Google Home smart speaker off to a good start, say reviewers

Google finally has an AI- and search-powered home appliance to challenge the Amazon Echo. And the voice-controlled Google Home is off to a good start, say the first reviews.

The $129 Google Home‘s biggest strength is that it works well with Google, including complex search. “[Home] quickly informed me that giving my dog squash is totally fine as long as it’s cooked,” writes Brian X. Chen of the New York Times. Home wins for a smarter AI that understands context, not just individual questions, says Nathan Ingraham of Engadget. It answered both “When was Lincoln born?” and the follow-up “When did he die?” Because it integrates with a Google account (though just one person’s) Home knows a lot about heavy Google users, if they enable the capability. It has the context to answer questions like how long will it take to get to work or to provide a summary of your whole upcoming day.

But Home could be dumb for to real-world uses. Walt Mossberg of The Verge and Recode asked it for local pharmacies and got three answers—two of them wrong—whereas Echo aced the test. Mossberg’s in the minority on Home’s audio abilities, calling the speaker “a tiny bit fuzzy,” and saying that the Echo has better microphones to pick up commands. Others found the mic systems about equal, the speaker better. “Home is an excellent speaker, by the way—richer, brighter and more dynamic than the Echo,” writes Wired’s David Pierce.

Home falls short on integration with other services and devices, they all say, such as controlling a wide variety of home-automation products. Home could beat Echo some day, thanks to Google’s capabilities. “Home might be better two years from now, but right now they’re more or less the same device,” says Pierce.SC