The automated home has been a fantasy for most for a very long time. Since the launch of Amazon’s assistant device Alexa through their Echo devices other companies have decided they want a piece of the automated assistant market. Since then Google has launched their Home device powered by Google’s Assistant also found on Android devices. Microsoft also has their own assistant found on all Windows 10 powered devices called Cortana and will soon be available in their own speaker like device as well.
I ordered a Google Home to try out and I was surprised by the smaller size of the device. It can easily fit in on a counter top or table space wherever one would put a flower vase or something similarly sized.
Opening the box and handling Home for the first time you can feel that it’s a quality device. It has a good amount of heft. The device comes with a grey speaker grill that can be interchanged with different coloured speaker grills that can be purchased directly from Google. If you take off the magnetically attached grill that also acts as the device’s base it reveals three speakers.
Powering on the device happens automatically when you plug it in. You get a little colourful light show on the top touch-sensitive surface and a cheerful little ditty plays on the speakers letting you know the device is ready to use. The top of Home also has two small holes equidistant from each other for the internal microphones.
When it’s first powered on Home requires you to set it up via the Home app available on the Android App Store. Setting up was very easy once the device was connected via WiFi. The app allows you to setup news sources and so much more. If you have Home compatible devices like some Nest devices or others you can control them through voice commands with Home.
A feature I have come to really appreciate is the ability to get my local weather (or weather from other places) and news from different sources told to my by Home. It’s actually really handy.
When it comes to devices Home does not have the largest ecosystem. If you are looking for a device with a lot of compatible gear you may want to consider an Amazon Echo. Of course right now there is no option for that in Canada (at least until a rumoured launch later in 2017) so your best and only option right now is Google Home.
And it’s not a bad option. There are enough devices available to do what you may need. Google Home works remarkably well. I never realized what I was missing not being able to “cast” things to devices. The ability to cast music or podcasts from my Android device to Home is so great and seamless too.
Home has only not recognized my command once and I have to admit that it was partially my terrible job speaking to it. Interestingly if you don’t want it listening to you there is one button on the device to mute the microphone towards the back and top of the device.
The question is should you buy one? I purchased mine during a Labour week sale online for $150 CAD however it it back up at $179 CAD now. I do think it is a useful device but to get a true use out of it you need to heavily invest in Google Home compatible devices which initially can be a pretty large cost. I am happy to have it personally but I until I have a lot more Home compatible devices the Home will be largely relegated to asking for news and weather with the occasional music casting mixed in.
I think waiting to see what Amazon does here later on this year may be useful. All of Alexa’s plugins may be enticing to some of you and it’s compatibility with other devices far outweigh Home’s right now. If I was to guess though I believe that Home is the device with staying power.