With a portable battery, big sound, and a small price tag, Insignia makes a better Google Home than Google does.
Google Home is no longer the only option for a great home speaker featuring Google Assistant and all of its goodness. Google’s AI has been added to speakers by big-name brands like JBL, Onkyo, Sony, and more, but the best buy in Google Assistant’s speakers comes from Best Buy’s in-house electronics brand, Insignia.
Insignia has two models of Insignia Voice speakers powered by Google Assistant: a smaller, non-portable speaker and a larger speaker with a five-hour battery life. While both are easily price performers over the rest of the currently available Google Assistant speakers, the portable version is bigger, bolder, and better in every way. Now that the Insignia Voice Smart Portable Bluetooth Speaker is only $5 more than its little sister, it’s the perfect smart speaker and alarm clock for those who like to bring their music with them from room to room as they go about their morning.
Insignia Voice Smart Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Bottom line: This big speaker features a bigger sound that Google Home while delivering the same Google Assistant goodness. A well-hidden carry handle and 5-hour portable battery let you keep the party going from room to room in your home.
- Big sound and big battery let you jam out all afternoon before you need to plug back in
- Large, grippy carry handle hidden under the touchpad
- 0-99 volume control for precision
- The clock display can’t be turned completely off
- Controls aren’t explained very well, especially to turn it off
- Proprietary power adapter instead of standard charger
Okay, Google, rock my world
Insignia Voice Smart Portable Bluetooth Speaker What I love
This portable speaker is a tall drink of Google Assistant, sporting a frosted front display that always shows the time and can show the temperature when you ask it as well as showing the volume when you’re turning it up or down. That volume goes from 0-100%, and while this speaker isn’t as big as a Google Home Max or Sonos PLAY:5, 100% can shake the windows with its big sound. Even putting the speaker at 66% made me worry about noise complaints from the neighbors, but if you need to fill a big backyard party or barn-burner of a hoedown, the Insignia Voice can fit the bill all on its own.
Big speaker, even bigger sound
The height of the Insignia Voice’s display is great for low nightstands and cluttered countertops, with the time easily visible above mugs, kickstanded phones, and recipe ingredients, though the black mesh covering the bottom half of the unit can pick up stains from sugar, flour, makeup, and other powdery substances as you go about your day. With Google Assistant’s custom routines, Insignia’s alarms are even easier to set than traditional radio alarms since you can set time-triggered routine alarms from your phone or set music alarms on the fly with voice commands.
When was carrying the Insignia home in its sizable box, I had my doubts about how truly portable such a heavy speaker could be, but they were completely unfounded. While the speaker looks like a single, solid block, there’s actually a carry handle hidden on the back of the speaker and stretching under the top touchpad. It’s wide enough to fit four fingers into, then wrapping my palm around the top of the speaker for a secure grip as I carry it from room to room.
Portable but clunky
Insignia Voice Smart Portable Bluetooth Speaker What could still improve
While you can easily carry the Insignia Voice from room to room, but since it uses an AC adapter power supply, you can’t leave charger cables to plug it up in multiple rooms the way the TicHome Mini — Mobvoi’s portable Google Assistant speaker — can with its standard microUSB port. AC adapters are the norm for home speakers, but most portable speakers have long shifted to more standard connections for convenience, and USB-C and the USB-PD fast-charging standard would have been much appreciated here.
Controls on the Insignia Voice are similar to a Google Home, but differ in a few distinct and confusing ways. You have to hold the mute/power button down for 4 seconds to turn it off, but if you hold it down too long, the Insignia will factory reset itself instead, which is exactly what I did the first time I tried turning it off.
The in-store displays let passersby change tracks by waving their hand over the speaker, but I haven’t been able to do that with mine at home; waving just illuminates the volume and command buttons so you can hit them in the dark.
That said, it’s never truly dark in your bedroom with the Insignia Voice. While you can dim the clock display, you can’t turn it all the way off, and since that clock display is so high up, you’ll need to get creative when blocking it. I’ve taken one of my AC mugs, stuffed an old stretchable book cover inside for padding, and us that to cradle my phone at night while propping it up high enough to block the clock’s light.
Insignia Voice Smart Portable Bluetooth Speaker
The Insignia Voice isn’t perfect, but for $45, it’s the only Google Assistant speaker I need in my one-bedroom apartment. Whether I’m carrying it to the bathroom to jam out while I shower — this speaker is not waterproof, I leave it on the vanity counter — bringing it to the kitchen for timers and recipe instructions, or using it on the balcony while I write in the sunshine, its battery lasts long enough to get it back to its proprietary charger.
out of 5
With Google Assistant’s magic, the Insignia Voice can wake me up, get me ready for my day, wind me down, and then put me to sleep for less than half the price of a Google Home. Smart speakers with Google Assistant like this price-performer are only getting more and more plentiful, and there’s one for rooms and homes of every size showcased on the Google Assistant website. If the Insignia doesn’t strike your fancy, tell us what might that which one should review next.
August 28, 2018 at 08:05AM