Amazon has ruled the roost for a long time in the smart speaker space with a slew of fantastic products that cater to different needs. On the other hand, while Google was late out of the gate, it has done a great job of catching up quickly and now surpasses the competition in some regards. Both have excellent options available if you’re in the market for an affordable smart speaker. But which one is the best choice for you? We find out, as we take a look at the Google Home Mini vs Amazon Echo Dot!
The Amazon Echo Dot has a functional design with its cylindrical shape, the easily accessible buttons on top, and the large Amazon logo on the side. The four buttons let you control the volume, disable its microphones, silence any audio playing from it, like music or alarms, and activate Alexa.
Its compact size doesn’t make it stand out in a room as much as the Echo or even large Echo Plus would, but the Echo Dot looks like a piece of tech through and through. You get a bit of flair with the swirling blue LED ring that lights up when you ask for Alexa, but that’s as science-fiction-y as it gets with the otherwise plain looking device. It doesn’t look or feel cheap by any means though, just plain. In fact, the build quality of the Echo Dot certainly feels more premium than what its affordable price point would suggest.
On the other hand, Google has definitely opted for form over function with the Home Mini. Unlike the Echo Dot and its siblings that are all the same shape but with varying heights, Google has gone for completely different designs for all three of its smart speakers.
The Google Home Mini is a compact, doughnut-shaped speaker with a fabric cover on top and a plastic base. It looks a lot like a mini pin cushion if that’s something that people still use (and if you do, remember to not accidentally stick pins into the Home Mini). Basically, the point is that the Home Mini blends into any home decor, but it looks good enough that you wouldn’t want to hide it anyway.
The nice design has its fair share of disadvantages as well. You can control the volume by tapping on the left or right sides of the speaker and disable an alarm with a long press on either side. But there are no obvious markings that tell you what to do. It’s simple enough once you know what you have to do, but the Echo Dot makes it much easier. The microphone mute button is also hidden along the side next to the power cord, making it more cumbersome to get to.
Google had to disable the touchpad function to activate the Google Assistant with a long press at the top of the speaker. The only way to use the speaker for regular activities is with your voice. That’s kind of the point so it isn’t too much of a big deal, but becomes an issue when the room gets loud and the speaker isn’t able to pick up your voice, and having another way to interact with it would be nice.
Finally, the four LED’s on top light up when Google Assistant is activated, but you can’t see it unless your standing right next to it. The Echo Dot makes it easier to know when Alexa is listening to you with the blue ring that can be seen from anywhere in the room.
The Google Home Mini is definitely the more aesthetically appealing of the two. But function is prioritized with the Echo Dot and that’s what some people would prefer. The Echo Dot will stand out as a smart speaker or some form of technology, while the Home Mini blends in far better and won’t look out of place in any room. Either way, both are compact enough to be tucked away in the corner, if that’s what you want to do.
When talking about the features of these smart home speakers, what it really boils down to is a comparison between Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant, given that this is what will be the main aspect of interaction when using the two. Both can easily handle standard questions and easily perform a similar set of functions. However, there are a few differences between the two that are worth noting.
The Google Assistant allows for a more conversational style, and it has only gotten better. You can now string queries together and have it respond to all of them together. It also has some form of contextual awareness, so you can also ask follow-up questions. For example, “Who was the lead in Die Hard?” and “What other movies has he been in?” works. You also don’t have to utter the activation phrase for an immediate follow-up.
On the other hand, apart from standard questions, Alexa requires specific phrases to get the response you want, particularly when it comes to third-party skills. That said, these skills, over 25,000 of them at this point, are what make Alexa the more powerful of the two with its ability to access far more services. If you’re looking for a smart home hub, Alexa supports a lot more smart home devices as well, but Google is doing a good job of catching up here.
Then again, Google might not have such a vast array of integrations, but the clear advantage here is that Google Assistant is everywhere. If you are an Android user, Google Assistant is just a squeeze, long button press, or voice keyword away at all times.
Google Assistant does a better job with conversation, but Alexa has thousands of more commands at its disposal courtesy of third-party Alexa skills. It’s hard to realize that the Assistant and Alexa are still in its nascent stages of development, and both are going to continue to improve by leaps and bounds in the years to come.
But what it ultimately comes down to is what ecosystem you are invested in. If it is Google’s, the Google Assistant is obviously the better option. But for anything else, like Microsoft Outlook and others, Alexa offers support for more. Have a Chromecast or smart Android TV? Then get the Home Mini. Have a Fire Stick or a TV with Alexa built-in? The Echo Dot is the way to go. You get the drift.
If you are already invested in an ecosystem, the choice becomes clearer. If you’re starting from scratch, the big decision you need to make right off the bat is what ecosystem you are more comfortable with.
We’ve covered the differences between the two AI assistants more extensively in our Google Home vs Amazon Echo review and other articles, so I won’t repeat everything here. But you should definitely check that out to get a more detailed look at their capabilities and features.
Audio quality and voice
While both are similarly sized and priced smart speakers, there are a few key differences between the two when you dive into their specifications. The Echo Dot comes with an array of seven far-field microphones and a tiny 0.6-inch speaker. On the other hand, the Home Mini has just two far-field mics, but a larger 1.57-inch speaker.
Both devices do a good job of recognizing the activation keyword – “Alexa” or “Okay/Hey, Google.” Unsurprisingly, more attempts and louder shouts are required the further you move away from the speaker. Surprisingly though, I found that the Google Home Mini did better with recognition as the distance increased compared to the Echo, despite the latter featuring more built-in mics. It wasn’t enough of a difference to be a big deal but is still worth noting.
The Home Mini also has an advantage here as far as voice recognition is concerned. Google allows you to add up to six profiles and uses Voice Match to recognize who is speaking. Responses and available information are then catered to that particular user.
Neither are great, or even good, speakers when it comes to audio quality. The Google Home Mini is the better of the two though, with better sound, and less distortion at higher volumes. Keep in mind that when speaking of audio quality, I’m talking about listening to music. As far as listening their respective assistants are concerned, both speakers are good enough to get the job done.
Amazon obviously intended for the Echo Dot to be connected to external speakers to enjoy the best audio. While Google may have lofty goals of having the Home Mini be a standalone speaker, the audio quality isn’t good enough for that to be the case.
Speaking of connecting to external speakers, the Echo Dot has the leg up over the Home Mini here with the presence of a 3.5 mm audio jack. This gives you a lot more options when it comes finding a good speaker setup to accompany the Echo Dot. On the other hand, the Google Home Mini only has the option of connecting to an external speaker via Bluetooth (which the Echo Dot can also do). Even this feature was added only recently, before which users could only connect the Home Mini to an external speaker with Chromecast Audio.
If good quality audio with a standalone smart speaker is what you’re looking for, both companies, do have better, albeit more expensive, alternatives on offer. You can get far better sound with Google Home or Amazon Echo, and for a truly impressive audio experience, you will have to splurge on the Google Home Max or Amazon Echo Plus.
Both speakers are priced at $50, but more often that not, you will be able to pick them up for far cheaper. The Home Mini is priced at $35 right now, and Amazon continuously has discounts, offers, and special sales that bring the price down to around the $35 mark or lower. For example, as a part of the recently concluded Prime Day Sale, the Echo Dot could be yours for just $30. If you’re willing to wait a little bit, you will be able to get either of the speakers at a decent discount.
Which should you get?
There you have it for this quick look at the Google Home Mini vs Amazon Echo Dot! The Home Mini is the better looking, but the Echo Dot has the lead on ease-of-use and functionality. The former is a better standalone speaker, but neither are particularly great in the audio quality department. The Google Assistant is nicer to talk to, but Alexa has had a couple of years under its belt to build up a wonderful ecosystem of third-party skills and supported smart home devices.
That said, Google may have been late to the party, but is doing an excellent job of catching up, and even surpassing, the competition in many aspects. Both speakers have their fair share of advantages and disadvantages when compared to the other. But the choice ultimately boils down to personal preference and which ecosystem you are or want to be invested in.
Do you own either of these devices? Why did you pick one over the other? Do share your thoughts in the comments section below!