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Following Amazon’s launch of a refreshed line of Echo products including the Echo 2 and Echo Plus, Google recently announced its own line of new Google Home speakers.
Amazon’s most important announcements were the new second gen Echo, the improved Echo Plus and the bedside Echo Spot. Google introduced Google Home Max and Google Home Mini to join its existing Google Home speaker.
While the Mini is the one that has attracted more attention, albeit for some unsavory reasons, the Max is the one that Google is positioning to compete against other smart speakers.
With the main Google Home speaker and now the Google Home Max, Alphabet (Google’s parent company) is hoping to take Amazon’s lunch. Specifically, they are targeting the main Echo speakers, the Echo 2 and the Echo Plus.
Amazon still has a huge lead. A new report says the Echo line of products will have around 68% market share compared to Google Home’s 24% by the end of 2017.
But Google is still a force to reckon with. That much was certain with the new Max smart speaker. It’s fairly well designed, it picks up your voice effortlessly and the sound quality is way above that of any Echo speaker.
Here’s a comparison between Google Home Max and Echo 2 & Echo Plus on four important fronts.
The Google Max speaker is huge. It’s even bigger than the Echo Show, which has a screen. Google obviously designed the Max to be a standalone speaker.
When placed horizontally the dimensions are 13.2” (width), 7.5” (height) and 6” (depth). You can also place it horizontally with the 13.2-inch width becoming the height.
Wherever you set it up, the Max speaker dominates the space. Thankfully, there are two color options to choose from; black and white. So you can choose the one that better blends with your décor.
Overall, the Max’s design feels very similar to that of Echo Show; not elegant but good looking enough to put in your living room. They lack the sleek design obsession of Apple or Sonos products.
The Echo 2 and Echo Plus on the other hand are more average in size. They have the traditional cylinder design of most smart speakers.
The Echo 2 is 5.9 inches high and 3.5 inches in diameter. The Echo Plus is 9.3 inches high and 3.3 inches in diameter.
They are the kind of devices that disappear neatly into your book shelf or TV cabinet.
The Echo 2 comes in six style options including walnut, oak and charcoal. The Echo Plus comes in silver or black.
This is where the competition gets fierce. The Echo speakers obviously have a big advantage with their thousands of Alexa skills. But Google has the upper hand when it comes to making conversation and fetching information.
Google Assistant sounds more natural than Alexa. And because Google has the world’s information with it, Assistant is better at fetching you the exact kind of answer you are looking for.
But generally speaking, the speakers are on par in terms of smarts. They can easily recognize your voice, even when music is on. They respond quickly to commands. And they learn fast.
Google had briefly gained an advantage with its ‘Voice Matching’ feature. The feature allows it to recognize different voices and answer based on the Google account of that person.
But Amazon quickly introduced the feature too, though it’s not as developed as Google’s.
Google Home Max has not yet arrived. So we are going with what Google showcased during launch.
The most notable audio feature of the Max is its ability to change sound quality based on the environment. If you move it from the shelf to the coffee table, it immediately senses the change in position and automatically adjusts the sound output.
Google’s artificial intelligence prowess might just help it catch up to Amazon.
With two 4.5-inch subwoofers and two 0.7-inch tweeters, we expect a lot from the Max speaker when it launches. It’ll certainly be good enough as a standalone speaker. And since you can sync it to another Max speaker, there is no need to invest in a Sonos.
As for the Echo 2 and Echo Plus, they are huge improvements from the original Echo. But they are nowhere near as powerful as the Max. The Echo 2 has a 2.5-inch woofer and 0.6-inch tweeter. The Echo Plus has a 2.5-inch woofer and a 0.8-inch tweeter.
They are good for news briefs and getting the weather report but not the best as dedicated music blasters.
Smart Home Integration
The success of these speakers is dependent on how well they integrate with other smart devices. Again, Amazon has a leg up here with their expansive integrations.
It’s hard to think of any smart device you can’t control with Alexa. It works with smart thermostats, robotic vacuums, TVs, doorbells and a gazillion other things.
Google Home Max also works with a variety of smart home systems including Philips Hue smart lights, Nest thermostats, IFTTT and Samsung SmartThings among others.
I’m sure Google will allow more integrations with time. But if I were setting up a smart home hub today, I’d go with the Echo speakers.
Echo 2: $99 – $119
Echo Plus: $149
Google Home Max: $399