The Sony Smart Speaker Tested

Welcome Google intro your home via Sony

We have officially entered an age where if you’re buying a wireless speaker for the home it will also be “smart”. By smart, we mean voice enabled with controls that take it to another level. Overseas we’ve seen the Amazon Echo with Alexa, Apple is bringing the HomePod with Siri to Australia and Google built their own speaker too. What we are seeing now though is these three established technologies coming in speakers made by other brands. The fact is that while Google make great software, they don’t have a track record of making great speakers. Sony, on the other hand are all about music and good audio, but don’t build voice assistants. Marry Google and Sony together and you get the LF-S50G.

The LF-S50G was announced at IFA in Berlin and Trevor got his hands on it there. It was one of the first speakers to have Google Home built in and arrived into Australia not long after Google brought their package to market. It’s around the size of a Sonos Play 1 or a very short cat scratching pole. On the outside it isn’t offensive with bright colours are whacky lights, it has a material wrap, a plastic top and a mirror finish on the bottom. What is immediately different to other smart speakers is a digital clock that shines through the material front. On the top you’ll notice the two microphone holes listening out for your commands. At the bottom is a bluetooth button for pairing to a phone for music streaming or and another button to mute the mics and stop it from listening. It isn’t battery powered so it is well suited for the bedside table or in the kitchen.

Setting up the Sony LF-S50G is rather simple, mainly because it only requires the normal Google Home app to get started. Within minutes we had it online streaming music from Spotify and we then got to work setting it up with smart bulbs. The setup process of other accessories is not as simple as we hoped but that isn’t the fault of Sony but some bugs that Google needs to iron out. Ultimately, we were able to say “Hey Google, turn the lamp on” and within seconds the lamp would come on. We could ask it questions about the weather, the traffic, the nearest fish and chips shop and even asking for the news.

There is a learning curve with smart speakers around what you can ask and the right way to ask. Asking Google to remind you to take the pie out of the oven in 40 minutes will actually set a reminder in your GMail rather than setting an “alarm” in 40 minutes which will play audio after the time is up.

Speaking of audio, the LF-S50G sounds rather good for it’s size. It isn’t going to be the life of the party but when we think about where it belongs (kitchen or bedroom) it’s actually the right size. In the kitchen it will keep you company playing music and answering your questions about “how many cups in a litre” while in the bedroom it will help you prepare for your day reading your appointments out and letting you know how long it will take to get to work in traffic, while playing your morning playlist. The microphones on the top could have performed better as we noticed we had to really raise our voices to call out to the speaker for commands. Up close it works fine but from a distance it required us to yell as though you were silencing a barking dog. Again, in the bedroom or kitchen, this wouldn’t be so much of a problem. Fit for purpose is important here.

The most impressive thing about this speaker with the latest Google Voice technology built in is that it won’t cost the earth. To own this speaker you’ll need $249 with no ongoing costs for the voice service. What will cost you money however is the addiction you may grow for building your smart home, bulbs, garage door openers, cameras etc, so many items compatible with Google including this speaker which will set you back a little. How far you take that is up to you. The Sony LF-S50G is available in stores now.

 

 

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Tech

You may have seen Geoff on YouTube where his tech videos saw millions of views or heard him while he talks tech across the radio waves. In his day job though he is an IT manager, a lover of Formula 1, great food and wine and obviously; technology.

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