Review: Amazon Echo Plus vs Google Home

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The Google Home and Amazon Echo Plus (2nd generation) smart speakers are direct rivals. They have a similar format, both feature voice assistants with identical functions, and implement comparable acoustic designs, but they offer significantly distinctive user experiences. We will also tell you which one sounds better…

The Amazon Echo Plus (2nd generation) and Google Home speakers.

What is the point of owning a smart speaker?

The voice assistants for the Google Home and Amazon Echo Plus speakers allow the user to control the speakers with voice commands to play music (a subscription to Spotify, Deezer, Google Play Music or Amazon Music is required), to listen to the radio, read the news, find recipes, control compatible heating systems and lighting, or even play a TV show on Netflix. All they have to do is say “Ok Google” to the Google Home speaker or “Alexa” to the Amazon Echo Plus speaker.

Amazon Alexa

Amazon Echo Plus vs Google Home: which has the nicest voice?

The Google Assistant’s female voice is a real success. While Google’s artificial voice is incredibly natural-sounding, Alexa conveys the impression of being older, is less alert and often robotic and cold.

Amazon Echo Plus vs Google Home: which music streaming services are compatible with the voice assistants?

If you’re planning on listening to your music via a streaming service using only voice commands, Qobuz and Tidal are out of the equation. Speakers with Google Assistant or Alexa can only choose from Spotify and Deezer. Google Play Music and Youtube Music are also available for devices compatible with Google, and Amazon Music can be used with devices compatible with Alexa.

Voice control isn’t currently available for Tidal or Qobuz accounts.

Amazon Echo Plus vs Google Home: which music streaming services are available without using a voice assistant?

All music streaming services for the Google speaker. Only Amazon Music for the Amazon Echo Plus. Google has been developing Chromecast technology for a few years now, which is integrated into many smart speakers, A/V receivers, WiFi speakers and of course, the Google Home speaker. The Spotify, Deezer, Qobuz, Tidal, Google Play Music and TuneIn apps are Chromecast-compatible. For example, in the Deezer app you can click on a button, choose the Google Home speaker and the speaker will start streaming music.

This is impossible with the Amazon Echo Plus speaker, unless you use the Amazon Music app. It’s understandable, as Amazon hasn’t developed any technology comparable to Chromecast (yet). That said, when you ask Alexa to play a song on Spotify, the Amazon Echo Plus speaker appears in the Spotify app as a controllable device. The Spotify app then resumes control until it is closed.

Google Assistant

Amazon Echo Plus vs Google Home: the most convenient for listening to your audio files

Listening to audio files stored on a smartphone or tablet isn’t the easiest thing to do with a smart speaker. As the speaker connects to the music server, direct transmission from a smartphone is prohibited. How to deal with this? Google has thought about this issue and cloud storage for MP3 files is provided in Google Play Music. It’s completely free (no subscription) and you can upload no fewer than 50 000 files from your smartphone or PC. If your files are in FLAC format, they’ll be converted to MP3 (at 320 kbps) in very good quality. If your files are organized into playlists, you can simply ask the speaker to play the playlist of your choosing.

Amazon doesn’t provide free cloud storage, which is imperative to be able to listen to your MP3 files on the Amazon Echo Plus (or any other speaker compatible with Alexa for that matter). Consequently, you need to have an Amazon Music account (not just Amazon Prime).

Amazon Echo Plus vs Google Home: which is the ideal streaming service for these speakers?

The answer is Google Play Music or Amazon Music (Prime/Unlimited). Both services have approximately the same number of songs and each requires a monthly subscription. Google and Amazon cost 9.99€ per month for unlimited playback. However, Amazon offers unlimited access to 2 million songs and up to 40 hours of playback each month for those who are signed up to their Prime delivery service.

Both services allow users to download audio files and benefit from offline playback. The MP3 codec is used for both services, with excellent listening quality (when compared to Spotify, for example). Google allows everyone with a Google account (Gmail) to upload up to 50 000 of their own MP3 files to the cloud. If your files are in FLAC format, the upload module will convert them to MP3 at 320 Kbps. This Google cloud storage feature for MP3 files is completely free and allows you to play your own audio files on the Google Home speaker.

The Amazon Echo Plus speaker features an analog line input, which can be switched to a line output.

Amazon Echo Plus vs Google Home: controlling music from an app

Google has the advantage here. A large number of applications are compatible with the Chromecast protocol. Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, Qobuz, TuneIn and Google Play Music when it comes to streaming services. Therefore, you can ask the Google Home speaker to play a song via voice command, or with any app, by pressing the Cast button.

For the Amazon Echo Plus speaker, this is only possible via the Amazon Music app. This means that it needs to be your default streaming service. This also works with Spotify to a certain extent, even though the speaker isn’t officially a Spotify Connect device. In practice, you need to ask Alexa to play a song on Spotify, after which the Amazon Echo Plus becomes visible and can be controlled in the Spotify app.

Amazon Echo Plus vs Google Home: the easiest to use

Amazon hasn’t taken any risks, and its speaker has a classic, yet elegant look: fully clad in acoustic fabric, a LED band and four buttons on the top, and all of the connections at the bottom. Google dared to be different, with sharply edged curves. The top of the speaker is tilted forward, the multicolored LEDs are invisible, all of the controls are tactile (except the button to deactivate the microphone located at the back of the speaker) and all of the connections are hidden underneath the speaker (angled power cable). The Google Home speaker is also smaller.

The Amazon Echo Plus speaker with its buttons on the left, and the entirely tactile Google Plus speaker on the right.

Amazon Echo Plus vs Google Home: home automation control

We didn’t test home automation control, as we didn’t have any smart lighting, a compatible heating system or rolling shutters at our disposal. These two speakers are compatible with a large number of devices however. Unlike the Google Home, the Amazon Echo Plus speaker has an integrated ZigBee hub which allows it to directly control some devices – without needing an extra hub. The Philips Hue lightbulbs, for example, can therefore be managed without the Philips Hue Bridge hub, but there are fewer possibilities (limited scenarios and programming, few color choices…).

Amazon Echo Plus vs Google Home: the easiest to set up

The configuration process is the same for both the speakers: you need to use an app (iOS, Android). However, the Google Home app automatically detects the speaker and guides the user. The Amazon Alexa app requires the user to enter the model (and even the generation) of the speaker they want to use. Beyond this, the Google Home app is more pleasant to use. Alexa needs to be perfected, and the Echo Plus speaker needs not to start updates in the middle of a song…

The Amazon Alexa app is necessary to configure the Amazon Echo Plus.
You will need to tell the app which speaker you wish to install… too bad it isn’t automatically detected.

Amazon Echo Plus vs Google Home: the best for Netflix

Google has the upper hand. In order to ask the speaker to play the first season of Kingdom on Netflix, you need to own, in addition to a Netflix account, an Android TV (or Android TV player). Saying “Ok Google, play Kingdom on Netflix” turns the TV on and starts the Korean zombie series. Alexa, however, won’t be of much help… for now. Amazon hasn’t announced any partnerships with television manufacturers in France in regards to integrating Fire TV, their OS for TVs. The 4K HDMI Amazon Fire TV Stick media player should, if it is commercialized in France (as it is in the UK and in Germany), fix this problem and even allow us to ask the Amazon Echo Plus speaker to play The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime Video.

The Google Home app detects the new Google Assistant speakers and devices with Chromecast all by itself. The setup is more pleasant.

Amazon Echo Plus vs Google Home: listening impressions

The Google Home and Amazon Echo Plus speakers are both pleasant to listen to. The sound signatures are balanced, with substantial, abundant lows for the Google Home (which uses two passive radiators to belt out the lower frequencies). Both speakers are suitable for listening to music while cooking, or to have a little background noise while reading in the living room.

The Amazon Echo Plus boasts a more convincing sound restitution.

However, we prefer the Amazon Echo Plus, which is more detailed in the highs, thanks to the use of a genuine tweeter (and not a coaxial driver like the Google Home). The Echo Plus can even be used as a pair in stereo, with the little Amazon Echo Sub wireless subwoofer as a bonus. This way, you can enjoy a wireless, and reasonably priced, 2.1 system that can be connected to an external analog source (DAP, DAC, TV).

Amazon Echo Plus vs Google Home: compared to…

Amazon Echo Dot: the Alexa features are identical. This little speaker obviously can’t provide the same restitution (reduced frequency range). It is very convenient for use in a bedroom or kitchen to listen to the radio, get recipes, manage smart lighting and to program a daily alarm.

Google Mini: exactly the same! Except that the Google Mini is at home beside an Android TV to control television series and movies on Netflix.

SONOS One: the SONOS One also includes Alexa, but offers a more refined sound, and provides the possibility to control absolutely all streaming services via the SONOS app. That said, the Amazon Echo Plus has the advantage of including an integrated ZigBee home automation hub, to control Philips Hue lightbulbs, in particular.

Amazon Echo Plus vs Google Home: verdict

It’s evident that the Google Assistant is a lot more sophisticated than Alexa. The simplicity of configuring the Google Home speaker is a big advantage, even for technophobes. Alexa has some work to do. Acoustically, however, the Amazon Echo Plus is superior. Without a doubt, the combination of a pair of Echo Plus speakers and an Echo Sub will have quite an impact in a living room.

What we liked:

  • The restitution of the Amazon Echo Plus.
  • The Google Assistant with its natural voice.
  • The Google speaker’s Chromecast.
  • The communication between the Google Home and Android TV (and Netflix).
  • The free cloud storage for 50 000 MP3 files with Google Play Music.
  • The Google Home app.
  • The Amazon Echo Plus’ ZigBee hub.
  • The Amazon Echo Plus’ integrated thermometer.

What we would like:

  • For Amazon to improve their Alexa app.
  • For Amazon to launch their 4K Fire TV Stick in France, to control the TV from the speakers with the Alexa assistant.
  • For the Google Home speaker to have the same sound as the Amazon Echo Plus.

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