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The Most Versatile Smart Assistant

In this world of battle royales, there is one that stands out above all the others: the never-ending contest of the Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomePod.

The three smart assistants dominate the market, each one claiming to the best at what it does—and all three claim to be the right choice for your home. But which one really does the best job, and which one gives you the most bang for your buck?

We’re going to take a look at the
functionality of all three devices, their various models, different prices
points, and more to help you make that decision.

Google Home

The Google Home is perhaps the
“smartest” of the assistants, at least in terms of asking it questions
and receiving an answer in return. Google Home connects with more than 5,000
devices from over 150 brands.

There are four different models of the
smart assistant.

Model Price
Google Home Mini $50
Google Home $129
Google
Home Max
$399
Google
Home Hub
$149

Google
Home Mini

The Google Home Mini is the smallest and
most affordable of Google’s smart assistants. In fact, it often goes on sale
for $30. If you’re just starting out with smart home technology—or you just
need a smart assistant in another room—the Google Home Mini is well worth it.

The speaker is not as loud or as
high-quality as the more expensive offerings and comes with a distinct tinny
sound, but it is perfectly loud enough to fill a room if you aren’t picky about
audio quality. There are also multiple color options, so you’re sure to find a
device that fits the look and feel of your space.

Google
Home

The Google Home is the original smart home
assistant that Google produced. Priced at $129, it has better sound quality and
a more sleek look than the round, button-like Mini. It’s louder and has a much
better baseline overall, but has the same functionality as the Mini.

The Google Home comes in multiple colors,
but also has the aesthetic of an air freshener. While some people like the
look, it isn’t for everyone.

Google
Home Max

The Google Home Max is by far the most expensive option on the list, but for good reason. Google took all of the functionality of the other devices and stuffed it into the Max, but added speakers any audiophile will love.

If you intend to use Google Home mostly as a way to play music, the Max might be the right option for you. It boasts dual 4.5″ woofers and has clear tweeters to keep the high notes high and the low notes low.

Reviews say that no other speaker on the
market sounds as good as the Google Home Max. The device even looks like a
speaker. For the average person that only wants to control a smart home, the
Max might be more than you need—but for anyone with a deep love of music, the
Max will be right at home.

Google
Home Hub

Of all the available Google Home devices,
the Home Hub would be our primary pick for a smart home device. It boasts all
the functionality of the Mini, the Home, and the Max, but adds something else
to the mix: a screen. The Google Home Hub is equipped with a touch screen
display that gives you visual access to Google Photos, Google Maps, and a host
of smart home controls.

The Home Hub can be used as a digital photo
frame when not actively in use by someone in the home. You can watch YouTube,
look up recipes, and much more. As a centerpiece in the home—particularly in
the kitchen, where the step-by-step recipe instructions are most useful—the
Home Hub is without peer.

At $149, it’s half the price of the Max and
only $20 more than the basic Google Home assistant. Its versatile
functionality, clean look, and integration with smart home devices like the
Nest Hello make it a solid choice for anyone that wants to upgrade their home.

Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo is evenly matched against
the Google Home when it comes to smart home control, but excels in one area in
particular: shopping. Because the Echo is a property of Amazon, users can order
products directly through the smart assistant. There are four different
versions of the Amazon Echo.

Model Price
Amazon
Echo Dot
$49.99
Amazon
Echo
$99.99
Amazon
Echo Plus
$149.99
Amazon
Echo Show
$229

Amazon
Echo Dot

The Amazon Echo Dot is Amazon’s analog of
the Google Home Mini. The device is a smaller—yet fully featured—version of the
basic Amazon Echo. Like the Echo, it answers to Alexa (or Echo.) The Echo Dot
can play music, start up your favorite show on the television, control your
lights, and much more.

Amazon markets the Dot as an
“Alexa-enabled” Bluetooth speaker. The device started out as a home
for the Alexa, but Amazon has since put more focus on the speaker aspect. You
can pair two Dots together for stereo sound within a space, or you can use a
3.5 mm audio cable to connect your own speakers to the device.

Amazon
Echo

The Echo is the original smart assistant. While other devices may have existed before it, none caught on with the same level of popularity as the Echo.

It has the same functionality of the Dot, but with better hardware and a more aesthetic case. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the system is just like that of the Google Home—or perhaps the Google Home is just like that of the Amazon Echo.

The Amazon Echo makes use of Dolby
technology to power its speakers and distribute audio evenly over a 360-degree
area. Seven built-in microphones mean the Echo can hear you from anywhere, even
if music is playing.

Amazon
Echo Plus

The Echo Plus is Amazon’s equivalent to the
Google Home Max. Built with a 3″ woofer and a 0.8″ tweeter, the Echo
Plus has the most audio capability of any of the Echo devices, but is not as
powerful as the Google Home Max. However, with a price point of just $119, the
Echo Plus gives mid-level sound for a fraction of the cost.

You can also run a 3.5 mm audio cable into
the Echo Plus and use it as a speaker to play music from another device, a
feature that none of the other Echo devices have. The Echo Plus only has three
color options: Charcoal, Sandstone, and Heather Grey.

Amazon
Echo Show

The Amazon Echo Show is the newest addition
to the Echo lineup. The Echo Show has a 10.1″ touchscreen that lets you
stream live TV, Hulu, check out recipes, and see album art from your Amazon
Music collection. You should note, however, that it does not have YouTube due
to the rivalry between Amazon and Google.

You can connect the Echo Show to a smart
doorbell and see who’s at the door, and also stream two-way audio. The Echo
Show also has video and hands-free calling, something the Google Home lacks.

Apple HomePod

The Apple HomePod is Apple’s attempt to get
into the smart assistant market, but doesn’t quite stack up to the competition.
At present, there is only a single model available for the HomePod.

Apple HomePod $349

The HomePod comes in two colors: black and white. While the HomePod does work as a smart assistant, it’s primarily a speaker. It has six built-in microphones for voice detection, which means Siri should be able to hear you no matter how loud you have the music turned up.

It also has seven horn-loaded tweeters and a high-excursion woofer. When it comes to audio quality, it’s hard to beat the HomePod. It gives even the Google Home Max a run for its money.

Siri doesn’t have the same functionality as either Alexa or Google. While she can search for answers to questions, she usually only provides a website with a search result.

Smart home compatibility is also limited. While most of the major name brands will work with Siri (after you set up the apps), some of the more obscure brands might pose a problem.

Apple HomeKit provides interesting options
for scheduling routines, but you don’t need a HomePod for that. Unless you are
looking for a smart home assistant that has truly amazing sound quality, an iPhone
or iPad will give the same smart home control a HomePod will.

Comparing the Assistants

We’ll start by saying this: if you want
great sound quality and aren’t worried about smart home technology, go for the
HomePod. It excels at audio, but doesn’t add up anywhere else. If you want a
mix of the two, then it boils down between Amazon Echo and Google Home devices.

Echo
Functionality

All Amazon Echo devices are powered by
Alexa. At present, Alexa has more than 50,000 Skills, with more added every
day. You can even create your own Alexa Skills with the Skill Blueprints,
easy-to-use templates that allow you to set up a series of commands tied to a
specific phrase.

The downside lies in actually speaking with
Alexa. A lot of updates have improved both the overall quality of her voice and
the range of questions she can answer, but Alexa still sounds distinctly
robotic. If you ask a question, she won’t remember the previous question. For
example, if you ask, “Alexa, what was the number one film of 2018?”
she will give you the proper answer (it’s Black Panther, by the way.) But if
you follow up and ask, “Who was the leading actor?” she will be
confused.

Google
Functionality

The Google Home is easy to set up and
install, but the skills it comes with are what you get. Google does not have
the same Skills Blueprints that Alexa does, which means you can’t create custom
commands.

On the other hand, speaking with Google
sounds much more natural. The Google voice has more natural inflection. Google
will also remember the questions you’ve asked previously. To reuse the above
example, if you asked “Who was the leader actor?” Google would
respond with “Chadwick Boseman.”

Screens
or No Screens?

If there are no other circumstances, go for one of the devices with a screen. It expands the overall functionality of the smart assistant to never-before-seen levels that will make it a part of your routine.

The sound quality on the Amazon Echo Show and the Google Home Hub may not be the level of the HomePod, but it’s more than enough to hear what the devices say and listen to some background music.

The Recommendation

When all is said and done, the Amazon Echo Show is the most bang for your buck. While pricier than the Google Home Hub, it also has a much broader range of functionality.

Both can show recipes, both can play music, but the Echo Show lets you shop, access your calendar, and even create custom commands to fit need you may have of it.