Google Home Mini vs. Echo Dot—What's the Difference?
The Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo Dot are the top-of-the-line mini smart speakers on the market. Our shopping guide is here to help you find out which mini digital assistant is right for you.
Smart Speaker Showdown
The one thing you can count on with technology is that when a new gadget goes mainstream, manufacturers will quickly find a way to make it smaller, faster, and more affordable. The first iPods were enormous by modern standards, and they cost an arm and a leg—and the same is true for most technological marvels that have evolved over time.
Now it's the smart speaker's turn. Some people call them "Alexa devices," mainly because Amazon's Echo smart speakers were among the first to market. Some call them "digital assistants" because of all the value they bring. And if we're being technical, you'll also find them described as "voice-activated, web-connected speakers." Whatever you call them, they now reside in thousands of homes, and they're incredibly affordable—and small enough to fit anywhere.
The two biggest names in tiny smart speakers are the Google Home Mini and Amazon's Echo Dot. Amazon and Google have been duking it out in the smart speaker market for a few years now, each trying to outdo the other in terms of convenience and available services. Now they're both competing to have the smallest, cheapest, most convenient micro smart speaker around.
So, which is better? Well, the answer depends on what you want to use it for. Read on for the inside scoop on the latest smart speaker showdown and get ready to figure out which digital assistant you'll be hiring next.
Crowning the Best Mini Speaker
Editor's choice: Google Home Mini
Bottom line: The Google Home Mini delivers high-quality audio and connects users to the full range of Google's impressive services. It's a great choice if you're new to the world of smart speakers.
Editor's notes: The Google Home Mini's pebble-like design is perfect for delivering 360-degree sound, but the cloth speaker grill gets dirty easily. It works as a Chromecast device for music, so it's easy to stream high-fidelity audio to your Google Home Mini directly from your smartphone.
Bottom line: Amazon's Alexa was the first digital assistant in town, but with new competition, its limitations are beginning to show. If you already own an Alexa device (but want to extend the functionality) or have an existing speaker you want to use with a digital assistant, the Echo Dot is a strong choice.
Editor's notes: The Echo Dot's speaker produces "good enough" audio, but you'll need to connect it to an existing speaker with its audio jack if you want any bass in your tunes.
What They Have in Common
The good news is that both the Echo Dot and the Google Home Mini have a lot in common, so if you just need the basics, it's hard to make a bad choice. Here are the fundamentals that both products bring to the table.
- Voice-activation: Using voice commands to control your smart speaker is a marquee feature. In the case of the Echo Dot, you start every command with "Alexa." With the Google Home Mini, you start with "OK, Google."
- Size: Both the Google Home Mini and the Echo Dot have roughly the same hockey-puck form factor. They're designed to be discreetly tucked away, and they can even be mounted under cabinets or on walls (although the curves on the Google Home Mini make that slightly more challenging).
- Cost: Both devices retail for around $50, but they can often be found at even lower prices when bundled with accessories. Unlike a lot of gadgets, the Google Home Mini and the Echo Dot are worth every penny of their retail price, so even if you don't catch a sale, they're still an incredible value.
- Music streaming: While each manufacturer defaults to their own music service—Google Music and Amazon Music, respectively—they both support many of the same third-party music subscription services as well. The bottom line: if you've got a lot invested in either Google's or Amazon's music services, that may help you decide which smart speaker to buy, but if you mainly use Spotify, Pandora, or IHeartRadio, you can find them on either device.
- Web-enabled searches: The most fundamental thing smart speakers do—and the most fun part to play with—is searching the web for you. Want to hear what's on the Wikipedia page for duck-billed platypuses? Interested in hearing the latest headlines? With the Google Home Mini or the Echo Dot, it's all just a matter of asking.
- Wi-Fi phone calls: Both devices can make phone calls over the internet to any phone number in the U.S. or Canada. This may not seem like a big deal, but both the Google Home Mini and the Echo Dot deliver outstanding audio quality with Wi-Fi phone calls, making it a joy to call friends and family.
What's the Difference Between Google Home Mini and Echo Dot?
The Echo Dot and the Google Home Mini do have some significant differences, but it's important to distinguish between software-based functionality—which will evolve over time on both products—and physical features. Both Google and Amazon regularly provide updates to their devices, so in most cases, if one of them has a feature the other doesn't, it's just a matter of time before the other catches up.
With that in mind, these are the differences that likely won't change or evolve on either device.
Although both devices take up roughly the same amount of space, their physical designs are unique. The Google Home Mini has curved edges, which affects both its appearance (it looks like a curvy flying saucer) and its functionality. The rounded edges all have speakers, which means the Mini can produce a lot more audio out (and that's why it sounds so much better). In contrast, the Echo Dot has all its speakers on its top side, so it doesn't sound as good, nor does it get as loud. But it's not just about sound; if you're planning on mounting your smart speaker, you'll find the Echo Dot has many more mounting kits available than the Google Home Mini.
Integration with other smart speakers and related products
Both Amazon and Google have their own product suites, so it's not a surprise that they each integrate more easily with other gadgets from their own brand. For example, you can use the Google Home Mini to control any other Chromecast devices you have on your network. Similarly, you can use the Echo Dot with any Fire TV devices you have on your network. However, neither smart speaker works natively with the other's hardware family.
In short, if you already own any Google Chromecast hardware, a Google Home Mini will add functionality to both products. If your house is already outfitted with Amazon Fire TV devices, an Echo Dot is your best bet. (If you have both, buy the smart speaker you like best, and consider using it with a third-party, smart-speaker-friendly universal remote control, like those made by Logitech Harmony.)
Support for multiple users
For now, this category squarely belongs to the Google Home Mini: It can recognize up to six different voices, so your entire family can have personalized experiences. The Echo Dot can switch accounts, but it must be done with a specific command, and accounts must be switched one at a time.
So, Which One Should You Buy?
Both the Google Home Mini and the Echo Dot are great devices, and they share so many features it can be hard to know which one to buy. Ultimately, you should let your decision be most influenced by how you're going to use your smart speaker. Here are our picks for the most common use cases.
If you're a music buff
Both smart speakers are very good at streaming music, but if you're an audiophile—or you know that you'll be using yours primarily for listening to music—you'll want to consider your choice carefully.
- Our pick: Google Home Mini. The Google Home Mini's speaker delivers rich, lush audio in a way that the Echo Dot simply can't. While it doesn't have an audio output port for connecting to an existing stereo, it doesn't really need one—it can easily act as a home stereo for any room. Best of all, the Google Home Mini can stream music from your smartphone using Chromecast functionality over Wi-Fi, which results in better audio than the Echo Dot's Bluetooth connectivity.
If you're building a multi-smart-speaker setup
Smart speakers are great on their own, but they become more than the sum of their parts when used in combination with other speakers from the same brand. For example, the Echo Dot supports multi-room audio with other Echo devices, so you can have the same music playing in multiple rooms. The Google Home Mini achieves the same results using its built-in Chromecast functionality.
If your first smart speaker is just the beginning of your home empire of devices, it's important to pick the right brand for your needs.
- Our pick: Amazon Echo Dot. While the Google Home Mini definitely has a better-sounding speaker, Amazon's Echo devices were first to market, which means they work with a wider variety of third-party devices and can offer more convenience when you've got multiple units in different rooms. Many abilities are shared across the Google Home Mini and the Echo Dot, but Amazon has a few exclusives that give them a significant advantage in the multi-room audio market. Most notably, Amazon's partnership with Sonos has allowed Sonos speakers to work with commands you give to Alexa. Whether you want to add some smart tech to the speakers you already have or outfit your home with a score of smart speakers that work together, the Echo Dot is your best bet.
If you have any smart home devices
One of the best things about smart speakers is that they can control certain smart home devices. So instead of configuring and operating your smart lights, smart door locks, smart security cameras, or even your smart thermostat from your phone, all you have to do is use the right voice commands.
- Our pick: Amazon Echo Dot. Despite Google owning some of the biggest names in smart tech (like Ring doorbells and Nest thermostats), they've struggled to keep up with Amazon's domination of the compatible smart home devices landscape. If there's a smart home product out there, whether that's a smart sprinkler controller or a robot vacuum, smart speaker integration with it comes to Alexa before it comes to Google Home.