Panasonic GA-10 review: The best (Assistant-powered) smart sound around
The Panasonic GA-10 smart speaker is a Google-assistant powered smart speaker. This means that, by now, you probably know the drill. It’s got all the brains of the Google Home but promises to offer a better sound in exchange for a higher price-point.
Google have their strengths but, as their Pixel Buds so recently-reminded us, audio playback isn’t necessarily one of them. That’s where the GA-10 comes in.
Like other non-Google-branded but Assistant-powered speakers before it, the Panasonic GA-10 promises to leverage the smarts of the Google Assistant and put in it better hi-fi hardware. Unlike a lot of its competition, however, the Panasonic GA-10 actually manages to realise this promise. It doesn’t just offer an alternative to the Google Home, it’s a ready-to-go replacement for one.
Speakers: 8cm Dual Voice Coil Woofer, 2cm Soft Dome Tweeter x2
Dimensions: 100 mm x 284 mm x 100 mm
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi
Voice Assistant: Google Assistant
Colors: Black, White
In terms of design, the GA-10 is a sleek, minimalist rectangle of a speaker. It’s all right-angles where almost every other smart speaker offers friendly curves. Depending on your choice of color, it’s going to look like a big black rectangle or a big white one. All told, it’s a bit more a traditional-looking than a lot of the current smart speaker crop.
Still, there are a few commonalities. You’ve got a metal base, fabric-coating and the GA-10 primarily controlled using your voice. You’ve also got the option of using the glass-layered, touch-sensitive control panel mounted on top of the speaker. In practice, these buttons are reasonably responsive and reliable. However, they (inevitably and understandably) lack the tactile feedback offered by physical controls. Your mileage may vary - but I was not massively won over by them.
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The Panasonic GA-10 features one 8cm woofer and two 2cm tweeters. To the eye, it looks almost three times the size of the regular Google Home. Appropriately, it doesn’t feel hyperbole to say it sounds about three times as good.
With the GA-10, Panasonic are essentially promising two things. The first is that they can offer a smart speaker as reliable and “smart” as the Google Home. They hit this mark handily.
Like the regular Google Home and Google Home Mini, you can ask the GA10 questions, tell it to 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.
On this front, it checks all the right boxes and passes the test with flying colors. Of course, smarts is the easy part. It’s the other side of the coin that’s usually a little more iffy. That’s not to say that the smart speakers currently offered by JBL and Sony don’t sound better than the Google Home. They do. However, they rarely sound better enough to justify the premium price.
And when it comes to price, the GA-10 is pretty expensive as far smart speakers go. At $375, it’s not quite Apple HomePod expensive - but it is priced well above a large contingent of the many Google and Alexa-powered smart speakers out there.
[Related Content: Which 2018 Smart Speaker Should I Buy?]
Fortunately, in exchange for that price, you get a speaker that actually ranks among the best for smart speaker sound quality. The Panasonic GA-10 delivers a really bass-rich sound that’s a clear step above not only the regular Google Home but the majority of other smart speakers out there.
You’re also given an extra degree of control over the sound via Panasonic’s Music Control app (available on iOS and Android) and can pair two GA-10s up in stereo mode. This does bring another app into the fold but, hey, options are always nice.
That said, the GA-10 was sometimes a little less responsive to voice commands than some of the other smart speakers we’ve tested. It’s hard to tell whether the instances we had of it mishearing commands were down to Google’s software or Panasonic’s hardware - but it is worth mentioning.
The Bottom Line
Overall, we’d rate the Panasonic GA-10 not only above Google’s own stable of smart speakers but probably most of the other smart speakers out there, stopping just short of Apple’s HomePod and the Sonos One. That said, given the circumstances surrounding the latter, this might just be the best sounding Google Assistant you can buy right now.
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