Why was my pillow glowing? It took me a couple of minutes to figure out the answer to this mystery, an answer that was quite obvious in retrospect. In my defense, it was late and I was tired -- which is why I was trying to sleep on said pillow in the first place before noticing the glow. When I finally realized the answer, I glared at the culprit -- the iHome iGV1.
iHome's Google Assistant-equipped alarm clock performs almost all of the usual tricks of a first-party Google smart speaker like the Google Home (third-party speakers such as this one still can't make calls). It sounds pretty good when playing music. The mics accurately pick up and respond to your voice commands. I like the aesthetic, which combines the look of the Google Home with an alarm clock face.
All that considered, the $140 price is too steep, given that the iGV1 only really adds a digital time display to the normal smart speaker formula -- a Google Home Mini has all the same smarts for $50. The display might make it worth it for some. It also shows the time of any upcoming alarms. But aside from the high price, it commits one cardinal sin that prevents me from recommending it -- even at its dimmest setting, it's too bright for a darkened room.
If you're looking for a smart alarm clock and don't mind a gentle glow, the iHome iGV1 fits the bill. The physical snooze button does come in handy when Google Assistant is trying to wake you up and you want a few extra minutes of sleep. I've never liked asking for snooze time with a voice command.
When you're not trying to sleep a little longer, you can use the snooze button to adjust the brightness of the display. Press it to scroll through five different levels, or even turn it off entirely.
The iGV1 also has a USB port on the back if you want to charge your phone while you sleep. It has buttons to skip tracks if you're playing music. You can also mute the microphone, activate Google Assistant, turn on Bluetooth pairing mode, and adjust the volume with buttons on the top of the device.
For the most part, you interact with the iGV1 using your voice -- just as you would with a Google Home smart speaker. You even set it up using the same Google Home app. Once you connect it to your Wi-Fi, say the wake words for Google Assistant -- either "Hey Google" or "OK Google" -- and you can issue a wide variety of voice commands. You can search the web, check your calendar, control your compatible smart home devices, tell the iGV1 to play Netflix on your Chromecast-enabled TV, or any of an increasing number of tasks that Google Assistant can perform.
The iGV1 heard my voice commands from across the large great room at the CNET Smart Home. It even heard me through a single closed door, so the mics should be more than up to the task of hearing you throughout your bedroom.
The audio quality matched the similarly sized $130 original Google Home. The iGV1 can sound a little muddier at max volume than the Google Home, but it also produces deeper and fuller sound. That puts the iGV1 in a league above the Google Home Mini but still expectedly well below premium smart speakers such as the $400 Google Home Max.
The iGV1 won't replace your stereo system, but it will sound fine for background music in your bedroom when you're trying to get moving in the morning. You can also pair it with other Google Home speakers for synced playback.
You can buy the iHome iGV1 Google Assistant Bedside Speaker System from Bed Bath and Beyond as well as via the company's site for $140. It's only available in the US and Canada for now, but iHome is working on a European model for 2019. (The US price converts to roughly £110 and AU$190.)
If the glow of the numbers doesn't bother you, you might find the iGV1 fits nicely on your nightstand. You can also turn the clock off entirely if the glow is keeping you awake, but I'm not a fan of that solution, as you lose the advantage of the iGV1 over an ordinary smart speaker without that display. I also like being able to check the time if I wake up in the middle of the night.
I compared my ordinary alarm clock with big red numbers to the iGV1 at its dimmest setting. I saw the red glow on my hand for roughly the same distance as the discernible blue glow from the iGV1, but iHome's dimmest setting will actually illuminate the dark corners of a room. My ordinary alarm doesn't cast any light beyond the roughly foot-wide range of that red glow. The iHome iGV1 can even function as a nightlight.
A dimmer setting would have been nice, but ideally, the iGV1 would automatically set the display brightness based on the ambient light in the room. Google's smart displays such as the Google Home Hub do this.
Aside from the limited brightness options, the mute button has a strange lag. Sometimes a full second or two would pass between when I pressed that button and Google announcing the change was completed. The lag is mostly a minor issue, but it was especially disconcerting when I first discovered it. I would hit the button multiple times, toggling the setting as I didn't realize the first press was received and still being processed.
If you want a smart alarm clock and don't mind it doubling as a nightlight, the iHome iGV1 Google Assistant Bedside Speaker System sounds good playing background music and reliably picks up your voice commands. Given that iHome's similar alarm clock equipped with Amazon's assistant Alexa is only $100, I'm disappointed that the iGV1 costs $140. For $10 more, you can get the Google Home Hub which features a helpful touchscreen display along with adaptive brightness. The iHome iGV1 is competent and helpful, but it's too bright and expensive for me to recommend it.