Google Home Mini vs. Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen): Which should you buy?

(Image credit: Android Central)

Amazon Echo Dot (3rd gen)

Echo Dot Plum official render

Amazon has refined its smart speaker design and doubled down on audio quality to make a great system with an even better price tag. Alexa is still not nearly as good to use as Google Assistant, however.

Amazon Echo Dot (3rd gen)

Tiny and LOUD

Incredibly good speakers for its size
Great microphones
3.5mm output for bigger speakers
Alexa isn't the best system out there

Google Home Mini

Google Home Mini official render

While colorful and compact, the microphone and speakers on the Google Home Mini just scream "you get what you pay for" when it comes to quality.

Google Home Mini

Clever and colorful

Google Assistant is excellent
Speaker colors are fun
Microphones are just OK
Speaker isn't particularly loud
No 3.5mm jack for bigger speakers

Google and Amazon are competing for control of your home, and right now it's a battle of superior hardware and superior software. With exception of the Google Home Max, the Home line isn't particularly well recognized for its audio quality. The Google Home Mini was designed to be the cheap Home you could put in any room in the house so Assistant could be there for you everywhere, and it accomplishes that goal just fine. However, it isn't until you put it next to the new Amazon Echo Dot that you see just how massive the difference in audio quality really is.

Loud and tiny and surprisingly good

Amazon's Echo Dot has always been the Alexa speaker you buy because it was cheap and it connects to bigger speakers if you actually want to listen to music. The 3.5mm jack is a big deal for making an otherwise generic speaker suddenly much smarter, something only the Echo Dot has ever had for some reason. Google's Home Mini was able to outperform the previous Echo Dot, but that was an incredibly low bar. This year, Amazon dropped in a vastly superior speaker with the 3rd Gen Echo Dot and the difference between it and Google Home Mini couldn't be more clear.

However, that huge speaker increase didn't come at some other sacrifice. The 3.5mm jack is still there, the microphones are still great, and the speaker itself is still nice and small. The only real downside to this speaker from a hardware perspective is the huge new power adapter you have to use with it. The Micro-USB port of the previous generation is gone, making it a little more difficult to plug in anywhere and have Alexa at the ready.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Amazon Echo Dot (3rd gen)Google Home Mini
Dimensions99mm x 43mm @ 300g98mm x 42mm @ 173g
Speaker1.6-inch speaker40mm driver
Microphone4 (far-field voice recognition)2 (far-field voice recognition)
Power15W through unique power adapter5V, 1.8A through Micro-USB
3.5mm jackYesNo
WiFi802.11 a/b/g/n/ac802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Microphone muteButton on topSwitch in the back

Google's Home Mini is clearly inferior as a hardware product, but there's no denying Google Assistant is superior to Alexa in just about every way. It's easier to use, you have access to more useful features, and the multi-account system on Google Assistant actually works. Google Assistant simply has access to more of your life, and is able to use that information to be more useful to you. Alexa is mostly just in your house for now, and unless you do a lot of shopping through Alexa there isn't a compelling reason to use it over Assistant most of the time.

The hardwear calculus changes though when you compare the updated Nest Mini (2nd Gen) to the Echo Dot (3rd Gen). The improvements to the speaker, microphones, and on-device intellegence make that Google/Nest device a no-brainer to buy.

The choice comes down to hardware versus software. If you're deep in the Google ecosystem and don't care so much about speaker quality, you should participate in the Google Home ecosystem with a Home Mini. However, if you know you're alright with Alexa being limited or all you really care about is a cheap speaker to stream music to, you absolutely want to get yourself an Echo Dot.

Russell Holly

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter