There's a vast ocean of game-changing Google products out there. Google's Android and Chrome OS operating systems might be slowly but steadily taking over the world – from smartphones and laptops to smart fridges and self-driving cars – but Google isn't just a software company. It also now produces a lot of its own hardware too, some of which is pretty amazing.
You probably already know that Google has its own phone, the Pixel 2, and its own laptop, the Pixelbook. But did you know it's also behind everything from a stylus to smart speakers, and even security products ranging from an intelligent smoke alarm to a web-connected video doorbell?
If you're looking to make your workplace, studio or home a more productive, secure and fun place, these clever Google devices have a lot to offer. We've put together this special guide to Google's own products to help you decide which one is right for you, and you'll also find today's best deals on each to save you a wad of cash.
Smartphone and accessories
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Google's Pixel 2 has quickly become one of the world's most popular smartphones. And Google hasn't stopped there. It also produces Pixel Buds, its own Bluetooth headphones, and a range of cool 'Made by Google' smartphone cases, as we detail below.
Is the Pixel 2 the right smartphone for you? If taking photos is important to you, it’s certainly worth considering, as it quite simply has the best camera on any smartphone right now (see our best camera list for cameras without the phones). It’s also water-resistant and comes with the Google Assistant (the Active Edge feature means you can just squeeze the sides of your phone to bring that up).
On the downside, the five-inch HD screen is 'only' 1080p, and the device lacks a headphone jack. But if you’re happy using Bluetooth headphones, don’t need a 4K screen, and really value the quality of your photos, this is one the best smartphones you can buy right now.
The Google Pixel 2 smartphone lacks a headphone jack – so an obvious Google product to come next was its own wireless Bluetooth headphones, and Google Pixel Buds are the result. They work with both Android (5.0 or higher) and iOS devices (10.0 or higher). They’re not deep in-ear buds, but rest on your ear and point towards your ear canal, making them very comfortable in use. And they provide up to five hours of continuous listening on a single charge.
Unfortunately they didn’t actually work properly on release, attracting huge amounts of bad press. The May 2018 update has now sorted out most of these issues, but many of the features are still a little fiddly to use. And the headline feature – the use of Google Assistant to translate conversations in real-time with the Pixel 2 – still doesn’t actually work very well in practice.
There are plenty of third-party cases for the Google Pixel 2, but some of the best are made by Google itself. The friendliest looking has to be the Google Fabric Case, which has a knitted exterior and a soft microfibre liner to help protect your phone. This Google product comes in four colours: Carbon, Cement, Midnight and Coral. Like all three cases featured here, it's also Active Edge compatible, which means you can squeeze the sides to bring up Google Assistant.
As a creative, you may want to put your own visual stamp on your Pixel 2 case, and Google's Live Case gives you just that opportunity. You can customise it using either your own photos or artwork, or selected images provided by Google. You can even update your phone's wallpaper to match it by using the Live Case app. It's a little fiddly to remove and replace your phone, but nothing you don't quickly get used to.
If your priority is to protect your phone from accidental drops, the Otterbox Defender is the case for you. The company is well known for its rugged cases, and it's teamed up with Google under the Made by Google program to create this case for the Pixel 2. A solid polycarbonate shell and rubber slipcover work together to provide serious protection against drops, dust and scratches. It might be a bit pricier than other cases, but you can rest assured that your phone is protected.
Google Home smart speakers
If you’re looking for a smart speaker for your home, then remember it’s not all about Alexa. Google has its own system, Google Assistant, which allows you to do everything from playing a track on Spotify to controlling your smart home by voice alone. Here are two very affordable – and also very capable – choices to get you started...
If you're totally new to voice assistants, then the Google Home Mini is a small, cheap and very capable device for getting started. It’s puck-shaped like the Amazon Dot, but with fabric-texture on the top for a softer, friendlier look. Available in a range of colours, this Google product has four flashing LED lights that indicates when it’s listening to your voice. Don't expect to use it as your main music speaker, as the sound is fairly poor quality, but otherwise this is an excellent budget buy.
The Google Home is both bigger and more expensive than the Google Home Mini, and looks more like stylish. The difference in functionality between the two isn’t much, but the main advantage the Google Home has is its vastly better sound quality. It also charges by Micro USB rather than DC, and you can adjust the volume via the touch panel, which is much easier than tapping on the left or right of the front, as you do on the Mini. If you’re expecting to listen to a lot of music, then the Google Home is well worth the higher price.
Chromebook and stylus
Spend a lot of time on the move and want something lightweight, fast and portable? Chromebooks are increasingly capable, not just for admin and productivity tasks, but for creative work too. Here we present the best one on the market, plus a lovely stylus to complement it.
Tired of buying Windows or Mac laptops that take an age to boot up and are always crashing, or running out of battery? Want something light and super-portable that you can start up in seconds? Then consider a Chromebook.
You may not be able to run full versions of design software like Photoshop, or the kind of productivity tools you may be used to, such as Microsoft Word. But for accessing Google Drive, checking and writing emails and surfing the web, they’re perfect. And for limited design tasks, Android versions of several Adobe apps, including Photoshop Express, Lightroom for mobile, Photoshop Mix, Illustrator Draw, Comp CC, and the Creative Cloud app, are supported on Chromebooks as well.
The Google Pixelbook is quite simply the best Chromebook on the market right now, with an excellent keyboard, a beautiful 2,400 x 1,600 pixel display, super-speedy Intel Core i5 and i7 processors and a promised 10 hours of use on a single charge, based on what Google calls “a mix of standby, web browsing and other use”.
If you want to do design work on the move, using your Google Pixelbook, then the Google Pixelbook Pen is a must-buy accessory. Similar to the Apple Pencil in use, this is a top-quality stylus that offers excellent pressure sensitivity and tilt support, making drawing and sketching on the screen a pleasurable, responsive experience. There’s also a button that links the Pen to Google Assistant, so for example you can circle some text and perform a web search. However, we’ve yet to see any compelling uses for this feature, and it’s also a shame that there’s no way to attach the Pen to your Google Pixelbook.
Virtual reality viewers
If you're a little bit curious about this virtual reality thing, but don't want spend a ton of money on top-end equipment, there are two simple Google products that enable you to access VR content using your smartphone: one cheap, one even cheaper...
Google Daydream View is a VR headset that connects to a compatible Android phone. While you’ll get a better virtual reality experience with a higher-end, PC-powered VR headset, the Daydream is a great option if you’re just interested in trying out VR without spending a huge amount of money. It’s compatible with Daydream-ready phones, including Google Pixel 2, Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+ & Note 8, Moto Z & Z2 and more (there’s a full list here). And it’s very easy to use: you just have to download an app on your phone, place your phone inside the viewer, and you’re off, using the included controller to operate it.
Google Cardboard is an earlier, more rudimentary VR viewer from Google that's literally made of cardboard. But while it's been surpassed by the more sophisticated Google Daydream View (above), Google Cardboard is still available, and is super cheap. Of course, as you'd expect, it's also lower-spec and fiddlier to use. For example, you will need to remove your phone from the device to switch between applications, unlike on its successor. But on the plus side, that does mean it's compatible with a far wider range of phones.
Nest smart home kit
While Google products like the Pixel 2 and Pixelbook may get more attention, Google's been quietly reinventing home security products by incorporating new technologies such as voice recognition, facial recognition and real-time streaming. Read on to find out how protecting your home and family is becoming easier and more secure than ever.
Nest was one of the first companies in the UK to delve into the new and exciting world of smart home technology, and was bought by Google in 2014. Recently launched in the UK, the Nest Hello is a hardwired smart video doorbell with facial recognition.
A camera and microphone enable you to not only see who’s at the door but have a conversation with them without actually being there. You can play a pre-recorded message to visitors through the app on the doorbell, and even have ‘conversation without speaking’ by selecting from a set of pre-recorded soundbites.
That might sound rude, but if you’re in a meeting where you can type into your phone but don’t want to speak into it, that could be quite handy. Finally, if you take out a subscription service, the Nest Hello will use images of known faces that you share with your account, and use facial recognition to tell you who is at the door.
Nest Learning Thermostat aims to pay for itself over time by adjusting the heating and cooling of your house in ways that will save you money. Better still, some electricity providers will give you a rebate just for buying one. It learns over time what temperature you prefer and it’s estimated that the device will pay for itself within two years. Of course, that’s going to vary from person to person, depending on how inefficient their heating and cooling habits are in the first place. If you don’t feel you pay enough attention to how much money you’re burning, and want to help the environment at the same time, this clever Google device should help you sleep better at night.
Nest Protect is a smart smoke and carbon monoxide alarm that can connect to your smartphone, sending you updates when you're away from your home. It also offers spoken alerts and links up to other devices in your smart home, so for example you might want the lights to come on automatically when there’s an emergency. There’s also a circular LED that provides colour-coded alerts: yellow means smoke or carbon monoxide haven’t reached critical levels; red means you need get out now. It all adds up to superior peace of mind that your home, you and your loved ones will be protected, whether you’re home and away.
Nest does a great line in security cameras that can stream footage to your phone, 24 hours a day, and the Nest Camera Indoor is the basic model. As with all the models in the range, you get 1080p HD footage, night vision, two-way audio, customised alerts, and compatibility with a number of smart home devices, such as the Philips Hue smart lights. A good, solid device for anyone who wants to monitor their home’s security in real time. However note that beyond a trial period, you will need a subscription to access certain features and to record and store video to the cloud: full details here.
As you might expect, the Nest Cam Outdoor is essentially the same as the Nest Cam Indoor, but with a rugged build and waterproof (IP65 rated), making it suitable for use outside of your home too. This is a wired camera so will require installation. Also bear in mind that it needs to be within range of your wireless router, which restricts what you can do with it, and that you will need the subscription service to take use some of the camera’s features and to record video to the Cloud.
The Nest Cam IQ Indoor improves on the Nest Cam Indoor is two main ways. Firstly, it has a 4K sensor which means that you can zoom in in finer detail to your footage (although note that this is still streamed in 1080p). It also comes with facial recognition technology, so it can let you know if someone caught on camera is a familiar or unfamiliar face. Be aware, though, that you will need the subscription service to use these headline features, and to record video to the Cloud.
Thanks to Chromecast, millions of us no longer have to watch our favourite TV streaming shows on our laptops but can enjoy them on our full-sized TV sets. But there's no longer just one Chromecast, but three. We explain what they are, and which one you need.
Google's range of Chromecast devices plug into your TV’s HDMI port, allowing you to stream content to it with your home Wi-Fi. The latest and greatest model, as you’d expect from the name, is the Chromecast Ultra. The main benefit of this more expensive model is that you can stream 4K and HDR content. Obviously, to do that you’ll also need a 4K TV, a source of 4K content, and a fast Wi-Fi network.
If you don’t have a 4K TV, or are happy to stream in 'just' 1080p HD video, then the basic Chromecast is the obvious option. Beyond the lack of 4K and HDR support, it does pretty much everything the Chromecast Ultra (above) does, but at a lower price. Because 1080p takes up less data, you won’t need to worry so much about your Wi-Fi network keeping up either.
In the same way that the Chromecast and the Chromecast Ultra make it easy to stream video to your TV, the Chromecast Audio is a Google product makes it easy to stream music to speakers and home audio systems. You can stream from Android devices, and it works with some iPhone and iPad apps, although not all, most notably Apple Music or Amazon Prime Music (this is, however, supported on Android). It also offers voice control via the Google Assistant. In short, this is a great Google device for controlling your multiroom music, unless you rely heavily on particular music services that are unsupported.