The Google Home is a good smart speaker, but the Google Home Mini and the Google Home Max are just as smart and capable. The Google Assistant voice control built into each of these now powers a number of smart home gadgets, including a variety of third-party smart speakers and a growing crowd of smart displays.
In each of these devices, the built-in assistant can respond to a large variety of Google Assistant voice commands. You can check the weather, play music, control your smart home, search the web and more. If that sounds appealing and you're ready to pick one, filtering through all of your options can feel intimidating. We can help.
We're focusing here on smart speakers and smart displays with Google Assistant built in. Of course, while sorting smart speaker options, Amazon and its Alexa voice assistant still cast a formidable shadow and it's worth considering several models from the Amazon Echo line of smart speakers. Even Apple has the HomePod complete with Siri. Deciding between these companies comes down to picking the right virtual assistant for you.
Read more: Which Amazon Echo speaker should you buy?
If Google Assistant fits you best, here's the current lineup:
- Google Home: Google's original $100 smart speaker has only gotten better over time and offers a nice balance of sound quality and price.
- Google Home Mini: All of the smarts of the original are packed into this tiny $50 fabric-covered puck. It sounds surprisingly good for its size and can send music to your own setup over Bluetooth.
- Google Home Max: Google Assistant gets loud with the $300 Max. It's the same set of voice-enabled features with a much bigger speaker capable of fuller sound.
While picking between those three is easy enough depending on your budget and desire for booming music, the choice gets more complicated when you take third-party speakers into account. Google Assistant is now built into a wide variety of third-party speakers from companies like JBL and Sony. The Sonos One just added Sonos support for Google Assistant after promising the update for years and Bose is now bringing Google into its own line of Bose smart speakers.
If you have an affinity for one of the brands above, go ahead and buy one of its smart speakers. Google keeps a few features such as calling for its own models, but you'll be able to do almost everything you can do on a Google Home with any of the third-party options.
In addition to smart speakers, Google Assistant makes good use of a screen in a handful of smart displays. Ask for the weather and you'll see the forecast. Scroll through pictures of restaurants when you're searching for a place to eat and see the route to your choice mapped on the screen. You can watch videos, make video calls, look at family pictures and control your smart home with a well-organized control panel on all smart displays with Google Assistant built in.
- Google Nest Hub (formerly the Google Home Hub): We think this one is your best entry point. It's affordable at $130 and cute and has a great ambient light sensor that adapts the screen to make family pictures look like actual photos in a frame. It only has a 7-inch screen, but it's right in that glanceability sweet spot, and small enough to blend into any room.
- Google Nest Hub Max: At $230, the Nest Hub Max is a bigger, better-sounding Nest Hub that adds a camera into the mix. Along with placing video calls, the camera lets you keep an eye on your home while away, or set up motion-activated alerts. It also supports advanced features like gesture controls and facial recognition.
Again, third-party smart displays round out your options and have the same Android OS operating system and Google Assistant smarts. Like the Nest Hub Max, all of the third-party smart displays have an embedded camera. The Nest Hub is the only one that doesn't.
- JBL Link View: It only has an 8-inch screen and it's $250, but offers the best sound quality of the group.
- LG WK9: LG has a smart display as well, but it's too expensive at $300 and doesn't have any distinctive features to justify the price.
The best options of the bunch are the Google Home Mini if you want a smart speaker, and the Nest Hub if you want a touchscreen to go along with the always-listening help. Both have all of the smarts of the more expensive options and are small enough to blend in to just about any room.
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Pick the Google Home Mini if...
- You want the simplest way to get Google Assistant.
Go with a smart speaker over a smart display if you all you want is basic smart speaker capability and you don't need another screen at home. It's also good solution if you want to add a music to a small room.
Pick the Google Nest Hub if...
- You're more of a visual learner and you want to interact with Google through more than just your voice.
The Nest Hub makes controlling your smart home easier with a well-organized overview of your gadgets. It also makes cooking easier with step-by-step recipe guides. Other smart displays like the Google Home Hub can help you cook as well, but the Nest Hub is affordable and cute and can fit into any room.
Pick the Sonos One if...
- You want the best value for money in terms of sound quality.
The Sonos One sounds great and you can pair two of them for stereo sound. The $300 Google Home Max is slightly better if you truly want the best of the best in terms of sound quality, but the Sonos One comes close enough and you save $100.
Pick the Lenovo Smart Display if...
- You want the most stylish smart display.
The bamboo back of the 10-inch Lenovo Smart Display model is particularly striking and looks good in the kitchen. It has the same features as the Nest Hub with a bigger screen for watching videos and more of a premium overall feel, as opposed to the cute feel of the Nest Hub.
Pick the Nest Hub Max if...
- You want a smart display with a high-tech camera.
Thanks to its sophisticated camera and the software that powers it, Google's Nest Hub Max can learn what you look like and show you personalized bits of data whenever it recognizes your face. With a 127-degree wide angle lens, it can track you as you move about within the frame during a video call, too. It can even recognize gestures -- just raise a hand at close range to silently pause or resume audio or video playback.
There are clear privacy concerns with having such an intelligent camera always watching for familiar faces in your living room -- especially given that the Nest Hub Max includes a digital kill switch for the camera, but a physical shutter that covers it altogether. Still, no other smart display does as much as this one does, and Google says that the camera data is never used for ad personalization.
If you're still overwhelmed, take a deep breath and grab the Google Home Mini. It'll give you a starting point to see if you like having Google Assistant ready to help in your home. If you like it, you can always expand with other options later. Plus, Google Assistant is great no matter which device you pick and Google does a good job of keeping older devices up to date.
If you want a Google-powered smart speaker or smart display, you have a lot of options to pick from, but they're all solid enough that we'd recommend them as purchases. Rest assured that no matter which one you pick, there isn't really a wrong answer in the bunch.
The Google Home Mini, Google Home Max and original Google Home are all solid smart speakers. The Google Home is a good smart speaker, but the Google Home Mini and the Google Home Max are just as smart and capable. The Google Assistant voice control built into each of these now powers a number of smart home gadgets , including a variety of third-party smart speakers and a growing crowd of smart displays.
In each of these devices, the built-in assistant can respond to a large variety of Google Assistant voice commands . You can check […]