With pre-orders for the Apple HomePod about to go live, you may be thinking it's time to enter the world of smart speakers, but which one is right for you?

Let's take a look at one of the big competitors to the Apple HomePod — Google Home Max — and see how they compare.

Which one's going to look the best in my home?

As far as looks go, both speakers are relatively small — they don't need to be wall mounted and they will easily fit on a desk, shelf, or other similar space.

Apple's HomePod is cylindrical in shape, while the Google Home Max is more like a round-edge rectangle that can be positioned as either wide or tall.

HomePod measurements

The HomePod measures 6.8-inches high by 5.6-inches wide and weighs 5.5 pounds.

Google Home Max measurements

The Google Home Max measures 13.2-inches by 7.4-inches (wide or high is your choice) and it weighs 12 pounds.

As far as looks go, it shouldn't be too difficult for you to pick your favorite — the Google Home Max being the most versatile of the two in terms of positioning, but also twice the weight, which makes moving it around slightly more challenging.

How do they compare in sound quality?

Since we're talking about speakers, the sound quality is going to be one of the most important features to look at. We're going to break down the audio specs of each one.

  • HomePod - Apple's home speaker has a high-excursion woofer with a custom amplifier and an array of seven tweeters, each with its own amplifier. The dynamic audio processing is professionally designed. There is direct and ambient audio beamforming, which means it will spread sound throughout a room, even if there are objects in the way.

  • Google Home Max - Google's home speaker has two 4.5-inch high-excursion dual-voice-coil woofers and two custom tweeters. It comes with Google's new Smart Sound, which calibrates the sound based on your room's dimensions. It's similar to Apple's beamforming technology and Sonos' TruePlay technology.

We haven't had the opportunity to compare the audio of both speakers together. iMore's Editor in Chief Rene Ritchie has been in a music-filled room with the HomePod, however, and calls it Retina for the ears.

Read Rene's HomePod review

What virtual assistant will I be talking to?

Of course, you wouldn't be reading about these speakers at all if you weren't at least somewhat interested in the virtual assistant that each of them supports. When it comes to a virtual assistant and your home, there are a few things to consider.

  • The HomePod and Siri - If you're all-in on Apple's ecosystem, then the Siri-connected HomePod is the obvious choice. Not only can you use the "Hey, Siri" feature to control playback from anywhere in the room (even if there's audio playing), but you can use nearly all the same Siri commands available on your other Apple devices. Use your HomePod to have Siri to turn down the lights, answer your questions, offer up translations, read you the news, and more.

  • The Google Home Max and the Google Assistant - If you prefer Google's virtual assistant to Apple's, you're probably gonna dig the Google Home Max. With a simple, "OK, Google" command, the Google Assistant is ready to answer your questions, control your smart home, and adjust playback. Like the HomePod, the Google Home Max is built with far-field voice control, meaning it'll be able to hear you from across the room regardless of whether there's audio playing.

It's no surprise that both the HomePod and Google Home Max stick with their respective virtual assistants and don't offer any cross-compatibility at this time. If you're locked into either Apple or Google's ecosystem already, you'll have to factor that into your decision.

What features and services do each offer?

Between music services, smart home integrations, and special features, this is the category where smart speakers truly differentiate themselves from the competition. At their core, you've got two premium audio speakers with built-in voice control; it's what gets added on that counts!

  • The HomePod - Apple's HomePod was built to pair perfectly with Apple Music and that's exactly what it does. The smart speaker features Apple Music streaming and uses Siri intelligence to learn more about the kind of music you like. That said, it also packs in AirPlay 2 technology, meaning you can stream any audio to the speaker over AirPlay. If you want to listen to a podcast, launch your podcast app on your phone, connect to your HomePod, and hit play. You'll hear the rich tones of your favorite podcaster's voice fill the room. Because it's got Siri on board, the HomePod can be used to control your HomeKit-enabled home. Much like you would on your iPhone or iPad, you can use Siri to turn down the lights, adjust the temperature, and lock your front door.

  • The Google Home Max - The Google Home Max works with several audio streaming services, including YouTube Music, Google Play Music, Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio. Along with Google's Chromecast Audio streaming technology, the Google Home Max features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and auxiliary connections so you'll be able to do your streaming from all sorts of devices and services. Because the Google Home Max features the Google Assistant, it'll be able to control any and all smart home tech supported by the Assistant, including Philips Hue, iDevices, iHome, and Samsung Smart Home to name a few.

When it comes to the number of audio streaming services, Google Home Max definitely has more available to you. Plus, the Google Home Max can be used like any Bluetooth speaker, whereas the HomePod can only make use of Apple's own AirPlay.

Can you tell me a little about their security and privacy?

Having a device in your home that's constantly listening, waiting for you to utter a wake word or phrase can feel a little creepy. It's important to understand how these smart speakers process your commands, listen for your words, and interact with your other devices. Be it the Google Home Max or the HomePod, it's important to note that when listening for a wake word, these devices aren't silently storing hours of audio. Listening for the wake word happens locally on the device. What happens after the command is uttered, though, varies between devices.

iMore's Rene Ritchie notes in his review of the HomePod, "The device listens for 'Hey Siri,' yes, but that command word is processed entirely locally on the device — no data is sent to Apple unless and until you speak the magic words. Even then, HomePod only sends anonymized data; it's one of the benefits of a company that doesn't make data harvesting its central business model."

Both devices — the HomePod and the Google Home Max — send your commands and requests over the internet to be processed by a bigger, smarter computer. Afterward, your smart speaker gets back the necessary information to either communicate with you (if you've asked a question), control audio playback, adjust your smart home products, etc. Google and Apple all have different privacy policies and different means of handling your data. It's important to educate yourself on how your data is being collected, used, and stored by each company.

How much do these smart speakers cost and when can I get 'em?

Wondering how much these premium audio smart speakers are going to cost you? Here's the breakdown!

Unfortunately, at this time, neither speaker is available to purchase or pre-order in Canada as of right now.

Any other questions?

Still find yourself wanting to know more about these smart speakers? Be sure to leave your questions, thoughts, and concerns in the comments or hit us up on Twitter!

Updated January 2018: Added new information about the HomePod and Google Home Max, such as the weight of each speaker and the availability of each speaker.

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