Google Home

Review: Google Home

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I mentioned this in another Diary when I did a review of my new HP Envy laptop, but now I’ve spent more time when it I wanted to expand on it.

It was an impulse purchase at Best Buy. With technology, I normally read tons of articles and reviews before I buy anything. I didn’t know really a thing about it other than it was similar to the Amazon Echo. But I had just saved $200 off the laptop I didn’t expect, it was $129, and well I like technology. Into the cart it went.

Now two important notes.

1. If you don’t use a lot of Google’s products and if you don’t have some of the streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, and Pandora (I have all three) I don’t think this is the product for you. I never wanted to become a part of the Google is like everything on my computers and devices, but here we are. I have a Chromebook, and with it a TB of Google Drive space. I only use Chrome and since I do WordPress sites for a living and in a browser 24/7 doing that, I use a lot of their other services/products. I also have three Chromecasts. My phone runs their OS.

2. Clearly if you are not an audio person, this also isn’t a product for you. I am an audio person. I would listen to NPR as I work at home each day if my local NPR station was so darn “poor” they can’t even afford to purchase many of the “popular” programs. Plus I have Pandora on for at least 5+ hours a day. Google Home shines on stuff like this.

Now to the review and let me get one thing out of the way. It is really strange and/or annoying to have to use the voice command “Okay Google” before it will do anything. But of course, you got to have a prompt of some kind. Even living by myself, so nobody hears me say it, I feel strange saying 30+ times a say “Okay Google.”

It might be at this point people are saying “dude I can already talk to my phone and Windows 10 and I never do it.” Well neither do I. I’ve never understood why I would talk to my phone or computer when I have a keyboard where I know 95% of the time when I type something into each device I get the exact response I desire.

This is different. It also seems to work far, far better than talking to my phone. I might have tried it like 25 times with my Galaxy 7, just because I was curious how it worked. Well it didn’t about half the time. I would have assumed the tech was exactly the same, but with Home, and I am still getting better at all the different commands, it works almost everytime.

I can’t stress how much it shines with NPR. I always thought of NPR as shows like All Things Considered or Science Friday. Well, they have literally dozens of news briefs on just about every topic you can imagine. I love to get a five-minute overview of World News or US Politics.

Via their Google Home app you can customize the heck out of the news to get pretty much exactly what you want. So when I say, “okay Google, how is my day” and it says “hello Tommy.” Gives me the time current weather, weather forecast, (would give me traffic and drive times but I work out of my house) and then goes into news that I have selected.

As a happy note, not sure any hardcore conservatives worked on this product at Google. I am not sure there is a single news source where they can get their “alternative news.”

With that said the thing is pretty flipping amazing just for news. I think both Google with the content they are offering, and it is somewhat limited at this point, and even what I’ve found it will do, is only scratching the surface of where it will eventually end up.

Same with the streaming services. I got rid of cable years ago and have Roko units on each of my TVs. Although I think Netflix is trying really hard to make their interface easy to use, it still at times isn’t and Hulu and Pandora, well not even sure they are trying. So often it can take more time, 5-7 windows and longer searching to find a program, then I think it should.

With Google Home it isn’t even a complete sentence and I am watching the exact program I want.

But where it really shines and where I think I’ve only scratched the surface, is when you go “off script.”

Say you are listening to a news story about Trump’s meeting the Prime Minister Theresa May. Honestly I only know a few bullet points about who she is. I can say “Okay Google pause” to stop the news story and then Okay Google tell me about Prime Minister Theresa May.”

And then it does, in a ton of detail.

I can see how many folks wouldn’t care about this. Like I am an American I don’t care about Theresa May. Well I do and since folks here like information and being informed, got a feeling having the ability to do this would be as welcome as it is for me.

I could go into a ton of detail about lots of little stuff it does:

  • Use it as an alarm clock
  • Timer when you are cooking something
  • Traffic reports, including how long to get to work
  • How many cups are in a quart

This list could be endless ……

Aslo looking to add some smart technology to my household outside a few Bluetooth outlets and lightbulbs. Eye on the Nest thermostat. It will control that.

Now since I’ve talked about it is an audio device, I should talk about sound. But I have to note I don’t have the “ear” for sound I know so folks have. Back when I had actual speakers with wries I bought what I’d term “poor rich man speakers.” If you research A/V equipment you find you can spend $20,000 or a lot more for speakers. I bought the best Polk made, and well I couldn’t really tell a sound difference from my super cheap Sony speakers. So take what I am about to say with a grain of salt.

I think the sound quality is the same, although it is not as loud, as any Bluetooth speaker I have in my house. And I have a lot, and some cost a lot more than Google Home. My guess is most people that plug the thing in, and it is the size of a nice candle, will be stunned. I was.

Now the product isn’t perfect. Although I like NPR that is like their primary news source. I find that more than a little troubling, if for no other reason then I like diversity of thought. I mean Google is Google. I’d think they have the money. And also the reach, that most content providers would want to work with them. I know The Young Turks are a Youtube and streaming channel. But they produce I don’t know how many hours of content a day. They have sports and TV/movie shows. I assume many other options out there I am not even aware of. I just find it strange that it didn’t launch with more content.

Another thing is a huge issue. They did a massive update to the voice tech in their Andriod OS. Now, if my phone isn’t in sleep mode, when I say “okay Google” my phone attempts to take the command as well.

If you like NPR (I do), use the major streaming services (I do), and you have $130 to spare I think this might be the best and/or surprise purchase of 2017.

“ Okay Google” end this Diary 🙂 …..

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