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Review: Google Home

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Google Home is Google’s smart speaker which connects via WiFi (or, even better, via Google WiFi) to Google’s smart assistant in the cloud. Designed to be connected at home, Google home uses voice as the primary means of control. It is available in Canada from Best Buy and online from Google.

For $ 179.00, Canadians can get their hands on Google Home, a voice-activated smart speaker, powered by the Google Assistant in English and French.

This diminutive speaker has a rather charming zen-like design. Some say it looks like an aromatherapy gadget, which is fine since it is created to sort of blend in to your home. I Installed Google Home in my kitchen/breakfast nook area and it is ideal for query and control situations when I have my hands full from preparing food or washing dishes.

I can ask Google home to play music from my Spotify and Google Play Music subscriptions. I can ask it to play songs by title, genre, artist and even ask music trivia. I already have various Spotify playlists and it is easy enough to access them directly by voice.

Google Home is smart enough to scour other services, it can play live radio (using the TuneIn app), play my favourite podcasts and even NPR, CBC, BBC and ESPN news bytes. Converesely, you can have it play sounds of the sea, or white noise as well as various animal sounds which children find entertaining.

Google Home can set multiple alarms (for when you’re cooking various dishes), it can quickly compute, calculate and convert. If you have a nearby TV with a Chromecast, you can ask it to play recipes from YouTube, or control Netflix by voice.

The control for video and audio can be granular, you can tell it to play back the past 5 minutes or fast forward 30 minutes and it will do so without issue. It must be mentioned that much of the development of the Google Home app was done right here in Google's Waterloo campus, so Canadian innovation is definitely present here.

Google Home can work as the hub for Philips Hue lights which can be open, closed and dimmed. Moreover, using IFTTT (If This Then That), it is easy to set moods and various colour coordinated lighting situations (i.e. get the lights to have similar theme or mood to the show your’e watching).

Having used the device at home for around a week, it has evolved from a curiosity to a part of our routines. I use Google Home to keep me updated on my schedule. It gives us news briefs and even plays my son’s favourite music playlists to put him to sleep. There’s a lot that Google Home can do out of the box, the feature set can be expanded using various third party services and if features from the US version trickle in, it should be able to even make Canadian and US VoIP phone calls free of charge.

For Canadians, Google Home remains the only true home assistant technology that’s designed for Canadian users. While you can use Amazon Echo and it will work, it hasn’t been localized for Canada so you miss out on a lot of features with no guarantee that Amazon will ever bring them in.

Apple’s HomePods aren’t coming to Canada until 2018. Even then, the device is focused more as a connected speaker than as a Siri-connected device. HomePods will certainly offer the best audio quality and at a more premium price, but as for smarts and ability to interact with various services and IoT devices, that remains to be seen. Apple is more likely to use Apple-vetted services, which might limit the HomePod’s range of capabilities.

Google Home does okay as a speaker. I use it mainly for podcasts and news so I don’t mind that it sometimes sounds muffled or heavy on lower frequencies. There’s no way to tweak sound settings via an app, which is a missed opportunity. Still, you can get various Google Home smart speakers for various rooms in the home and even cast to speakers or TVs using Chromecast devices which offer inexpensive expansion and reach.


Google Home is a demonstration of Google's awesome collection of knowledge sources, from the latest news, weather information, podcasts, music and various smart home and automation services, this is the first smart speaker that opens up a world of possibilities for Canadians.

Th best thing about Google Home is that today we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of what this impressive and potentially game-changing voice-driven conduit to various cloud-based services and technologies.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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