Google turned the heat on in the mini smart speaker competition when it introduced the Google Home Mini powered by Google Assistant, giving the Amazon Echo Dot, one of the many homes of Alexa, a run for its money.
Of course, the two share a couple of similarities across the board since they're both smart home assistants, after all, but there are some key differences that'll be deciding factors on which one you'd prefer.
To start things off, the two are priced the same at $49.99. Both of them support dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and voice activation via a wake word and an action button.
Now while the Echo Dot uses an AC adapter for power, the Home Mini relies on micro USB. The Home Mini weighs at 0.38 pounds and measures at 3.86 inches x 1.65 inches, while the Echo Dot clocks in at 0.36 pounds and has the dimensions of about 1.49 inches x 3.3 inches x 3.3 inches.
Audio output is one of the most important elements for this type of technology. That's not surprising because they're smart speakers.
The Home Mini has the upper hand in this department thanks to its 360 sound with 40 mm driver. In comparison, the Echo Dot's 0.6-inch stereo doesn't hold a candle to it, but that's pretty much expected because it's primarily designed to output Alexa's responses and other notifications.
That said, Amazon equipped the Echo Dot with a 3.5 mm headphone jack to source the task of playing music to an external speaker. Just to be clear, the Home Mini doesn't have one, just like the new Pixel 2 phones.
As for the microphones, the Echo Dot has a seven-field array, and the Home Mini has far-field voice recognition technology that supports hands-free use.
The Amazon Echo Dot is what you'd call a powered-up hockey puck that sports four buttons on top — one to turn off the mic, one to perform actions such as waking it or turning off an alarm or timer, and two to control the volume. As everyone knows by now, it uses a light ring to indicate that Alexa is listening.
On the other hand, the Home Mini is like a powder puff or, as Google puts it, a donut-sized speaker with the power of a superhero. It doesn't have physical buttons. Instead, users can interact with it by tapping on it once to play and pause, tapping and holding to talk to Assistant, or tapping on the left and right sides to change the volume. It has four LED indicators to show that it's working properly, and there's a mic switch near the micro USB port so that you can avoid triggering Assistant by accident.
This is purely up to user preference. Google's smart home assistants can be activated by saying "Okay, Google" or "Hey, Google." The Echo Dot can bring up the brains behind it by saying "Alexa."
For the record, Amazon has provided the option to change the wake word to "Echo," "Amazon," or "Computer." It isn't much, but hey, that's a nice bonus, and it's particularly useful in avoiding incidents of unwanted orders.
Arguably, Assistant is the better AI compared with Alexa, and it's due to its impressive capability of picking up context and speech recognition, not to mention that it offers more natural conversations. That's mainly thanks to Google's years of experience and data in the AI field.
For music aficionados, this is the most important part. Of course, the winner here will depend on which services you prefer streaming your music.
At that, Home Mini supports Google Play Music, Spotify Premium, Pandora, YouTube Music, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio. Meanwhile, Echo Dot has Amazon Music, Prime Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Spotify Premium, Pandora, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and Audible for ebooks.
The Bottom Line
The Home Mini isn't available until Oct. 19, and without getting our hands on it, it's hard to say which will come out on top between it and the Echo Dot. But based on what's on paper at the moment, Google has a good chance of conquering the entry-level smart home speaker game.
Also, don't forget to consider what your current ecosystem is composed of when you're trying to figure out which one to get. That is to say, whether or not you've already invested in Alexa-powered devices in your home or Google's Home products.