Category: Virtual Assistants

Try out a virtual assistant

We've had a virtual assistant (smart speaker) in our home for almost a year. It felt strange at the start, but we quickly fell in love with the convenience of voice control.

It's great to be able to ask a quick question, set a timer, check what's on the schedule, play music throughout the house, listen to an audiobook or podcast and have instant access to the news and weather. We're listening to music more often and just that is worth the investment.

Which One?

Amazon vs Google

We would generally recommend picking one eco-system and multiple speakers interface and can be centrally controlled from any unit. Both of the systems available so far from Amazon and Google have their advantages. Amazon has more skills and is more customisable, but the Google Home supports multiple users and does better with search queries (e.g. Alexa doesn't carb count). Both support Spotify, but the Echo supports Amazon Prime music and the Home interfaces with Google Play music.

At the moment for most houses we'd recommend the Echo, but the two are close enough in features and functionality that Google users should instead plump for the Home. We use all three in separate rooms and when it comes to use, connectivity and reliability, their performance are very similar. Whichever one you pick, we do recommend a virtual assistant, they're incredibly convenient and useful organizers and time savers. At least once a day, they make us smile or teach us something new we otherwise wouldn't have bothered to look up if we had to type it out.

The Three Echos

The First Generation Echo has been superceded by the All-New Second Generation Echo. The Echo Dot is available as 2nd gen only, leaving you with a choice between the Echo or the Dot.

The Echo Dot and Echo use the same backend, but the Dot is far cheaper because it doesn't have a great built-in speaker.  Although the Echo Dot is cheaper, the Dot + speakers would be around the same cost as Amazon's Echo is a beautiful, minimalist stand-alone option.

The choice is simple - get an Echo unless you already have a pair of speakers you'd like to hook the Dot up to.

Google Home or Google Home Mini?

Again both units run exactly the same backend and have the same abilities as each other. The difference with the mini is that it doesn't have a line out jack and hence isn't designed to be added to a set of speakers. The speaker inside it is reasonable but not great and the product is aimed more at being a way to access Google assistant and control IOT rather than a music speaker.
The Home does the assistant and IOT but also adds reasonable music playback.

Google is also producing a version due to come out in December (the Max) with the same backend but a much higher quality speaker for music aficionados.


Google Homes and Amazon Echos kindly provided by Google and Amazon.


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hack noun 1. … a quick or inelegant solution to a particular problem. 2. A strategy or technique for managing one’s time or activities more efficiently.

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