So you’ve decided to invest in a smart speaker. But not just that, you’ve decided that Google Assistant is the smart assistant you want to sit at the heart of it. Now there’s just one more decision to make: which of the Google speaker family do you want to bring into your home?
Whether budget or features is at the forefront of your mind, Google produces a speaker to suit. You can choose from the standard Google Home speaker range (Google Home or Google Home Max) or the smart displays from the Google Nest arm of the business (Google Nest Mini, Google Nest Hub or Google Nest Hub Max).
But before we jump into which speaker is for you, let’s just have a recap of some of the key benefits a Google speaker could bring to your home.
For more on smart speakers, read our guide on the best smart speakers 2019 and our no-jargon guide on everything you need to know about smart assistants.
What can a Google speaker do?
Google Assistant is being updated with new talents every day, meaning any speaker you choose to invest in is only going to get better with time. At the time of writing, some of the core benefits include:
With all the power of the world’s best search engine sitting at the heart of it, Google speakers are very clever indeed, and can answer questions (and family arguments) ranging from the latest sports scores to what year your favourite movie came out.
It can answer questions in context too. That means if you ask when a movie came out and then ask who the lead actor was afterwards, it will know you’re talking about the movie you mentioned before. It makes for a more natural conversation that other smart assistants haven’t got spot on just yet.
Use the Google Home app to connect your subscription services, such as Spotify, Deezer or YouTube Music, and you can ask your Google speaker to play some music, either from a playlist or a specific song and album. You can also use TuneIn Radio to summon your favourite radio stations with your voice.
Tell you about your day
Ask Google how your day is looking and it will serve up a whole load of information, such as the weather in your area, the traffic on your commute to work, anything you have in your calendar (if you use Google’s calendar) or reminders, and even give you a brief rundown of the news headlines. It even recognises voices, so the whole family can register their schedules and get personalised information.
Control your smart home
If you have smart home products that work with Google Assistant, you will be able to use your Google speaker to control them, whether that be turning off lights or starting up your robot vacuum. With a Google Chromecast dongle in your TV, you can even ask your speaker to load up your favourite TV shows on Netflix, as well as control playback.
Fun for the kids
Google Assistant has some great features for kids, including the ability to read bedtime stories and play games.
How do I set up my Google speaker?
For any official Google product, you’ll want to download the Google Home app onto your smartphone, which will walk you through the steps to get the speaker onto your wi-fi network.
Once plugged in, most products are found automatically, and will appear as ready to set up when you open the app. For speakers, you’ll get a test tone to ensure the sound is working correctly and the ability to name which room it’ll be in, so you can differentiate between them if you have more than one.
You’ll also have the option to voice match your voice, so you can get personalised results on things like calendar events and reminders, plus you can add your own music service accounts too.
Which Google speaker should I buy?
The Google Nest Mini is small and inconspicuous for those still feeling a little unsure about introducing large smart devices into their homes. It’ll blend into your decor with a choice of grey, white, coral and pale blue fabric finishes, can be wall mounted out of sight with its built-in wall mount and at just £49, it’s a really reasonable price point.
Considering its size, it probably won’t surprise you that it isn’t the most powerful sound out there, so you might want to consider a larger speaker if you’re hoping it will fuel your house party’s soundtrack.
That said, it has had an audio boost compared to its Google Home Mini predecessor (which is available for just £29, while stocks last), and comes with all the Google Assistant smarts of larger speakers, making it a great way of adding in some subtle smart assistance to your home on a budget.
If you’re looking for the Goldilocks of Google smart speakers, then the original Google Home is the one to consider. It’s larger than the Nest Mini, which means its sound quality is better, but it isn’t going to take up considerable surface area like the Home Max will, nor drink your budget dry.
That said, you’re still not going to want to rely on this for your main music speaker, but for the kitchen or office, it’ll give you a decent background soundtrack.
It contains all the smarts of the Nest Mini, but the extra power under the hood pushes the price up to £89 - still pretty reasonable for its functionality. It comes in at £89, and is available in grey, with the ability to add interchangeable bases in copper, carbon or coral fabric, from £18.
The Google Home Max, as its name might suggest, is the largest of the Google Home family and goes big on audio, offering plenty of punchy, room-filling sound. If you are looking for a smart speaker that will also double up as a proper speaker to do your music proud, this is the one for you.
Its design leaves a bit to be desired for those looking for something more stylish though, and at over 5kg and 34cm long, it’s both weighty and bulky. At least it can be positioned in landscape or portrait to suit your space.
As with the other speakers in Google’s fold, expect the same Google Assistant smarts, but with much, much better sound, and a price tag to show for it. It's £299, in fact. Ouch.
The Google Nest Hub is a Google speaker like the rest of the devices in this list, but with a seven-inch touchscreen thrown in. This means it adds a visual element to all of your smart assistant activity, so it will pull up pictures to support anything you ask it. It also means you can watch YouTube videos, great for following recipes in the kitchen.
There’s no camera here, so you won’t be able to use it for video calls, but it’s great for using as a smart home hub where you can control all of your smart home devices, rather than needing to use your phone or tablet.
Soundwise, it’s perfectly fine, but the audio quality here is secondary to its added screen functionality.
If you like the sound of the Google Nest Hub, but want to add in a camera for offering video calling and Nest Cam security functionality, the Google Nest Hub Max is the device for you.
Not just that, it also offers a larger 10-inch screen, which makes watching videos on the Hub Max much more enjoyable, plus its larger body allows for much improved sound quality, thanks to the addition of more speakers.
It costs an extra £100 compared with its smaller sibling, but it arguably delivers the best of Google Home and Google Nest in one device, meaning it could be worth the investment if you’ll get the use from it.