The Google Home smart speaker is the search giant's answer to the Amazon Echo, and the new Home Mini its answer to the Echo Dot. Instead of Alexa, each boasts the considerable capabilities of the Google Assistant -- just say "OK Google" or "Hey Google" to activate it, then give it a question or command.
Aside from streaming music, Google's smart speakers work with a number of third-party services and smart-home gadgets, letting the Assistant turn your lights off, check on your laundry cycle, control your home's sprinklers and all sorts of other nifty tricks. Click through to take a look at everything they can do.
First up: audio. The Home gets an assist from Google's own Chromecast Audio streamer here -- just plug one into your existing speaker or sound setup, and you'll be able to cast audio to it using a Google Home voice command.
You don't need a Chromecast Audio in order to rock out with the Google Home. It has its own, built-in speaker for music playback, and supports music-streaming services like Spotify, Google Play Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio and YouTube.
Google Home will also work with the original Chromecast, a wireless video dongle that streams apps such as Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, Pandora and HBO Now to your TV using an Android or iOS device, or a PC, as the controller. With Google Home in play, you can use your voice as the remote -- just tell it to play your favorite Netflix show or YouTube video, then watch it fire up on the TV before you.
When we reviewed the Chromecast last year, we noted that the "lack of a dedicated remote means you always need a smartphone, tablet or PC nearby to use it," which could prove to be an inconvenience. But using voice controls via the Google Home could address this issue.
Speaking of TVs, if yours is Chromecast-enabled, you can ask the Google Assistant to show you the feed from your Netgear Arlo Pro wireless cameras, even if you don't pay the monthly fee for Arlo's premium features. It was a little hit and miss when we first tested it out, but pretty nifty when it worked!
The new August Smart Lock Pro supports Google Home, too. It's perfect for when you get into bed but realize that you forgot to lock the door -- instead of getting up, just ask the Google Assistant to lock it.
Philips Hue is another big smart home player that works with Google Home. Sync everything up, and you'll be able to turn your lights on and off, dim them up and down or change their color using voice commands.
Philips Hue sells a fairly wide range of products, including light strips, designer lamps, and these surprisingly affordable white-light-only bulbs. All of it works with Google Home, provided you're using the current-gen Philips Hue Bridge (that little square guy, there).
Samsung's SmartThings Hub is designed to connect with all sorts of smart home gadgets from a wide variety of manufacturers. It's compatible with Google Home, too, which means that you'll be able to control all of your SmartThings-connected switches and lights using spoken commands.
The Wink Hub is another smart-home control device that works with Google Home. Like SmartThings, it supports a variety of third-party gadgets -- sync it up with your smart speaker, and those gadgets get to come along for the ride.
Looking for an alternative to SmartThings and Wink? Consider Insteon, a legacy system that uses its own proprietary communications protocol and gadgets. That makes it more of a closed system, but it at least works with the Google Assistant to let you control everything with your voice. Plus, the hub is slightly less expensive than the competition.
Then there's IFTTT, a free online automation service that lets you link devices and web services that don't normally work together. Google Home has its own channel on IFTTT, letting you connect it with anything else on the platform. You can even use IFTTT to craft your own custom voice commands that do just about anything you can think of.
You can also use Google Home voice commands to control Belkin's line of WeMo gadgets, like this mini-size smart switch that turns your appliances on and off. Instead of using the app or pressing the button like a caveman, just tell the smart speaker to turn it on or off.
If you really want to get fancy, you could just swap your outlet out with this app-enabled iDevices Outlet. The Google Assistant can turn anything you plug into it on and off -- no extra plug-in gizmo needed!
If you'd rather automate a plug than hardwire a switch, Leviton makes one of those that works with Google Home, too. Just tell the Google Assistant to turn anything you plug into it on or off -- lamp, space heater, desk fan, you name it. Or, get this lamp-specific dimmer model to dim your living room Tiffany lamp nice and low.
Earlier in 2018, LG announced that its entire lineup of Wi-Fi-equipped "SmartThinQ" appliances will work with the Google Assistant. That includes the LSXC22436S Side-by-Side fridge, one of our top-reviewed models. Aside from pinging your phone if your kid ever leaves the door open, you can ask the Google Assistant to adjust the temperature inside, or to tell you if the water filter needs replacing.