Smart speakers - a little comparison

Discussion in 'Computers and Gadgets' started by lparsons21, Feb 11, 2018.

  1. lparsons21

    lparsons21 Topic Starter SatelliteGuys Master
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    I love playing around with tech and smart speakers are the latest things on the block. But which of the big 3; Apple's Homepod, Amazon's Echo, or Google's Home, is the right one to get? Actually any of the 3 could be the right one, depending on what you want to do with it. Here's some comparisons the each. I'll start with the weakest one.

    Apple Homepod - Yeah, it is the weakest of the bunch, mostly because Siri is the weakest of the 'digital assitants' out there. Since Apple brought out Siri they really haven't done much with it. The Homepods claim to fame is the audio quality. Look at the ads, that's what they talk about. And it is well deserved, it does sound amazing compared to the other two.

    But for home automation Homekit and Siri are weak, and all because Apple chose not to do as mch with them as Amazon and Google have done. The selection and breadth of gear is more limited at the moment. That might change going forward as Apple is supposedly making some changes about how Homekit devices work with Apple.

    The HomePod play music from your iTunes library and from any app/device that can do Airplay. It can do voice texting, which neither Home or Echo can do without 3rd party apps/support. You can Handoff a phone call to the speaker, but you cannot make calls from though both Home and Echo can. It has a bit more limited Siri support than does the iPad/iPhone/Macs have though I'm not sure how much limitations are there.

    Biggest issue for using HomePods around the house as you would with the Google Home or Amazon Echo line is that there is only one version of HomePod and it costs $349 each!!!

    Google Home - The Home products are limited to 3 smart speakers. Sound quality is not as good as HomePod, but on the Home Maxi is pretty good. The real strength of the Home products is search as you would expect. It will control a lot of different 'smart' things in one manner or another and there has been an anouncement of getting some video pieces involved, though it isn't clear when or who will do it. I found the Google Home/Assistant to be more forgiving as you command it to do things.

    Amazon Echo - The Echo line of gear is very broad. You have the speakers, Echo, Dot and Plus. You have the video, Show, Spot and a camera. Quite extensive. The Echo line is the oldest line of smart speakers and it shows. Virtually anything 'smart' will work with it in one way or another. Some comparably inexpensive stuff too! I use the Show in the kitchen and can do recipes totally hands free, that is handier than dealing with a tablet or computer.

    Sound quality on the Echo and Plus isn't bad but nowhere near as good as the HomePod. The Dot and Spot being smaller, don't have quite the volume or quality of the Echo and Plus. The Show falls somewhere in the middle for sound quality.

    With Show and Spot u can make video/voice calls, video being limited to those with a Show or Spot or those using the Alexa app.

    But Alexa sometimes has problems with commands. Usually it seems to get confused with what device you are wanting to do something with and that because of naming. No real guidelines, but naming things can be an issue though a relatively minor one. And sometimes I'll do something like "Alexa turn on the Kitchen", it reports it did, but the lights didn't turn on.
     
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  3. EarDemon

    EarDemon SatelliteGuys Pro

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    I have four of the spying speakers, Google Home, Google Home Mini, Amazon Echo Plus and Harman Kardon Invoke powered by Microsoft Cortana. Whatever words in the English language are stronger than hate, that's how I feel about Apple, and their overpriced, overhyped lackluster products are not allowed in my house, so no Home Pod for me.

    Amazon Echo has the widest skill set and seems like it gets functionality first. Amazon wants the Echo to be a centralized smart home hub and in addition to working with many third party vendors they pack as many of their own services as possible into it. Amazon Music, Prime, Audible, etc. As someone who was interested in becoming a subscriber, the main reason I got an Echo was for Audible support. I subscribed to Audible for a year on Thanksgiving Day, the last day of a special where if you became a subscriber you got a $50 credit to use toward an Echo device. Amazon had their Black Friday prices in place already so I got the Echo Plus for around $70 with the free Hue light bulb. I'm in the slow process of switching the whole house over to Hue bulbs, so it worked out great for me. I also like the Sirius XM support. The sound quality is noticeably better then the first gen Echo, which I never had, but heard it enough at other peoples houses to know it wasn't the greatest. I use the Echo primarily for smart home control, streaming Audible content, streaming Sirius XM and ordering stuff from Amazon.

    Google Home is use for every day general use. I think they are focused more on their AI stuff that they raved about at the presentation thing last year and of course data mining. They don't have the extensive skill library Amazon has, but they hit all of the big names. As a user of Google Music to host my music library, not the paid streaming service, it's nice to be able to play music from my library on demand. I pre-ordered the Google Home and got it right away. In the past year+ I've seen the platform make great strides in terms of features and functionally. A lot of which I have no use for, but I'm sure others do. Since it pulls data from their own search results, if I have a quick question or something I've been wondering about, I'll ask the Google Home. The sound quality for music is generally mediocre at best, but spoken word is alight. Since the Google Home sits right on my desk three feet from me, I often use it to listen to podcasts, some of which I can't for whatever reason get with Alexa or Cortana while I'm on the computer. Since I've been using Google Music as my podcast app for years, it's nice being able to pick up where I left off when listening in the car or at work. I received the Home Mini for free when I pre-ordered the Pixel 2, given the size of the thing, the audio quality is not bad. It sits in the living room. I use Home primarily for streaming news, streaming podcasts, general queries and home control.

    Microsoft Cortana combined with Harman Kardon. Cortana is by far the most limited of the three. Not many skills, not many supported audio services, but the audio quality is where it really shines. By far the best sounding smart speaker I ever heard, and it doesn't get crappy when cranked up to higher volume levels. I wish it supported more audio services and while pulling data from Bing isn't the end of the world, I'm just more used to Google. It doesn't support Wemo, but it does support Philips Hue. The Invoke is the slowest to respond, Google and Amazon respond almost instantly. It take about 8 seconds from the time I say 'Hey Cortana turn bathroom lights on' to the time they actually turn on. The main reason why I got this was to play around with it. No way would I pay the $200 list price, but at $100 the half off Black Friday sale, made it an easier pill to swallow. I'm glad I got it, if for nothing more then to play around with it audio quality is superb. The Echo Plus and Invoke sit next to each other on a nightstand thing by my window. This sounds lame, but it's actually pretty cool. I'll have one speaker play sounds of a thunderstorm, and one play the sounds of roaring ocean waves, and they mesh really well with each other. If I don't feel like listening to music or a podcast, I usually have them going like that.

    I don't do much in the way of smart home technology. Like I said above the only platforms I use are Philips Hue for lighting, and to a lesser extent Belkin's Wemo smart plugs. Besides the basement and garage, I want all light bulbs in the house to eventually be Hue. Bedroom, bathroom, living room and the lone hallway light are all set. I have two Wemo smart plugs, one for my goofy lava lamp and one for a plug in light that sits over the stove. What makes switching over to Wemo more difficult for me is very few things are plugged directly into the wall. I have four APC battery backup units powering all of my computer and computer related hardware, and both entertainment centers in the house feature APC Power Centers.
     
  4. lparsons21

    lparsons21 Topic Starter SatelliteGuys Master
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    I’m using Hue in lamps and Lutron dimmers for wall switches with dumb bulbs. Easier to manage and reduces the cost both upfront and going forward

    I go my Google Home and Mini free with a couple of other tech toys I bought.
     
  5. Foxbat

    Foxbat Addicted to new HW
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    Doesn't the Amazon Echo Dot have an audio out so you can have it play music through an existing audio system? I would think that would be the best audio experience teamed with the Echo ecosystem.

    And Sonos is still offering two Sonos One Smart Speakers with Alexa for the HomePod's $349 price, so that's effectively a "Buy One, get the Second for $50 off" sale. Gives you true stereo sound, not a computer's idea of what it thinks you should hear.

    I have not found a "need" for an audio assistant in my home. Of course, I didn't buy a microwave until the late 1990s, so that may factor in to my decision. ;)
     
    #4 Foxbat, Feb 12, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2018
  6. navychop

    navychop Member of the Month - July 2014!
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    Yes, it does.

    I have the full sized Echo and a Dot. We find them very useful. And getting moreso all the time.
     
  7. EarDemon

    EarDemon SatelliteGuys Pro

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    What is really great is the openness of all this all. Alexa and Google Assistant are being integrated into more and more speakers designed and made by actual A/V companies. Sonos I think was the first to do so with integrating Alexa. Sony has a speaker with Google Assistant, I believe Lenovo announced one at CES. Onkyo makes a speaker with each. Sonos is going one step further and coming out with one speaker that supports both. Hell, even HP is supposed to make a more budget friendly Cortana speaker similar to the Echo Dot and Home Mini. Having multiple choices from multiple manufactures is awesome.
     



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