Google is challenging the dominance of Amazon Echo in the smart speaker market with its Home speakers
Here is another brilliant piece of Google kit that you cannot officially buy in Ireland — the Home speaker.
However, I know plenty of people who have already purchased either one of these or its more compact little sister, Home Mini.
Google Home looks gorgeous, very much a stylish gadget you’ll want to put on show.
The minimal design features only one physical button that disables the microphone if you don’t want the speaker to listen.
The top of the speaker is touch-sensitive. You tap it to pause and restart songs, and a long press activates the microphone.
You can alter the volume by using a circular swipe either clockwise or counter-clockwise.
The base, meanwhile, can be twisted off and replaced with a unit in a different colour.
Home is essentially Google’s answer to Amazon Echo and instead of Alexa answering you, it will be the less cutely named Assistant.
It’s going to be fascinating watching the tech behemoths battle in this voice-controlled marketplace in the years ahead.
Alexa has only recently launched in Ireland with location-specific services, but there are no Ireland-specific services available on Home yet.
However, you can ask Google’s Assistant pretty much any query and once the answer is available online you will receive it.
You can also use it to set timers, drive multi-room speakers, turn on and off your central heating and set the temperature and control smart home devices.
Those compatible include Google’s own Nest range and the Philips Hue range. But so far there are not as many supported products as on Amazon Echo.
And if you have a compatible Android TV, the Home speaker can switch on channels and services such as Netflix.
Setting it up is simple. You use the Google Home app, available for iOS and Android, to connect to your WiFi and you are ready to go.
The Home speaker responds well to your voice even from the other side of the room, and it can be set up to recognise different voices.
It can even hear you when there is music or a TV playing in the background.
In some respects Google Assistant has the advantage over Alexa (you use more direct and natural language and you get better search results), but in other ways Alexa is more useful (due to its head start and its expandable Skills range it can currently do more).
Audio quality on Home is superior to Amazon’s Echo but it’s not going to replace your HiFi or power a party in a big room.
But it will be able to play almost every song you can think of once you have an active Spotify subscription.
And if you are buying the attractive looking Home speaker it’s more likely going to be for the digital assistant and not for the audio quality.
One downside is that you cannot connect your phone by Bluetooth to listen to sources without Google Cast compatibility.
How much do Google Home speakers cost?
So what are the key specs of Google Home?
Base: Standard base is slate fabric.
Diameter: 96.4 mm
Height: 142.8 mm
Weight: 477 g
Power cable: 1.8 m
Supported audio formats: HE-AAC, LC-AAC, MP3, Vorbis, WAV (LPCM), Opus, FLAC with support for high-resolution streams (24-bit/96KHz)
Wireless network: 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5Ghz)
Speaker: 2in driver and dual 2in passive radiators
Input: Far-field voice recognition supports hands-free use