Google Home is more useful the more you customize it. In the app, you can let Google know what news sources you want to use and where your interests lie, link up music apps (by default it looks for music in Google Play, but you can link up Spotify and state “Hey, Google, play XYZ from Spotify/Pandora), even let you add things to your shopping lists. If you have a Chromecast, you can also link up your Netflix, HBO, and CBC accounts, allowing you to stream them by asking the Link 20 to handle it. You can also use the app to program in your own shortcut commands, add home control devices, indicate which calendars Google Home should use, and set up which outgoing number you want to use for phone calls (I have both a regular cell number and a Google Voice number, so the app wanted to know which was default if I said “call John Doe”).
If you’re feeling especially daring or trusting of your family members, you can set up payment information for verbal orders, but we all know that way leads to a plethora of dollhouses. Unfortunately, I don’t currently have any home control devices I could ask Google to handle for me, but if/when I do I will update this review.
My one complaint about the Google Home app is that I had some difficulties with it being extremely slow during setup. It hasn’t lagged since then for me, so it was either a setup issue or Google’s services were being hit especially hard that night, but it’s worth noting that setup involved a lot of staring at bouncing multicolored shapes and hoping something was happening.
What it comes down to for me is this-I love Google Assistant and can’t stand Siri. So having the ability to talk to Google Assistant and have it still handle my calendar, help me make lists, and search the web effectively is amazing to me all by itself. Combining that with a solid, long-lasting, excellent sounding speaker just makes the whole package that much more attractive. Yes, the JBL Link 20 is more slightly expensive than the base Google Home at $199.95 (currently $159.95 on sale), but Google Home isn’t also a portable Bluetooth speaker that can get wet. If you have any need for a portable speaker and you’re intrigued by the idea of a digital home assistant, the JBL Link 20 is an excellent first step!
Source: Manufacturer provided review sample
What I Like: Loud, clear sound; very responsive to voice commands; portable and waterproof; easy to use; Google Assistant rocks
What Needs Improvement: Google Home app was slow during setup