Google Home Review: One Step closer to smart connected future

Google Home smart speaker is priced at Rs. 9,999 in India

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With Artificial Intelligence making an impact in all aspects of our lives, smart homes are the next big thing. It has been operational for a while now with mobile phones and apps acting as remote controls for many of our appliances. Now, AI's involvement will be amplified as it enters our lives through audio and gesture sensing along with a rapid learning curve.

Rating:
4.0/5

Google Home Review: One Step closer to smart connected future

 

There are a plethora of apps out there to turn on and turn off certain devices with audio or text commands. There are also security systems using advanced sensing techniques. However, in the near future, these features might take a back seat as more progressive systems take over the market space. Smart homes might just become omnipresent like smartphones.

Google Home Unboxing and Setup process - GIZBOT

But for now, even a smart audio device, like Google Home excites us and shows how it aims to be a smart hub for your home. Google Home is ambitious and smart, and also serves as a decent audio product. However, it's still not there and needs a lot of work. What it can achieve and where it lacks, we tend to find out in our review. So, let's get started. Ok Google!

Specifications

Dimensions: 3.79 in x 5.62 in, Power cable: 1.8 m, Weight: 477 g, Colors: Body- White, Standard base is slate fabric

Supported Audio Formats: HE-AAC, LC-AAC, MP3, Vorbis, WAV (LPCM), Opus, FLAC (24-bit/96KHz)

Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5Ghz), Bluetooth 4.1

Speaker: 2-inch driver + dual 2-inch passive radiators

Power required: 16.5V, 2A included, Power Adapter: 100-240V-1.1A 50-60Hz

Ports & Connectors: DC power jack, Micro-USB port (for service only)

What is Google Home?

Until now you have seen and used Google Assistant only in Android smartphones. It is time you experience it in an audio product. Google Home is a smart audio speaker backed by Google Assistant, which has been around for a while and has shown its abilities in giving our lives a bit of smart makeover. You can ask Google Home to do things like play music, read the news, inform about weather and traffic, nearby hotels, movies, etc. It can also tell you a joke and play nursery rhymes for your kids.
Front mounted Microphone button

Google Home does that with the help of an always listening microphone that awaits your voice commands. You can start by saying, "Ok Google" or "Hey Google." You have to remember these two commands if you want Google Home to show its smarter side. Amazon Echo, on the other hand, can be called by just saying ‘Alexa'. If you don't want Google Home to hear you, per se, at night, or when kids are around, you can simply press the microphone button at front and mute the microphones. Press it again, and Google Home starts listening to your voice commands.

Minimal design and yes it does look like a vase
 

Minimal design and yes it does look like a vase

Google follows a clean and simplistic design language in all of its products, be its Android software iterations or hardware products. This is also seen in the Google Home and Google Home Mini. Google Home has a minimal design that might fail to please hard-core techies and would just look like a small vase to many. However, it's aesthetically very clean and easily blends with almost every kind of interior. In India, Google Home comes with a standard Gray fabric base with a high-quality White plastic main body. The speaker is rather small and can be easily repositioned anywhere in the house. The design of Google Home looks much better than the rival Amazon Echo.

The build quality is solid and the finishing is premium. However, unlike a range of non-smart speakers priced under Rs.10,000 that come with some sort of IP rating to offer water-dust protection, Google Home is not water and dust protected. This is a compromise you have to make for its smart features. And it's not like you are going to take Google Home on a raft or on a trek. You won't find any power source there and this thing needs to be plugged into a power source all the time.

Touch capacitive buttons and eye-catchy LED light ring

The matte finish surface houses all the controls on the top surface, which are hidden in plain sight as they follow a touch capacitive layout. And oh boy! Fire up the speaker and just see the Google logo colored lights, which is a sight for anyone when you say Ok Google! You will also find two microphones placed on either side of the top surface, the eye-catchy LED lights and the pause/play touch capacitive button.

While you can ask Google Home to reduce the volume levels via voice commands, you can also use the LED lights ring on top to manually control it. Simply swipe your fingers in clockwise and counterclockwise to increase or decrease the volume levels. The change in volume levels is indicated by the lights.

Continues Power Supply is a bummer

For me, the biggest letdown is the fact that Google Home always needs to be plugged in. As it's constantly monitoring the sounds in a room and is waiting to respond to your commands, you need to provide it continues power supply. The cord needs to be plugged into the port placed at the bottom of the Google Home.

I would love to take Google Home outdoors, but it's just not possible for now. We might see a smart audio speaker in future from Google or Amazon with a built-in battery, but for now, you have to use it within the limits of your home. Or, you can look for some swappable battery-powered base that allows you to free Google Home from the bundled power cable. One option can be the Loft battery pack; however, it's not available in the Indian market at present.

How smart is Google's smart audio product?

Google Home is as smart as Google Assistant. However, when we talk about Google Home, the intelligence is based on the speaker's ability to hear and recognize your voice to address your queries. I often start my day by asking Google Home about weather, news and traffic information and it delivers satisfactory results for most of the times. I wish it could also provide me information about pollutant levels in my surroundings, but it simply apologizes and says, ‘I am not sure how to help'. Even though it has my location information saved. It's also weird that Google Home fails to provide a list of movies playing in a particular theater, per se PVR around me. The list just couldn't come out ever from the Google Home even though it says here's the movie list.

Moreover, Google Home is also not very consistent and often asks for the second round of instruction when there's ambient noise in surroundings. Sometimes, you just have to reach out to touch capacitive button to pause the playing audio or to reduce the volume levels as it just couldn't hear you. I think Google Home just love its audio playback too much that it simply ignores your instructions. In short, it behaves like a roommate you want to kick out. But then it always reminds me to pick stuff in everyday routine and can also set an alarm for me. You can't make a direct call by just asking Google Home to do it. In future, we might get this feature with an update. Actually, Google Home is yet to receive most of Google's services which will indeed turn it into a ‘Smart Hub' for a connected home ecosystem.

Experience the power of connected home

Google Home can also connect to a host of other devices to make your home a bit extra smarter. The list of devices includes- Google Chromecast, a multitude of Bluetooth speakers, and IOT enabled household devices. To test this feature, Google also bundled the Philips Hue lamp in the packaging, which did show us what Google Home is capable of.

Once you set up the smart bulb, you can switch on/off the lamp with just your voice commands. Moreover, you can also increase/decrease the light intensity of the Philips Hue bulb by just asking Google Home to do it, which is bliss. With a Chromecast device, you can simply ask Google Home to stream a particular episode of a season from your favorite series, or a video on YouTube on the TV in your living room.

Audio Performance

Ok, Google! Enough about the whole smart speaker story, let's talk about your audio performance. Google Home is powered by two small but powerful drivers and passive radiators. These make up for a good audio signature where you can experience loud audio and booming bass. Sometimes I wondered how a speaker this small is producing such a loud audio, which is indeed a good thing as the speaker can easily fill a living room. I have kept Google Home in a room with dimensions- 11 feet x 17 feet and the audio is more than enough to fill the entire room.

The mids and highs are not very well pronounced and lack clarity. But you won't find any trouble if you tune in a lot of pop and Bollywood tracks.

If I have to summarize Google Home audio performance in one line, I would say that you just can't expect Google Home to replace your home music system. But then, your home music system can't feature Google Home's intelligence, and in short is dumb. Overall, Google Home is a smart and capable audio device that gets most of the things right.

Verdict

Google Home is a glimpse into the future of connected smart home ecosystems. Priced at Rs. 9,999 and at Rs. 4,499 for the Home Mini, these are excellent devices for technology enthusiasts who seek more than just music from their audio device. Hard-core audiophiles should look for other options in the market, but if you want to experience what AI can do, Google Home is an excellent buy. You might feel disappointed when Google Home will sometimes just not recognize your voice and fail to deliver expected results, but it's only going to get smarter over time. Spend some extra bucks and buy IoT enabled smart devices to experience the full potential of Google Home.

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