Choosing between Amazon's Echo and the Google Home platform isn't an easy choice, especially if you're a big fan of Google's services and already have a Chromecast kicking around. There's a lot to consider, and a lot of people are trying to figure out which is best for their needs while surrounded by deals and sales and new features being added every day.
I say don't worry with either of the big expensive speaker assistants, and start out with Amazon's Echo Dot instead.
Better than the full-sized Echo
Echo Dot does everything a full-sized Amazon Echo does, with one significant difference: Amazon Echo comes with a specially designed speaker so you can enjoy listening to streaming music, and Echo Dot does not. There's a little speaker in Dot that allows Alexa to respond to you when you give a command, but it's nowhere near good enough to enjoy listening to music. Echo Dot doesn't need a speaker, though. It has something much more important — an audio out port.
Amazon is doing to home automation what Google did to streaming video, and that's great.
That 3.5mm jack in the back of Echo Dot, which doesn't exist on the Echo, allows you to connect whatever speaker you want to your Echo Dot. This level of flexibility means you can connect to a big expensive stereo system if you happen to have one of those, or a tiny portable speaker that can travel with you throughout the house. Echo Dot is also powered by a Micro-USB port, which means you can buy a Bluetooth speaker with a big battery and take your Echo Dot poolside or out into the garage with you if you don't want to buy more than one.
The speaker built into the full-sized Echo is decent, but it's not as good as being able to connect to whatever speaker you want. It's also not as capable a speaker as the one built into Google Home, so if music streaming is your priority the full-sized Echo just plain isn't worth the price tag.
Cheap enough to be an impulse buy
Much in the same way that Google's Chromecast is a big impulse buy and stocking stuffer, Amazon's Echo Dot is cheap enough that you really don't lose anything by giving it a shot.
What if you prefer Google Assistant to Alexa? There's nothing wrong with preferring Google services, especially if you're an Android user. While Google has the Assistant, which features the company's excellent search, Alexa, which powers the Echo Dot's artificial intelligence, has a better grasp of home automation and the "smart home" in general.
That sounds silly, but consider the price. If you catch them on sale, you can buy three Echo Dots for the price of a single Google Home. If you buy a single Dot now and learn how you want to use a home assistant, but later decide you really need Google in that mix, you aren't out much. If you decide Echo Dot really is what you want, you can start thinking about expanding Echo Dot into multiple rooms in your home.
What about Google Home Mini?
You don't have to drop $100 for a full-sized Google Home, you can just get a Google Home Mini for the same price as an Amazon Echo Dot. So this decision isn't actually any easier now, which should you buy?
It honestly depends on the kind of things you think you are going to do with your smart speaker.
If you're all-in on the Google ecosystem, prefer Google Assistant, and just want a cheap speaker you can stick in a couple of rooms, the Google Home Mini is better than the Amazon Echo Dot. But the Home Mini doesn't have a 3.5mm jack, so you can't connect bigger speakers for better sound. The Home Mini microphones also aren't quite as accurate as the Echo Dot, and in my testing, I found Google's little speaker misheard me with a noticeably greater frequency. Not enough to be upsetting, just enough to notice it happens sometimes.
Amazon still has the greatest support from the most third-party products, as well, so there's a greater chance your Amazon Echo will connect to more things than your Google Home. At least for now.
What are you waiting for?
Amazon is doing to home automation what Google did to streaming video, and that's great. By making it so cheap it's easy to try for a while and see if you want something better later, or make it super easy to expand and fill your house with Alexa, there's little reason to not give an Echo Dot a try.
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