Google Home, which has been rebranded Google Nest, is Google’s answer to Amazon’s Echo line-up of smart speakers and displays.
Rather confusingly, it currently contains smart speakers that are branded Google Home and those that are branded Google Nest, but all new products in the line-up going forward should be named Google Nest.
From the original Google Home to the tiny Google Nest Mini, the Nest Hub smart displays and the audio-pumping Google Home Max, in this article we will attempt to bring some logic to Google’s line-up of own-brand smart speakers, ranking these devices from best to – well, not worst, but not best.
We’ll help you find the best Google Home for your home – but before you buy, do be warned that Google has already confirmed it will announce a new smart speaker in a special event on 30 September.
Do also note that here we are rounding up only Google-owned devices, and the Google Assistant is also available in many other smart speakers and smart displays made by other manufacturers. In every case the Google Assistant functionality will be the same, but sound quality, build quality and additional features offered by those devices will differ.
See our separate round up of the best Google Home and Nest speaker deals.
What is the difference between Google Home and Google Nest models?
If you’re looking to buy your first smart speaker, Google Nest Mini (2nd gen) is a great choice. It does almost everything the more expensive models do, but with a smaller speaker also benefits from a lower price. You may also still be able to find at a lower price the older Home Mini, which has the exact same design but a little less audio oomph and slower processing.
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 Nest Hub line offers the most feature-complete service, with an integrated 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 the standard (7in) Nest Hub’s audio quality is below that of even Google Home Mini (which is actually surprisingly good for such a tiny device).
The Google Nest Hub Max has a larger 10in display, better 2.1 speakers, and an integrated camera that lets you make video calls, use the Hub as a security camera (with a Nest Aware subscription), use gestures to control audio playback and set up Face Match.
Each device works independently of its siblings, but you can also combine any or all of these devices for mutli-room audio and broadcasting functionality.
The one feature all 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.
Best Google Home reviews
1. Google Nest Mini (2nd gen) – Best Value
Despite the big name change, the Nest Mini is far from an overhaul of the Home Mini – though you can think of it as the Home Mini 2.
If your house is already kitted out with the originals there’s no real reason to swap them out for the newer model, as the design and functionality is basically the same. Audio has improved a lot though, if you want to use it as a standalone speaker, while a machine learning chip makes basic commands quicker to use.
The design is essentially unchanged, aside from a new Sky colour, but there is one welcome tweak: a small indentation on the back for wall-mounting, letting you easily hang the Nest Mini from any nail or screw.
So don’t rush out to grab a Nest Mini to replace an existing Home Mini. But for anyone looking to add Google to more rooms, or get the Google Assistant into their home for the first time, the Nest Mini is the new best, and cheapest, way to do it.
Read our full Google Nest Mini review
2. Google Nest Hub Max – Best Smart Display
The Google Nest Hub Max is the best smart display we’ve tested to date.
It brings a larger, more useful display as well as a camera which is far more useful than simply making video calls. It can recognise different users, be used as a security camera and supports gestures for playback.
Futhermore, the audio performance is excellent so well worth the upgrade if you want to listen to music.
Read our full Google Nest Hub Max review
3. Google Home – Best All-Rounder
The original and standard Google Home is arguably still one of the best where you can find it in stock, 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 Nest 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 full Google Home review
4. Google Nest Hub – Best Value Smart Display
It might not be flawless, but we feel Google’s Nest Hub (formerly Home Hub) with Google Assistant inside is an excellent option for a smart display. It’s affordably priced, 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, but this is reflected in the price. What Nest 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, but it generally works very well for all manner of tasks including streaming music, watching video and simply providing useful information.
Read our full Google Nest Hub review
5. Google Home Max – Best Audio Quality
If you’re looking for a smart speaker with the biggest sound, the Google Home Max delivers it 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 big and it’s expensive compared to other smart speakers, albeit now less expensive than previously.
Read our full Google Home Max review
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, Spotify, 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. If you’re not all that fussy a listener then any one of the range will do. Every model can also be connected to a Bluetooth speaker so you can take advantage of your existing sound setup, too.
Controlling other smart home devices, such as smart lights and heating, is another common use for Google Home. All six can control any device that is compatible with Google Assistant, but Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max are 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 Nest 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, or even call back to your speaker from your mobile, essentially replacing a landline. These are simply voice calls, because while Google Nest 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.
It’s also worth pointing out that you can set up various parental controls that restrict what your kids hear – and now see on Nest Hub’s display – using Digital Wellbeing content filters.
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 an updated version?
We are expecting a new Google smart speaker to arrive on 30 September 2020, so we’re now close enough that it may pay to wait just a couple more weeks to find out what’s new.
Google Nest Mini vs Max vs Hub specs comparison
Google Nest Mini
Google Nest Hub
Google Nest Hub Max
Google Home Max
Full range speaker (80dB SPL @ 1KHz)
2x 18mm 10W tweeters, 1x 75mm 30W woofer
2x 4.5in high-excursion dual voice-coil woofers, 2x 0.7in custom tweeters
7in LCD touchscreen
10in HD LCD touchscreen
Ambient light sensor
Ambient light sensor, 6.5Mp camera, Chromecast built-in
Ambient light sensor, orientation sensor, Smart Sound, Chromecast built-in
Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0
Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0
Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0
Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
AC, USB-C, AUX
Chalk, Charcoal, Coral, Sky
Sand, Aqua, Chalk, Charcoal
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