Picture of a Google Home speaker and an Amazon Dot speaker, side-by-side. Google Home Vs. Amazon Alexa.

Google Home Smart Speaker Vs. Alexa Smart Speaker Features




The age of intelligent speakers coupled with virtual assistants has arrived, and the competition is hot currently, for who can create the most useful features and benefits as quickly as possible.  As a result, the Google Home and Amazon Alexa virtual assistants, utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning systems, grow smarter and smarter with each passing day.  The hardware compliment that supports them is growing also.

In this piece, we compare and contrast the two assistants, in terms of the features of the assistants themselves, as well as the available device features for each.  Generally, we find them equivalent in what they can accomplish.  E.g. Both Google Home and Alexa can play music for you, although they may differ in which streaming services they can stream.  The both receive voice commands and can answer back.  They both can tell you the weather, traffic, and play simple audio based games.  They both can control your television with the appropriate hardware add-ons to your TV. Both systems incorporate the basic as well as some of the more advanced functions that we’re coming to expect from a smart speaker.

Currently, Google Home has only one smart speaker device (the Google Home smart speaker), while Amazon offers three different speakers that connect to their Alexa assistant.  Thus, in the tables and descriptions below, we discuss Alexa in terms of its three available speakers, providing the differences and similarities between each and how they relate to the Google Home speaker.

Picture of the Google Home speaker, booting in progress, displaying the multi colored light ring, indicating that.
Google Home speaker, booting in progress, displaying the multi colored light ring, indicating that.

Product Maturity of Google Home and Alexa Assistants and Speakers

The first Amazon Alexa talking speaker, the Echo, was released in 2014, with subsequent releases of the Tap and Dot speakers in 2015 and mid 2016 respectively.  There’s even a second generation version of the Dot now, released late in 2016.

The first Google Home smart speaker, Google’s direct competitor to the Alexa devices, came out in November of 2016.  So, Amazon has roughly a two year head start on Google and offers more supporting speaker devices, although Google Home is catching up fast.  Google’s search infrastructure, based on Google Now, is quite mature compared to Amazon’s “context free” answers.  But Amazon offers many more skills currently than does Google Home.

 

Cost of the Google Home Vs. Amazon Echo Speakers

The Google Home speaker, powered by Google’s virtual assistant, currently costs $129.00.  The Amazon Echo speaker, powered by the Alexa assistant, costs $179.99.  The Amazon Tap speaker, the only portable smart speaker in the bunch currently equipped with rechargeable batteries, costs $129.99.  And finally, the Amazon Dot, costs just $49.99, even though it provides full access to all Alexa functions, as well as the line level audio output connection.  We believe the Dot to be the best buy of all so far.  There’s currently no charge for either the Alexa or Google Home voice services.

Google Home Vs. Amazon Speakers Pricing

SpeakerPrice / Cost
SpeakerPrice / Cost
Google Home$129.00
Amazon Echo$179.99
Amazon Tap$129.99
Amazon Dot$49.99
Lists current prices for Amazon Alexa and Google Home speaker devices.

 

Physical Dimension Comparison

The Amazon Echo speaker is the tallest of their smart speaker line.  Its cylindrical  design also towers over Google Home, as well as above the Tap and Dot.  The Amazon Tap is of medium height, roughly the same height as the Google Home speaker.  The Dot is the shortest smart speaker on the market, barely as tall as a hockey puck.  On the other hand, the Google Home teardrop shaped speaker is the fattest of them all, especially near its base.

Smart Speaker Physical Dimensions

DeviceHeightDiameterWeight
DeviceHeightDiameterWeight
Google Home Speaker5.62 in (142.8 mm) 3.79 in (96.4 mm)1.05 Lbs. (477 g). Does not include the power adapter.
Amazon Echo Speaker9.3 in (235 mm)3.3 in (84 mm)37.5 oz. (1064 grams)
Amazon Tap Speaker* 6.9 in (174 mm)2.6 in (66 mm)20.4 Oz. (579 grams)
Amazon Dot Speaker1.5 in (38mm)3.29'' (83.5mm)8.8 oz. (250 grams)
Gives the physical dimensions (height, largest diameter, and weight) of the Google Home and Alexa smart speakers.
  • Dimensions for the Amazon Tap include its charging cradle.

 

Google Home Vs. Amazon Alexa Streaming Music Service Features

Both Google Home and Amazon Alexa speakers play Spotify, Pandora, and TuneIn radio.  Currently, Amazon provides iHeart Radio exclusively on its devices.  YouTube Audio may only be streamed on the Google Home speaker only.  Both Amazon and Google offer their respective music streaming services (Amazon Music and Google Play respectively), and those may only be played on their respective speakers.  Google Play plays on Google Home, while Amazon Music plays on Alexa.

Google Home Vs. Amazon Alexa Music Playing Features

FeatureGoogle HomeAmazon Alexa
Plays Spotify Recordings on RequestYesYes
Plays YouTube Red AudioYesNo
Plays TuneIn Radio StationsYes, after a fashion. Sometimes, Google Home does not understand the station being requested, even though it's present on TuneIn. Yes
Plays Pandora StationsYesYes
Plays iHeart Radio StationsNoYes
Plays Google Play RecordingsYesNo
Honeywell Thermostat ControlYesYes
Amazon MusicNoYes
Act as Bluetooth SpeakerNoYes
Act as a Chromecast SpeakerYesNo
Has audio equalizer (bass, midrange, and treble controls)NoNo
Uploaded music to personal Amazon Music libraryNoYes
Responds, to PLAY, STOP, NEXT, PREVIOUS, REPEAT, and SKIP commands.YesYes
Finds a song based on they lyrics you say to the speaker.Yes. Google Home can figure out a song based on information you provide about the song, even if not the artist and song title. Not so much. Alexa works best when you know the exact group and song title.
FeatureGoogle HomeAmazon Alexa
Details the similarities and differences between the Google Home and Amazon Alexa speaker features.

 

Comparison of Amazon Echo and Google Home Apps

To fully utilize either smart speaker, the user must have access to the corresponding mobile app, on either an Android or iOS based mobile device such as a tablet computer or phone.  The Alexa app on the Amazon side, and the Google Home app on the Google end, are required not only to set up the speaker devices initially.  But they’re needed to manage speaker performance, settings, content available to the speaker such as music and news, configuration and control of home automation devices, linking with Bluetooth or Chromecast speakers, and so on. Both apps provide account linking features for the streaming music, home automation, and most any other paid subscription service.  While the layouts of the screen faces of each app are clearly unique, they nonetheless, provide the same essential functions.  Both apps are easy to use, and extensive help is available should you run into problems.

Picture of the Amazon Echo Dot 2nd Gen speaker in original package, front view.
Amazon Echo Dot 2nd Gen speaker in original package, front view.

Sound Quality

While neither the Google Home nor Amazon Alexa smart speakers allow direct control of bass, midrange, and treble (neither via physical controls nor through their respective apps), the sound quality from all the devices (with the possible exception of the Amazon Dot without external speakers) is really quite good; surprising in fact, because of how small these units are.  The Echo, Google Home, and Tap speakers all deliver room filling, high fidelity sound, with substantial bass.  The Dot however, though it lacks much of this bass and volume, features a 3.5mm stereo TRS line level audio output plug, which allows connection to a better-sounding home music system.  The quality of this line-out signal is quite high, and can fully drive the AUX level inputs of most any stereo hi-fi system.

Google Home Vs. Amazon Alexa Speaker Sound Features

Sound Quality FeatureGoogle HomeAmazon EchoAmazon TapAmazon Dot
Sound Quality FeatureGoogle HomeAmazon EchoAmazon TapAmazon Dot
Dolby audioNoNoYesNo
External speaker supportYes via ChromecastYes via BluetoothYes via BluetoothYes via Bluetooth as well as a 3.5mm stereo line output socket
Group playback (same program on multiple devices)YesNoNoNo
Internal speaker complimentOne "high excursion" 2 inch driver, and two passive radiatorsTwo speakers, one woofer and one tweeterTwo 1.5 inch drivers and two passive radiators for better bassOne full range driver
Omnidirectional audio outputNo, fires mostly from the front with some bass coming from left and right sidesYesYesNo, fires from the front, opposite end from the electrical ports.
Plays in stereoNo, except to external Chromecast enabled stereo speakers and devicesNo, except to Bluetooth speakers. YesNo, except to Bluetooth speakers.
Compares the construction and electronic features of each speaker that make its sound unique, and in most cases, very good.

 

The Virtual Assistant Voices

Both Google Home and Amazon Alexa devices feature very clear, human female sounding voices.  Alexa sounds a bit meek, while the Google assistant sounds a little bossy, according to one Home user.  Both voices are highly intelligible, with little digital chop.  While not exactly human sounding, both voices are closer to human than robotic.

 

Google Home Vs. Alexa Wake Words and Phrases

The Google Home speaker awakens when you utter either of  two  phrases.  Those are, “Okay Google…,” and “Hey Google…”  The Google speaker understands either of these, without having to choose one or the other in the Google Home app.  The Alexa smart speakers on the other hand, understand three wake words.  Those are, “Alexa,…” “Amazon…,” and “Echo…”  But Alexa only responds to one at a time.  That is, you must choose, in the Alexa app, which wake word you’d like to use, on a per device basis.  That’s nice because if you have multiple Amazon speakers spread throughout your home, you can assign each one a different wake word.  Why would you wish to do that?  To minimize two or more of your speakers from responding at the same when more than one hears you say the wake word.

 

How well Google Home and Amazon Echo Understand Commands

Though current versions of all the Amazon Alexa devices feature seven far field microphones, both Google Home and Alexa seem equally well outfitted to accurately interpret what they hear, even though Google Home only has two built-in microphones.  Both can hear you through blasting music, although they both work much better when the blasting music is coming from themselves as opposed to an unrelated device like a radio or CD boom box.

 

Google Abilities Vs. Alexa Skills

Currently, Alexa can do more than Google Home, although Google appears to be spending the lag time developing more completely abilities.  For example, the Honeywell Total Connect Comfort skill in Alexa, only allows you to set the thermostat temperature, whereas the corresponding ability on Google, which was released months later than the Honeywell Amazon skill, in addition to setting thermostat temperature, you can also ask it what the current thermostat temperature sensor is reading (current room temperature).  While Alexa skills very much outnumber the Google abilities at present, Google abilities seem, in our experience, more thoroughly thought out and more comprehensive as to the functions they should provide.

 

Alexa Bluetooth Verses Google Chromecast Capabilities

Google Home currently does not function as a Bluetooth speaker, unlike all the Amazon speakers, which do.  However, in lieu of Bluetooth, Google Home can play streams from Chromecast apps and devices, as well as control said devices, where the Alexa speakers do not; at least, not natively.  However, if you wanted to play Google music sources through an Alexa speaker, just pair your tablet to the Alexa speaker, then play your Google-based music as you normally would on your tablet.

In total, it’s hard to say which speaker is better than the other without considering your specific needs.  If listening to news is your top priority, then Alexa might be a better choice for you, as it features many more audio news sources than Google Home.  On the other hand, if you enjoy asking for music based on its lyrics, the Google Home speaker is the better choice.  Neither choice however, performs well on all features.  But in our estimation, you wouldn’t go terribly wrong no matter which assistant you picked.  Indeed, we avoided the dilemma altogether, by buying them both.  🙂

Well, that’s all for now.  We’ll update this piece as more developments occur in the world of intelligent speaker virtual assistants.  Stand by.

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References

Revision History

  • 2017-02-07: Originally published.