Amazon Echo vs Google’s onHub For The Smart Home

Amazon Echo isn’t a new product, it’s been around for a while. In fact, I was invited to purchase the Echo as an early adopter for $99 and passed. Do I regret passing? Kind of.

At first Echo was nothing more than a smart wireless speaker but it’s evolving. It is now a serious home automation contender playing with everyone from Samsung’s SmartThings to IFTTT. It was integration with SmartThings that made me question my decision to turn away Echo’s initial offer. But then there’s OnHub. And now I’m torn….

Google’s been playing around in the smart home market with success. Think Dropcam and Nest. Taking a queue from Amazon’s trojan horse sneak attack, they’ve launched a similar looking product called OnHub. OnHub is a Wi-Fi router with smart home capabilities. It’s not the first of it’s kind. Almond+ has a similiar concept. But the OnHub is better, more robust… in theory…. Right now it can’t do much, but Google has promised that it was created to accept updates, improving as time goes on.

Amazon Echo is the Smart Home Winner – For Now

Photo Source: on.google.com

The Google OnHub started shipping this week. OnHub is being marketed as a wireless router but it’s clear that it is a sneak attack at automating your home. First of all, it includes the Brillo OS which is touted as an operating system for the internet of things. Second, OnHub includes a mobile app that will allow you to track multiple connected devices. The app will not only allow you to see which devices are connected but it can also help you identify which devices are eating up your bandwidth. Third, unlike other wireless routers, OnHub can be controlled from anywhere. Finally, it is described as “always improving”. This is similar to the terminology used when Echo first launched.

According to Google,

(OnHub is) designed to last, even as the way we use Wi-Fi changes. It’s built to support a growing number of “smart devices” over time because it includes Bluetooth® Smart Ready, Weave, and Thread. OnHub also automatically updates without interrupting your Wi-Fi connection so you’ll always have the latest features and security upgrades.

In total, OnHub can support up to 128 connected devices including laptops, tablets, and smart devices.

On the other hand, Echo doesn’t directly support devices. Instead, it connects to other compatible devices supported by their own hub.

Amazon Echo is a wireless speaker that no longer hides the fact that it wants to hangout with smart home devices. It works with Hue, WeMo, IFTTT, SmartThings, and more. In fact, through integration with IFTTT and SmartThings there isn’t much that Echo can’t do. Integration with SmartThings means that you can now use voice control to wake up your lights or anything plugged into a smart outlet.

From a functionality perspective, Echo is designed to be able to do more than OnHub. Not only is it a speaker but it is an alarm clock, timer, personal assistant, and researcher extraordinaire. You can ask Echo all of those perplexing questions that plague your mind like, “How tall is Mt. Everest?” or “Who sings “This is my Fight Song?” It’s surprising that Google didn’t build this type of functionality into OnHub. After all…they are Google.

 Amazon EchoGoogle OnHub
Purchase Price$179.99$199.99
Primary FunctionBluetooth SpeakerWireless Router
Speaker15 Watt3 Watt
Microphone
Memory4GB1GB DDR3L
USB Port
1x USB3.0
Ethernet Port
2 Ports
CompatibilityWirelessZigBee® (proprietary)
/Thread, Bluetooth, Wireless
AppPC, Android, Fire, and iOSAndroid and iOS
Voice Control
Learn More
Amazon Echo
Purchase Price
$179.99
Primary Function
Bluetooth Speaker
Speaker
15 Watt
Microphone
Memory
4GB
USB Port
Ethernet Port
Compatibility
Wireless
App
PC, Android, Fire, and iOS
Voice Control
Learn More
Google OnHub
Purchase Price
$199.99
Primary Function
Wireless Router
Speaker
3 Watt
Microphone
Memory
1GB DDR3L
USB Port
1x USB3.0
Ethernet Port
2 Ports
Compatibility
ZigBee® (proprietary)
/Thread, Bluetooth, Wireless
App
Android and iOS
Voice Control
Learn More

Final Thoughts

Most reviewers agree that Echo is a terrible speaker but fun to use. PCMag says that “Alexa isn’t as smart as Siri or Google Now” but even they agree that using Alexa is an enjoyable experience.

Ron Amadeo has a comprehensive review of OnHub. He agrees that OnHub was built for smart homes but overall says it isn’t that impressive as a router stating that, ” It was fast enough and seemed stable, but it couldn’t match the performance of a “real” $200 router.” Again the Verge is complimentary adding that it just works.

In the end, I acknowledge that I don’t need Echo, I want it. A solid router is a more practical investment but the home automation features are currently lacking and it doesn’t perform as well as other $200 routers. Currently, Echo is on my wish list. OnHub? Not so much.