Google now has four devices in its Google Home line-up: the original Google Home (retail price £129), the Home Mini (£49), the Home Hub (£139) and the Home Max (£399). Each works independently of its siblings, but you can also combine any or all of these devices for mutli-room audio and broadcasting functionality.
If you're looking to buy your first smart speaker, Google Home Mini is a great choice. It does almost everything the more expensive models do, but with a smaller speaker also benefits from a lower price.
Step up to the standard Google Home if you want louder, better-quality audio, and if you're a true audiophile the Max is better still in this regard (but will be overkill - and overly priced - for most users).
Meanwhile, the Hub offers the most feature-complete service, with an integrated 7in display on which Google Assistant can show as well as tell (though it's not the only smart display), and play photo slideshows or function as a clock in standby mode. Of course, every Google Home device can tell you the time when asked, and we think Home Hub's audio quality is below that of even Google Home Mini (which is actually surprisingly good for such a tiny device).
(It's worth pointing out that you can set up various parental controls that restrict what your kids hear - and now see on Home Hub's display - using Digital Wellbeing content filters.)
The one feature all four share is the most important of all: Google Assistant. This is the company's smart voice assistant, and the equivalent to Amazon's Alexa, Microsoft's Cortana, Samsung's Bixby and Apple's Siri. We find it the most accomplished of all, able to understand a natural, conversational tone and the most likely to be able to give you an answer to the most random of questions.
(Also see: Best smart speaker deals)
What does Google Assistant do?
We're getting to the stage now where it's not a question of what can Google Assistant do, but what can't it do. If you have an Android phone, chances are you've already tried Google Assistant (it's available as a free download from the Play Store), but you'll find it works much better - and is more comfortable to use - in a home environment.
For many people the chief task of Google's Home speakers is to play music. You can tune into internet radio stations, or listen to anything available on Google Play Music, YouTube Music Premium or Deezer Premium+. If you don't subscribe to these services there's also Spotify Free, or you can access playlists stored in the free version of Google Play Music. All Google Home devices also function as Bluetooth speakers, so you can stream music directly from your phone, tablet or laptop.
If music is the be all and end all for you, Google Home Max is best for this task. It's followed by the standard Google Home, then the Google Home Mini, and lastly Google Home Hub. If you're not all that fussy a listener then any one of the range will do.
Controlling other smart home devices, such as smart lights and heating, is another common use for Google Home. All four can control any device that is compatible with Google Assistant, but Home Hub is most useful if you have a number of said devices since it allows you to control all from a single dashboard as you can in the Google Home app. For smart services that are not directly compatible with Google Assistant you can often find a workaround with IFTTT.
Gleaning information about your day ahead, whether that be calendar appointments, journey times into the office, weather alerts or news bulletins, is another common feature across the range, best accessed with the term "Okay Google, Good morning". If you want to see and hear you need Google Home Hub, but otherwise any Google Home device can tell you what you want to hear.
Google Assistant also lets you place free calls to anyone in your contacts book over Wi-Fi. These are simply voice calls, because while Google Home Hub has a display it does not have a camera - you will be able to see the video feed from your recipient if you specifically place the call over Google Duo, but they won't be able to see you.
This is merely scratching the surface of what Google Assistant can do, with so many other tasks achievable with a single voice command - we're always discovering new functionality, and it's often very much the case that you don't really know until you ask.
The Assistant can answer mathematical questions or any general search query that you might enter into a web browser, it can find local restaurants and cinema times, it can set timers, alarms and reminders, and it can even play games and tell you stories and jokes. Here are some funny things you might want to ask Google Assistant.
Should I buy now or wait for v2?
Google releases new hardware only once per year, and usually at the beginning of October. That means we're not expecting to see a Google Home 2, Google Home Mini 2 or updated versions of the Hub or Max until October 2019 at the earliest.
What does often happen is Google rolls out software updates - usually in the US first, but later arriving in the UK and elsewhere. Sometimes these are announced at Google I/O, a developer conference traditionally held in May/June. These updates will be added to your current Google Home device, so there's no need to hold off for an updated model.
Google Home vs Mini vs Max vs Hub Specs comparison
|Google Home Mini||Google Home||Google Home Hub||Google Home Max|
|Audio||40mm driver||2in driver and dual 2in passive radiators||Full range speaker (80dB SPL @ 1KHz)||2x 4.5in high-excursion dual voice-coil woofers, 2x 0.7in custom tweeters|
|Display||No||No||7in LCD touchscreen||No|
|Extras||None||None||Ambient light sensor||Ambient light sensor, orientation sensor, Smart Sound, Chromecast built-in|
|Connectivity||Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1||Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0||Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2|
|Ports||Micro-USB||DC||DC||AC, USB-C, AUX|
|Colours||Chalk, Charcoal, Coral||Chalk (other colours sold separately)||Sand, Aqua, Chalk, Charcoal||Chalk, Charcoal|
Best Google Home reviews
- Reviewed on: 12 July 2018
Mini but mighty is the only way to describe this affordable smart speaker from Google. Thanks to the inclusion of Google Assistant it's packed with functionality, and despite its diminutive size the audio is surprisingly good.
It's priced low enough to appeal to those looking to try a smart speaker for the first time, and it's ideal for those who wish to pair it with other Google Home devices in order to stream audio and broadcasts all around the home. While the more expensive Google Home devices might feel at home in the kitchen or lounge, Google Home Mini is ideal for the bedrooms.
Audiophiles aren't going to be impressed by Google Home Mini's reproduction of lows and mids, but we're not all audiophiles. Many users will be quite satisfied with its highs, and for everyday conversing with the Assistant the 40mm driver is adequate. Now that you can connect a Bluetooth speaker, there's a workaround for this in any case.
Read our Google Home Mini review.
2. Google Home
- Reviewed on: 12 July 2018
The original and standard Google Home is arguably still one of the best, carefully balancing decent audio quality with great functionality to achieve an incredible price.
It's true that it now sees competition within its own home, with Google Home Max besting it on sound (at a much higher price), and Home Hub adding a display but sacrificing audio quality. Google Home Mini is cheaper too, but if you love the Mini this is the device you'll want to buy next.
Google Home answers all our questions, keeps us entertained and up to date, and even turns on and off our lights. It is quite literally one of the best and most exciting talking points our home has seen.
Read our Google Home review.
- Reviewed on: 22 October 2018
It might not be flawless but we feel Google's Home Hub with Google Assistant inside is the best all-round option for a smart display so far. It's an affordable price and the compact, stylish design will ensure it fits almost anywhere in your home.
There might not be a camera and audio quality isn't the best, even within Google's own line-up, but this is reflected in the price.
What Home Hub does have is an excellent screen on which Google Assistant can show as well as tell. You might find it a little too small for some rooms (we'd like to see a 10in model), but it generally works very well for all manner of tasks including streaming music, watching video and simply providing useful information.
Read our Google Home Hub review.
- Reviewed on: 19 September 2018
If you're looking for a smart speaker with the biggest sound, the Google Home Max delivers in bucket loads. This this is a huge speaker with more power than you'll know what to do with.
It's perfectly capable a fueling a house party on its own, never mind getting two for a stereo pair. It's on a similar level to the Sonos Play:5, but with the addition of smart functionality through Google Assistant.
It's big and it's expensive compared to other smart speakers, however, so if you're looking for a cheaper option that's just as big on sound consider the Play One.
Read our Google Home Max review.