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Google Home and Amazon Echo Review

With the introduction of fibre connectivity in South Africa, it’s easier than ever before to use numerous smart devices in your home. Google Home and Amazon Echo offer you a virtual assistant, which you can connect to your smart devices and control with voice commands. Now gadget lovers can enjoy the convenience of having an assistant, in the comfort of their home. Both these innovative devices help you to keep up with your busy lifestyle and to maximise the potential of the smart devices that you own with increased convenience. If you’re not sure whether to opt for the Google or Alexa powered device, we’re here to help. Read our blog to compare our Google Home review with our Amazon Echo review so that you can make an informed decision on design, features and capabilities.

Design

Google Home has a natural design which fits into a diverse range of home environments. The top section is made from matte plastic in a neutral colour while the bottom half consists of mesh which covers the speaker. Its curvaceous lines, sloped surface and LED lights add to its aesthetic appeal. The Amazon Echo has improved the design of its device with Echo 2 with a step towards a more natural appearance. Echo 1's design is more robust with a taller speaker. Both Echo 1 and Echo two has the function buttons at the top of the speaker. You can use the Echo’s buttons to change its audio settings while the Home boasts a touch sensitive surface for easy volume adjustments. The Echo is equipped with seven mics while the Home has two mics. Advanced far-field technology allows these devices to detect your voice when you’re on the other side of the room. While the options are limited in South Africa, products are available to customise your Home or Echo device.



google home review

Virtual Assistant Capabilities

At the core of these devices is their virtual assistant capabilities which makes this an important factor to consider when you’re choosing between them. The main difference is that Google Home uses Google Assistant and Amazon Echo uses Alexa. You can use voice commands to control both these devices, which is advantageous. Likewise, they both add convenience to operating your smart devices. Another important distinction to make is that the default search engine for Alexa is Bing while the Home links to Google’s search engine. While Alexa responds to basic commands, these instructions need to be phrased in a certain way. A drawback with Echo 1is that it has numerous wake-up words which means that the voice assistant is prone to responding when it mistakes something that you’ve said for a wake up word. Amazon has made improvements to the wake-up word recognition algorithm in Echo 2 and has also improved noise cancellation. Further improvements to the speaker has also been made in terms of sound delivery with an improved bass and dedicated tweeter.  The Home has a more powerful search engine and it wakes-up in error less frequently than the Echo1. The Home responds to voice commands and queries more naturally than the Echo. It’s also more proficient with the context of your queries and with follow-up questions. With the Home you can access directions from Google maps as well as traffic reports while the navigation features of the Echo are more limited. That being said, the Alexa has numerous apps which can be used to enhance its capabilities.

Calls

It’s easier than ever before to make calls with the Home or Echo 1 and 2. Both these devices have built-in features which help you to stay connected. The Echo enables you to call devices in your home as well as to speak to friends over internet. Echo Show gives you the advantage of video calling. The Echo has a drop-in feature which enables you to communicate with the other Echo’s in your house while the Home has a broadcasting feature which transmits a recorded message.

Specifications

The Amazon Alexa features speakers and it offers wi-fi as well as Bluetooth connectivity. If you opt for a Google speaker you’ll have the benefit of wi-fi connectivity without the Bluetooth feature. With dimensions of 142.8 x 96.4 x 96.4 mm Google Home is more compact that the Amazon Echo 1, which has dimensions of 235 x 83.5 x 83.5 mm. Google Home is lighter when compared to the Amazon Echo 1, with a weight of 477 g versus a weight of 1045 g. When it comes to audio, the Home has a 2-insh driver and dual 2-insh passive radiators while the Echo 1 has a 2.5 inch woofer and a 2-inch tweeter. If you’re on a budget, the Google Home is a more affordable option the than the Echo 1.  Echo 2 kept the cylynder design of Echo 1, but has a compact appeal with a slightly wider speaker. The Echo 2 weighs less than the Echo 1 at 821 g, but still weighs more than Google Home.  The audio on Echo 2 consists of a 2.51n woofer and a 0.61 tweeter and dimensions clock in at 148 x 88 x 88 mm.



amazon echo review


Amazon Echo Review

An Amazon Echo review of its functionality and features shows many advantages to owning this device. Once you’re purchased an Amazon Echo, you’ll need to link it with your music. You can use Amazon Music, Spotify, iHeartRadio and TuneIn for streaming purposes, but will need a US account to download the Alexa App from Google Play, iStore or App for Androids. You can even listen to the news using your Amazon Alexa. If you want to use this feature all you need to do is add your favourite news sources and you can access the latest news through audio with a simple voice command. News sources include The Wall Street Journal and The Daily Show. It’s also possible to collect your Alexa to your smart home devices, including Philips Hue as well as Samsung SmartThings. While it’s slightly more complicated to achieve, the Alexa can be linked to your TV. If you’re passionate about health and fitness, you can link your Alexa to your FitBit for easy access to your fitness data. You can even book an Uber with a simple voice command. Shopping enthusiasts can connect their device to Amazon, set up Amazon Primes one click shopping feature and make purchases effortlessly with help from Alexa. Most advanced apps and capabilities requires an Amazon Prime account, but you can go directly to the Amazon website, select a major South African city from the drop-down menu and download the Alexa app directly. This will enable you to ask for "weather" instead of specifying "weather, Cape Town, South Africa" as an example. 



Google Home review
 
Setting up the Google Home is easy and you don’t need a US account to use this device. The first time that you use it, you’ll need to plug in the device and download the ‘Home’ app from the Play Store onto your smart phone. You can start using your device straight away through voice commands. Another exciting feature of the Home is that you can connect it to other Smart Appliances such as Nest and Philips Hue. It’s linked to Play Music which makes it easy to listen to all your favourite songs through the Google speaker. It’s also possible to use voice commands to find information online. The powerful search engine and advanced algorithm make it easy to get the answers that you are looking for. Games and jokes make the Home user experience fun. Our Google Home review shows that while there are plenty of advantages to owning a Google Home in South Africa, there are some apps and features that you won’t be able to use. Another limitation of the Home device is that it’s sometimes unable to respond to your queries or commands. Follow-up questions need to have a clear connection to the previous query for the device to register the link between them.  The Google Home comes in at a price of R2199 and the Amazon Echo (Second Generation) comes in at a price of R1999.



Now that you know more about the Google Home and Amazon Echo, you can consider adding these devices to your home. Your budget as well as your requirements play a role in the device that you choose to buy. While you may not be able to use all of their features in South Africa, there are still plenty of advantages to owning a Home or an Echo.
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