Wherein we set out to answer a simple question: Which $49 smart speaker sounds better — Google Home Mini, or the Amazon Echo Dot?

Two speakers, both alike in dignity. And price. And, for the most part, size. Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo Dot.

For a good many folks, these will be the gateway drugs to a more connected life. The answer to "What's all the fuss about?" when it comes to these commercials. Asking everyday questions. Getting everyday answers. Setting reminders and timers and — well, how about that — making what the old folks refer to as "phone calls," though there need not be a phone in sight. And, yes, these little speakers can control all the things.

See Google Home Mini   See Echo Dot at Amazon

Amazon Echo Dot vs. Google Home Mini — inside and out

Let us first consider the form.

Google Home Mini is a doughnut of a device. Or a squished pillow, if you will, clad in Google's favorite new texture — fabric. It measures 3.86 inches in diameter, and 1.65 inches high. Inside you'll find "360 sound" (though, again, some of us old folks would say sound transits more dimensions than that) from a 40mm driver.

Inside an Echo Dot and Google Home MiniBirdi CTO Justin Alvey cracked open a Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo Dot in this excellent Medium post.

Amazon Echo Dot is, by conventional wisdom, a hockey puck. It's a little smaller, at 3.3 inches in diameter, and 1.3 inches tall. It's less shapely, with its vertical sides and decidedly plastic finish. Amazon lists the speaker as 15.24mm.

That discrepancy — 40mm for Google's speaker compared to 15.24 for Amazon's — almost sounds like a typo. But when you take a look inside the dough and the puck — as Justin Alvey of Birdi did in a great Medium post, you can clearly see the difference. Google's looks like a traditional speaker, just tiny. And Amazon's looks like ... a piece of plastic that apparently can emit sound.

Not that it matters, though — you'll never see either one unless you bite into the doughnut or crack open the puck.

No, back to our original question. How do they sound? The answer for both is "not great."

That's not surprising at all, of course. These are tiny speakers. They're not going to sound great. They were never going to sound great. You'll get better audio out of a lot of phones than you will the pillow or the puck, especially if you're thinking about listening to music. No, if you want to go that route, connect to a real speaker via Bluetooth, or the Echo Dot's 3.5mm audio jack.

But, OK. Back to our original question. Which one sounds better?


Which one wins? Google Home Mini

The specs don't lie. Google Home Mini has a larger, more traditional speaker. And it simply sounds better than the Amazon Echo Dot. That's true for speech, which has a more rich tone overall, according to my ear holes. (Your auditory perception may vary depending on how many years you spent in front of a Marshall half-stack.)

And it's also true for music. Echo Dot has a more consistent sound on that front — that is, it's universally not great. There's more range in Google Home Mini, though, and it shows — erm, sounds. I can easily tell which one I'd want to listen to tunes through (if forced), and Google wins, hands down.

See Google Home Mini   See Echo Dot at Amazon