Welcome to CNET’s guide to the Google Home smart speaker. Perhaps you’re wondering if this relatively new category of tech is for you, or maybe you just bought one of Google’s smart speakers or smart displays and you want to know what you should do with it. Maybe you saw all of the news from the Made by Google event and want to know what it all means.
We can help. Below, we’ll get you familiar with the basics of the Google Home, then dive into all you can do once you’re up and running. We’ll also look at the flaws of the system and what’s next for Google smart speakers to complete the overview.
If you’re not sure whether you want a Google Home, an Amazon Echo or perhaps an Apple HomePod, we can help with that, too. Here’s a guide to buying the right smart speaker for you, and here’s a breakdown of the three main digital assistants built in to smart speakers — Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. If you just want to get caught up on the latest, here are the Google Assistant highlights from I/O in May and Google’s new vision for the smart home from the company’s October’s event.
What is a Google Home?
The smart speaker from the eponymous search giant was designed to compete with the popular Amazon Echo. The Google Home can play music, but it’s primarily designed as a vehicle for Google Assistant — Google’s voice-activated virtual helper that’s connected to the internet. The Google Assistant you access via the Home is the same as the one on recent Android phones such as the Google Pixel 3.
The Google Home is always listening to its environment, but it won’t actually record what you’re saying or respond to your commands until you say one of its preprogrammed wake words — either “OK, Google” or “Hey, Google.” Here’s a list of commands you can give your Google Home.
Google actually has three smart speakers. Google Assistant debuted in the original $130 Google Home. The $50 Google Home Mini squeezes all of the smarts of the original into a smaller, more affordable package. The $400 Google Home Max puts Google’s smarts into a speaker designed to deliver premium sound.
All three speakers give you access to the same Google Assistant service. They differ in size, sound quality and price. You use the same Google Home app to set up all three, and they all respond to the same wake words and the same commands.
You can also use the same Google Assistant through a variety of third-party smart speakers such as the portable TicHome Mini and the JBL Link series. The Sonos One will work with Google Assistant later this year as well. Unless it’s specifically stated otherwise, all of the Google Home features I discuss below work with any Google Assistant-enabled smart speaker. Pick your speaker, then check out our tips for getting started. Here are a few tricks specific to the original Google Home and a few tricks specific to the Google Home Max.
In addition to the voice commands, each Google Home speaker has a limited set of physical controls. You can change the volume, mute the microphone and play or pause your music via a physical interface on the speaker. Check out the video below for details on these physical controls.
Where to buy your smart speaker
You can buy the original $130 Google Home, the $400 Google Home Max and the $50 Google Home Mini online via the Google Store. You’ll also find Google’s speakers at a number of electronics stores, including Best Buy and even hardware stores like Lowes. Third-party speakers like the $250 JBL Link 300 are also widely available at electronics stores.
Once you get your Google Home set up, you might want to use your smart speaker to listen to music. You can use a Google Home as an ordinary Bluetooth speaker and pull up the song you want to listen to on your phone. Better yet, use your voice to tell Google what song you want to hear. You can even search by lyrics if you don’t remember the name, or tell it to start a playlist of a certain genre.
Google pulls songs from a variety of streaming services including Google Play Music, Spotify, Pandora and YouTube. In the Google Home app, you can pick one of those services as your default, and Google will search that service first when you ask for a song or a playlist. You can still access music on any of the other services by asking for it by name.
Here are nine tips for getting the most out of your Google Home as a music streamer. The article also discusses how to group multiple speakers so you can play a single song synced throughout your house. If you don’t like the sound quality of your Google Home or Google Home Mini (both are serviceable but not outstanding) you can send music to your speaker of choice via either a Chromecast streamer or a Bluetooth connection…..Read More>>>