Without a doubt the best voice activated speakers 2018 are going to stay Amazon’s Echo (Alexa) and Google Home. Alexa came into the scene November, 2014 and immediately became the next great home appliance. After two years of Amazon having the market cornered; Google Home burst through the gates November, 2016 with Home. Alexa (now Echo device) could have some serious competition with Home, but Home has a steep hill to climb.
Best Voice Activated Speakers 2018
Visual Design and Customization
When it comes to exciting new technology, you want it to be front and center in your home. Though it has nothing to do with how it works, you want it to look good. Amazon Alexa is a 9” tall cylindrical tower, with a ring of light and ventilation holes in the bottom half of the tower. It is a futuristic look and can be ordered in either black or white. If it sounds a bit simplistic to you or you must have a unique flair added to your device. There are aftermarket skins available. You can buy pre-fabricated versions, or if you have a flair for the artistic, create your own design and send it in to be printed out and sent to you.
Google Home has taken a more minimalistic approach to its design. With its slanted top rounding out to a flat bottom, many are seeing similarities with a certain air freshener. Regardless, the styling is clean and the base comes with a standard slate gray fabric base. The base is customizable for a small amount extra in mango fabric, marine fabric, violet fabric, carbon metal, copper metal snow metal, painted steel and black hard plastic. If that was not enough, the slanted cap also can be customized through aftermarket skins. That must hurt, Alexa.
Both Home and Alexa come with decent audio packages, but how do they perform? Alexa comes equipped with a woofer, tweeter, dual downward-facing speakers that assure 360 degrees of immersive sound. Alexa has proven to be able to fill a room with clear sound, but bass tends to begin distorting at maximum volume. Unfortunately, Alexa is established as an all-in-one device and does not pair up with external sound systems. That is, by itself. As is with any device; where there is a will, there is a way. Especially where Bluetooth is involved.
Home has a rich, bright and dynamic room-filling sound and has the option to connect to home audio systems. The downfall is that Chromecast accessories are necessary to these functions. Unfortunately, they are an additional external purchase. With the Home’s price at $50 less than Alexa, the cost can be recouped easily.
Google Home vs. Amazon Echo
This is where the tide starts to turn. For a while, Home had the advantage with Chromecast. Recently, Alexa has been hard at work working their way back to dominate with incorporating Alexa with Fire TV Stick and Alexa with Fire TV. Though TV does not have always-on functionality, Fire TV Stick now has a Voice remote enabled with Alexa. The voice enabled remote still only has the same amount of functionality as the Fire TV with Alexa. None of which is turning on or off your TV with a voice command, as Home can do with Chromecast. Bluetooth has a fix for this! Hubs help connect with anything. In this case, CNET recommends the Logitech Harmony Hub.
Bluetooth can do many things, but Fire and iOS OS do not play as well with others as Android. If Home adopts Bluetooth technology or Chromecast becomes a universal adapter, Echo will be in some serious trouble. With 3000+ skills and more being added daily, it’s not looking like Echo will be unseated on the entertainment front anytime soon.
To some people personality is not a selling feature for a device. When entertainment is a feature of a device, the voice coming from it should have some personality. The base personality for Home’s AI has the likeness of a Mother who has had no sleep and is listening to a drawn-out explanation about nothing. It perks up when the Easter-eggs are used, but otherwise is mostly drab. Alexa has some inflection in her tone, it could use some improvement in some parts, but no AI is perfect. She has just the right amount of it to deliver a quip or fun insult when needed.
Best Voice Activated Speakers 2018
Smart Device Integration
Smart home integration is the next great venture and these two devices are taking it head on. Google Home has versatility with personalization, this makes creating and remembering commands much easier. The personal assistant possibilities are impressive with daily briefings, checking traffic for your route, making a shopping list, check your flight status, or track a package. Though you will not be able to remove anything from the list or create any other types of lists. Home has also partnered with Nest, SmartThings, Philips Hue, Belkin WeMo, Honeywell and IFTTT.
SmartThings Hub is a robust smart home array that connects wirelessly to smart devices and enables them to work together. It is utilized to control compatible devices that have an on/off switch state. One of these compatible devices is the Honeywell Lyric thermostat.
Nest Learning Thermostat connects with your home’s HVAC and becomes your verbal and remote controlled thermostat. Within a week of managing temperatures, Nest learns and programs itself to your comfort. When you are away, it will set itself to nominal environmental settings to conserve energy. Nest can be connected to your phone, laptop or tablet for remote accessibility. When Nest identifies you from across a room; it will light up with a display of the time, temperature or weather. Nest App will allow you to check up on your energy history, so you can ensure your carbon footprint is not expanding any more than it must. If it is expanding, then look for the Nest Leaf, turn the thermostat to a temperature that saves energy and smile because you’re helping save the planet.
Unfortunately for Home, Alexa also has access to those home devices. They are just the tip of the iceberg she has for partnerships and assistant availability. With the Bluetooth synchronization and Amazon skills, the possibilities are virtually endless. Though Alexa’s commands are not as flexible and personable as Home’s, the current power is undeniable.
Alexa has been able to integrate itself into nearly every part of the home with its partnerships. Haiku Home Ceiling Fans with their SenseMe tech, can control lights and fan speed. Prices range from The L Series at $550 to the Luxe Series at $1,595. If you want to have an added artistic flair and support the arts, the Artisan collection showcases blades with works of art submitted from all over the US.
Taking it up another notch, Amazon has recently partnered up with Ford SYNC and Alexa is now in certain new models of Ford vehicles (Focus Electric, Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi). If you have an Alexa device in your home (Alexa, Dot or Tap), it will synch with your car. The same services that Automatic provides will be offered; you will also be able to ask Alexa to turn on your car, lock the door, send your directions to your navigator and more. Once you are in your car; with a push of a button, you have all the functionality of Alexa at your command. Hyundai announced it plans to integrate as well. So far, the options are not as vast as Ford. When you turn the engine, another device that could be integral would be Garageio. Unless you prefer entering a garage full of Carbon Monoxide, telling Garageio to open the door could save your life. For those who like to maintain a nice lush lawn or garden Rachio and GreenIQ Smart Garden Hub.
Samsung has announced the Family Hub Fridge with Alexa functionality. It comes with a hefty price tag of $5,600 to $6,000 depending on the model. The functionality is exciting. Cameras inside of the refrigerator allow for you to be able to verify what is inside in real time.
Best Voice Activated Speakers
Our homes are not natively insecure places. We do however, want to emphasize feeling of being unencumbered by the concern that something could happen. A proactive view on cybersecurity can prevent hardships in the future. The primary concerns are a device that is attached to your home Wi-Fi that is a launch point to all your home devices. It gives a simpler way to access more sensitive devices where there may not have been before.
A factor that could help in security remediation is that Fire OS and Android are similar at the core. Bugs are found and fixed quickly.
Alexa and Home utilize always-on features, but they are not always recording. Unless they are “woken up” with the command words, they will only be in listen mode. For Home to wake up, you can say “OK Google” or “Hey Google.” For Alexa, say “Alexa,” “Echo” or “Amazon.” Both devices are fitted with a mute button if full privacy is needed.
Echo has a few siblings in the market that helps drive its brand. Echo is the oldest sibling, but these two are not to be ignored. They mean business and they prove that they can back it up.
Priced at a meager $50, Echo Dot brings everything Echo offers in a compact package. With full Alexa functionality, Dot can connect to any speaker or stereo system via Bluetooth or 3.5mm cable and does not need the Echo to function. With her own speaker; she can even be utilized as a smart alarm clock or any type of voice controlled assistant needed. Dot is available in Black or white. For an additional $15 Amazon has customizable fabric cases in saddle tan leather, merlot leather, midnight leather, indigo fabric, charcoal fabric or sandstone fabric to coordinate among its surrounding décor.
Tap is an Alexa enabled device that provides more flexibility to those who enjoy the outdoors. All that is needed is Wi-Fi or 4G LTE and a Hotspot for Alexa to be utilized. It is not an always-on device, but a new hands-free functionality has been enabled for distance commands. Tap runs mainly on battery power with a play time of 9 hours continuously (8 hours in hands-free mode). A charging cradle is included with purchase of the Tap. At $130, Tap is not a bad price for what you get. For an extra $20 you can choose from a black, blue, green, magenta, tangerine or white sling case to hold your Tap. The sling is made of a durable silicone and includes a built-in loop for a carabiner to attach for transportation. As with most technology; though Tap is meant for outdoors, it is not waterproof.
Home does not have any real sister devices yet and it is still young. After it has had some time to stretch its legs and get a feel for the market response. The designers, engineers and programmers will take the notes and get back to development. That is if they aren’t already working on it now. Google is tenacious and will come back swinging with more.
Google Home vs. Amazon Echo
Though Alexa takes the fight easily for now with her many options. Home is still fresh and has much to look forward to. The ultimate winner would be taking us away from looking at our phones all the time and joining humanity again. That is what’s the most exciting about these innovations. If security awareness is handled, these revolutions could mainstream the home. This could leave more time for people to take time to unwind. In the dark recesses, there is also concern for Siri to come in swinging to take them both out.
Per a recent report by Time magazine, they are sticking to their AirPods wireless earbuds. That might take them out of this game, but the applications and services are still viable. At this point, the Home Kit compatibility is on par with Google Home but the kits are proprietary in nature. Which tend to be problematic.
The ultimate winner would be taking us away from looking at our phones all the time and joining humanity again. That is what’s the most exciting about these innovations. If security awareness is handled, these revolutions could mainstream the home. This could leave more time for people to take time to unwind. Given all the evidence, Alexa had by far taken the prize. It is only 3 months into 2017; with how long development takes, it is a good bet that Alexa will still hold the crown into 2018.
Google Home vs. Amazon Echo
|Feature||Google Home||Amazon Alexa|
|Device size||3.79″ diameter x 5.62″ height||3.3″ wide x 9.3″ tall|
|Device Weight||1.05 lbs.||2.34 lbs.|
|Power||16.5V,2A adapter 4.58oz||AC adapter|
|Ports and Connectors||DC Power Jack||6′ cable|
|Color Options||Cap: White, Base: Slate fabric (included), Mango fabric, Marine fabric, Violet fabric, Carbon metal, Copper metal, Snow metal, Painted steel, Black hard plastic||Black or White|
|Supported Audio Formats||HE-AAC, LC-AAC+, MP3, Vorbis, WAV (LPCM), FLAC
With support for high-resolution streaming
|HE-AAC, LC-AAC+, MP3, Vorbis*, WAV (LPCM)*, FLAC*, AIFF*, WMA*
*only eligible files from Amazon catalog can be uploaded
|Wireless Formats||802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4Hx/5Ghz) Wi-Fi
for high-performing streams
Dual-band, dual antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO)
|Speaker Type||High excursion with 2″ driver, 2″ passive radiators, Far-field voice recognition and Hands-free support||2.5″ woofer, 2″ tweeter, Reflex port
Enhances the woofer’s output for deeper sounds without distortion
|Supported Operating Systems||Android 4.1 and higher & iOS 8.0 and higher||Fire OS, Android, iOS devices*
Accessible via web browser
|Included in Box||Quick start guide, Power supply, Google Home||Amazon Alexa, Power adapter/ cable, Quick start guide|
|Requirements||Wi-Fi network, Wi-Fi enabled supported device||Wi-Fi Ready|
|External Compatibility Features||Google home base, Nest learning thermostat, WeMo Mini, Honeywell Lyric, IFTTT, Philips Hue starter kit, SmartThings, Chromecast Ultra, Chromecast, Chromecast Audio, Pixel||Bluetooth, Fire Stick, Fire TV, Voice Remote, Nest learning thermostat, WeMo Mini, Philips Hue Starter Kit, Insteon Connected home starter kit, Mission portable battery base, Garageio, Skybell, August Smart Lock, Honeywell Lyric, Haiku Fans, SmartThings, Wink, Control4, IFTTT, Yonomi, Ooma, Automatic, 3000+ skill applications|