Hands-on: Panasonic GA10 smart speaker review

IFA 2017 saw a flood of new smart speakers which look to be a big hit this Christmas. We've been ears and hands on with one of the more high-end models so here's our Panasonic GA10 review from Berlin.

Before we start, it's a shame that Panasonic hasn't chosen a nicer name for the device. Smart home products are less likely to appeal to consumers with a name like 'SC-GA10'. Sony has gone down the same route dubbing its smart speaker the LF-S50G.

One of the big questions is whether these third-party options can compete with the already popular Google Home and Amazon Echo.

Panasonic GA10 price and release date

As mentioned, we think smart speakers are going to be one of the most popular gadgets to get this Christmas so it's a shame that Panasonic won't be releasing the GA10 until 'early 2018'.

There's no price yet but it's clear that the speaker is designed to be a more premium alternative to the Google Home. Therefore we expect it to be more expensive likely coming in at around £250 which is a little more than Sony's £200 rival.

We might be wrong and we'll update this article when there's an official price.

Panasonic GA10 smart speaker

Panasonic GA10 design and build

Compared to rivals, the GA10 is a very large speaker but that's a deliberate effort from Panasonic. The smaller audio products get, the harder it is to produce good sound quality so the firm has made it the size necessary to meet its standards.

It's mostly large in height more than other dimensions so will sit on a sideboard, desk or similar just fine but a shelf on a bookcase might well be too small.

Panasonic GA10 design

The GA10 feels well-made and looks stylish with its combination of the aluminium base and fabric cover. It will be available in black or white/silver colours and isn't splashproof like the Sony S50G.

On the top of the GA10 are touch sensitive controls. The icons looks somewhat dated but it's clear and responsive – perhaps a better solution compared to Sony's rival which uses clunky motion gestures.

A row of LEDs underneath the fabric at the top of the speaker light up when you're doing things like changing the volume or talking to the Google Assistant.

Panasonic GA10 touch controls

Panasonic GA10 sounds quality and features

Audio is one of the main features here, despite the inclusion of the Google Assistant, so inside the GA10 is a front facing 8cm driver that's handling the low-end. Above this are two 20mm tweeters that are angled at 45-degrees outwards.

The result is an impressively wide and immersive sound that you wouldn't normally associate with a single speaker. You probably won't feel the need in most average sized rooms but you can link two GA10 units together into a stereo pair if you like.

Panasonic GA10 speakers

You can also use it as a regular Bluetooth speaker and there's a 3.5mm jack input on the back as another option. The GA10 can be used as a multi-room speaker thanks to Chromecast Audio and in party mode you can stream to one speaker over Bluetooth and send the audio to other compatible products.

It's hard to test sound quality probably at a tech show like IFA but Panasonic did have a small room to listen in. One GA10 had plenty of oomph to fill the space and our initial impression is that that sound quality is very good and this will be the main reason to buy it over the Google Home or Amazon Echo.

Around the back are a few ports including Ethernet if you don't want to use Wi-Fi.

Panasonic GA10 ports

Audio aside, the GA10 is a smart speaker because it has the Google Assistant built-in. This means that you can speak to the device via microphones and it can do various things for you.

You can ask basic questions regarding the weather or pretty much anything but that's just the start. Since this is a speaker, you'll often ask it to play music which it can do from a range of services like Spotify and TuneIn Radio, not just Google Play Music.

If you have other smart home products around the house, there's a good chance that you can control them with the Google Assistant. You can control Philips Hue lighting or adjust a Nest thermostat, for example.

It can't do anything that other Google Assistant speakers can, so the difference lies in the build and audio.

OUR VERDICT

If it's not too big for your, the Panasonic GA10 is looking like a great smart speaker if you're on the Google Assistant side of the fence. It's good looking and most importantly will be a good choice for those looking for higher-end sound quality. It's just a shame that it's coming after Christmas and we don't know the price.