If you are considering buying a Google Home but want better audio performance and a few unique design features, the Sony LF-S50G is a good option. It uses the same Google voice assistant and Google setup app and is compatible with the same selection of smart devices, but it looks and sounds better. This is the only smart speaker we tested that has a clock display, making it a good replacement for your old bedside alarm clock. It’s a bit larger than the Google Home and Amazon Echo , but it is by no means obtrusive.
One of the unique design features of this smart speaker is the removeable grill cloth. It comes in two colors, black and white, and is easy to remove and clean if you happen to spill on it while it’s dictating a recipe to you. The LF-S50G has an IPX3 water resistance rating, which means it can take the occasional splash, but you won’t want to drop it in a sink full of dishes. The removeable grill sits atop an attractive, shiny base that has a microphone mute button and a Bluetooth pairing button.
The buttons on the base are the only physical buttons, but there are other gesture controls. You can adjust the volume and pause and play your music by waving your hand over the top panel. In theory this is a good idea and a nice way to avoid touching sticky and dirty buttons, but the gesture controls didn’t work well during testing. Gesture controls for volume and pausing music is a handy feature mostly because it can be quicker than using voice commands, but we found the gesture controls took longer than using voice commands, so this feature is a bit counterintuitive.
To test the audio quality of each smart speaker, we listened to a variety of musical genres on all the speakers we reviewed. The Sony has a pair of 2-inch speakers that face each other under the removeable grill cloth, and a diffuser in between to simulate a 360-degree sound stage. The Google Home is the most relevant comparison for the LF-S50G, so we spent a little more time comparing the audio quality of those two speakers. The Sony smart speaker sounded better with every genre of music we threw at it, and did significantly better with acoustic and vocal-centric music. The bass was lacking compared to some of the best speakers we reviewed, but that’s normal for compact designs.
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The Sony LF-S50G has some unique and useful design features and audio characteristics that make it a good alternative to the Google Home. It costs a bit more, but if you plan to listen to music often, the extra cost is worth it. The clock display also makes it a good substitute for your alarm.