Update 25/4/17: See section 'Trump card: Google Home now has voice recognition for multiple users' for the lowdown on its new Echo-beating trick.

“Hey Google, add a little more pepper to my eggs benedict tomorrow morning. Oh, and drive me the scenic route to work. I want to see some ducks”.

The future is a glorious place, where plutonium-powered smartphones never need charging, and personal AI butlers serve us with unfaltering loyalty, tending to our every whim.

The first baby steps to the latter began around five years ago, when the likes of Siri and Google Now began listening to our basic commands, setting alarms and sending garbled voice-dictated messages, but we've come a long way since then.

AI-powered speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home are now infiltrating our homes, turning on our lights, playing our music, setting our heating and making sure we never run out of milk.

With the Amazon Echo impressing us with its soothing voice and home automation smarts, we were looking forward to Google Home's UK debut. Here's how it stacks up in the battle to become your house's invisible servant...

Google Home: TV smarts

One of Home’s most impressive party tricks, and the thing that sets it apart from Amazon's Echo, is how it plays nicely with Google Chromecast devices.

If you’ve got a Chromecast hooked up to your TV, you can use Home to fire up YouTube videos directly to your big screen, without having to go via your phone or laptop. Even better, it will now do the same for Netflix.

Home’s natural search skills also come into play here. If you ask it to play a trailer for the latest Pixar movie (because you’ve forgotten the name), it’s clever enough to work out what you’re after, before serving it to you in seconds.

Being able to come in after a long day and start watching your favourite programme before you’ve even landed on the couch will be a game-changer for lazy gadgeteers.

Google Home: Smart home

If having Drake's latest music video pop up on the telly simply by asking has blown your gran's mind, she's really going to need a sherry once you show off Home’s smart home shenanigans.

At the time of writing, Home is compatible with nine smart home systems - Philips Hue, Nest, Honeywell, WeMo, LIFX bulbs, Insignia Connect, TP-Link, Wink and the Samsung-owned SmartThings. If you're a fan of Tado's smart heating, you'll be pleased to hear that it's announced Google Home support for summer 2017.

That’s still slightly less than the Echo's numerous amount of supported systems (it supports everything Home does, too), but still manages to cover the most popular products, thanks to SmartThings’ large roster.

The big gap in the UK though, is Hive. We're surprised Home has launched in the UK without support for one of the most popular smart heating systems in the country, but we're sure it's in the pipeline and will appear in Home's list of services very soon.

Hive aside though, Home’s voice commands work well. It’s so much more convenient to simply ask Nest to crank up the heating to a specific temperature or turn the lights on or off without having to whip out your phone, open up an app, and tap a button.

As long as you’ve got the compatible tech, Home’s smart home controls will genuinely make your life just that little bit easier.

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Google Home: Knowledge

If knowledge is power, Google Home is the undisputed king, while the Echo remains an uneducated serf.

Amazon’s Alexa can answer basic questions, but Home goes above and beyond, often providing you with supplemental information taken from the top search results.

Ask Alexa whether or not insects have brains for example, and she’ll have no idea what you’re talking about.

Pitch the same question to Google Assistant though, and not only will it tell you that yes, they do, it will go into more detailed information regarding how they’re less developed and not as important, and that some species can even survive with their heads detached, should the conditions be right.

Of course you can chuck a bunch of sums and ‘what movie did so and so star in’ questions at Home, and it’ll handle them easily too, but it’s the questions which answer your childlike curiosity in which Home really shines.

It’s great for kids, prepping you for pub quizzes, or just settling heated family debates.

Home will easily handle weather queries too, telling you if you need an umbrella, and how cold it’s going to be, either in your local area or for a place you specify when asking.

If you’re learning a language or brushing up on your rusty Spanish pint ordering skills, Home’s got you covered there too, thanks to baked-in Google Translate. It’s handled everything we’ve thrown at it so far, from asking for ‘a replacement table for the broken one’ in Turkish, to ‘my hot water tap is too hot, please can you fix it’ in Japanese.

There is some room for improvement though. When asking for directions to a particular place, the best Home can currently do is tell you how far away it is, and how long it will take to drive there. There’s no detailed route information and no alternative public transport or walking options.


Google Home: Organisation

Given Google’s gigantic services like Gmail, Android and Calendar, you’d think that Home could easily create new appointments, send messages and answer calls. But - and we cannot believe we’re saying this - it can’t.

Ask Home to create a dentist appointment at 10am tomorrow, and it’ll apologise for not being able to help you out.

Worse still, it can’t even create a reminder for you. The best you can do is verbally add things to your shopping list, which used to live in the Google Keep app but is now inside the Google Home app instead. If you want to send quick notes to the likes of Evernote, the only way to do it is via an IFTTT applet.

Not only can the Amazon Echo create shopping lists, reminders and calendar entries (in Google Calendar, no less), it can even order things directly from Amazon for you. In the US, Home can now order products from Google Express stores like Costco and Walgrees, but this isn't a feature that's available in the UK yet.

At the very least, we’d expect Home to allow you to make or receive calls, and dictate messages - after all, Google Assistant on the Pixel can do just that - but those features are completely absent too.

Even more annoyingly, while your phone can do all of these things, Home can’t pass off these unachievable tasks to your handset to carry out instead.


Google Home: Verdict

In many ways, Google Home is amazing. It’s the all-in-one J.A.R.V.I.S.-like butler we’ve dreamt of for years. Well, almost.

Its smart home controls are no gimmick - it really will make your daily life just that little bit easier, to the point where using anything but your voice to set the temperature or dim the lights will seem archaic.

Its music controls, when using Spotify and TuneIn to listen to the radio also work well, and Google Assistant’s clever natural language search is great at finding songs.

A big let down, though, is Home’s inability to add new appointments and reminders, though it can, at the very least, let you know your existing ones. Why it can’t achieve these basic tasks while Amazon’s Echo can, is beyond us.

And yet, the key word here (for the Echo too), is potential. Home itself is just a vessel for Google Assistant, which will only get better and better as time goes on - without you having to do anything.

As Google tweaks and improves its AI baby, Home will get smarter, gain more features, and become more and more useful.

As with the Echo, it’s not a must-buy in its current state, but if you’ve got the right smart home setup and fancy a taste of the future today, then bon appétit, we say.

Buy Google Home UK model here from Maplin

Stuff says... 

Google Home review

Genius in some ways, and a dunce in others, Home, like the Echo, is on the cusp of true brilliance. We’re just not quite there yet.
Good Stuff 
Looks classy, yet unobtrusive
You can control your home and music like Tony Stark
Search and translate functionality is brilliant
Can now recognise multiple users by voice
Bad Stuff 
Could sound better
Play Music doesn’t support adding to your library/playlists
You can’t add appointments, reminders, or send messages