With its compact size and elegant design, Google Home, in white and grey, blends perfectly with the home decor. The cylindrical smart speaker has a capacitive touch panel on the top that can be used to control volume, play/pause music and activate voice assistant. It also has circular LEDs that indicate the volume level and glow while music is playing or when the assistant is responding to a request. There are two microphones on the top panel that pick up voice commands, and a mute button at the rear.
Google Home can be set up using the Google Home app which is available for iOS and Android; we tested it using the latter. The app automatically detected the smart speaker, connected it to Wi-Fi network, linked to the Google account, picked up the home address and even suggested to select the preferred music streaming service from among Google Music, Saavn, Gaana and TuneIn. In less than two minutes, Google Home was ready for use. Just like Google Assistant on smartphones, calling out 'Ok Google' or 'Hey Google' wakes up this smart speaker. Other than acing the basics such as time, weather, reminders or alarms, fetching schedule, news updates etc, Google Home was prompt when asked for directions, traffic updates as well as food recipes.
Foreign language translations were a breeze on Google Home. I used the speaker to control the Netflix and YouTube apps on Chromecast. Google Home can also be used to control smart appliances - I was able to pair the Philips Hue smart bulb with this speaker using the Google Home app. Once done, Google Home could turn on/off the light, change colour, adjust brightness and more with my command.
There is one area where Google Home doesn't quite hit a home run - sound output. Don't expect exceptional sound quality while playing music. The Google Home smart speaker definitely looks much better than the Amazon Echo, but its ecosystem is not as evolved. Having said that, Google will catch up as more IoT-enabled gadgets start coming in.