Google Home Reviews: Handsome Design Not Enough to Outweigh 'Rough Around the Edges' Feel

Reviews for Google's new smart home speaker system, Google Home, have released this morning, bringing a collection of opinions about the newest entry in the wireless Bluetooth speaker category, which Apple is rumored to be entering in the future. Google originally introduced Google Home at its I/O Conference in May, and then officially announced it alongside the Pixel Phone at an event in October.

The first batch of reviews for Google Home appear to mostly align with a single opinion: the speaker is an impressive addition to the home, but in some ways it's less reliable, and its Google Assistant-powered AI doesn't beat Amazon's Alexa in most instances. As is usual with a new product category gaining entries from various companies, the decision rests solely on personal preference of which company each user believes will deliver the best experience, and iterate most consistently down the line.

google-home-reviews-1

Images via Engadget

That's the way that Wired began its review for Google Home, which it says can sometimes feel "like sci-fi magic," and other times is simply unreliable. The sci-fi magic comes in with Google Assistant, which Wired says provides smart search results for random inquiries (“What’s the difference between acetaminophen and ibuprofen?”), but other times was "shockingly stupid," fumbling movie release date trivia and other questions.

Ultimately, Wired found that Google Home was "a lot simpler" and less intuitive than the futuristic advertising Google is generating for the device. The site said that Google Home has great potential, particularly in upcoming features like voice-recognized user profiles, deeper connections with Pixel Phone, and the introduction of more third-party support. For now, it'll depend on user preference for each company -- Google or Amazon -- since the speakers align so closely in most areas.

Someday, assuming Google keeps caring about Home, I suspect the device will be more like the ad. It’ll be smart and integrated enough to know that your flight is delayed and change your dinner reservation, to turn on all the lights in your house, to tell you how to get to work, to teach your kids about the world, and all the rest. Right now, it’s simpler than that. Like, a lot simpler.

Both devices are excellent, both have bright futures, both are increasingly essential parts of your household. I bought a Home because I like the design, and I like the sound quality. If you buy an Echo because you love your Sonos and don’t trust Google with your data, you’ll be perfectly happy as well.

The Verge continued this "rough around the edges" sentiment in its review, liking the way that Google Home could carry on a casual conversation, asking about Abraham Lincoln, in a way that Echo could not. But the device's Google Assistant felt like it's "still in its very early days," with inconsistent responses from a dual-speaker set-up, "fuzzy" speaker quality, and limited single account support. The site has "no doubt it will improve," but early adopters should be aware of the bumpy road ahead.

google-home-reviews-2
Google Home also "looks a lot better than the Echo," The Verge believed, with a softer white design that meshes better with most home decor than Amazon Echo's tall black cylinder. The interchangeable bottom plates (for $20 extra each) also add to a better overall design that could be a sole selling point for some users who prefer to look at Google Home daily over Echo.

To paraphrase Google’s own CEO, Sundar Pichai, artificial intelligence is still in its very early days. And, in my opinion, Google Home shows that. I have no doubt it will improve. But I was surprised that Google Home arrived so rough around the edges, especially when it had an existing competitive product to learn from, and an unmatched wealth of data to draw upon.

Like a dominating batter in a tight World Series game, you kind of expect Google to hit a game-winning homer. But it merely hit a double, and the contest is still very much on.

One of the biggest categories that Google Home lags behind in out of the gate, according to Engadget, is third-party support. At launch, it can control devices from Nest, Hue, IFTTT, and SmartThings, but Amazon's list stretches far beyond that, now including various "skills" that developers can update on Echo with new commands on a weekly basis. On the other hand, for users who are baked into the Google ecosystem, Engadget said "this might indeed be the home assistant for you."

Right now, however, it's little more than a toy. It's fun and occasionally very convenient to ask it questions and have it perform simple tasks, but it's hardly an essential part of my life. But Google Home is worth keeping an eye on -- it will almost certainly be more capable in three months (or even three weeks) than it is now.

If you're someone who loves tapping into Google's mighty store of knowledge, don't sleep on Google Home. Just as the Echo got smarter and more valuable over time, I expect the same will happen here. And if you've already bought into Google's ecosystem, this might indeed be the home assistant for you.

Wired's advice appears to represent the back-and-forth nature of most Google Home reviews: it's a decent addition into a category that is only increasing in relevance and importance. "There’s only one mistake you can make, really," the site summed up at the end of its review. "Not letting a smart speaker into your home at all. These things are great, and they’re only getting better."

For more reviews and opinions on Google Home, check out the coverage from these sites:

- TechnoBuffalo
- Business Insider
- CNN
- USA Today
- Mashable
- Time
- TechCrunch

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
51 months ago
"looks a lot better than the Echo,"

I'm sorry, but it looks like a cheap dollar store air freshener
Score: 50 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
51 months ago
Handsome design? Sure, if you like the aesthetics of Renuzit I guess.
[doublepost=1478188649][/doublepost]

"looks a lot better than the Echo,"

I'm sorry, but it looks like a cheap dollar store air freshener

Glad someone agrees with me.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
51 months ago

That's the way that Wired ('https://www.wired.com/2016/11/review-google-home/') began its review for Google Home, which it says can sometimes feel "like sci-fi magic," and other times is simply unreliable.

I feel like this accurately sums up most technology nowadays. We're on a roller coaster of emotion, oscillating between elation and disappointment. Amazed at how far we've come, and yet restrained by what we can actually do with it.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
51 months ago
Like I'm going to have an open microphone in my house and hooked up to google 24/7. That's rich! Dream on...
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
51 months ago

Like I'm going to have an open microphone in my house and hooked up to google 24/7. That's rich! Dream on...

Better yet, have one built into your phone that goes everywhere with you and call it Siri.... oh wait.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
51 months ago
About time for Walt Mossberg to update his "Dumb Siri" rant piece including Google's and Amazon dumb offerings.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Here's How You Can Download iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 Around the World [It's Out]

Wednesday September 16, 2020 2:36 am PDT by
Apple's official public release of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 dropped on Wednesday, September 16, just a day after the company released the Golden Master to third-party developers. Also set to be made available to the general public for the first time are watchOS 7 and tvOS 14. Getting Started With iOS 14 Video Click image to watch iOS 14 Getting Started While that's left a lot of developers...

When Will the iPhone 12 Launch? Here's What We Know

Wednesday September 16, 2020 6:12 am PDT by
Yesterday's "Time Flies" Apple event saw the release of the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, iPad 8, and iPad Air 4, but no new iPhone models. Rumors before the event strongly alleged that it would not see the unveiling of new iPhones, with many reports pointing to an October launch. The lack of new iPhone models yesterday seems to confirm that the iPhone 12 lineup will not appear...

Apple Releases iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 With Home Screen Redesign, App Library, Compact UI, Translate App, Scribble Support, App Clips, and More

Wednesday September 16, 2020 12:48 pm PDT by
Apple has released iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, the newest operating system updates designed for the iPhone and iPad. As with all of Apple's software updates, iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 can be downloaded for free. iOS 14 is available on the iPhone 6s and later, while iPadOS 14 is available on the iPad Air 2 and later. The updates are available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To ...

Apple Updates AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro Firmware to Version 3A283

Monday September 14, 2020 11:24 am PDT by
Apple today released new 3A283 firmware updates for the second-generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro. The second-generation AirPods are being updated from the 2D15 firmware they were previously running, while the AirPods Pros are being updated from the 2D27 firmware they had installed previously. Apple does not provide details on what's included in refreshed firmware so we don't know what's ...

Spotify Says Apple One Bundle Will Cause 'Irreparable Harm to Developer Community'

Tuesday September 15, 2020 12:26 pm PDT by
Apple today announced Apple One, a series of new subscription bundles that provide access to various Apple services at a combined monthly price. In response, Spotify sent out statements (via Peter Kafka) to the press decrying Apple's anti-competitive behavior and calling on "competition authorities" to stop Apple before it is able to cause "irreparable harm" to developers.Once again, Apple...

iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14 Will Be Released September 16

Tuesday September 15, 2020 11:06 am PDT by
Apple today announced that iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14 will be officially released on Wednesday, September 16. Apple has seeded the final Golden Master beta versions of each update to developers in advance. ‌iOS 14‌ and iPadOS 14 introduce dozens of new features, including a redesigned Home Screen that supports widgets on the iPhone and iPad for the first time. For more...

New AirPods Pro Firmware Introduces Spatial Audio Support and Automatic Switching

Monday September 14, 2020 12:22 pm PDT by
The new 3A283 firmware that Apple released for the AirPods Pro today appears to introduce support for Spatial Audio, a new feature coming to the higher-end AirPods with iOS 14. Multiple reports on Twitter and the MacRumors forums indicate that the firmware update adds a "Spatial Audio" option to the Control Center, which can be activated to enable the feature. Note that using Spatial Audio...

Apple Releases Safari 14 for Mac Ahead of macOS Big Sur Launch

Wednesday September 16, 2020 1:40 pm PDT by
macOS Big Sur didn't launch alongside iOS 14, iPadOS 14, tvOS 14, and watchOS 7 today, with the update coming later this fall, but Apple did release the Safari 14 update for macOS Catalina and macOS Mojave users. Safari 14 brings improved performance, customizable start pages, a Privacy Report to see which cross-site trackers are being blocked, and a new tab bar design that provides tab...

Full Transcript of Apple's 'Time Flies' Event With Apple Watch and iPad Updates

Tuesday September 15, 2020 8:46 am PDT by
Apple's virtual "Time Flies" event kicks off today at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time, with Apple expected to debut new Apple Watch and iPad models, but it appears we may not see the iPhone 12 until next month. While we're not expecting to see new iPhones today, Apple's software updates for its various platforms are likely nearly ready for launch, so we may be hearing more about them today. Check...

Everything Apple Announced at Today's iPad and Apple Watch Event in Just Seven Minutes

Tuesday September 15, 2020 2:19 pm PDT by
Apple today held its annual September event, but this year was a bit different because no new iPhones were announced. The "Time Flies" event focused on the Apple Watch Series 6 and the iPad Air, and saw the debut of a new Apple One services bundle. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. It took Apple an hour to introduce the new devices, but we've recapped the event in...