Google Steps Up its Smart Speaker Game

Google announced a more powerful smart speaker last week along with along with an Echo Dot-like device designed to make its Google Assistant more accessible throughout the home.

The new Google Home Max speaker will be available for pre-order November 13, while the Google Home Mini ($49) is currently available for pre-order in advance of its October 19 release date. Google’s announcement came a week after Amazon announced redesigned Echo and Echo Plus smart speakers and introduced a new model, the Echo Spot.

Hailed as the “biggest and best-sounding Google Home ever,” the Google Home Max ($399) is larger and more powerful than the Google Home speaker introduced in late 2016. It has Google Assistant on board and combines dual 0.7-inch custom tweeters and 4.5-inch woofers in a 13.2-inch-wide rectangular cabinet. Google doesn’t disclose power specs but said it is “20 times more powerful” than the original Home.

Home Max is built around what Google calls Smart Sound, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to adapt to “your environment, your context, and your preferences.” In Sonos TruePlay fashion, the speaker automatically “adjusts for where you place Max in a room.” Google doesn’t talk specifically about compensating for room acoustics in its description of the feature — saying only “if you decide to move your speaker a few feet, it will dynamically tune itself within seconds” — but that’s presumably what happens.

Available in two colors — chalk or charcoal — the speaker can be placed vertically or horizontally and is compatible with a half dozen music services, including Pandora and Spotify. It also supports Bluetooth streaming and has an auxiliary input.

Home Max will come with 12 months of ad-free YouTube Music — available only to new subscribers who you have until February to claim it.

Just shy of 4-inches across, the Home Mini resembles a donut (without the hole) and has a fabric covering that conceals its 1.5-inch speaker and far-field microphones, which are said to process voice command seven when music is playing. LEDs under the fabric light up when Google Assistant receives voice commands. The Mini is offered in three colors: chalk, charcoal, and coral.

Claiming Google Assistant is “the only assistant that recognizes your voice, and up to five others in your home, so that you can all get a personalized experience,” Google VP Rishi Chandra wrote in a blog introducing the Max and Mini: “You can say, ‘Hey Google, good morning’ to hear about your day, including your personalized schedule, commute time, the weather and news. Soon your Assistant will be even more helpful with your daily routines. With a single command, you can control multiple smart home devices plus get information you need in the moment. So ‘Hey Google, goodnight!’ can turn off your lights, turn down the temperature, and let you know tomorrow’s first meeting.

“You can also broadcast a message to let the family know when it’s time to get a move on. Just say ‘Hey Google, broadcast it’s time to leave for soccer practice!’ and it’ll play on the other Google Home devices around the house.”

Google says it has added more than 50 new family-oriented experiences to Google Assistant, all of which will be supported by Family Link that lets parents create accounts for children under 13. The Assistant can also be used to control more than 1,000 smart home products from over 100 brands, according to Google.

For more information on Google Home Max, visit For more on Google Home Mini, click here.

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