Google Home essential guide: The best Google Assistant smart speakers

Google Home, Nest and more... top speakers with Google Assistant built-in

The best Google Home smart speakers
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If you want to build a smart home controlled by the Google Assistant, the best place to start is by choosing your a device to act as your base; and your best bet there is a top Google Assistant smart speaker.

There are a wide range of native Nest and Google Home speakers, as well as an ever growing range of Assistant smart speakers from third-party companies such as Sonos, Bose and Marshall, to take care of things.

The good news is that the best Google Assistant smart speakers aren't just smart home hubs, they are fast becoming high-end audio devices, which can be combined to form multi-room speaker setups.

In case there's any confusion, these smart speakers are different from devices and appliances that are compatible with Google Assistant - those only become voice-controlled when you have a controller device to connect and talk to; smart plugs, cameras, motion sensors and the like.

These smart speakers all have the Google Assistant built inside, so you can usually just plug in and start using voice commands to control your devices and get the party started.

Read on for our top pick of speakers with Google Assistant inside - because it's no longer a case of Google Home or nothing.

The best native Google Home speakers

We've divided this guide into two sections: Google and Nest Home speakers and third-party Assistant speakers.

The latter covers the best Google Assistant speakers from brands like Sonos and Bose who, while often delivering better sound quality, occasionally lack features you'll find in Google's immediate speaker family.

nest audio smart speaker

The newest Nest smart speaker: Google Nest Audio

Buy now: | $99

The latest Google smart speaker - the Nest Audio - was revealed at the end of last year, and boasts a form factor and design that seemingly sits it in between the Nest Mini and the (now-discontinued) Google Home Max.

It's not really fair to call this an upgrade of the original Google Home speaker, which - as Google's first foray into the smart speaker arena back in 2016 - was getting pretty long in the tooth.

The Nest Audio is a completely new device, cheaper, with better sound, more smarts, and definitely not an air freshener.

It boasts 50% more bass and 75% more volume than the original Google Home, thanks to a revamped 19mm tweeter and a 75mm mid-woofer.

It's also an excellent smart home controller, turning any connected smart home devices on and off at super snappy speeds. The machine learning chip is supposed to help the speaker learn your most frequent commands and respond even faster.

The Nest Audio is fully wrapped in that familiar mesh fabric, much like the Mini. And in keeping with Google's efforts to fit into the modern home - which apparently is very pastel - Nest Audio comes in a nice variety of colors, Sky (blue), Sand (pink), Chalk (white), Charcoal (black) and the new Sage (green).

What we love

  • Great sound
  • Very competitive price
  • Unobtrusive design

What we don't love

  • No 3.5mm jack
  • Invisible buttons
  • No Apple Music or Amazon Music

Have a read of our full Nest Audio review for more info.

The best Google Home and Assistant smart speakers

Best Assistant speaker for voice commands: Google Nest Mini

Buy now: | $49

The Google Nest Mini is a pebble-shaped smart speaker, and the most affordable of Google's own range. As well as blending into your decor with grey, black, coral and pale blue soft fabric finishes, it makes a neat second speaker around the house.

And at just $49 (and often on sale for much cheaper), it's perfect for anyone building a smart home on a budget.

Its Achilles' heel? Despite some improvements over the OG Google Home Mini, it still doesn't produce hugely powerful sound (hardly a surprise considering the size) and there's no 3.5mm out to your existing speakers, which its rival the Amazon Echo Dot does have.

What we love

  • That cheap price
  • Small and easy to place
  • On-device controls

What we don't love

  • No 3.5mm output
  • Awkward wire placement
  • Sound not amazing (obviously)

Read our full Google Nest Mini review.

google max speaker

Best for sound quality: Google Home Max

Buy now: | $299,

At the highest end of Google's Home family is the Home Max, which is still available in some online stores despite being officially discontinued by Google at the end of last year.

Despite not being part of the Nest branding it's still Google's best speaker for audio quality, which goes all-in on punchy, loud, room-filling sound. But power is expensive, particularly if you want to pick up two for a stereo setup.

However, of Google's lineup of first-party speakers, the Max is still the obvious winner by measure of sound quality alone. It's a hulking great thing, weighing nearly 12 pounds and measuring 13.2 x 7.4 x 6 inches in size. You'd better clear some room.

If you want a Google-built speaker worthy of your favorite records, this is still your best option, but while the Max plays it loud and proud, it's less well balanced than some of the third-party options below from Sonos and Bose.

What we love

  • Sound as hefty as its dimensions
  • Google Assistant outsmarts Alexa
  • Bluetooth support

What we don't love

  • Expensive (double if you want stereo)
  • Very, very large
  • Sound not as well balanced as others

Read our full Google Home Max review.

nest hub 2021 model clock

Best Google Home Smart Display: Google Nest Hub 2nd-gen

Buy now: | $99.99

What was once called the Google Home Hub is now the Nest Hub - which is now in its 2nd-generation. It's a tiny thing with a 7-inch display, but it all comes together for the best showcase of this category, in our opinion.

It also doesn't have a camera. If you want that, you should opt for the larger Nest Hub Max, whose 10-inch display also includes a Nest camera, which you can remotely view from your smartphone and make use of its motion detection features.

You can also make Duo video calls, and even wave your hands around for some fun (but novelty) gesture controls.

Both displays have an ambient EQ sensor that adjusts the display to the light around it, the result being that photos look fantastic when displayed on the Nest Hubs.

Packing a revamped chip for a faster Google Assistant Assistant, a third mic for better listening, and 50% more bass for music listening, the 2021 Nest Hub also has a temperature sensor, and Google's Soli gesture technology inside its diminutive design.

Soli is a radar-based gesture recognition system that, on the Nest Hub, allows you to tap the air to pause and resume media on the device.

It also enables the device's sleep sensing capabilities, able to monitor chest rise and fall unobtrusively and - crucially for a bedroom.

The new Nest Hub lets you control your smart home from its touchscreen, activate Google Assistant, play music, watch videos, or use it as a digital photo frame.

What we love

  • How small it is
  • Lack of camera good for the privacy-minded
  • Decent sound

What we don't love

  • Some may find it too small
  • No Zigbee/Z-Wave hub
  • Software still maturing

Read our full Nest Hub 2nd-gen review

The best third-party Google Assistant speakers

Like Alexa, Google Assistant is starting to turn up in more and more smart speakers built by other companies.

The only thing to bear in mind is that first-party Google Home speakers tend to get new Assistant features before others, but otherwise the experience is identical to the one you'll get on a Google Home.

sonos one and google assistant

Best overall: Sonos One

Buy now: Amazon, | $199

Sonos' debut smart speaker is still going strong, which was slightly tweaked under the hood from the first iteration (but you'll barely notice) a couple of years back.

The biggest update, however, is Google Assistant, which now joins Alexa on board. You can only have one voice assistant running at a time, but just having the option puts Sonos a cut above most.

The One comes with that typically great Sonos sound, in a smaller and more affordable speaker than the Sonos Move. You can pair two together for stereo sound, and the addition of Assistant means you can use this as a Chromecast controller too.

What we love

  • Awesome sound
  • Both Google Assistant and Alexa
  • Loads of ways to listen, including AirPlay 2

What we don't love

  • Still has some hearing problems
  • Some Google features are MIA

Read our full Sonos One review.

Google Assistant is built into the Sonos Move

Best portable Google Assistant speaker: Sonos Move

Buy now: Amazon, | $399

Sonos went portable for the first time with the Move – and it's bringing Google Assistant with it. Well, sort of. The Assistant is built in (as is Alexa, but you can only choose one) and you can use it so long as the Move is on your Wi-Fi. But in Bluetooth mode the Assistant will, sadly, go deaf.

Still, this is a great speaker and the long range of Wi-Fi means you can put the Move just about anywhere in your home and enjoy music and the Assistant uninterrupted.

There's a good chance you'll even manage to stretch it to the backyard, something Sonos had in mind when making the Move. Did we mention it also sounds fantastic? Just a shame it costs so much.

If you want a portable Sonos speaker that won't dent the bank balance as much then you should also consider the smaller Sonos Roam, which also packs in the Google Assistant.

What we love

  • Brilliant sound in both modes
  • Very durable
  • Long battery life

What we don't love

  • Expensive
  • Mic pickup a bit iffy
  • Really heavy

Read our full Sonos Move review.

Also consider...

Audio Pro G10 ceiling mount

Audio Pro G10

Buy now: | £225

Swedish hi-fi specialist Audio Pro's first stab at the smart speaker market is the G10; an all-singing, all-dancing, multiroom box of tricks, which not only packs in the Google Assistant, but also has Chromecast, AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth all on board, as well.

It's a super stylish, 3rd-gen-Echo-lookalike, which is wrapped in a woven fabric that comes in either dark or light grey.

In a very Scandinavian way, there are multiple ways to position the G10. It can, of course, be used as a regular bookshelf speaker, but there's also a fixture on the back that can be used to attach it to a wall bracket or - and you better get yourself to Ikea, quick-sharp - a ceiling rail.

One thing we did notice, which is either a bit annoying or super handy - depending on where you sit on the smart speaker security spectrum - is that the G10 will enter a low-power standby mode if you haven't used it for a while.

This means that you might say, "Hey Google" to it and get no response. A simple tap of the voice assistant button up top gets Google's Assistant back in the game though (as does initiating playback from your phone).

The best Google Home and Assistant speakers

Bose Home Speaker 500

Buy now: Amazon | $299

Like Sonos' speakers, the Bose Home 500 arrived with just Alexa, but the company has since rolled out Google too. And like Sonos, you'll only be able to have one running at a time. That makes a superb speaker even better, putting Google's smarts on top of top-tier audio quality and a lovely-looking speaker.

Our biggest complaint is the price, which puts it neck and neck with the Sonos Move, but you do get the same portability.

In fact the only major difference, other than how the sound is tuned, is that small screen, which will display album artwork for a little extra spice.

Read our full Bose Home Speaker 500 review.

bang and olufsen google speaker

Bang & Olufsen Beosound Balance

Buy now: Amazon, | $2,250

The Beosound Balance is a super high-end smart speaker that wants to give your bank balance a right hammering.

This AirPlay 2 enabled speaker, which has the Google Assistant baked in, is first and foremost an audiophile-grade bookshelf speaker, with the smarts very much on board to complement the acoustics.

On the sound quality front, that solid oak base houses a pair of 5.25-inch bass drivers, which teams up with two 3-inch full range drivers, two 2-inch full range drivers and a 0.75-inch tweeter for a maximum 104 dB SPL volume.

Thanks to the "Active Room Compensation" capabilities (think Sonos Trueplay or the HomePod's reposition sound adjustment), you'll get carefully controlled beams of sound for a clear acoustic experience from the front and rich sound enhancement at the back.

Google Home speaker guide: Best smart speakers with Google Assistant built in

Google and Nest Home smart speakers: Considerations before buying

Before splashing your hard earned cash on one of the smart speakers above, it's worth spending a bit of time doing your research.

Here are the key things you should be thinking about...

How much should you spend?

It's easy to jump in at the very low end with a Google Nest Mini, which you can find for less than $40. In fact, you can go even cheaper as Google still actually sells the older Google Mini for around the $30 mark.

These little smart speakers are a really quick and easy way into a Google Home speaker setup.

They don't offer the best sound, though Google has made strides in quality with the latest Nest Mini. For those who want to listen to your music, you'll need to go for something bigger - enter the all-new Nest Audio.

The basic functionality here is the same as the mini speakers, but it comes with better microphones that are better at hearing you.

Obviously the sound quality is much better too, but, if you want high-end sound, you'll need to spring for something even more expensive; either the Max from Google or a third-party speaker.

the new nest hub 2nd-gen 2021 model with sleep tracking

What about Google Smart Displays?

The newest wrench in the gear of smart speakers is a display. A smart speaker with a screen makes a lot of sense in certain locations around the house. For instance, a kitchen is a great place for these because you can take a look at recipes and follow along.

Smart Displays also you quick access to information with visuals so you can see a week's worth of weather forecasts, YouTube videos, feeds from security cameras and video doorbells, touchscreen controls for smart home devices, video calls and a whole lot more.

Smart speakers with displays also add interactivity. You can use your fingers to swipe and tap through results from your assistant rather than having to listen to a bunch of options.

The audio quality isn't as good as other smart speakers, though, largely because all the speakers are facing in one direction, but they're getting better all the time - the Nest Hub Max certainly won't leave you feeling short changed.

What can a Google smart speaker do?

So what can these Google Assistant speakers actually do? The features are pretty much identical across the range.

Let’s start with music. First up, they are all Wi-Fi connected speakers, with varying audio quality, that you can control with your voice via the "Hey, Google" or "OK Google" phrase which wakes Google Assistant. The Google Home and Max also have a touch interface on the top – tap to play or pause and move your finger in a circle to tweak volume.

You can set your music streaming service as a default – it supports Spotify Free and Premium, Google Play Music, Pandora in the US, TuneIn, YouTube Music in the US and Australia and iHeartRadio. You can tell the speaker to play a track, artists or genre, skip tracks and stop the music. You can also tell Google Home to play a radio station.

The Home, Home Hub, Mini and Max can also be connected to use as a multi-room system in your house (more on that in a bit), which is pretty nifty though obviously very much on the budget, low quality end of things. They also work as Bluetooth speakers, so each speaker can connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth to play music.

Let’s stay with media controls for a minute. Google Assistant talks to TVs with a Chromecast plugged in. You can also plug a Chromecast Audio into your speakers to make them Wi-Fi enabled, but that device is discontinued.

You'll also be able to add your TV to your multi-room audio setup. Voice controls for playing, pausing etc work for apps including YouTube, Netflix and Google Photos as well as CBS and the CW.

You can also set up Voice Match profiles for the Spotify and Netflix profiles of everyone in the house so that when you speak, you get your own account.

multi-room on the best google speakers

Google Home multi-room speaker system

The great thing about all Google Home and Assistant smart speakers is that they can all team up to form part of a multi-room audio system.

It doesn't matter if you have an ageing Google Home smart speaker, the brand new Nest Audio, some Google Nest Minis, third-party Assistant speakers or even with Chromecast built-in, you can get going with a Google multi-room system.

You can create groups of speakers, stereo pairs and more. Ad you can control everything with just your voice.

Using the same Google Assistant commands you'd use for a single speaker, you can say things like...

  • "Hey Google, play Wonderwall on all speakers"
  • "Ok Google, play Badly Drawn Boy on my office speakers"
  • "Hey Google, set volume to 6 downstairs"
  • "Ok Google, play/pause/resume/stop/play next song on Upstairs group"

Google Assistant guide: The missing manual to your Google Home

Google Assistant and TVs

Google Assistant is naturally built into Android TVs from the likes of Sony and Philips but that's not where it stops. LG's TVs don't run Android TV, but they do come with Google Assistant built in. Samsung has also announced that all of its 2020 smart TVs will come with the option of Google Assistant or Alexa.

There are an increasing number of TVs, like those from Vizio, that are at least building in Google Assistant support. If your TV does have it built in, you will find a 'mic' button on your remote control to start talking to your set – no wake word needed here.

Features include searching for movies and TV shows, playing music or podcasts, controlling the volume and power of the TV and asking internet search questions as well as getting weather, calendar and traffic info on screen. You can also link the TV to your Google Home app to control the smart home gadgets you've added, which includes viewing security camera footage, for instance, or video doorbell feeds.

TV not got the Google love? You can just give it some with a Chromecast dongle, then link that dongle to your Google Home or Nest speakers for voice control.

In the world of set-top boxes, the Nvidia Shield TV already supports built-in Google Assistant, while TiVo announced built-in Google Assistant (and Alexa) voice controls and options.

Google Assistant: What can it do?

A good way to find out what else Google Assistant can do is to explore the Google Home app. The features generally split into two groups: AI butler and smart home controls.

On the butler, or concierge, side of things you can ask Google Assistant all sorts of questions and have it complete various tasks just by talking to it. You can set up a My Day program of news, weather, traffic and calendar updates that the Assistant reads out when you ask, for instance, “What’s my day like?” plus you can ask for info on all of the above plus commute times, flight info, weather forecasts, upcoming events and local businesses.

You can also get info on sports teams, stocks, unit conversions, dictionary entries and well, plain old facts. Plus, there's translations. You can get short translations in about 30 (and growing) languages. You can also use the Nest Hub to act as a translator. It'll translate entire conversations, though in our experience it needs a bit of work.

Google Assistant guide: The missing manual to your Google Home

Getting more practical, you can set a timer (a popular use case), an alarm or a reminder (including new interactive alarms for kids) and add an event to your Google calendar.

You can make calls to contacts, numbers or businesses right there on the speaker. You can also add items to a shopping list in Google Keep. It’s worth noting here that you can now give Assistant two commands at once e.g. “Hey Google play pop music and what’s the weather?” and it will handle both.

Google Home Actions are how Google Assistant is able to interact with existing apps. These are the equivalent of Alexa’s Skills and can make it more useful when it comes to reference, productivity and getting things done with voice controls. Best of all, Home learns them automatically so you don’t need to set them up.

Outside of the smart home, there are third-party Actions for calling an Uber, asking questions on Quora, ordering and tracking pizza deliveries from Domino’s, doing quizzes on BuzzFeed, looking up lyrics on Genius, looking up recipes on Food Network and working out with FitStar. You can even set multiple Actions, allowing you to group multiple tasks into one command.

How to control your home with Google Assistant

How to control your home with Assistant

The third way you can use Google Home is as a voice control hub for smart home gadgets outside your TV and speaker setup. In the app you can set up devices by going to ‘Home Control’ and selecting the brand/device, for example Philips Hue.

It’s all pretty simple, and there's no QR code nonsense, as with Apple HomeKit. And, if you have a device that's compatible with Google's Seamless Setup feature then things are even easier.

Depending on the tech, you can do things like turn gadgets on and off, change settings and set up routines.

You can see a full list of Google Home-compatible devices here – it includes smart thermostats, security cameras, lights, robot vacs, plugs, locks, fans and more. Assistant is improving all the time and Google will soon allow smart home tech and appliance manufacturers to create their own custom voice control commands.

Another useful thing is Routines, which let you set up these type of automated scenes with Google Assistant. If you’re more interested in this side of things, you can always pair it with a system like Wink, Hive or iHome but we'd recommend trying Google's own Routines first.

Brilliant Google Assistant Easter Eggs

If you want to have bit more fun with Google Assistant, see our list of fun Easter Eggs, jokes, references and games to try out.

Some of our faves are:

  • "OK Google, clean my room"
  • "OK Google, how do you like your coffee?"
  • "OK Google, who shot first"
  • "Hey Google, is the cake a lie?"
  • "Hey Google, party on Wayne"

Google Assistant: Privacy

One of the reasons people might be scared of getting a smart speaker, especially one from a company that already knows so much about our online lives, is privacy.

If you want to read through Google’s policy on Home, you can do so here. With the company recently unifying Home and Nest under one roof, it's also published a bunch more privacy promises, which you can find here. Here are some of the key policies from Google:

  • Google Home devices aren't recording all the time, only when they hear the wake words "OK Google" or "Hey Google", with a few second snippet which is saved when this is detected. The error rate for this isn't perfect though, so after you've used it a while you will find some non-relevant conversations in your history.
  • Google uses your personal data to help advertisers target you with more “relevant” and “useful” ads but it doesn’t actually sell personal data to anyone. Ads, not hardware, are still Google’s main business model.
  • Google does share transcripts of your recordings with third-party developers who integrate their services with Google Home (such as Uber). With some third-party companies Google will also share the audio, but only where you've given it explicit permission to do so.
  • You can delete your conversation history, which removes it from your Google Account. But it isn’t 100% clear if Google still stores the data on its servers in its data centers even after a user has ‘deleted’ it. Google says it keeps “service-related information” about your account.
TAGGED    google home    smart speakers

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