Is Sony’s Google Assistant speaker a home run?
If you’re not familiar, there’s fundamentally three main functions of the smart speaker: being a digital assistant, connecting the smart devices in your home and for streaming music, podcasts and radio on demand. Whilst Google Home and the subsequently announced Google Home Mini are both exceptional at the first two, the company has left the door open for third party Google Assistant speakers to tackle the challenge of premium sound quality. This is the space you’d expect Sony’s new LF-S50G to compete in, but despite looking like it could contain a bigger speaker, Sony’s offering actually directly competes with the Google Home and attempts to sway customers with other additional perks.
Sony’s smart speaker is a bigger than the coffee cup sized Google Home, a factor that is largely caused by the decidedly Apple-Home-Pod-looking grey, black or blue cylindrical mesh it’s wrapped in. This mesh is made of a water repellant IPX3 coating that makes it a little more resilient to the wear and tear you’d expect to find in the kitchen. Sony have implemented a non-touch gesture recognition system on the LF-S50G that responds to you hovering your finger over the top of the device and swiping or encircling it to change track or adjust the volume respectively. It also includes an NFC pairing module, allowing any of your Android-using friends to simply tap the speaker to take control of the music. The dimmable digital clock face on the front of the device is also a welcome addition, we just wish it could cycle through information like current temperature or notification alerts as well.
The LF-S50G is on par with Google Home in smart assistant functionality, it has microphones that considerably out range the native hardware (great for picking up commands yelled from other rooms), and even offers a few key perks to make for a better overall option in some cases.
Verdict: While the LF-S50G’s sound quality isn’t quite as good as the Google Home it excels in almost every other area and contains a number of additional perks.