When voice-controlled home hubs first hit the market a couple years back, they couldn’t do much more than drop a track (“Alexa, play some Prince!”) and dish out random pieces of trivia (“Alexa, what year was the Cold War?”)
Boy, has a lot changed. Just a couple of short years later, these gadgets are able to turn your voice into a controller for whole home’s worth of smart devices. When paired with the right smart home products, they enable you to turn the lights on, adjust the thermostat, and even lock your front door—just by asking out loud.
The two biggest players in this space are Amazon and Google. Both company’s products do a good job of answering said-out-loud questions, playing music, and controlling other contraptions to the point where your primary deciding factor should be whether one device works with the specific smart home gadgets you happen to have. Still, the whole point of this story is to pick a winner, so there are no such easy outs for us. Our pick at the end of the day: the Google Home—if only because it’s white, flowy build is more living room-friendly than the black bar design found in the Amazon Echo ($180).
BUY: Google Home, $114; target.com
We're also loving a new feature that allows Google Home to distinguish your voice from anybody else's, allowing it to give whoever is asking some seriously bespoke info—such as how long your day's commute should take and what appointments you have for the day.
But Google should be watching its six: the upcoming Lenovo Smart Assistant hits this summer, and promises to blend access to Amazon’s Alexa voice service with decor-friendly design and highly functional Harman Kardan speakers.
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In the end, features on these devices are being added and improved on the daily, meaning this is a war that won’t have a clear winner for some time. Thankfully, most of these improvements occur in the cloud, meaning the product you buy today should be able to take advantage of tomorrow’s features.
Wins for: A living-room friendly design and an idiot-proof ability to play music or control smart-home gadgets
- It can tell which member of your household is talking and offer specific answers based on their preferences or schedule
- The service is based in the cloud, allowing it to continuously update with new features
- Colorful bases can be swapped out to match your décor
See the rest of InStyle's 2017 Best of Tech picks here.