While Google Home was announced at the company’s annual developer conference in May, the company revealed more details about the device during a hardware-specific event on October 4. The latest details reveal exactly what the device will do, its release date and how much it will cost for consumers to get their hands on one.

What Is Google Home?

Google Home is Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo. It comes with Google’s very own AI-powered virtual assistant, although unlike Amazon this one doesn’t have a fancy name like ‘Alexa’, instead it’s simply known as ‘Assistant’.

Assistant is not exclusive to the Google Home but it’s the most affordable entry-point. Unlike Alexa, users will be able to take Assistant on the move using one of Google’s newly launched smartphones – dubbed Pixel and Pixel XL. That means even when users are outside the house they can still control devices and communicate with their Google Assistant.

As for the Google Home speaker itself, it measures 5.62in high and has a diameter of 3.79in. Like the Amazon Echo it still requires being plugged in, despite all press shots omitting that simple fact. The whole unit weighs 477g.

The speaker itself is available in a single colour – white – but can be customised using different coloured bases. The current slate of bases include those made out of metal and those made out of fabric. As for colours those wanting a metal base can choose from carbon, copper and snow, while fabric bases come in mango, marine and violet.

Google claims that its speaker is better sounding than that of Amazon’s Echo. The Amazon Echo features a 2.5in woofer and a 2in tweeter, while the Google Home is powered by a 2in driver and dual 2in passive radiators. Both use multiple microphones, but Amazon definitely has the advantage when it comes to numbers. The Echo has seven microphones, while Google Home only has two. Google says that it’s not a big issue however, as it has employed complex machine learning algorithms in the cloud to allow two microphones to do the same work as seven.

One thing that may irk some installers, and consumers alike, is the inclusion of a custom-made power adapter. Google decided to forgo the use of USB and instead opted to go the route, the same decision Amazon made when it created the Echo. What this means is that many users will be forced to use the cable included in the box, which is just 1.8m long – meaning placement will need to be relatively near a power outlet.

Google is expected to be rather bullish with its smart speaker. Proof of this bullishness is the fact that the speaker works with a companion App that is available on both Android and iOS. Using that companion App users can change a number of settings – such as the default music player – with a tap of their finger.

What Is Google Assistant?

Google Assistant is the search giant’s answer to Amazon’s Alexa, and in many respects it’s a lot smarter.

In terms of AI and voice learning, Google has been doing it for years and has perfected the ability to understand what users are asking. With Alexa users have to be rather exact about their questions, otherwise they risk the assistant not understanding what they’re talking about – that’s not the case with Google Assistant. Google’s AI is smart enough for users to be able to ask a complicated question like ‘Play that song from Frozen’ and understand that the user is asking for Let It Go. If the user wants to listen to the Demi Lovato version over Idina Menzel, then they don’t even have to be specific – they could ask ‘Play a different version’ and Assistant will comply.

Alexa does have her advantages. The most notable is the fact that users can control devices that Amazon isn’t supporting as standard by downloading special ‘skills’ that are located in the Alexa App. The skills are developed by third parties and have led to the ability to control Crestron and Control4 smart homes – on top of the standard Hue lighting that is supported out of the box. Google isn’t allowing third-party developers to develop for Google Assistant just yet, although it says that will change later this year.

So if Google isn’t allowing third parties to assist, what does it support? Well, Google is rolling out support for a wide number of partners at launch – although they’re a little more consumer-centric than Crestron and Control4. That means in terms of smart home control users have the ability to control Hue smart lighting, a Nest thermostat and devices connected to Samsung’s SmartThings automation system. That’s it for now, but there is support for IFTTT so if the smart device supports that, then there is at least some way to control it from Google Assistant.

While Alexa is better at smart home control at this present time, Assistant has some tricks up its sleeve – most notably the ability to connect to Google’s Chromecast. While Alexa can stream music, Assistant will be able to stream music, TV shows and movies to Chromecast devices located throughout the house. At its October 4 event Google showcased how users will be able to search Netflix for content using Assistant and have it cast directly to the TV of choice. It can do the same with YouTube and Google Photos. In fact, the default music App is YouTube out of the box, but that can be changed to Spotify, Pandora or Google Play Music using the App.

Of course Assistant on Google Home is capable of more than just playing media. Like Alexa, Assistant can answer questions, set timers, tell jokes, give flight and traffic information and manage the user’s entire day.

Release Date and Pricing

Google Home is set to be released in the US on November, with the UK expected to receive the device next year. Users desperate to try out Assistant this side of the pond will have no choice but to wait, or to pick up Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL phones.

As for pricing, Google Home significantly undercuts the Amazon Echo at $129 vs the Echo’s $179. Google is clearly keen for users to daisy chain the devices across the house, with users able to link up multiple units for multi-streaming capability. It’s not a requirement to own multiple Google Homes to daisy-chain streaming capabilities however, as the devices can also be linked with Chromecasts and Cast-supporting speakers.

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