The hockey puck or the doughnut? Choosing your mini smart speaker is a tricky decision.
Before deciding between Echo Dot and its new Google rival, it’s worth asking what you’d mostly use your voice assistant for.
According to various surveys, the most popular smart speaker uses are playing music, asking random questions, home automation, buying things and life admin like setting alarms and reminders.
The Echo Dot and Home Mini can do most of these things, but there are subtle differences that reflect their makers’ respective loves of shopping and search.
Luckily, we’ve drawn up this little head-to-head to help you decide which one to invite into your home...
Amazon Echo Dot vs Google Home Mini: design
Unlike its bigger brother, the Echo Dot didn’t get a facelift in Amazon’s big 2017 refresh – and now it really shows.
Of course, you may prefer the Echo Dot’s harder angles and sci-fi blue ring, but we’d be far happier to have the Home Mini on show in our bedroom or kitchen.
Its soft, fabric look won’t win any awards for originality and it is slightly larger than the Echo Dot by about a centimetre in both directions. But even though you can buy a fabric case for your Echo Dot, it still lacks its rivals’ soft, curvy charm.
One Home Mini design decision you might not appreciate is the lack of an aux port for hooking it up to some speakers, but we’ll come onto that when we start talking music...
Winner: Google Home Mini
Amazon Echo Dot vs Google Home Mini: music
Neither of these smart speakers is designed to play room-filling music.
Both will happily play tunes, and on our first listen the Home Mini had the slight edge in sound quality. But their main purpose is being your voice-controlled hub for other speakers.
So how do you decide between them? It depends both on the speakers you already have and which streaming service is your bag.
Naturally, if you mainly use Google Play Music or Amazon Prime Music, then the respective companies’ speakers are your only options. Neither of them supports Apple Music.
Which brings us to Spotify. Both the Echo Dot and Home Mini support Stuff’s favourite streaming service, but this is where your setup comes in.
Got a few Sonos speakers dotted around the house? Only the Echo Dot will be able to voice control Spotify on them (from later this year). Unlike the Home Mini, the Dot also has an aux port, so you can hook it up to an old speaker and play Spotify through that too.
What the Echo family can’t yet do is handle multi-room Spotify around other Echo devices or speakers in your house. This is apparently coming soon, but the Home Mini wins out here – if you have a £30 Chromecast Audio or other Cast-enabled speakers, it’ll give you voice control of house-wide Spotify streaming.
In short, the Echo Dot is the more versatile music controller out of the box, but the Home Mini’s Chromecast compatibility gives it better multi-room Spotify powers if you’re willing to shell out a few extra quid.
Winner: Draw. If you want to add voice control to your Sonos system or a single existing speaker via line-in, the Echo Dot is best. But if it’s multi-room Spotify across a load of old speakers or Home devices you’re after, then a combination of ChromeCast Audios and a Home Mini could be a better choice.
Amazon Echo Dot vs Google Home Mini: smart home
This used to be an easy win for the Echo Dot, but Google’s Home family have rapidly caught up in the world of voice-controlled lights and heating.
For most mainstream smart home tech (think Philips Hue, British Gas Hive, Belkin Wemo, Samsung SmartThings and the major smart heating systems), the Home Mini will be absolutely fine. Most new smart home tech also tends to support both Alexa and Google’s Assistant.
But the Echo Dot’s headstart on building its ‘skills’ catalogue means it still wins out in terms of the sheer number of devices it supports. There are also more occasions (Neato’s robot vacuums, for example) where Google Assistant compatibility is initially US-only, compared to Alexa’s more worldwide support.
Still, with both the Echo Dot and Home Mini able to plug many gaps with IFTTT support, there really isn’t much to choose between the two when it comes to the spectacular laziness of voice controlling your home tech.
Winner: Amazon Echo Dot, but only for sheer number of devices it supports. For most people, the Home Mini will be just as powerful
Amazon Echo Dot vs Google Home Mini: knowledge
Okay, this is where we start getting some clear winners.
If it’s a hands-free search engine you want, then the Home Mini will be the smart speaker for you.
In our many conversations with Google’s Assistant on the existing Home, we’ve been consistently impressed by how well it deals with obscure questions, compared to the more easily baffled Echo.
And it’s not just us – in a recent quiz containing 3,000 questions, Google’s Home easily came out on top.
With some forthcoming updates for Family Accounts that’ll help the Google Assistant understand kids aged under 13 better and read them stories from Disney characters, the Home Mini is likely to be the better bet for younger families too.
That is, unless your household can only run smoothly when oiled by the convenience of voice-ordered shopping...
Winner: Google Home Mini
Amazon Echo Dot vs Google Home Mini: shopping
A solid jab by the Home Mini, countered by a brown box to the face from the Echo Dot – as you’d expect, Alexa is the queen of voice-ordered shopping.
If you’re a Prime subscriber, you can order and re-order most Prime items from Amazon, or just add them to your shopping basket.
In the US, Google has started a fightback in the form of its Express online shopping service, which lets you voice order household essentials, but it’s not available in the UK yet.
Still, the Home family did at least recently get integration with Tesco’s new IFTTT channel in the UK, which lets you use helpers like the Home Mini to reorder regulars by voice and keep tabs on price changes.
But right now, the Echo Dot is the better voice-based gateway to hands-free shopping.
Winner: Amazon Echo Dot
Amazon Echo Dot vs Google Home Mini: life organising
For families and busy households, Google’s Home range still holds a trump card in the form of its ‘Voice Match’ feature.
This builds of model of each person’s voice, letting your Home or Home Mini automatically provide personalised results, like calendar entries, from individual Google accounts.
The key phrase is ‘Google accounts’, though, with the Echo Dot much more versatile if you use the likes of Outlook or iCloud. The Echo family do also now support multiple accounts, even if you do have to ask it to switch rather than relying on voice recognition.
Both the Echo Dot and Home Mini can now set reminders, although we’re looking forward to trying the latter’s unique ‘broadcast’ feature, which lets you send out messages to other Home devices in your house. Which should save you from shouting upstairs when dinner’s ready.
In short, the Home Mini is shaping up to be a dream for families who all have Google accounts and mainly use Google services, but the Echo Dot still has the edge on versatility.
Winner: Google Home Mini for fans of Google Services, the Amazon Echo Dot for everyone else