Google Home vs Mini vs Max: Which Should You Buy?

With the launch of the Mini and the Max, there are now three Google Home devices from which to choose. From controlling dozens of smart home gadgets and planning your day to rocking out, which is the best for your needs? We take a look at all three speakers to see where each excels, and where each would fit best in your home. We'll also take a look at some third-party speakers that also have Google Home built in.

What Google Home Can Do For You

Similar to what the Amazon Echo does for Alexa, a trio of Google Home devices deliver Google’s virtual Assistant straight into your home. This voice-powered assistant can do such things as tell you the day’s news and weather, read off your calendar, and tell you how long it’ll take you to get to work. Unlike Alexa, Google Assistant can be trained to learn different voices, so it can tailor its responses to whomever’s talking.

The Google Home devices also provide an auditory interface for other smart home devices, such as lights, locks, and plugs. While not as extensive as those that connect to Alexa, the list of Google Home-compatible devices is growing.

Lastly, Google Home can be used to control TVs running the Android TV operating system, as well as Chromecast devices, so you can simply say “Ok Google, play YouTube,” and the app will show up on your TV.

These are just some of the things you can do with Google Home. For more information, check out our Google Home Setup Guide, as well as our list of the Best Google Home Commands.

Best Overall

Google Home

(Image credit: Future)

Google Home

Best Overall

SPECIFICATIONS

Speakers: One 2-inch driver and dual 2-inch passive radiators | Ports: power | Wireless: 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5Ghz) Wi-Fi | Size: 5.6 x 3.8 inches (diameter) | Weight: 1.1 pounds

Reasons to Buy
Integrates with your Google tools
Controls Google Cast-enabled devices
Booming bass
Reasons to Avoid
Limited add-ons at this point
Lacks balanced sound, especially on vocals

The original Google Home delivers better sound than the Mini, which makes it a better device for those looking for a smart speaker that can be used to host an impromptu party. The vase-like design of the original Home is also intended to stand out more, stylistically—especially because you can swap out its base in one of several different colors.

Unlike the Mini and the Max, the original Home doesn’t have Bluetooth, so you can’t pair it with other speakers--not that you’d want to, necessarily. At $129, it’s less of an impulse buy than the Home Mini, but is the best all-purpose choice of the three.

Best Budget Speaker

Google Home Mini

(Image credit: Future)

SPECIFICATIONS

Speakers: One 40mm driver | Ports: MicroUSB (power) | Wireless: 802.11ac (2.4/5GHz) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth | Size: 3.9 (diameter) x 1.7 inches | Weight: 6.1 ounces

Reasons to Buy
Attractive design
Inexpensive
Great audio quality for size
Can control Android TVs and Chromecast
Reasons to Avoid
Hard to see status lights from across room
Doesn't work with as many smart-home devices as Alexa
Can't pair with Bluetooth speakers and no line-out

For those looking to save a few bucks, the $49 Google Home Mini is your best best. Its small size also makes it suited for rooms where you’d like a voice assistant, but don’t want it to stand out. Still, it comes in three colors (gray, white, and coral pink), in case you do want a splash of color. While this device is the weakest, audio-wise, of the three, you can use its Bluetooth connection to pair it with more powerful speakers.

Best-Sounding

Google Home Max

(Image credit: Future)

Google Home Max

Best-Sounding

SPECIFICATIONS

Speakers: Two 4-inch woofers, two 0.7-inch tweeters | Ports: USB-C, 3.5mm audio | Wireless: 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5Ghz) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth | Size: 13.2 x 7.4 x 6 inches | Weight: 11.7 pounds

Reasons to Buy
Great sound
Audio-in lets you use Max as a TV speaker
Booming audio
Reasons to Avoid
Expensive
Large

The Google Home Max is meant to replace your current bookshelf speakers. The largest of the three Google Home devices, the Max has two woofers and two tweeters, can also be paired with a second unit to deliver true stereo sound. It also has USB-C and a 3.5mm audio jack (but no optical audio), so you can connect it to your home entertainment system. However, at $399 each, it’s more of an investment.

Best Portable Speaker

JBL Link 20

(Image credit: Future)

JBL Link 20

Best Portable Speaker

SPECIFICATIONS

Speakers: Two 50mm drivers | Ports: microUSB | Wireless: 802.11ac (2.4/5GHz) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2 | Size: 8.5 x 3.25 inches (diameter) | Weight: 2.1 pounds

Reasons to Buy
Powered by Google Assistant
Portable and rugged
Well-balanced overall sound
Reasons to Avoid
Can't make calls

JBL's powerful, portable speaker has a battery that will last up to 10 hours, ensuring your party can go all night long. It's also IPX7-rated, so it can survive being left outside during a downpour. In addition to Chromecast support—which lets you link it with other speakers for whole-home audio—the Link20 has Bluetooth, for easily streaming music from your phone. One caveat: you can't use it to make calls through Google Home.

Credit: Shaun Lucas/Tom's Guide, Google