What is Google Home? And What Are Max and Mini?

What you need to know about Google Home, Google Home Max and Google Home Mini

Google Home Smart Speaker Line
Google Home Smart Speaker Line. Image provided by Google

Google Home is a series of "smart" speakers you place around your home. They can play music, answer questions, and, with the right additional hardware, control parts of your home. They work by using a combination of artificial intelligence (AI), software, and hardware.

The speakers come in three sizes, but you only have to buy one to get started.

There are Three Kinds of Google Home Products

The Google Home product line should probably be called the Google Home Trio because there are actually three Google Home smart speakers to choose from: Google Home, Google Home Mini, and Google Home Max.

All three devices can work together and include:

  • Built-in Voice Control using Google Assistant. All units have built-in microphones and speakers.
  • Built-in Dual-band Wi-Fi is provided for internet/network connectivity. However, there is no wired Ethernet network/internet connection option provided.
  • Google Home Smart Speakers come with an AC power adapter and detachable cord – they do not run on battery power.

Google Home

The original speaker, Google Home, comes in white, but the speaker grill is detachable with several optional colors. The Google Home unit measures 5.62-inches (Height) x 3.79-inches (Diameter) and weighs 1.05lbs.

  • In addition to voice control, there is an onboard control for volume up/down, which can be accessed by touching and rotating your finger on the top surface of the unit. If you want to turn the mics off, there is a push-in microphone on/off button on the rear side of the unit.
  • There are two microphones located around the top edge of the unit provided for voice recognition. The microphones are always on (unless purposely turned-off), even when music is playing. This means that can give voice commands while listening to music.
  • Dual 2-inch stereo speakers and dual 2-inch passive radiators are provided for music playback, Google Assistant voice responses, and audio support for phone calls. There are no provisions for physically connecting additional speakers, but the Google Home can stream music to other Chromecast devices.

    Google Home Mini

    The Google Home mini looks like a small flying saucer with a fabric top. It comes in white, but the fabric top is detachable with optional color schemes. The Google Home Mini measures 1.65-inches (Height) x 3.86-inches (Diameter) and only weighs about 6 ounces.

    • Onboard control for volume can be accessed by taping the left side (volume down) or the right side (volume up) of the unit. If you want to turn the mics off.
    • There are microphones under the fabric over. They can be turned off using a switch located on the right front of the base.
    • The Google Mini has single 1.6-inch diameter speaker housed beneath its fabric cover which projects sound up and out in a 360-degree pattern.
    • The Google Mini can't connect to an external speaker but can stream music to other Chromecast-enabled devices.

    Consumer Alert: Early review samples of the Google Mini exhibited a glitch that allowed it to listen and record private conversions without the knowledge of the user. As a result, Google has issued a firmware update for units made during that period that disabled the onboard top control buttons of the Google Mini, which is where the problem originated. Voice control functions can still be used normally.

    According to Google, this issue only affected pre-sale review samples, but if you purchase one and are suspicious, contact Google Home Support at 1-855-971-9121, and you will be eligible for a replacement unit.

    Google Home Max

    The Max is the largest Google Home smart speaker, and provides all of the functionality of both the Google Home and Google Home Mini units but is designed for those that also desire a high-quality music listening experience.

    The Google Home Max comes in white, but the speaker grill is available either Chalk and Charcol. The Max is substantially larger than the Google Home and Mini units, measuring 7.4-inches (Height) x 13.2-inches (Width) and 6-inches (Depth).

    The Max weighs 11.7 lbs.

    • Onboard volume level can be controlled by tapping either the left side (volume down) or right side (volume up) of the unit.
    •  Built-in microphones are included for wide far-field voice detection even when across the room or when music is playing. There is a mic off switch.
    • There are two 4.5-inch woofers and two .7 diameter tweeters provided for stereo music playback, Google Assistant voice response, and phone calls.
    • The Google Home Max incorporates Smart Speaker technology, allowing the Max to correct for room acoustics dynamically. Wherever you place or move the Max, using its microphones and Smart Speaker technology it will optimize to produce the best possible music listening experience, including playing at lower volumes at night and equalizing the sound for the type of content, such as music, news, and podcasts.
    • In addition to accessing music via online streaming, the Google Home Max allows connection of external sources via its built-in 3.5mm analog audio input connection.

    What You Can Do With Google Home Smart Speakers

    • Listen To Music: Google Home devices can stream music directly from Google Play MusicSpotifyPandora, and more. Another music playback option is via Bluetooth.
    • Make Phone Calls: You can make hands-free phone calls to persons and businesses throughout the U.S. and Canada (both English and French). You can call by name or phone number. However, if you ask Google Home to dial a number, the receiving phone will think that the Google Home is a private number.
    • Get Information: Ask a Google Home device any question you want (weather, sports scores, movie times, traffic, spelling, word definitions) and an answer will be spoken. If Google Assistant does not know the answer, it will tell you that also. Also, Google Assistant works with Google Translate. In addition, Voice Match allows Google Home to recognize up to six users.
    • Shopping and Service Ordering: You can use Google Home devices for shopping, ordering take-out and delivery, making restaurant or flight reservations, buying movie tickets, get an Uber ride, and other tasks.
    • Google Broadcast: Whether you have one or more Google Home devices in your house, you tell Google Assistant to have all those devices play a specific message or announcement. For example, "Hey Google - Broadcast this message - It is Dinner Time".
    • Family Link: If you set up a Google Account for your child(ren), they can use Google Home Devices, with music, information, games, and other activities specifically tailored for them. Examples include playing games, such as "Space Trivia" or reading a bedtime story.
    • Control Google Chromecast: You can use the Google Home to control any Google Chromecast-enabled device. Tell your Google Chromecast to play videos from streaming sources on your TV, or, if you have a TV with Chromecast built-in, you can use Google Home to play streaming content that the Chromecast media streamer or TV has access to. You can also pause, or turn the volume up or down your TV. Using the Google Home to power your TV on or turn it off is a feature that is expected to be added via a future update.
    • Control Your Home: You can use a Google Home device as your home assistant. It can integrate with several third-party control systems. Companies such as Logitech, Nest, Philips Hue, Tp-Lin, Wemo, Samsung Smart Things, make products that allow Google Home to control lighting, thermostats, smart plugs, switches, and some home theater devices. These options require additional equipment and pairing.

    The Bottom Line

    Google Home Smart Speakers incorporate practical features for a variety of entertainment and lifestyle tasks. Combined with Google Voice assistant technology, they offer the ability to listen to music, access useful information, make phone calls, and perform many personal and household tasks. All you need to get any Google Home unit up and running is a smartphone or tablet with the Google Home App installed.

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