They cost the same. They look similar. They boast the same features. They use up the same amount of desk space. So… Which is better leading into 2019? Okay, Google or Alexa?
This month, I set out to answer the question: Which is better? Okay, Google, or Amazon Alexa?
For roughly the price of a Bluetooth speaker, you can have one that also responds to your questions, plays music without having to use your phone or other player, and can even turn on and off lights and other smart home devices if you add some accessories, which are also surprisingly affordable.
In order to provide an accurate and unbiased comparison of the two devices, I wrote a query script and endeavoured to stick to it. This query script was written to try to demonstrate the capabilities of each device with an accurate comparison. Some are for the kids’ entertainment (farts, jokes), while others are very much for our use (shopping list, controlling smart devices). Others can be enjoyed by all (playing music).
Here is the query script we used, and the results of each query:
- Fart: Alexa farted. Okay, Google did not.
- Tell me a joke: Both devices told a dad joke.
- Is Crème Brûlée made of custard: Both provided an accurate answer.
- Turn on/off the light: Both worked perfectly with our smart powerbar. The word “light” was programmed via the powerbar’s app. It can be set to whatever you like: “Turn on the Christmas tree lights”, for example. The powerbar we use has 4 outlets and each can be programmed and controlled independently of one another.
- Play some Christmas music: Both played Christmas music even though we do not have accounts on Amazon Music of Google Music.
- Who is this artist: Both responded to this query accurately.
- Skip this song: Both devices skipped the playing song.
- Play music by TheFatRat: Both were able to play music by artist name, even though we do not have that music on our devices, nor do we have accounts with Amazon Music nor Google Music.
- Remind me in 5 minutes to make coffee: Alexa did this perfectly, reminding us 5 minutes later that it was time to make coffee. Okay, Google however simply told us there was a reminder. We’d have to look at our phone to know what that reminder was. Okay, Google does state you can change settings, but our test was of the out-of-box experience, and at this, Okay, Google failed, while Alexa worked as expected, and actually impressed us with its ability to remind us verbally of what we’d asked.
- What’s the forecast today: Both devices responded to this query, though the data provided differed between them.
- What time will the sun go down tonight in Barrie: Both responded with an accurate answer to this query.
- What’s 5 x 32.5 divided by 2: Both responded to this query with the mathematical answer, 81.25.
- How much does an Amazon Echo Dot cost: Alexa quoted us a very low price. It was referring to the old 2nd generation device. Okay, Google however, quoted us the correct product (3rd generation) and price. Because I’d expect to find the most current version of any product as the top result, Alexa fails where Okay, Google passes on this one.
- Find a Starbucks near me: Both devices found the closest Starbucks.
- How long will it take me to get to Starbucks: Both determined how long it would take, though Okay, Google apparently drives a lot faster. Interestingly, Okay, Google also pinged my phone with a notification which launches the map to take me there.
- Sing me a song: Both AI’s were able to sing. Neat!
- Add cookies to my shopping list: Both devices did this perfectly.
- Remove cookies from my shopping list: Alexa did this exactly as you’d expect: removed the cookies we just added from the list. Surprisingly however, Okay, Google was not able to do this “yet” – which makes me think it is a coming feature in a future firmware update. Though it did mention you can change privacy settings and so-on, but why should I have to change privacy settings to remove something from a shopping list that I had just added to using the same device? Google failed. Alexa passed with flying colors, impressing us again.
- What’s the temperature outside: Both were able to tell me this based on weather services (ie., I don’t have an outdoor smart thermometer).
- What’s the temperature in the house: Both devices correctly reported the temperature from my NEST thermostat at home.
And here are some observations I’ve made after using both devices side-by-side for 3 days:
- There’s one thing I actually hate about Google Home Mini. I want to be able to take my smart speaker with me. When I leave home, I take it to the studio to listen to music. During the Christmas season, I bring it to work to listen to Christmas music in the office. Then I bring it home at night. The Amazon Echo Dot 3 handled this fine: I can add my studio WiFi to the device and it connects and works. Then when I take it home, it connects to the home network, no having to re-configure. The Google Home Mini on the other hand, you have to remove the WiFi network before you leave one location, otherwise you cannot connect to the WiFi at your destination. True story. If I am using Google Home Mini at home and simply pack it up and take it to the studio, it will not work. I can make it work by actually deleting the Google Home Mini from my app and resetting it and re-adding it as a new device. Seriously? On the other hand, if I delete the WiFi from the Google Home Mini before packing it up, I can connect to the destination WiFi, but then if I forget to delete it when leaving there, it won’t work at home when I return that night. Amazon Echo Dot 3 wins this hands down, as the WiFi works as it should. The connectivity of the Google Home Mini absolutely sucks. It’s meant to be installed at one location, and left there. If you plan to move your device around at all or take it with you, go with Amazon’s product.
- Both devices have a button to turn off mic. Google Home Mini has a mute switch on its side. Amazon Echo Dot has a mute button on top. I thought this would be good for privacy, but find I use it more to prevent my kids from stopping my music to setup reminders for the device to fart.
- The mute toggle on the Amazon Echo Dot is way better than that of the Google Home Mini. I know, this is a bit knit-picky, but it stands to be noted: you have to pick up the Google Home Mini to mute it. Amazon’s Echo Dot 3, you just tap the botton on the top. This just feels like a design fail to me on the Google Home Mini. The switch feels like it was made to be big and tactile (and hard to switch) as a way of screaming from the rooftop “Look, you can mute my mic and have privacy! I’m not spying on you!” It comes across as awkward and a bit annoying. To top it off, when I pick up the Google Home Mini to mute its mic, I tend to accidentally touch the hidden sensors under the mesh screen, triggering it to start playing music.
- Amazon Echo Dot seems to be a bit better at listening. Amazon Echo Dot almost always hears me. Google Home Mini had trouble hearing its key phrase if music was playing reasonably loud.
- Amazon Echo Dot 3 sounds better than Google Home Mini. Sound quality of the Google Home Mini is that of a standard small Bluetooth speaker. It sounds okay. Whereas the sound on the Amazon Echo Dot is impressive. Both sound good, but side-by-side, the Echo Dot sounds remarkable.
If you’d like to see both devices in action as we tested the above script, here is a video. Please turn off your phone’s AI assistant and mute your mics on any smart home devices, since we’ll be commanding them throughout this video.
Who do you feel is the winner? Okay, Google? Or Alexa?