google Home works with up to six users. This means the speaker can differentiate between voices, and will provide information from each corresponding Google account. Driving directions will be user-specific based on saved addresses — same goes for calendar information. Alexa does support multiple Amazon accounts, but you first have to tell it to switch users.

And what’s so great about Amazon?

Alexa is touted as knowing over 10,000 skills at this point in time. The Echo also has a longer list of smart products it can connect to. This is useful if your home has many smart products, and, of course, if you’re constantly ordering off of Amazon Prime, Alexa is the obvious choice.

One of Alexa’s strongest features is how available she is. If you already have a great Bluetooth speaker, a $50 Echo Dot will make it a smart speaker. If not, you can buy the Echo (Amazon’s flagship speaker), and soon the Echo Show (an Alexa-enabled speaker with a touchscreen).

And there are plenty of Alexa-enabled third-party speakers available. At only $50, Fabriq is a good option. It may be smaller, and it might not sound quite as robust as the Echo, but it’s offered at a great price point and comes in more colorways than Amazon’s standard black or white. Omaker’s WoW speaker ($90) is also a decent option. Both the WoW and the Fabriq are battery powered — a major advantage in design over Amazon’s speakers, which require a wall outlet. The Omaker is larger than other speakers, but it should provide better sound quality as a result.

Which is the better bet?

At the end of the day, both speakers have a lot of similar functionality. They can play your music, give you notifications and answer your burning questions. The Google Home sounds better, but Amazon has more ways to use Alexa. Google Assistant is very practical with your Google accounts, but Alexa can do more with your smart home. The Echo comes in black or white, and the Home has swappable colored bases. Most importantly, though, both assistants can shower you with compliments and tell you jokes, so you’ll be content regardless.

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