T3 Smackdown: Amazon Echo vs Google Home

The Amazon Echo was very much a pioneer as far as smart speakers go, but since its launch in 2014, rivals have arrived, the foremost of which is Google. 

So is the original AI home assistant still the best one to spend your money on?

Here we'll pit the Amazon Echo up against Google Home in all the categories that matter: the basic specs, the assistant living inside, and any other extra bells and whistles that are relevant, helping you decide which one's the right addition to your growing smart home.

Amazon Echo vs Google Home: basics

Both the Amazon Echo and Google Home are speakers with built-in smart assistants, and there are a lot of similarities. Google even gave a shout out to Amazon and the Echo when it unveiled Google Home last year.

Amazon's speaker is Bluetooth-ready, so you can (for example) play music through it from your phone over Bluetooth. Meanwhile, Google's device uses Chromecast audio, so you need to cast audio from apps to play it - a lot of apps support casting, but the standard is not as universally supported as Bluetooth.

The Echo can be yours for £149.99 or $179.99, while the Google Home is sold direct by Google, as well as Argos, Dixons, John Lewis, Maplin and soon at EE,  for £129.

Meanwhile there's only one Google Home model, albeit with a choice of seven colours. The Echo is complemented by the Echo Dot (£49.99/$49.99), the smarts of the Echo without an integrated speaker, and the Amazon Tap ($129.99 and not yet sold in the UK), a smaller, portable version of the Echo with an integrated battery.

Amazon Echo vs Google Home: specs

There's not much to talk about in terms of hardware specs, because these bits of kit are really all about the smart software, but Google Home is the shorter device of the two: it's 142.8 mm (5.6 inches) tall with a diameter of 96.4 mm (3.8 inches), compared to the Amazon Echo's 235 mm by 83.5 mm (9.3 inches by 3.9 inches).

We've already mentioned Bluetooth, but Google Home works smartly with Nest devices and Chromecasts, so you can get Netflix up on your TV with a voice command, for example. The Amazon Echo does an even better job as a smart home hub, and works with Nest, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings and various other devices.

This is part of what makes comparing these devices tricky - new third-party integrations can be added (and maybe removed) all the time on the software side. It's really a question of checking if each device works with your preferred hardware and software.

Let's not completely dismiss looks, because the aesthetic appearance of both these speakers is going to play at least some part in which one you opt for - here the more elegant Google Home just beats the more functional Amazon Echo in visual appeal, but neither device is an ugly one.

Both also include microphones with far-field technology and promise to pick up your voice from a distance, though we haven't had chance to test this out ourselves. One other option the Echo has that Google Home doesn't is an optional remote control you can use when your speaker might struggle to hear you.

Amazon Echo vs Google Home: assistants

One of the more noticeable tech trends of recent years has been the growing importance of software and services: it's not just about the hardware specs any more when it comes to buying new gadgets, because the software running on these gizmos is just as crucial.

And this is certainly true of the Amazon Echo (with Alexa) and Google Home (with Google Assistant) - the smart assistants are the real selling points of these devices.

The general consensus seems to be that Google Assistant is slightly smarter (Google has been working on this kind of tech for years, after all), while Amazon Alexa has a few more strings to its bow - there are now more than 10,000 'skills' you can use with your Echo, all managed via the Alexa app on your phone.

As far as integrations go, it's as you would expect: Google Home works better with Google services like Gmail and Google Calendar, while the Amazon Echo makes buying all kinds of stuff from Amazon a breeze.

The Echo certainly has the edge in supporting more apps and services, from pizza ordering to taxi hailing, but then it has had more time to add these kind of features than Google Home has. Google's device benefits from the power of Google: bringing up relevant information more quickly and speaking more naturally than the Echo can.

Amazon Echo vs Google Home: verdict

There's no doubt that either of these speakers would make a fine addition to your AI-powered smart home, and both devices are getting cleverer all the time.

Perhaps your first consideration should be whether you're more interested in Google or Amazon integration, which may be enough to make your mind up for you. After that, consider the price - Google Home is cheaper but you do have the option of the Echo Dot if you can use an existing speaker.

If you're prepared to go all in with Google and want the smartest AI buddy out there, then Google Home is probably your best bet. If you want a speaker that's more versatile and has more in its box of magic tricks, then the Amazon Echo looks like a better deal - especially if you're an Amazon Prime member or use a lot of its services, like streaming video, audiobooks and music.

Overall we'd say the Amazon Echo still has the edge, just about, thanks to its thousands of skills and its versatility. Google Home is catching up fast though and may suit you better depending on how exactly you want to use it, and what you want to use it with.