Sony LF-S50G review: Google Assistant and then some
- IPX3 rating
- Slightly deeper sound
- Less compact form-factor
- Gesture controls often unreliable
If the built-in clock interface, the IPX3-rating and the gesture commands strike a chord, this might be a smart speaker worth a serious look. However, if you want the best possible sound for your smart speaker setup, it may well be worth waiting for better options.
At a glance, the Sony LF-S50G looks a little bulkier and beefier than Google’s angular Home speaker. It’s also a little more symmetrical and comes in three colors: blue, black and white. Still, it’s designed to be fairly inconspicuous and oblique within your home - and - while your mileage may vary here based on your home - it mostly succeeds.
Like the Home, this cover is also removable. Sony say that this allows you to easily clean the interior of the speaker by rinsing it under a tap.
The first difference worth noting here is the integrated clock interface within the speaker. A grid of LEDs underneath the speaker’s cover display the time at all times. However, this can be turned off.
The next big difference between the Home and Sony’s LF-S50G is that the latter uses a gesture-based interface rather than touch controls. 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.
In practice, there’s definitely an element of tech-wizardry to this that’s appealing. However, the lack of any tactile feedback means that you’re often thinking about what you’re doing a little too much for it to be truly intuitive - even if it was reliable. It felt like the LF-S50G recognized my gestures about 80% of the time. This meant that, even outside the remaining 20% of the time, I constantly worried that it wouldn’t pick up my gestures. Still, as mentioned above, it’s good to have options - and there are some advantages to be found in the control scheme. For example, you could set the LF-S50G set it up in your kitchen while doing the dishes and modify the volume without touching it.
Although, I guess you could already do that using the already-hands-free Google Assistant voice commands. Still, I can easily imagine for some this extra option might still appeal even if the actual case for its inclusion isn’t super strong.
During everyday use, I found that the Sony LF-S50G sounded a tiny bit better than the Google Home speaker. It felt like the bass and vocals of louder songs like The Smith Street Band’s “Death To The Lads” and Alex Lahey’s “I Haven’t Been Taking Care Of Myself” carried across the living room I had it set up in with just a smidge more punch and less distortion. However, in terms of quality, there wasn't a huge difference.
Likewise, the smarts side of the package is pretty consistent with the core Google Assistant / Google Home experience. You can say "OK, Google" to awaken the speaker and then use it to answer questions (within certain limits), play music, pull up the news, control smart appliances and the like.
According to Sony, the LF-S50G features a far-field microphone setup pretty similar to the Google Home. Unfortunately, in our experience, it proved more unreliable when it came to hearing voice commands over loud music.
Even if it works for the most part, the difference in performance here between the LS-S50G and the Google Home is so slight that it’s really hard to call it out as worth the extra $100 or so.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, the differences between the Sony LF-S50G and the Google Home are the only thing that really matters. They, and the $50 price-difference, are all that separate the two. It all comes down to the built-in clock interface, the IPX3-rating and the gesture commands.
If these inclusions strike a chord, this might be a smart speaker worth a serious look. However, if you want the best possible sound for your smart speaker setup, it may well be worth waiting on the Sonos One speaker to get Google Home compatibility.
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