As the world of home automation gets closer and closer to Disney Channels “Smart Home” (I may have given away my age a bit), we’re starting to see various products talk to each other more and more. From Smart Locks, all the way to changing colors on your Living Room, there seems to be no end to making your home interact in a highly modular setting. A lot of contenders have entered the scene, most notably Amazon’s line of Smart Home products (Alexa, Echo). But Google recently unveiled to the world why they are the king of A.I and are not to be taken lightly with the Google Home.
The Google Home might look basic from a design stand point. But as noted from their flagship Smartphone (Pixel/XL) its trying to keep a minimalist approach, while fitting in within the walls of your home. I currently have two; one is located perfectly in the kitchen, while I have the other in my room. It isn’t anything too flashy, and I think that’s what drives the appeal to it. Of course, if you want to bring a bit more flair to it, they offer different colored bases (metal and fabric) for $20.
It has a slight slant on top to use the capacitive touch buttons to control the volume. On the back, you have a mute button, if in case you don’t want Google constantly picking up what you’re saying. Google Home does a great job at picking up what I say. The sound quality is great for an apartment, but if you are looking for a substitute for your main speakers, I would hold off on that. There is no distortion of sound at maximum volume, but in larger homes/apartments, they don’t fill up the place, but rather keep the volume to that room solely. Regardless, it still carries quite a bit of sound.
One of the main reasons that I was keen on playing with Google Home was for the Multiroom Functionality. Many companies have had something like this before. But Google would rather play nice then separate themselves from the competition. With big audio companies like Harmon Kardon and BOSE that will soon offer their hand in being ‘Cast-Friendly’, it will never be easier to set up an entire house with Wi-Fi enabled speakers. And for those who already have speakers and don’t want to get rid of them, Google has Chromecast Audio. Just plug it in an audio jack, and you now have a ‘Cast-Ready’ speaker without having to spend $150+ on new audio speakers.
Not only is the hardware compatibility great, but the various amount of Cast Ready Apps that are for available use. With Google apps like Youtube and Google Play Music, and the inclusion of a 6-Month Trial Free Program for Yotube Music, you have a huge library of music you can listen to. Couple with the fact that it also teams up with other Smart Homes (Samsung Smart Things, IFTTT), it won’t ever cause an issue on your ever growing Smart Home.
However, while the idea is cool, the simplicity is not. Downloading the Google Home App is perhaps the easiest part of it. When it comes to pairing the speakers, its not as easy as you would have hoped for. It’s a bit of a learning curve. First off, be mindful that that the account that you connect Google Home to will be the account that will have music played from. So if for example your roommate is listening to a song on Google Home and you are also on the same app, it will stop one of you from listening to music. Also, depending how close your router is, you often will get a bit of delay within all your speakers. Often while playing music through my Smart Phone, I’ll hear one speaker drop but come back within a few seconds. However, casting is very simple and anyone can cast music as long as they are in the same WiFi.
The Google Assistant itself is far from perfect but it does a good job at just about anything you throw at her. I often asked Google Home to set an alarm, remind me of an event and it will do it with no problem. You will get instances where she doesn’t quite understand what you say. I asked for the Moana Soundtrack, and instead gave me another Album. You also have to be mindful with the music app that you wish to play from, especially when asking Google Home. Another BIG issue for me is that Google Home does not have any other language pack aside from English. However, when I asked to play a song in Spanish, it understood what I was saying (even if she repeated it back in a broken dialect). I personally wish I could customize my greeting to Google Home, but I understand that Google wants to keep it all around.
If you are looking to begin your journey into a Smart Home, I think this is a solid place to start. The Google Home is far from perfect, but it is a good start into something great. And with the current price of $129, it doesn’t hurt to pick one up for the Holidays.