Amazon vs Google: Which should you pick-up on sale in the Boxing Day deals this year?
It’s only been a few months since Google unleashed a new version of its hugely-popular Google Nest Mini – the small doughnut-sized smart speaker that houses its nifty Google Assistant – to compete with the latest Echo Dot from Amazon, which has an in-built digital clock face. So, how does the latest from Google compare with its rival from the retail giant?
Well, in many ways these devices are very similar in terms of design and features – and crucially, price. Both of these are at the affordable end of their respective hardware ranges. Both are designed to subtly bring their talkative AI assistants to rooms in your home without taking up too much space with huge touchscreens, large 360-degree speakers and the like. However, there are some key differences that you’ll want to keep an eye out for when shopping online.
If you’re looking to buy a Google Nest or an Amazon Echo in the Boxing Day sales, you’ll want to make a note of these differences to ensure you’re getting the right product for your needs…
Both of these new smart speakers are minor tweaks to existing designs, rather than complete overhauls. The new Google Nest Mini keeps the same doughnut-size footprint and fabric-cover design. As with the first-generation, a small row of LEDs will light-up beneath the fabric cover to let you know when it’s listening, or processing a request.
Amazon offers a similarly fabric-aesthetic. However, the company uses its trademark ring of blue lights around the top of the Echo Dot to show when it’s talkative AI assistant, Alexa, is listening to your latest demand. Not only that, but Amazon also uses the ring of lights to let you know you’ve had a parcel delivered, when it’s experiencing internet issues, and more. So, you’ll get more from a quick glance at the speaker than you will at the Google Nest Mini, if that’s important to you.
The Echo Dot also has physical volume buttons on the top, so you can adjust your music playback without having to constantly bark “Alexa, turn the volume up…” across the room. This is something you’ll also get on the Home Mini, although it’s less obvious than the simple + and – buttons on the Echo Dot.
Google unveiled its identical – but rebranded and better sounding – new speaker in October
Instead, Google has added the ability to tap to the left or the right of the LEDs to increase or decrease the volume. These lights will also help indicate what kind of volume to expect from the small speaker. With the new hardware, Google has added two extra LED lights to the row.
And finally, the Echo Dot with Clock has, as it’s wholly original name suggests, a clock face that illuminates behind the fabric. That means you’re able to leave the smart speaker on a shelf in the lounge, or use it as a bedside clock – something the new Google Nest Mini simply cannot compete with.
When it comes to design, both of these smart speakers are pretty similar – they’re small, round, and designed to offer quick access to their AI assistants, not be a flashy centrepiece of the room. But the Amazon Echo Dot offers a few useful tweaks (an always-on digital clock face, more useful LEDs to let you know about deliveries and the like) that sets it apart and makes it a little more than just a fabric-covered doughnut-size gadget.
That said, Google now uses more eco-friendly materials, including the fabric mesh that’s now created from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles and the external enclosure (at least 35 percent post-consumer recycled plastic), which might swing you to the Mountain View-based company’s offering, compared to the Echo Dot.
With the second-generation Nest Mini, Google has rebuilt the internals from the ground-up so that it now features an improved amplifier to boost its audio credentials, making the mini speaker sound a little more mighty. Google says the bass is two-times stronger than the first-generation speaker.
Those statistics are pretty impressive, although anyone who really wants to listen to their favourite album will surely want to plug-in the Home Mini to an existing audio set-up. There’s also a custom-designed machine learning chip inside the smart speaker designed to help future-proof the Mini for all the plans Google has for its Assistant. It will also speed-up responses and accuracy.
Both Echo Dot and Nest Mini have a physical switch to disable the microphone. It’s not just disabling with software, either. There will be no electric current to that component, which should reassure anyone worried about having an always-listening gadget in their bedroom, or any other room in their home.
One nifty feature you won’t find in the Echo Dot is the ability to hang on the wall, so you can have the Google Assistant near the front door – even if there’s no table there – to help you control the lighting in your home or smart locks as you come and go. It also lets you order takeaway as soon as you walk through the door on a rainy winter’s evening, which is definitely a winning feature in our book.
Echo Dot does boast a 3.5 mm audio out so you won’t be limited to using Bluetooth to connect to any other speakers around the home. It also means you’ll also be able to update older sound systems that don’t even have a Bluetooth option – bringing the ability to control playback with Alexa, play online radio stations, podcasts, as well as all the usual AI assistant shenanigans.
Both Echo Dot and Home Mini boast compatibility with a slew of different connected home gadgets, including Philips Hue smart lighting, TP Link, and more. Unless you’re looking to control your Amazon Fire TV or Google Chromecast with your voice – where there is only one option for you between these two smart speakers.
When it comes to music services, the Echo Dot takes the biscuit. While Google offers support for its own YouTube Music streaming, Spotify, Deezer, and TuneIn. Amazon doesn’t have YouTube Music (naturally) but it does have its own Amazon Music, as well as its industry-leading audiobook service, Audible. But the clincher is the built-in support for Apple Music. So, if you’re an iPhone user with a hefty iTunes library, there’s really only one choice for you – apart from the HomePod, of course.
Although Amazon has a vast library of Alexa Skills to add new functionality to its assistant, when it comes to the core functionality – general knowledge, queries about local businesses, and information on your commute, we’ve always found the Google Assistant to be more reliable. While the Echo Dot has more options when it comes to music streaming and a 3.5mm aux out to bring the chatty assistant to older hardware around the home, the boosted built-in speaker and ability to hang the Nest Mini to more places around the home means it wins this round.
Express.co.uk will have full in-depth reviews of all the latest Amazon and Google kit soon, so check back soon.