Oct 6th, 2016

Google announced a boatload of new products this week, but are they worth buying? We give our quick take on the Google Pixel & Pixel XL, Google Home, Google WiFi, Google VR’s Daydream View, and the Chromecast Ultra.

Google Pixel & Pixel XL (Verdict: Maybe)

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Goodbye, Nexus. Google has replaced Google’s “flagship” line with the Pixel line, which seems to be a move away from giving the manufacturer credit in favor of having a device that more fully boasts the Google brand. The Google Pixel does that beautifully by building a solid phone inside and out, but for the launch of such a groundbreaking move, the phone lacks any groundbreaking features.

Although it packs the most powerful processor available, features one of the world’s best smartphone cameras, and comes loaded with Google Assistant built-in, you’d be hard-pressed to find a compelling reason the Pixel is a “must-have” device. If you’re ready for an upgrade? It’s definitely worth consideration, but starting at $649 for the Pixel and $769 for the Pixel XL, it’s also on the pricey side.

Google Home (Verdict: Buy)

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Take the power of the new Google Assistant, put it on your countertop, and you’ve got Google Home. The small speaker looks attractive, listens for voice commands, and is ready to answer your questions and follow your beck and call 24/7. Powered by Google’s knowledge graph, you’ll be surprised how many questions it nails right on the head, and the ability to play music on the device or cast video content to nearby TV’s is amazing.

The best part of Google Home is that it will get better and better over time. Google has already expressed their interest in helping the service learn about you, develop a personality/relationship, and understand emotion, which will in turn help Google turn their assistant into more of a conversational butler/friend than a robotic utility.

I’ve surprised some people by claiming I’m unimpressed with Google Assistant, but not because I don’t love it. I do love it , but people don’t realize their Android phones can do almost everything Google Assistant can, tucked inside a simple feature called Google Voice search (learn tips for it here). Google Home takes Google Assistant to the next level by bringing the power of Android and Google into your home, to share with the people around you, without everyone staring at their own little screen.

Google WiFi (Verdict: Buy)

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If you’ve got a house larger than 1500 square feet, chances are that your WiFi signal varies depending on where you are in the house. That sounds so old school. Plenty of options exist to solve this problem, but in an effort to ensure the smoothest connectivity experience, Google is getting in on the fun.

The Google WiFi device costs $129 for one or $299 for a pack of three. The devices should be placed so they blanket your house in signal, with each device covering a maximum of roughly 1500 square feet.

If like me, you struggle with the WiFi signal in the furthest reaches of your house, you’ll definitely want to get Google WiFi. On the other hand, before you make the purchase, you may want to call your service provider and make sure they’re giving you the bandwidth and coverage you actually deserve.

Google Home+ with WiFi (Verdict: Doesn’t Exist)

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My biggest and only gripe with Google Home and Google WiFi is that you’ve got to buy them separately. I want Google Home in several rooms in my house. I want Google WiFi in several rooms in my house. Why doesn’t Google have a Google Home Plus option that combines both of these features in a single package?

This seems like a no-brainer. Unless I’m overlooking technical limitations, I’ve got to think Google will offer a more universal solution in the future, which will be highly annoying to early adopters that have individual gadgets dotted all over their house.

Google Chromecast Ultra (Verdict: Maybe)

chromecast ultra

When the Chromecast launched it very quickly reached mass appeal thanks to its inexpensive nature (only $35) and ability to solve a fundamentally simple problem (I want to show my phone/laptop screen on my TV). I’d recommend that everyone buy a Chromecast, but I rate the Ultra a “Maybe” because it solves a problem most people don’t yet have: support for 4K video.

In addition to 4K support the Chromecast Ultra also has an ethernet port for quicker speeds. Whether or not you should buy the Chromecast Ultra depends on a few things:

  • Have a 4K TV? Buy the Chromecast Ultra.
  • Don’t yet have a Chromecast? Buy the Chromeast Ultra.
  • Already have Chromecast? No need to upgrade unless you want 4K support.

Google VR – Daydream View (Verdict: Kid’s Only)

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The Daydream View is easily the best VR Headset when compared to other affordable VR Headsets like the Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard. It’s easily the most comfortable, looks great, has a machine washable lining, and does what you’d expect.

My gripe is that budget VR just isn’t that cool. The excitement of virtual reality relies on an immersive experience and cheap solutions like the Daydream View make you feel like you’re using a vintage red ViewMaster instead of a next generation experience. If you’ve got kids or extra cash to splash around, sure, drop the $79 and enjoy the toy, but if you’re hoping for a true VR experience, save your money and buy the HTC Vive, Oculus, or Sony VR.


Do you agree with our verdicts? What new Google gadgets will you be buying?

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