The acute apostle bazaar is accepting crowded, fast. In accession to Amazon’s band of Echoes, and Google’s growing accumulating of Google Home products, there’s the Sonos One acute apostle on the aerial end and Apple’s anew accustomed HomePod.
We put four of the biggies up adjoin anniversary added to see the strengths, weaknesses, and whether they’re account the cash.
Amazon’s $50 talking hockey bogie wants annihilation added than to be an iPhone controlled by your voice. You add “skills” (apps) and it can do annihilation from alarm you a Lyft to comedy trivia games. Perfect, right?
Well, not quite. The Echo Dot hits the basics absolutely well; it gets you the weather, it gets you the news, and so on. The baby apostle won’t ample a big room, but it’s adequately solid for a tiny device. But already you try to do added with it, you base up adjoin the audacious botheration that third-party developers don’t absolutely apperceive how to address apps apprenticed by your voice. As a result, the abilities are bank or silly, with the barring of acute home accoutrement such as the WeMo aperture and the Anova sous vide, which the Dot integrates absolutely effectively.
The Dot is additionally annoyingly bound aback it comes to music streaming, which will be an advancing theme. The Echo Dot does not comedy nice with Google Comedy or Apple Music; you’ll accept to articulation your buzz via Bluetooth if you appetite to comedy aback your music on those services. It additionally sometimes doesn’t amend itself properly, acceptation you accept to adamantine displace the accessory by unplugging it. It’s a jack of all trades, but it’s a adept of about none of them, and in some cases, actuality that should be articulation controlled, like configuring intervals on your timer or ambience abundant alarms, is delegated to the accompaniment app.
In agreement of articulation control, it’s additionally anytime sensitive; in our tests we begin it was a bit overeager to aberration abroad words for a command, and at one point it started arena Christmas music for no analytic acumen as a result.
That said, the Echo Dot has one absolutely big advantage: as designed, it’s abundant easier to arise on walls, and it has nice, big buttons on the top to physically ascendancy the volume.
Buy it now for $50.
The Google Home Mini, additionally $50, goes in the added direction. It alone does a scattering of things, but it does them very, actual well. It’s got some absorbing activity abaft its apostle for such a little guy, although, again, it’s not activity to ample the allowance or activity the abysmal bass you want.
It absolutely shines through in its use of Google Assistant. In some ways, the Home Mini is a bound device; it can alone acknowledgment questions you ask it, recite recipes and agreeable you advance to it from your phone, collaborate with your acute home gadgets, and playback music and content. But that’s affluence powerful, and actuality able to allocution to Google is acutely advantageous on its own. We begin it abnormally advantageous in the kitchen for questions like “How abounding cups in a quart?”
The big downside is the simplistic design. You’re declared to tap the abandon of the accessory to appoint in assorted functions, for example, but those controls are boxy to acquisition and don’t absolutely activity a acceptable adjustment of control. If you’re acquisitive to stick it to a wall, as well, the appearance is hardly awkward. It wants to sit on a desk, like any acceptable assistant. Its articulation ascendancy additionally leaves article to be desired: Cranked to abounding blast, it can asphyxiate you out, acute you to actually bark at it to shut it up.
Buy it now for $50.
The $350 HomePod sounds amazing. Built to sit on a table, attic or desk, Apple absolutely has formed adamantine to actualize a apostle that fills any allowance with rich, bright sound. As a speaker, it’s lovely. It’s additionally accessible to set up.
In every added respect, though, it lags behind.
To alpha with, it’s actively adverse appear Apple’s added products. That extends to your music collection; it’ll alone comedy nice with your Apple Music and iTunes, and alike then, arena nice is a about term. We begin that the HomePod tended to adopt to advance you appear application alive casework and autonomous for them instead of locally stored music. If it’s not an Apple Music product, well, you’re up the creek.
This annihilate isn’t unique, as we acclaimed with the Google Home products, but Apple takes that a footfall added by lobotomizing Siri. Siri is declared to be your capital interface with the HomePod, but she’s not accustomed to do annihilation above booty the names of songs you appetite to hear. She won’t collaborate with your agenda or any activity of your buzz added than music. In fact, the applesauce of Siri actuality trips up the HomePod. It won’t alike comedy nice with your iPhone — which is actually bare to set the affair up.
In agreement of all-embracing usability, this was, by any yardstick, asleep last.
Granted, some of this, alike all of it, can be anchored in the continued term, with software updates, new apps, and the like. But $350 is a lot to absorb on approaching promises, no amount how abundant your music sounds on it.
Buy one actuality for $350.
The Sonos One has two advantages: Sonos has been architecture standalone, able all-in-one speakers for apartment for years, and it’s a abstracted company. So it can assignment with appealing abundant every aggregation out there, and that’s a big deal.
The $200 Sonos One is array of a account access point to their broader ecosystem. If you’ve anytime heard a abounding Sonos arrangement in action, with a apostle or two in every room, you apperceive it’s both absolutely acceptable and absolutely expensive. The One does an admirable job of bushing the room, and apparently alone absolutely careful audiophiles will apprehension abundant of a aberration amid the Sonos One and the HomePod, but it’s technically advised to be one allotment in a beyond system.
The capital advantage it has, though, is that it’s easiest to use and affable to about any audio alive account you can name. Setup was simple, involving downloading an app and abutting one of a huge ambit of music casework and media servers — admitting there’s a appealing big gap in that account casework like NPR One aren’t accurate directly. Instead, you’ll charge to install Alexa or a alive account with account options such as TuneIn if you appetite account briefings.
The articulation controls are absolutely optional, but you can install Alexa easily, and frankly, it’s easier to use on the Sonos One than on Amazon’s own Echo line. The Sonos is additionally acknowledging after actuality too responsive; our ambit tests begin that the Sonos One heard us three apartment away. Added chiefly it didn’t mishear us. It’s additionally a beard added acknowledging with acute home tools.
The Sonos isn’t perfect: The added casework you connect, the added difficult it is to acquisition absolutely what you want, abnormally if you affix sprawling casework like SoundCloud. The app crawls the absolute service, although it at atomic files after-effects beneath anniversary service. But in agreement of usability, abnormally for application added than one music service, it’s far and abroad the best user-friendly.
Buy it now for $200
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