Google Home Unboxing and First Thoughts
So I’ve been lucky enough to have been given a Google Home to review. This is a gadget I’ve been waiting to get my hands on since announcement. By now most people will be familiar with the existance of this new product category, that has been opened up by Amazon Echo and Google Home, bringing a personal assistant to your home.
So Google Assistant has already been available on some phones, e.g. Google Pixel, LG G6, but having a device solely built for this is a huge move for Google. From day 1, Google has been about “search”, giving people an easy way to find out information that they need, quickly. We’ve come along way since. From booting up a PC, connecting to dial up, searching for Google, then searching for what you need. We now just call from across the room, “Hey Google, what’s the weather like in Scotland this Weekend”? Yet is this convenience really worth the £129 price tag?
Whats in the Box
So on with the un-boxing and this is one of the simplest of unboxings I’ve ever had. Within seconds of opening the box, I had the product in my hand, plugging it in and began using it. Hardly any setup required. In the box, besides the device, you have a power cord and start guide. When the devices is plugged in, the device lights up, and once you have linked the device to your account using the Google Home app, you’re connected and ready to go.
The eight lights on top work in sequence depending on what you are doing. The bright red, blue, green and yellow combo, will be familiar to people with other Google devices. These light up when listening, they turn white when controlling the volume or sounding the alarm clock.
The top half is and angle white cylinder with lights on the top and a mute button on the back, this is always white, but the base speaker cover can be changed to match your decor. Base covers can be bought from here for £18-36.
Turn the beat down
The sound produced from the base is quite strong if not a bit too heavy. The bass can over power the clarity in most music I played, but I can imagine that this could be fixed with a software update or an ability to allow the user to change the bass level. For the size of the device though I was impress with the amount of sound it can push. It would easily be enough to enjoy at a small house get together and remember you can pair these up so you could get 2, 3 or more to play in harmony for extra multi-room goodness. If the speaker aren’t up to your needs then simply plug a Chromecast Audio adapter into your favourite speakers and request to Google that it plays music through them instead.
The AI is the bit that both surprises and confuses me. I know this is quite new tech, but Google misses out some fundamental features I can only assume is imminent. If you request a film to be played from Netflix it works like a dream, yet Google Play Movies has no integration. Why Google would miss out its own entertainment service I’m not sure, but its bound to be supported soon. YouTube can be hit and miss. I can request a playback of a video from one of my subscriptions, it will play a video from that subscription but very rarely the one I asked. Google Play Music is another that is buggy. It works much better if you are a subscription holder as you have access to any song in its catalogue which it can search for. Yet if you have your own music in a free account, it can be hit or miss as to whether it will find the track your after, even though you know for a fact its in your account. If you request it to play any song, it will do a random shuffle of your tracks and most likely play the one you have been trying to ask for, You can even ask Google what song is playing and it will tell you, so the inability to originally find the track must just be a bug. Another it the Tune-In integration. I can request it to play Radio 1 no bother, yet request Radio 2 and it gets all confused and starts searching YouTube for songs called Radio 2.
It can understand a lot though. I am regularly surprised at how accurate it is at understanding my voice even if I mutter a request sometimes. A quick request to find out when the local convenience store closes and it comes back with a very quick and accurate response. Ask it for some relaxing music and it will find a chill-out playlist based on your taste of music.
Google Home is the kind of product that could change the way we interact with our technology. Already I’m finding I’m picking my phone up less, and its also replaced my alarm clock. In its current iteration it has huge potential, give it 6 months and most of the bugs I’ve come across will probably be fixed. New features are always being pushed too. The next big feature is the ability to recognize the voice of different family members so you can get personal results from your requests. So is it worth £129? If your in the market for a multi-room speaker solution, then this is a simple and affordable way to get started with the added ability to use Google Assistant. You will get better sound quality from the likes of Sonos, but with a higher price tag, and at least with Sonos you can’t verbalize your song request, which is a killer feature to have.