Are you looking for an inexpensive alternative to the Google Home, or the Google Home mini? Do you need it to double a visible alarm clock and show you the outside temperature? If so the Insignia smart speaker is the voice assistant for you.
Editor’s Note. This article was updated to reflect new use and information on 1/7/2019
The Insignia Voice Activated Speaker is a Google Assistant powered smart speaker and clock from Best Buy. If you are unsure of whether you should go with Google Assistant or Alexa, read this. When on sale, it is an attractively priced alternative to a regular alarm clock or a Google home smart speaker. Since it has Google Assistant capabilities you can use voice commands to:
- Play music from your favorite services – Spotify, Google Play Music, Youtube Music (USA and Australia only), Pandora (USA and Australia only), IHeartRadio, TuneIn, but not Amazon Music or Apple Music.
- Control various smart home platforms – Philips Hue, LIFX, SmartThings, Nest, Honeywell, Wemo, TP-Link, IFTTT, and so many more.
- Chromecast to Chromecast capable devices – Various Smart TVs, Google Chromecasts (Chromecast, Chromecast Audio, Chromecast Ultra), Nvidia Shield and many others.
- Play various games – trivia, quizzes, adventure games, etc.
- Ask for answers about pretty much anything – sports, entertainment, science, people, traffic, weather, you name it, Google probably has an answer.
- A growing universe of third-party services integrates directly to provide a ton of features.
It wouldn’t be a clock if it couldn’t tell time. The display has two levels. The top level shows the time and alarm. The bottom level can show temperature in your location (outside) and volume level. You can pair your phone or other devices with it and use it as a Bluetooth speaker. It has 5V/1A USB charging port, something the Google Home and Mini don’t have. Like other smart speakers, there is a microphone muting button on the back for when you want to stop the device from listening to you.
I should note, this unit cannot make calls like the Google Home and Google Home Mini. The manual blames Google saying Google has not made that feature available to them but may in the future. This unit can now make calls!
Setup of this speaker is just like any other Google Home device. You need to use a phone or tablet with the Google Home app, power up the speaker and connect to it from your mobile device and go through the setup. You can customize Google home options (voice match, location, news channels, etc.). Once you are finished with setup the time displays on the unit. Nice! You don’t ever have to use the unit to set the time. Once set up, it will keep time and that’s nice for clock.
If you are familiar with other Google Home devices this is pretty straightforward to use. Say “Ok Google” or “Hey Google” and then give your command or ask your question. There are touch-sensitive buttons on the top of the unit that you can use to increase and decrease the volume, as well as pause and continue music. When you change the volume, the sound level is displayed on the front of the unit. You can also use a combination of the three buttons to:
- Change the brightness of the display.
- Put Bluetooth in pairing mode and turn Bluetooth off.
- Turn proximity on or off.
What’s proximity? Well, the Insignia product has a few tricks of its own. It has a proximity feature that allows the user to snooze the alarm and temporarily lower the volume with a wave of your hand. A couple of other tricks are that you can use voice commands instead of buttons to modify the brightness and volume.
If you are looking for audiophile sound you are looking at the wrong product. Unless you want to invest in the Google Home Max smart speakers are not where you go for really good sound. That said, in comparison to other smart speakers and most budget Bluetooth speakers the sound is really good. For reference, with the music I played, I would rate the sound as not quite as good as the Google Home, but much better than the Google Home Mini and Echo Dot. It can be loud and clear enough to fill any room in a normal house, and way better than any clock radio I’ve ever had! The speaker is rated at 8W and it is stereo, not mono.
It’s not the most beautiful thing in the world, but most smart speakers aren’t. The display is ordinary. It comes in black or gray. But you shouldn’t be buying this for looks.
I found a deal on the Insignia Voice Activated Speaker at BestBuy for $25.00. Its regular price is $99.99 but is regularly on sale for around $50.00. The Google Home retails at $129.99 and the Google Home Mini sells for $49.99. At sale prices (less than $50) I would see this is an intriguing deal, and at $25.00 it’s a great value.
The Insignia Voice Activated Speaker is a good value. It sounds almost as good as the Google Home and better than the Google Home Mini and has all the features of both with the addition of visible clock. If you are looking for a Google Assistant powered smart speaker this is one of your best values below $50. I kept mine, and now have one in the kids’ bedrooms to us as smart speakers and alarm clocks. I recommend it in my Buyer’s Guide.
Keep in mind that third-party products are not updated as quickly as Google-branded products. If Google rolls out an update the Google Assistant that requires a firmware upgrade, these speakers might take longer to get the update.
What do you think of this speaker? How does it compare to similar products? Do you own one or are you going to buy it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
This unit has added 2 important new features you should check out! These features set it apart from most other Google speakers making this a best buy!
I now have three of these in my house. Best Buy has often put these on sale, the latest sale was all the way down to $19.99! There is also a battery operated version, usually for a few more dollars, that in addition to being portable can also work while plugged in.
They work great as alarm clocks and my kids love having them play bedtime music and songs from their favorite playlists. They also serve as an intercom system with the Google broadcast system. I wish Google had room to room communication, but being able to notify my kids that dinner is ready, or that they are being too loud without having to yell or walk all the way upstairs (although I could use the exercise (: ) is great. The kids use them to communicate with us too!
Although I can’t broadcast a message to a specific speaker I can use Home Assistant’s Text to Speech capabilities to send a message directly to a specific Google Assistant powered unit without broadcasting to the others. If you are interested, I highly recommend you check out Home Assistant. I was able to get it up and running and doing all kinds of things in two hours.
One thing I’ve noticed is that these devices seem a tad bit slower to respond to commands than our regular Google Home. Also, please note, if Internet access is down, these things can’t display the time. They are totally dependent on Internet access. So make sure you have good wifi!
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