Amazon and Google have been entwined in the battle for your smart home for years now – and the contest is heating up, as both companies release new flagship smart speakers within days of each other.
It’s no coincidence that the two tech giants have released new smart speakers just in time for the holiday shopping season; and with Black Friday coming up in November, there’s a good chance the Echo and the Nest Audio will be discounted – if only slightly – in the next few months.
Neither smart speaker is particularly expensive, however – and if they can deliver on the specs Amazon and Google have promised, they could be among the best smart speakers we’ve ever seen so far.
With similar prices, release dates, and designs, we can see how choosing between the Amazon Echo (2020) and the Google Nest Audio could prove challenging.
That’s where we come in. While we’re waiting to test the smart speakers out for ourselves, we’ve taken a good look at the specs on offer, to give you a better idea of which speaker could be the best option for your needs.
- Amazon Echo (2020): everything we know so far
- Google Nest Audio price, release date, and features
Price and availability
Both smart speakers will be available very soon; the Amazon Echo (2020) will be released on October 22, though you can preorder the fourth-gen smart speaker now.
It will set you back $99.99 / £89.99 / AU$149, which is the same price as the previous Echo was when it launched in 2019.
Meanwhile, the Google Nest Audio will be released on October 5 (October 15 in the UK), and like the Echo, it’s also already available to preorder from the Google Store.
Funnily enough, it costs exactly the same price as the new Echo, and also hasn’t seen a substantial price increase compared to its predecessor, the Google Home.
Both the Amazon Echo (2020) and the Google Nest Audio are being launched ahead of Black Friday, which means older Echo and Nest models could be heavily discounted during the sales season.
Before that though, we have Amazon Prime Day – and you can be almost certain that its older Echo speakers and devices will drop in price substantially.
Let’s start with the new Amazon Echo – it features a dramatically different design to any of the previous Echo speakers, with a spherical build that looks somewhat like a soccer ball.
Amazon hasn’t completely lost the old Echo aesthetic, however; the new Echo still features a wraparound fabric grille, and the iconic Alexa light ring has now been moved to encircle the base of the speaker.
As with previous Echo speakers, you’ll find the controls on the top, including an Action button, volume buttons, and a button to turn the microphone off (handy if you’re concerned about Alexa eavesdropping).
Around the back of the smart speaker is a power port and a 3.5mm AUX line in / out, so you can connect your device to it physically or hook it up to another speaker to boost the audio performance.
It measures just over 13cm high (about 5 inches), and comes in three colors: Charcoal (dark gray), Glacier (white), and Twilight Blue (blueish-gray).
With a minimalist look, sleek lines, and wraparound fabric grille, the Google Nest Audio actually sports a fairly similar aesthetic to the new Echo – albeit with a loaf-shaped build. It’s interesting that both companies have opted to simplify the look of their flagship smart speakers, though the Nest Audio comes in a wider range of colors (in the US, at least).
Underneath the fabric grill is a row of four LED lights that glow as you interact with the smart speaker’s onboard voice assistant – just like the Echo light ring changes color as you interact with Alexa
On the back of the speaker you'll find a physical switch that allows you turn off the microphone, as with the new Echo – however, there’s no 3.5mm audio port, which means any connection with other speakers will need to be done wirelessly.
Without testing the new smart speakers for ourselves we won’t be able to make a true assessment of the sound quality on offer; however, we can take a look at the hardware within and make a few guesses as to how they will perform.
Both the Amazon Echo and the Google Nest Audio are said to have significant improvements over their predecessors.
According to Amazon, the 2020 Echo can automatically adapt to the acoustics of your room, and has a soundstage inspired by its best-sounding Alexa speaker, the Echo Studio.
That’s thanks to a 3-inch neodymium woofer, dual-firing tweeters, and "Dolby processing that delivers stereo sound with clear highs, dynamic-mids, and deep bass".
We’re interested to find out how that spherical design affects the soundstage of the new Echo, though there’s been no mention of 360-degree audio like the Apple HomePod offers.
As the name implies, the Google Nest Audio seems to have the most robust sound software onboard out of the two speakers, with a 19mm tweeter and 75mm mid-woofer.
Google describes the sound of the Nest Audio as "full, clear, and natural", while the custom-designed tweeter "allows each musical detail to come through".
You can pair two Nest Audio speakers for stereo sound – or if you have different Google Assistant speakers like the Nest Mini, you can hook them up to the Nest Audio for wireless multiroom music playback.
Like the Amazon Echo (2020), Google’s latest smart speaker can adapt its sound to its environment, thanks to Google's Media EQ feature, which "enables Nest Audio to adjust based on the background noise in your home, raising the volume so you can hear Google Assistant", as well as adapting to the content you're listening to (music, podcasts, audiobooks, etc).
Smart home connectivity
As smart speakers, the Amazon Echo (2020) and the Google Nest Audio are both capable of controlling your smart home devices, which means they can do everything from turning off your smart lights to locking your front door.
The range of smart devices that each speaker works with varies, though Amazon may have the edge in this respect. The Echo (2020) works with a huge range Zigbee-compatible smart home devices, and supports Amazon Sidewalk Bridge technology – allowing it to double up as a smart home hub.
While Google boasts a range of Nest devices that can be controlled with the Nest Audio, it doesn’t have the same flexibility as the new Echo – it’s possible that Google will announce Zigbee-compatibility in the coming days, but nothing has been confirmed.
The inclusion of Amazon Sidewalk compatibility also means that the Echo can communicate with smart devices in areas of your home that suffer from Bluetooth or Wi-Fi 'blank spots', thanks to its use of the 900 MHz spectrum.
Both the Amazon Echo and the Google Nest Audio come with Bluetooth 5 connectivity, so you can pair them with your smartphone or tablet for easy music playback.
Meanwhile, the Nest Audio has the addition of built-in Chromecast, which means you can use the speaker to control compatible TVs, playing shows and movies using your voice alone.
Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are largely equally-matched when it comes to things they can do, which includes everything from answering your general knowledge questions, to creating events in your calendar.
Still, Amazon speakers do benefit from Alexa's large range of third-party Skills, which allows you to do things like order pizza from your favorite restaurant with your voice alone.
According to Amazon, the new Echo comes with some Alexa improvements, including "2x faster voice processing", and a more natural-sounding voice assistant.
That’s thanks to the Echo’s AZ1 processor – however, that feature is only coming to the US to start with, while a global rollout is still to be confirmed.
Both voice assistants come with new family-friendly features. Alexa now has Voice Profiles for Kids, which allows the voice assistant to automatically change its responses to be kid-friendly when it recognizes a child's voice is speaking to it.
Meanwhile, Google Assistant has been given a new feature called Family Bell. According to the company, it lets you "add bell reminders throughout the day that announce when it's time to start an online class, settle in for reading time, have a snack, or even for bedtime".
Without testing either speaker, it’s hard to say whether the Amazon Echo (2020) or Google Nest Audio is the best performer – and which speaker offers the best value for your money, especially as they cost the same.
Judging from the specs, it seems like the new Echo is designed with easy smart home connectivity in mind, while the Nest Audio – as its name suggests – is all about the sound.
In any case, it’s clear that both companies are seeking to address shortcomings with their previous smart speakers – and both have landed on dramatically different designs as a result.
We can’t wait to test them out for ourselves, and we’ll be updating this article as soon as we do – in the meantime, be sure to check out our guide to the best smart speakers for the top models you can buy today.