When one product is better in one aspect, but it’s competitor is stronger in another, the easy answer is to recommend both. You might want a Sony TV in your home theater, for instance, but Anthem’s A/V receiver, Bowers & Wilkins’ speakers, and a subwoofer from SVS. Well that dog won’t hunt when it comes to smart speakers, especially if you’re looking to control your smart home. No one wants to remember one wake word to turn on a light, a second to stream music, and a third to lock the front door.

With this in mind, I evaluated the two most popular smart speakers—Amazon Echo and Google Home—using seven important criteria, but giving smart home control the heaviest weight. If you can’t stand the suspense, my current opinion is that the Amazon Echo series is superior to the Google Home series. Read on to find out why.

Round 1: Smart home control

Winner: Amazon Echo. For me, this is the most important criterion of all. And for reasons Google still hasn’t explained to my satisfaction, controlling many smart home systems is a two-step process with Google Home. When I use Google Home to control the Vivint smart home system installed in my own home, for example, I must say “OK Google, tell Vivint to turn on the kitchen light.” Google Home responds, “Sure, here’s Vivint.” And then a different voice coming from the Google Home says “OK, turning off your kitchen light.” The action is invariably performed before the second voice stops speaking, but having to preface every command with “tell Vivint” just doesn’t feel natural—I don’t want a constant reminder that I’m talking to a machine.

With the Echo, I just say “Alexa, turn on the kitchen light.” Alexa responds “OK” as the light goes on. That’s the way it should be.

That said, don’t buy an Amazon Echo Plus because it’s the only smart speaker on the market to incorporate a smart home hub. The Echo Plus is limited to controlling ZigBee devices in a market that has yet to settle on a single standard—you’re just as likely to want to purchase a smart home device based on Z-Wave technology.

You’d be better off buying a smart home hub like SmartThings or Wink if you’re the DIY type. Or you might look into a cloud-based system with professional monitoring, such as Frontpoint Security, another system I have personal experience with. If you’d prefer to have someone else to do the work, but can’t afford a big-ticket system such as Control4, take a look at ADT Pulse, Comcast Xfinity, or Vivint Smart Home.

Round 2: Audio performance

Winner: Google Home. I haven’t heard the Google Home Max yet, but none of Amazon’s speakers have impressed me with their sonic prowess. The Google Home series is also the better choice for building out a multi-room audio system. The Alexa-compatible Sonos One greatly complicates this decision—no one makes a better multi-room audio system than Sonos, in my book—but that’s not fair to Google because the Sonos One is a third-party product.

But if you’re already vested in the Sonos ecosystem, you can add voice control to it with a single Sonos One. You can then control every Sonos component in your home by issuing voice commands to the inexpensive Echo Dot. I have Sonos components—not  speakers in every case—in my master bedroom, in my home theater, my great room, and even in my garage. And I can control all of them with voice commands.

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