Amazon may have been the first of the pair to launch a smart speaker back in 2015, but Google has fought its way into contention in recent years with the popular release of the Google Nest Mini and their newly revealed Google Nest Audio.
There are now a lot of smart speakers being sold online, and it can be difficult to work out which are the essential features, and which you will never use.
In order for a speaker to be ‘smart’, it has to come with a built-in AI assistant, which in this case would be Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. The virtual assistant will respond to various questions including for weather, news and traffic updates, as well as reminders about appointments.
Beyond this, the speakers will play music from your favourite Spotify playlist and be able to control other smart home devices in your home. You do have be aware of which smart home products are Alexa-compatible devices and those that are Google Home accessories, because they don’t always work with both (though many do).
The price, sound quality, size and design of these speakers can also vary, both within ranges and from brand to brand.
We are going to compare the two core ranges from two of the biggest manufacturers – Google and Amazon – so that you can decide which smart speaker suits your needs, budget, and whether the upcoming Amazon Prime Day is the right time to buy it.
Google Home vs Alexa: what’s the difference?
Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are both brilliant voice assistants that the two companies have built into whole ranges of smart speakers and displays.
And, while their jobs are more or less the same – to respond intelligently to your request – the results, how they work and which devices they work with can differ.
Here are the key differences between Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo range to help you find the smart speaker that is right for you.
The cheapest Google smart speaker is the Google Nest Mini at just £29. The second generation model was released in October 2019 and has 40 per cent stronger base than the original Mini.
However, its predecessor – the Echo Dot (3rd Gen) – is still available, now for the discounted price of £24.99. So, not a huge difference in price here.
Priced at £239.99 and £189 respectively, both offer a 10-inch HD display allowing you to make video calls and watch videos in addition to the typical smart speaker features.
For more in-depth detail about the Google’s smart display, take a look our Google Nest Hub Max review.
For design, we will compare both of the brand’s newest smart speakers, the Google Nest Audio and the Amazon Echo (4th Gen). Both are available to pre-order now and will be released later in October.
For its fourth iteration, the Amazon Echo is spherical in design and comes in three colours; charcoal, twilight blue and glacier white.
Priced at £89.99, the smart speaker has a bright LED light ring at the base of the sphere that reflects off of surfaces for added visibility.
While the Google Nest Audio is also available for £89.99, it is a taller, slim, oblong shape with rounded corners. Its two colours are charcoal and chalk (white).
Both Amazon and Google also boast that their speakers are more environmentally-friendly than previous models. Google says the Nest Audio’s enclosure is made from 70 per cent recycled material, while the Echo’s fabric and aluminium are 100 per cent recycled.
Voice activation of the speakers is done using “wake words”, which for Echo speakers is Alexa, and for Google devices it is simply “Hey Google”.
Both Google and Amazon smart speakers can be used to control other smart home devices in your home from lights to thermostats. Compatible devices do differ per brand but products that work with both include Philips Hue lightbulbs, Hive and Nest thermostats and Sonos speakers.
You can also combine speakers with both Google and Amazon. So, for example, if you own two Amazon Echo smart speakers you can create a multi-room system and play music around the house.
In addition, the Echo can be used as an intercom so you can speak through to another speaker to tell everyone in the house that dinner is ready without shouting. Again, this can also be done with Google’s Nest Audio speaker.
The Echo (4th Gen) also comes with a built-in smart home hub, with support for Zigbee, and supports Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).
Music, calls and more
The quality of the sound has typically been where Amazon has fallen down but in recent years, the company has worked hard to improve it. In the new Echo this is thanks to a 3.0-inch woofer, dual-firing tweeters, and Dolby processing.
The Google Nest Audio also has a 3.0-inch woofer but, unlike the new Echo, it does not have a 3.5mm audio jack so you cannot connect it to bigger speakers.
Both can also be used for hands-free calls and play music from Spotify or their own services of Google Play Music and Amazon Music.
Google Home range overview: what speakers are available?
Powered by Google Assistant, the Google Nest range includes:
Google Nest Audio
The newest addition to the Google Home range, the Google Nest Audio will be released on 15th October. With the ability to be connected up into a multi-room system, you have the ability to move your music with you as you travel around the house.
Google Home was the company’s first foray into smart speakers back in 2016 and it has been around ever since (admittedly with a couple of upgrades). It has all the usual smart speaker features such as reminders, alarms, weather updates, and playing music but it also supports multiple users. What this should mean is that each person in your house gets a personalised experience because Google Assistant should be able to distinguish between voices.
Google Nest Mini
The smallest smart speaker available but one of Google’s most popular. With 40 per cent stronger bass than the original Mini, the 2nd Gen Nest Mini offers a lot for its size. It can be mounted on the wall or placed on a counter or bedside table.
Like all Google smart speakers, it is compatible with Chromecast so you can even ask it to start playing your favourite Netflix show on the TV while you grab a cup of tea and some snacks.
To find out how we got on with this little speaker, check out our Google Nest Mini review.
Google Nest Hub
With a 7-inch screen, the Google Nest Hub is the smaller of Google’s smart displays. Much like a smart speaker, it can be used to play music, find out the news, get weather updates and control smart home devices in your home. It comes with Ambient EQ so that it dims screen brightness to match the lighting in your room, too.
Google Nest Hub Max
The most expensive of Google’s smart devices. Featuring a 10-inch HD screen, the Google Nest Hub Max contains a built-in Nest smart security camera to watch over your house when you can’t. Video calls with multiple people are also possible and it doubles up as a digital picture frame.
Amazon Alexa range overview: what speakers are available?
There are a number of Alexa-powered smart speakers available. The Amazon Echo range includes:
Amazon Echo (4th Gen)
The new iteration of the Amazon Echo will be released on 22nd October but it is already available to pre-order. It is the first Amazon Echo to be fitted with a smart hub,so that you can easily set up compatible Zigbee devices to voice control lights, locks and sensors. It can be used as an intercom between other rooms containing an Echo speaker and has a lower power mode to reduce its consumption when it is not in use.
Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)
Released alongside the new Echo, the redesigned Echo Dot is spherical in shape but more compact than its bigger brother. The Echo Dot is Amazon’s most popular smart speaker and has pretty much the same features as the original Echo. For those willing to spend a little more, there is also the Echo Dot with Clock for £59.99.
Amazon Echo Show 8
For those who are more visual, the Echo Show 8 has a 8-inch HD screen that allows you to make video calls, along with giving reminders, setting alarms and playing music or podcasts. It doubles up as a photo frame and you can watch Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and YouTube on it.
Amazon Echo Show 10
The all-new Echo Show 10 doesn’t have an exact release date yet but Amazon has promised it will be out before the end of 2020. With a 10-inch HD screen, the smart display automatically rotates with you as you move around the room so the screen is always visible.
Like the new Echo, it also has a Zigbee smart hub built-in so you can connect with Zigbee devices without the need to pay for a separate hub. The camera can also be used to look in on your house while you’re away if security is a concern.
Which smart speaker should you buy this Amazon Prime Day?
We don’t yet know the exact deals that will be available but in recent years, Prime Day has seen Amazon slashing the prices of its own devices including all Alexa-powered smart speakers.
As Amazon Prime Day 2020 is just around the corner, if you are considering buying an Echo smart speaker or display (and you can afford to wait), you may want to hold off on buying anything and see what’s on offer.
We are not expecting the prices of the newly-revealed Echo devices to change much but we could certainly prices drop on the older Echo speakers and displays.
Unfortunately, Amazon does not sell Google’s smart speakers so you won’t be able to take advantage of deals if you’re looking to buy any Google Nest devices.
However, other retailers have been known to drop prices, or put on last-minute sales, as a response to Amazon Prime Day so there may be an opportunity to pick up the Google smart speakers elsewhere.
For more more offers, check out our best Prime Day deals page.