Which Google Assistant Smart Speaker Should I Buy

Off the back of the launch of Google Home into the Australian market last year, smart speakers are quickly becoming one of the fastest growing categories in the consumer tech world. Some analysts have even claimed they outsold wearables over the holiday season. Even if you haven’t bought one yet, you’ve likely heard or seen at least some of the buzz around the Google-powered smart speaker or its competition.

[Related: Is My Smart Speaker Always Listening?]

Not sure what all the fuss is about? Here’s a quick primer on what smart speakers are, and how some of them compare to the baseline Google Home?

What is a smart speaker?

Simply put: it’s a speaker that talks back.

A smart speaker is usually a small-to-medium-sized speaker that comes with at least one integrated set of microphones (usually far-field) and at least one on-board smart assistant (usually either Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant).

Why would I want one over a regular speaker?

Well, there are three key rationale worth touching on here. The first is that voice-based controls can offer a more intuitive and convenient experience compared to controlling your speaker using an app or set of physical buttons. Rather than fumble with a volume slider, you can just tell your speaker to turn the volume down. Suddenly want to change the track to something else? Just say so.

The second reason you’d want a smart speaker over a regular one comes with the capability of smart speakers to integrate with smart appliances, smart lights and smart plugs. Using systems like IFTTT (If-This-Then-That) or Apple’s HomeKit, you can then integrate your smart speaker as a unified hands-free control center for these devices. Rather than mess around with around with an app, you can simply tell your lights to turn on and off.

The last pillar of the smart speaker experience also relates to the aforementioned ghost in the machine. As a result of their growing popularity, numerous service-based companies are now moving to develop apps that integrate with the same smart assistants tech found inside devices like the Google Home and Amazon Echo.

For example, NAB now allows customers to consult their customer service platform for queries like how to have a lost credit card replaced or how to reset their password using the Google Assistant. In other markets, you can already order a pizza using your smart speaker.  Over time, such integration will likely become both more common and advanced.

What kinds of smart speakers are there? And how much do they usually cost?

At present, there are four ‘styles’ of smart speaker available. There’s the baseline pod-speakers (Google Home, Amazon Echo and Apple’s HomePod), which are usually priced between AUD $150 and AUD $200.

Then, there’s the cheaper “Mini” variants like the Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo Dot, which are priced around $70 to $100. These usually offer an inferior audio experience to their regular-sized counterparts. However, the shortcuts being taken here are counterbalanced against significant savings when it comes to price-point. This potentially makes them more affordable to those interested in smart speakers but uncertain enough about how much they might actually use one to hold off.

Thirdly, there’s the Amazon Echo Show and it's growing legion of copycats. These slick-looking smart speakers come with an integrated display, opening up new possibilities. Expect to see a lot more of these in 2018.

Finally, there’s the “Plus-sized” smart speakers like the Google Home Max. Ironically, these are very much the smallest and most niche of the four smart speaker "styles" to date. They tend to be priced above $300 and invest that premium price back into the audio side of the experience, offering up a significantly higher quality of playback than you’ll get out of other smart speakers.

Google Home

What smart assistants does it support?

For obvious reasons, the only smart assistant supported by the Google Home is the Google Assistant.

What can I do with it?

Using the on-board Assistant, the Google Home lets you ask questions, play music, check the weather, set reminders, consult your calendar, listen to news bulletins and interact with both connected smart appliances and compatible third-party services.

How much does it cost?

In Australia, the Google Home is priced at an RRP of $199.

Google Home Mini

What smart assistants does it support?

Again, for obvious reasons, the only smart assistant supported by the Google Home Mini is the Google Assistant.

What can I do with it?

Like the baseline Google Home, the Google Home Mini lets you ask questions, play music, check the weather, set reminders, consult your calendar, listen to news bulletins and interact with both connected smart appliances and compatible third-party services.

You can read our full review here.

How much does it cost?

In Australia, the Google Home Mini is priced at an RRP of $79.

JBL Link

What smart assistants does it support?

The JBL Link 10 and 20 rely on the Google Assistant.

What can I do with it?

Everything you can do with the regular Google Home:  you can ask questions, play music, check the weather, set reminders, consult your calendar, listen to news bulletins and interact with both connected smart appliances and compatible third-party services.

What’s the difference between this and the Google Home?

Three things: the first is a heftier speaker rig that promises better audio playback. The JBL Link 10 boasts two 8W speakers and The JBL Link 20 bumps that output to 10W per speaker.

The second is added durability in the form of an IPX7 rating against water damage (found in both the JBL Link 10 and JBL Link 20).

Finally, both speakers also touts standalone portable batteries. This means that, unlike most smart speakers, they can be used without being permanently tethered to a wall plug - at least for a time. The JBL Link 10 packs 5 hours of battery life. The JBL Link 20 doubles this to 10 hours.

You can read our full review here.

How much does it cost?

The JBL Link 10 is priced at $229. The JBL Link 20 is priced slightly-higher at $299.

Sony LS-S50G

What smart assistants does it support?

The Sony LS-S50G relies on the Google Assistant for its smarts.

What can I do with it?

Everything you can do with the regular Google Home:  you can ask questions, play music, check the weather, set reminders, consult your calendar, listen to news bulletins and interact with both connected smart appliances and compatible third-party services.

What’s the difference between this and the Google Home?

There a few things to note when comparing Sony’s Google-powered smart speaker to the regular Google Home. For one, the Sony LS-S50G boasts an integrated LED-based clock on the face of the speaker. The Sony LS-S50G also comes IPX3 rated against splash-damage, making it more kitchen-friendly than the Google Home is.

Then, under the hood, a 48mm satellite speaker and a 53mm subwoofer promise to provide audio playback with a little more punch behind it than the Google baseline smart speaker.

Lastly, it’s got a unique gesture-based control system.  In addition to the regular “Okay, Google” and “Hey Google” activation phrases, you can twirl a finger above the speaker to adjust the volume or swipe your hand above it to pause and play music.

You can read our full review here.

How much does it cost?

In Australia, the Sony LS-S50G is priced at an RRP of $249.

Sonos One

What smart assistants does it support?

The Sonos One is quite unique among smart speakers in that it is envisioned as assistant-agnostic. Unfortunately, at present, it only supports Amazon Alexa - and not even in Australia. That said, Sonos say that it will become Google Home compatible sometime in 2018.

Sonos also haven’t ruled out adding support for other assistants - like Microsoft’s Cortana or Samsung’s Bixby - to the Sonos One later down the track.

What can I do with it?

At present, Australian customers who purchase a Sonos One are only really able to use it for music playback via the Sonos app. For now, it’s functionally more-or-less the same as the company’s Play:1 speaker.

However, once Amazon Alexa launches in Australia, Sonos One owners will be able to use the smart speaker to listen to music, deliver news and sports scores, get weather updates, control their smart home devices and even make online orders from Amazon themselves.

Likewise: when the proper support arrives for it, you’ll be able to do everything you can do with the regular Google Home as well. As usual, this includes asking it questions, playing music, checking the weather, setting reminders, consulting your calendar, listening to news bulletins and interacting with both connected smart appliances and compatible third-party services.

What’s the difference between this and the Google Home / Amazon Echo?

On a software level, the biggest difference worth noting here is that the Sonos One supports multiple assistants. Or, at least, it eventually will. Then, on the hardware front, it comes equipped with two Class-D digital amplifiers, one mid-woofer, one tweeter and six far-field microphones (four more than the regular Google Home). The sum total of all these components: a speaker that sounds better and is - in theory - more reliable to control than the stock standard offerings from both Google and Amazon.

You can read more about the Sonos One in our full review here.

How much does it cost?

In Australia, the Sonos One caries an RRP of $299.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Google HomeSmart Speakers

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Fergus Halliday
Show Comments

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?