From Google Home to Nest, Google’s collection of smart home devices is rapidly expanding. Before you buy, here’s a rundown of what each gadget can do.
ByEric RavenscraftMarch 28
To compete with Amazon’s collection of Alexa-enabled devices, Google has stepped up its game with smart speakers, displays, doorbells, thermostats, cameras, alarms, locks, and media streamers. Whether you want to monitor your home when you’re away, play music while you clean, or just set a timer in the kitchen, there’s a Google gadget that can do it.
From the Home lineup to Nest gadgets, Google has built a robust ecosystem of smart home devices that has grown quite large in recent years. If you’re wondering which ones do what, and who they’re for, we break down all the details below.
The original Google Home speaker was released in 2016 as a voice-activated smart speaker that could set timers, play music, and control the smart home. Its outward appearance hasn’t changed much since then, but Google has given the underlying AI—known as the Google Assistant—a kick, adding the ability to recognize multiple voices and customize responses with your personal information, more smart home integration, and the option to use it as a Bluetooth speaker, among other things. Google Home will normally set you back $129, though it’s currently available for $99 (just like Amazon’s Echo). It stands just under 6 inches high and 4 inches wide, so it won’t take up too much space on a side table or counter. It comes in just one color—white, with a gray fabric base. Connect it to Wi-Fi and link to your devices, and you’ll be asking Google to turn on smart lights or pull up YouTube videos on your TV in no time.$99.00at Google
Google Home Mini
At $49—and frequently on sale for even less, the Google Home Mini is the most affordable smart speaker in Google’s Home lineup, and on par with Amazon’s Echo Dot. It doesn’t have the sound quality of the full-size Google Home, but you can connect it to more powerful Bluetooth speakers, if necessary. This puck-sized device is often used in conjunction with the larger Google Home for areas of the home where a smaller device will do. They can even be used to create an intercom system.$39.00at Google
Google Home Hub
Are you more of a visual person? The Google Home Hub adds a small display to an otherwise typical Google Home speaker, allowing you to watch videos, see recipes, check your calendar, or see timers and reminders at a glance. It’s among the cheapest options for a smart display, however, we found that its sound quality is lacking compared to rivals like the Echo Show and Spot. $129.00 at Google
Google Home Max
If audio quality is important to you, the Google Home Max is the device for you. The Max makes an excellent centerpiece to a home audio system or a standalone speaker; it’s an Editors’ Choice for one of the best smart speakers on the market. The only downside we could find is that it has a bit too much bass for some tastes. It also costs $300. While that’s comparable to similar high-end speakers from Sonos, it’s firmly outside impulse-buy territory.$299.00at Google
Aside from a few subtle exterior tweaks, the Chromecast hasn’t changed much since it was first introduced in 2013. The simple $35 streaming dongle lets you send audio and video from mobile apps or the Chrome browser to your TV. It doesn’t come with a remote, but you can’t beat the price. The basic Chromecast can only output 1080p video.$35.00at Google
Chromecast Ultra supports 4K output and comes with an Ethernet port so you can get a reliable connection to stream those bandwidth-heavy videos. At $69, it’s pricier than comparable 4K streaming sticks from Amazon or Roku—and those devices come with remotes and on-screen menus—but if you’re sticking with Google’s ecosystem and have a 4K TV, this is the one you’ll need.$69.00at Google
Google sells plenty of devices that connect to Wi-Fi, why not sell the Wi-Fi hub itself? Google Wifi is a mesh router system that lets you expand your home network without running long, cumbersome cables. Each hub connects wirelessly to the others, so only one needs to be plugged into your modem. We found that it doesn’t offer some advanced networking features that other routers offer, but it’s dead simple for anyone to set up.$99.00at Google
Nest Learning Thermostat
Google acquired Nest Labs in 2014 for $3.2 billion, and after some time as an Alphabet subsidiary, it returned to the Google mothership in late 2018. The smart thermostat that started it all, the Nest Learning Thermostat, is designed to learn your comfort levels and habits so it can keep your house warm or cool when you’re home, and turn your system off after you leave. In theory, it can save enough money in energy costs to pay for itself over time. If you have a complex HVAC system, the full-size Nest is for you, but some users may be able to get by with the cheaper Nest Thermostat E.$203.00at Amazon
Nest Thermostat E
The smaller, cheaper Nest Thermostat E costs far less than the regular Nest, yet it does nearly the same thing. It lacks some of the wiring options its bigger brother has, which means it’s not compatible with as many homes. However, if it works for your system—and if you don’t mind the slightly harder-to-read frosted display—then you can save some money.$169.00at Walmart
Nest Temperature Sensor
The Nest Thermostats can only detect the temperature in certain parts of your house. If you have a remote room that gets hotter or colder than usual, the Nest Temperature Sensor can relay that information back to your thermostat and adjust accordingly.
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms aren’t all that exciting, but Nest Protect at least makes them more useful. Manage alerts on your phone and even silence alarms with a wave of your hand. It’s a PCMag Editors’ Choice in this category.$111.00at Amazon
Nest Hello Doorbell
A smart video doorbell like the Nest Hello lets you see who’s at the door from your phone before you answer it. You can also pull up the video feed on smart displays like the Google Home Hub. You have to work with your doorbell’s internal wiring to set it up, which can be a bit of a pain, and a Nest Aware subscription is needed for useful features like facial recognition, but being able to see who’s visiting or delivering your packages might be worth it.$229.00at Walmart
Nest X Yale Lock
Nest teamed up with smart lock maker Yale for the Nest X Yale Lock, which brings Google’s smarts to your front door. You can remotely lock or unlock your door, automatically lock the door behind you, or see a timeline of when your door has been accessed. Unfortunately, this lock is not ideal if you want to use IFTTT or connect with other, non-Google or non-Nest devices, but if you’re deep in the Google ecosystem, it fits the bill.$279.99at Walmart
With modern smart home gear, you don’t need a security company to monitor your home. You can do it yourself. The Nest Secure is a DIY smart home security system that lets you pick and choose the components you need for your home.
The Nest Guard hub is an alarm, keypad, and motion sensor with the Google Assistant built in. Add Nest Detect sensors to monitor specific doors, windows, and rooms. Nest Tags attach to key rings to easily arm and disarm Nest Secure; just hover them over the Nest Guard hub. If your Wi-Fi is iffy, the Nest Connectrange extender is $69 (and it also works with the Nest X Yale Lock). Control it all with the accompanying app.
PCMag found that Nest Secure is stylish but expensive. While it integrates well with all of Nest’s other security-focused devices, buying everything can add up. Our Editors’ Choice is the more affordable SimpliSafe Home Security System.$399.00at Walmart
Nest Cam Indoor and IQ Indoor
The classic Nest Cam Indoor lets you monitor rooms inside your house, speak to someone in the room remotely, and even record up to 30 days worth of footage with the $10/month Nest Aware subscription. A newer model of the camera, the Nest Cam IQ Indoor includes these same features, with the added benefit of an improved 4K sensor and smarter software that can tell the difference between people, pets, and objects, and even identify specific people for you.$299.00at Dell
Nest Cam Outdoor and IQ Outdoor
The Nest Cam Outdoor is a cheaper model that gives you a live video feed of the exterior of your home. Meanwhile, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor offers those features, but with the same intelligent people-identifying software that the Nest Cam IQ Indoor offers. Both models are weatherproof so they can withstand the elements.$349.00at Walmart
Amazon’s Echo Lineup: What’s the Difference?
Wondering how Amazon stacks up? If you’re considering Alexa, here’s a rundown of what each Echo device offers.