Google and Amazon have now entered the home networking market with both companies releasing their version of a home automation device. Amazon calls their device the Echo and Google tagged their product as the Google OnHub, both devices are a step towards much bigger developments to come.
Both have the ability to do a number of things ranging from providing music and entertainment to connecting with multiple devices with the intention of bringing together the Internet of Things and home automation.
Google and Amazon realize that the company who can take the lead in this space has a huge advantage over its competitors, so the release of both products was perhaps a bit rushed.
There are many features that are not fully enabled yet but each device is slowly expanding its capabilities through regular updates with each passing day.
So which is device is better? Let’s take a look at both and break down what they do and do not offer.
Contents (Jump to)
At a Glance Look – OnHub vs Echo
First things first, let’s see how the specs stack up:
|Feature||Amazon Echo||Google OnHub|
|Primary Purpose||Speaker||Wireless Router|
|App Compatibility||PC, Fire, iOS, Android||iOS and Android|
|Retail Cost||(For the latest prices and discounts, check here)||(For the latest prices and discounts, check here)|
The OnHub is priced at just a hair under $200 as of this writing (For the latest prices and discounts, check here), and is designed as dual-band 802.11ac home Wi-Fi router that can handle all your home networking needs.
The design is sleek and modern looking, much different from almost any other type of Wi-Fi router you have probably seen. In its own way, it’s eye appealing and doesn’t look out of place sitting on an end table, coffee table or bookshelf in plain view.
The router has over twelve antennas, is attractive and is much easier to install than even some simple home appliances.
OnHub Features and Design
As mentioned above, the OnHub is somewhat eye appealing and Google actually put a lot of effort into designing it that way. They boast the router is specifically designed to be seen and out in plain view. This is much different from most routers that are simply black boxes with a few flashing lights.
The device is cylinder-shaped with smooth, sleek lines and no external antennas showing. It stands at just over seven inches in height and under five inches around. It’s only offered in two colors (blue or black) but that is twice as many as most routers offer, so not bad.
There is a speaker on the very top portion of the device and it has a light bar, just below and around the sides, that allows users to know the current status of the router with just a glance.
According to the router’s specifications, it can provide speeds of up to 600 Mbps and 1,300 Mbps depending on if you are using the 2.4 or 5GHz band. It has a dual-core processor, 4GB of storage for continual updates and 1GB
The antennas are evenly divided between 2.4GHz and 5GHz with six antennas each and are placed in a strategic manner for effective coverage, regardless of which band you are currently using. The device is also Bluetooth capable.
To access the available ports, you must first remove the outer shell. Underneath, you have access to a single WAN port, a 3.0 USB, wired Ethernet connection and a power connection.
The limitation in the number of ports does present some functionality restrictions such as only having the ability to connect a single wired device to the router. Additionally, the USB port is intended for recovery purposes only, so you cannot use it to connect a portable storage device or other similar devices.
Google On App
The OnHub does not currently offer a web-based app, only On App for iOS or Android. The app is free and very user-friendly with many easily accessible tips and instructions for adjusting different settings.
The user assistance and help guide features are intuitive and offer links to particular sections of the guide to help you with whatever issue you are having. The app allows you to see all the devices that are connected to the OnHub, view IP addresses, MAC addresses, device/connection status and data
Final Thoughts about Google OnHub
For people that are not tech savvy the Google OnHub is a good option for truly having a “connected” home environment with the ability to have multiple smart devices connected. The setup process is easy and the On App is intuitive.
While the functionality will certainly get better over time, the lack of a usable USB port, limited wired connections and at times less than perfect performance is a bit disappointing. However, if you want to be a step closer to full home automation then the Google OnHub is worthy of a long look.
The Amazon Echoshares the home automation market space with the Google OnHub, who is its main competitor at the moment. While the device is geared towards the same functionality as the OnHub, it was first marketed as mainly a voice activated assistant and home automation device.
It is about $20 less than the OnHub as of this writing (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) and is also designed to be more attractive than your normal Wi-Fi router.
If you have had any experience with Siri, the name of iPhone’s voice-activated assistant, then you will feel right at home using the Echo which has named their assistant Alexa. You can read my full review of the Echo here.
Echo Features and Design
It stands at 9.25 inches tall and is just over 3.25 inches in diameter, making it a good size for a mantle, coffee table or almost any place that is a focal point of the home.
It does have the Amazon logo on the lower portion of the unit which does take away some of its attractiveness, but the logo is gray and not too bold so that helps a bit.
You can control the volume of the device by adjusting a ring left or right, which is placed towards the top of the unit. On the very top portion of the unit there is a button which disables the built-in microphone and an all-purpose
A light ring around the entire diameter of the device reacts to your voice letting you know the system is picking up and processing your voice commands.
There is also a remote control with built-in microphone that is available for an additional cost. The main advantage of the remote is it can provide better responsiveness if you are in a room with a lot of surrounding noise or activity that might interfere with your voice commands to the central unit.
Much the same as using an iPhone, you simply say the voice activated assistant’s name to wake the device and begin interacting. In this case, simply saying “Alexa” does the trick and you will see the light bar and hear Alexa respond through the built-in speaker.
Alexa can help you do any number of tasks including settings alarms, making a to-do list, playing music or even keeping track of important weather updates.
The speaker on the device is certainly above average when it comes to playing music but it does not perform quite as good as some of the small speaker systems on the market such as the Bose product line.
Setting up the device and adjusting certain settings is accomplished through the Echo App. Once you download the App onto your iOS or Android-based phone it will give you easy step-by-step instructions for the initial setup process
One big advantage the Echo has over the OnHub is the app is accessible from the browser on your computer in addition to your phone. The set up is simple and once the device is connected to your home Wi-Fi network, you are ready
You can use the app to do a long list of things such as view your to-do lists, recent voice commands, set a timer or alarm, download other available voice activated Echo apps, among many other features.
You also have access to a wide range of music through the Echo App as well as help and personalization settings.
Amazon Echo Final Thoughts
The Echo’s voice interaction is a step above many other devices and your interaction feels natural with very few errors or issues. The device and the app are easy to navigate and set up with easy to learn commands to get things going for the first time.
While there are many things to like about the Echo, it does have its limitations. You cannot remove items from lists via voice command and the unit does not have a built-in battery, which means portability is not a great option most of
Amazon Echo vs Google OnHub – Final Take
There are things to like about both of these devices and there are more things to come from each as they receive updates and gain more functionality. The prices are very similar so which one will work best for you will largely be determined by the specific features that each device offers.
I think both are worth a look if you are looking to take the next step towards full home automation and get a peek at what the future looks like.
Bottom Line: Are you more of a “Google” person or “Amazon” person? If you already do a lot of shopping on Amazon (say, for regular household goods) the Echo has a clear advantage over the OnHub. It’s also a bit more refined in terms of the USP (unique selling proposition).
Personally, I’d lean more towards the Amazon Echo at this point as Google is still playing catch-up filling out their features and integrations.
Further read, Eero vs. Google OnHub
Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!