Amazon Echo Dot vs. Google Home Mini

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Smart Home Hubs Photo Courtesy of Leah Bjornson

You’ve probably noticed them springing up on your friends’, coworkers’ and even your aunts’ countertops. With seemingly everyone investing in an affordable smart home speaker, the question has probably crossed your mind: should I get the Amazon Echo Dot or the Google Home Mini?

Choosing between the two leading devices is about more than deciding whether you want to say “Alexa” or “Hey, Google” before giving a command. While both offer a similar, low-cost entry point into the world of smart speakers, the differences between their range of features, sound quality, design, and connectivity are significant. Perhaps most importantly, it could affect which more expensive devices you invest in down the line, such as Ring versus Nest home security systems. For these reasons, you want to be sure you’re making the right choice.

Let’s dig into the things to love and look for in the Amazon Echo Dot and the Google Home Mini.

Price and Design

With the Amazon Echo Dot listed at $50 and the Google Home Mini at $49, the price difference between these two devices is negligible. Both are priced to be excellent introductions to smart home speaker technology (and impulse buys), so you’ll want to consider the other elements that differentiate them before adding one to your cart.

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In terms of design, the two devices are roughly the same size. Both are round and can fit in the palm of your hand, making them easy to place discreetly around the home.

The newly released 3rd generation Amazon Echo Dot features the now iconic blue and orange LED status ring, as well as a fabric cover around the ring of the device. We recommend choosing the black over the white color, as the white is liable to become stained, especially if placed in the kitchen. While the Google Home Mini also has an attractive fabric cover around the outside of the speaker, it comes in a wider range of colors: chalk, charcoal, aqua or coral.

What stands out about the Google Home Mini compared to the Echo Dot is its unique pebble shape; this makes it look less like another electronic device and more like a stylish addition to your side table or kitchen island. While it’s a subtle difference, you’ll notice how the Google Home Mini seamlessly blends into your existing decor.

Although the physical buttons for volume, mic muting and triggering Alexa on the top of the Echo Dot give it a slight edge in terms of function over the Google Home Mini’s touch-sensitive controls on the side of the device, if you’re going for pure style, the Mini wins hands down.

Hardware and Sound Quality

Some things haven’t changed in the newest generations of the Amazon Echo Dot and the Google Home Mini. Both still run off USB power and need to be connected at all times. They can each connect with external Bluetooth speakers, however, the Dot also has an aux output that gives it a little more versatility when it comes to connecting with other speakers.

Each is fairly good at hearing commands, even when you’re in a different room. While the Dot features a seven far-field microphone array that on paper appears more impressive than the Mini’s two far-field microphone setup, most users haven’t noticed a dramatic difference between the two.

What has changed has to do with sound quality. While the Google Home Mini has outperformed the Echo Dot in the past, providing deeper, richer sound, this is no longer the case. The 3rd generation Dot features a 1.6” speaker and a larger driver than previous generations, producing up to 70 percent better sound than before. You’ll really hear the difference when streaming music, but even calls sound better with the Dot. The Mini produces a slightly tinny sound that can make it difficult to make out what the person on the other line is saying.

One downside of the Dot is that Amazon doesn’t let you upload your own songs to the device (unlike the Google Home Mini). So you’ll be restricted to streaming music from Spotify, Pandora and other music services. It’s a small price to pay for an overall better speaker, however.

Digital Assistants

When choosing a smart speaker, you’re also choosing a digital assistant: Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Each tends to reflect the strengths of its parent company. For example, Alexa comes from the mind of the online retail supergiant, Amazon, so it follows that it’s an excellent tool for ordering things. Simply ask Alexa to reorder toilet paper or restock the pantry, and you can expect to everything you need to appear on your doorstep days later.

As the brainchild of Google, Google Assistant excels at general search and information requests. It’s the equivalent of using Google instead of Bing or Yahoo for search. As well, the Assistant is better at understanding more complex queries and strings of commands; with Alexa, you need to dictate one command at a time.

Google was the first to introduce “voice match” technology, meaning it could distinguish users from one another based on their voice and boot up individual preferences as a result, but Amazon quickly followed suit. Now, both digital assistants should be able to recognize your voice and deliver tailored commands and suggestions accordingly.

Both assistants will be able to tell you the weather, recite the day’s news and make calls on your behalf. Because Alexa is a little slower to understand complex commands, however, this one has to go to the Google Mini Home.

Connectivity

If you’re not already planning to use your speaker to coordinate your smart home products, you should be. Both products are designed to act as the hub for the other devices in your home, so you’ll want to check to see which platform is compatible with the products you already own (or plan to own). For example, if you’re already using products like Nest and Chromecast, the Google Home Mini might be the ticket. Or, if you have a Ring home security set up or Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Echo Dot is likely the one for you.

That said, both can connect to mainstream smart home tech like Philips Hue lighting, smart locks, power outlets and more. While Alexa control is available on more than 12,000 devices, Google is quickly expanding its offerings. It now claims to be compatible with 5,000 devices. Odds are the tech you need to sync with can be found on both lists.

Both devices can be configured with specific skills or actions (think IFTTT) that can deliver personalized reports, make reservations, tell you jokes and much more. Here, the Echo leads with thousands of available skills; Google is still playing catch up, which puts it behind Amazon’s smart speaker.

Final Verdict

When it comes to the Amazon Echo Dot and the Google Home Mini, both offer exceptional connectivity and quality at an undeniably low price. Which you choose ultimately comes down to a few key factors: what you plan to use it for (ordering or search), whether you want to use it as a standalone speaker, and how you need it to sync with your existing tech stack.

If you’re more concerned with getting information than blasting music, the Google Home Mini is a great option. Not only is it lovely to look at, but its sophisticated digital assistant will be able to interpret even the most complex demands to make your life easier.

For smart home connectivity and superior sound quality, without question, the Alexa Echo Dot wins out. Not only is it constantly upgrading its features (as we saw with the 3rd generation Dot), but it’s hard to speak poorly of even its weakest areas. If you’re starting a smart home system from scratch, we can’t recommend the Amazon Echo Dot highly enough.

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