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Google Home review

It’s hard finding a good roommate. Some leave dishes in the sink. Others stiff you on rent. But Google, or more specifically, the Google Assistant, isn’t like that at all. Everything considered and as far as roommates go, it’s actually one of the best you’ll ever have.

(Update: Google Home and the smaller Google Home Mini are sure to be high up on the holiday lists of many as Black Friday and Cyber Monday come rolling through. Thanks to some recent updates, these come highly recommended and we’re likely to see some shockingly low prices in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned for the latest deals, which we’re keeping a close eye on over at our dedicated page for the best Google Home and Google Home Mini deals.)

That’s because Google Assistant, the smart artificial intelligence that’s built into the Google Home, actually makes life easier rather than more difficult for you. You can ask it to lower the thermostat for you when you leave, diagnose your symptoms when you’re feeling ill or have it locate that funny clip from Colbert last night and throw it onto your Chromecast without any hesitation.

It’s smart enough to tell you how much plane tickets cost from where you live to any exotic destination you can think of, or prattle off oddly specific information like how much a Macaw weighs (2.6 to 3.3 pounds, apparently) or how much a new piece of technology costs (“According to TechRadar, the PlayStation 4 Pro costs $399 or £349”).

But, ask that very same question using different words or in a slightly different tone, and Google’s ultra-smart assistant suddenly forgets what it just told you.

That general problem – ”it works sometimes but not all the time” – isn’t just symptomatic of the $129 (£129/AU$199) Google Home; the Amazon Echo, the current smart home incumbent, is far from immune to them as well. In due time, both devices will get smarter, but as it stands both are more novelty than pragmatic purchases.

Google Home is far from perfect at the moment, but it’s sure to get better over time as Google continues to work on its voice assistant technology, and we’ll be updating our review regularly as new functionality continues to be added.

What’s new for Google Home in 2017?

Google might not have shown up with new Home hardware to Google IO 2017, but its latest software update will make the six-month-old Google Home feel like a new machine. To that end, Google announced four major changes coming to the smart speaker in 2017: proactive assistance, hands-free calling, Bluetooth and visual responses. Read on for additional details.

Let’s start off by covering the two biggest announcements first: hands-free calling and Bluetooth. The way calling is going to work when Google rolls out the feature later this year is that you’ll import contacts from your phone and then, when you want to make a phone call, all you’ll need to do is ask.

The Home will make the call from either a private phone number or, if you have your Google account tied to your cell phone, using your own number. From the sounds of it, all you need is an active internet connection to make the calls – that means you won’t need a landline or even a cell phone to make calls at home.

Another big update, Home will now be able to use Bluetooth to sync up to other devices – a feature the Home’s competitor, Amazon Echo, has had since it launched and had so far been strangely absent on Google’s smart speaker.

In addition to the Bluetooth announcement, Google announced that the Home will support the free version of Spotify, SoundCloud and Deezer in addition to the music streaming services it already supported later this summer.

Visual responses, a new feature on Google Home that leverages Google Assistant to send visual information to either your phone, tablet or TV, definitely feels like a swing at the Amazon Echo Show. However, while Amazon’s device comes with a built-in screen to show you events on your calendar or what the weather outside looks like, voice requests on the Home go through Assistant which spits the results onto any Chromecast, Android TV and TVs.

Speaking of the Assistant, Google has recently added a useful new assistance function to its smart assistant that brings it in line with Amazon’s Alexa: voice reminders. It’s now possible for English speaking Google Home owners in the UK, US, Canada and Australia to set one-off or recurring reminders using their voice, even months in advance of events.

Any reminders you set using your Google Home device will also appear on your Android device as long as it’s running software from Android M on. Even if your Google Home has more than one user, you’ll only ever hear reminders for you.

Design

 Now, because “air freshener” can be a varied description depending on where you are in the world, a more apt description of its shape might be a small vase – it has a wide bottom and a tapered top. Each Google Home comes with a standard, gray fabric base with a rubber bottom that can be swapped out for a different material or color for around $20 (£18/AU$29).

So far, Google offers two types of bases to match your home decor: metallic and fabric, each with different colors and finishes. Metallic bases are made out of either painted steel or polycarbonate and come in copper, snow or carbon colors. On the fabric side, the three colors are mango, marine and violet, in addition to the standard white mesh listed above.

From a pure aesthetic point of view, Google Home is the far more attractive option when compared to the Amazon Echo’s all-black canister shape. It’s less ominous than the black monolith and it’s also a fair bit shorter at 5.62 x 3.79 inches (142.8 x 96.4mm; H x D), which means it’s easier for the Home to blend into its surroundings.

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