Which is better: the Google Home Mini or Echo Dot?
These two smart speakers look alike, but there are some differences
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If you haven't hopped aboard the smart speaker train, now is as good a time as any, as there are two relatively inexpensive ones on the market today—the Google Home Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot. If you're looking for a device that can play music, give you the weather, and operate your smart gadgets, you may have been eyeballing these small-but-mighty smart speakers.
The question is, though, which one is better? How do the features compare? Let's take a look.
Both of these entry-level devices seem to be very similar on the surface, but a closer look turns up a few design differences between the two. They are of comparable size (both just shy of 4 inches in diameter), but the Echo Dot is shaped more like a hockey puck compared to the slim profile of the Google Home Mini. Also, the Echo Dot features fabric-covered sides and easy-to-see buttons on top, while the Google Home Mini’s buttons reside under a fabric covering that encloses most of the device itself, aside from the bottom.
There are a couple of differences in how each displays notifications as well. The Echo Dot has a circular ring around the top edge that can be spotted more easily from a distance than the Google Home Mini's collection of four dots on top of the speaker.
Both are really unobtrusive additions to your household decor, especially since the Echo Dot moved away from its all-plastic design with this third-generation offering. And while beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, we did find the Echo Dot had a more appealing overall design.
Advantage: Echo Dot
Sound and music
One of the main complaints about prior iterations of the Echo Dot was the poor sound quality, which is not exactly a good thing in something called a "smart speaker." In fact, it was mentioned as the biggest downside of its second generation when we tested Alexa-enabled devices. However, a large number of Amazon reviews indicate the current third-generation Echo Dot houses a much higher quality speaker than its predecessors.
After testing both, however, we found that the Google Home Mini doesn't have quite the same robust sound that its Amazon peer does.
Both can be paired with another device, such as your phone, via Bluetooth, allowing you to play whatever your heart desires. The Google Home Mini can stream free music from Google Play Music Free, YouTube Music, Spotify Free, and Pandora. It can also stream music from subscription-based services, such as Google Play Music Premium, YouTube Music Premium, Spotify Premium, Pandora Premium, YouTube Premium, or Deezer Premium—all of which allow you to request specific songs.
The Amazon Echo Dot can be linked with Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, SiriusXM, Tidal, Gimme, or Vevo. It can also seamlessly stream Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, or TuneIn. As with the Google Home Mini, some of these services require a paid subscription, but some are free (or have free versions).
There’s no lack of music service options on either of these speakers, but whatever you play will sound better on the Dot.
Advantage: Echo Dot
Both devices also have their own respective assistants: Amazon’s Alexa for the Echo Dot and the Google Assistant for the Google Home Mini. Both understand clear commands very well, even while playing loud music. (You will, however, have to speak up louder if you have your music on blast or they simply won't hear you.)
The top buttons on the Echo Dot allow you to control the volume, mute the microphone, and bring up Alexa with a simple press of your finger. This gives it a little boost on usability, simply because the buttons are easy to see. The Google Home Mini also has buttons, but they're cloaked beneath the fabric covering, so you have to know where they are (volume on the sides, mic muting along the backside).
Advantage: Echo Dot
Both of these assistants can help with smart home connectivity. While there are a few proprietary differences between the two (for example, Amazon's Amazon-branded smart devices, such as its smart plug, will only connect with an Alexa-enabled device), many smart gadgets will connect easily with both Alexa and Google Assistant. In almost all cases, you'll have to download the app to control the product, then connect it to either your Google Home environment or your Alexa setup, but once complete, a simple command will work your contraption with just the sound of your voice.
Alexa does have an edge though, simply because it has far more interactions and integrations than Google Assistant does—a recent tally notes that the number of Google actions, for example, make up only around 7.5% of the number of Alexa skills.
Advantage: Echo Dot
There isn't a true winner in the cost department, as both devices regularly sell for around $49. However, they both do go on sale on occasion, so it's a good idea to keep an eye on sales that can bring significant cost savings.
Advantage: It’s a tie
If you're already a regular user of either ecosystem, it makes sense to get the smart speaker that's compatible with services you currently use. For example, if you are a regular Amazon customer, Alexa would be a winner here for you, as it makes it extremely easy to add stuff to your Amazon shopping cart.
There isn't really a compelling reason to switch to another one from one ecosystem to the other, but if you're starting out fresh, we think the Echo Dot is the winner here.
Prices were accurate at the time of publication but may change over time.
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