Google Home or Amazon Alexa?

Jimmy the Fish
Jimmy the Fish
Just curious if any of the fine folks here have any of these home integration voice devices and wanted to know how they are. I know they can do simple stuff like play music, tell you the weather and time but aside from that, do you use it to control home functions like lighting, home theater, heating/AC? If so how easy is it to set up? How reliable is it? Do they do other stuff?

I'm kind of interested in these things but really don't know much about the practical uses.


  • uxFOOL
    GT Manager

    Mike Dunn
    Executive Producer & Editor-at-Large

  • EngineNo9
    GT Member
    I don't have one in my place, but I've used the Amazon Echo and seen them used a lot since my parents, brother and sister's family all have them.

    With the Echo there are many features built-in (like the weather, music, shopping lists, timers, etc) and there are a ton more that you can download through their app. And they are pretty good about putting out new features all the time. Here are some of the "Skills" you can download for it:

    You can also use If-This-Then-That to program your own sort of complex rules.

    My brother has his hooked up to the Hue lighting in their house (a couple rooms only I guess), and just says "Alexa, living room lights to 50%" or "Alexa, setup for a movie" and it can automatically turn things on/off/up/down. Or when he adds something to the shopping list it notifies his girlfriend.

    You can also use it to send texts or voicemail, and can even call in to it to broadcast your own voice if you set it up to do so.

    I'm assuming the Google ones can do pretty much the same things, but have no experience with them.
  • Jimmy the Fish
    Jimmy the Fish
    GT Member
    Alex Jones is pure comedy.

    Thanks for info Engine.
  • rittchard
    GT Member
    I've had Amazon Alexa since the first Echo came out. It has evolved quite a bit since then, and I now have an assortment of devices. My primary use has been for music, which led me to joining the paid Amazon Music service. This gives me access to maybe 90-95% of songs I'm interested in (provided I can remember the titles and she understands me correctly). I listen to music in the shower, in my room, while I'm brushing my teeth, in the kitchen, it's fantastic.

    I've also integrated a few lights and the Nest thermostat as well as a couple of security cameras. I used to have the TV remote (Harmony) but need to reconnect it. All of these work but have quirks, and when they suddenly don't work it can be a bit of a hassle because you get used to relying on it. When they are all working, it's like having a really modernized home. You can enter a dark room and have her bring the lights up and turn the TV on. Or when my hands are full with groceries or dishes, it's nice to just be able to verbally command the lights. At night I've grown accustomed to verbally having the lights off. Also useful are things like alarms/timers, particularly in the kitchen when cooking. Sometimes in the summer it felt too hot in my room and I'd just verbally drop the thermostat temp from my room (the only physical control is downstairs). I've also done some very simple shopping like re-ordering soap.

    With the Amazon Show, you add a video component, which is really nice for face to face calls. I don't use it that much but it's a nice feature. The video screen is a nice add in general since it will have suggestions and other miscellaneous info on display. Also cool to have it display who's at the front door, or show what's going on in the balcony, etc. If you are set up with video cameras, it's pretty handy. Of course you can do all the same things from your phone/tablet, but there's a subtle difference once you start getting used to interacting with it verbally. It's not for everyone, though, my partner just refuses to like it.

    As with most electronic devices, the more you put into it the more you can get out of it. Setting some things up can feel like more trouble than its worth, but luckily more and more things are becoming compatible. And of course there are times when she doesn't understand you or misunderstands, or hears a trigger and starts yapping and creeps you out. The tech is not fully mature, but it's definitely grown significantly in the past couple years.

    If you are a ST: TNG fan, you can change the keyword from Alexa to Computer, and you'll feel like you are in command of your own home starship. For a while I used to talk to it in a British accent and ask for tea, Early Grey, hot, which always amuses me.
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