Review: Google Assistant finds a high-class home in the superb Panasonic GA10 speaker
"Hey Google." "Hey, GOOGLE." "HEY! GOOGLE!" We're starting with the bad news in our mostly positive review of Panasonic's GA-10 speaker, which is the company's first to feature Google Assistant built in. Its microphone mightn't be the most responsive of similarly equipped devices, but when you leave it to do the talking rather than listening, this stylish speaker is more than capable of coming to the party.
The GA-10 is rather deceiving in the sense that, judging by its appearance, you could easily mistake it for an omnidirectional speaker. Each face of its boxy frame is finished in aluminium at the base and a fabric mesh over the upper three quarters. But stacked inside is a pair of half-centimeter soft dome tweeters on top of an 8 cm dual coil woofer, all forward-facing.
Lack of spatial awareness aside, we found this 40 W speaker to pump out sound that is rich and room-filling while nestled in against the wall. We've used it extensively in an open and large lounge/dining/kitchen space across a variety of music genres, and it delivers punchy bass at the low end and beautiful clarity at the top.
We compared it to our trusty Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile Speaker II, which we have held in very high regard and used almost daily since its arrival five years ago. The quality coming from the GA-10 made the Bose seem instantly inferior, so much so that we haven't switched it on since.
The touch-control panel that covers the entire top surface of the GA-10 certainly adds to its glossy charm, but the lack of tactile feedback won't be to everyone's liking. Perhaps more so when you consider the unreliability of the microphone and, in turn, the responsiveness of the Google Assistant.
A row of LEDs sit long the front edge, with a single light on when Google Assistant is in standby and the entire line illuminated when it is engaged. When the room is silent, you can fire up the speaker without a problem, but with music playing at a decent volume it does start to struggle.
For the sake of comparison, in our experience with music playing from a Google Home Mini, we've been able to skip tracks and change playlists from across the room while cooking dinner without a problem. In saying that, the sound quality from the GA-10 is streets ahead of the Google Home Mini, so perhaps it is difficult from an audio engineering point of view to marry these two capabilities. Nonetheless, the GA-10's tendency to ignore its owner is certainly noteworthy. Sometimes bordering on rude.
The GA-10's compatibility with other Google Assistant-enabled devices also makes it a useful portal to the search giant's ecosystem of gadgets for the home. We controlled a Chromecast-equipped TV and found it to be a seamless experience. We're not entirely convinced of the utility of this application, however. While you can tell Google to "Play Rick and Morty on Living Room TV," for example, our requests for particular episodes or seasons were met with "Sorry, I haven't learnt this functionality yet." That is more a comment on Google Assistant than the GA-10 itself, however.
The Google Assistant worked as expected otherwise, gladly informing us of the weather, the expected amount of rain in millimeters on that day, and for some perspective, how many millimeters of rain it considered to be a lot.
Setup is very pain-free. The only things to plug in are a power cable and 3.5 mm aux input if you desire (it is also Bluetooth capable), and then you simply load up the Google Home app on your phone and follow a few onscreen prompts to connect to Wi-Fi, match your voice and you're away.
There is also a Panasonic Music Control app if you want to stream audio from your device rather than online services like Spotify, Deezer, GooglePlay or TuneIn Radio. This app also allows fine control over the sound with the ability to adjust EQ settings, and you can also pair one GA-10 with another for a stereo effect.
Overall, we think the strengths of the GA-10 easily outweigh the negatives, which in our view are really just the limitations of the microphone. Priced at US$250, it is going to require a deeper dive into the pockets than plenty of Google Assistant alternatives would do, but with good sound quality and its elegant design, it's not unreasonable either. We're fans.
Product page: Panasonic