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Is the Insignia Voice a viable alternative to Google Home?

Is the Insignia Voice a viable alternative to Google Home?

The Google Home and Google Home Mini are great devices, but there’s something they lack: a clock that you can see at all times. That’s where the Insignia Voice, a voice-activated speaker with Google Assistant from Best Buy comes in. Keep reading to find out if this is something you’ll want on your nightstand.

But first, please note that this review won’t cover Google Assistant. We’ve already covered that in other articles and reviews of Google Home products.

Intro

Like most people in the digital age, I do use my smartphone as my alarm clock, but with my wife and I on different daily schedules, we need a solution for both of us to get us going in the morning. As a result, we had a clock that had the ability to set an alarm for each of us. But, that clock started going on the fritz and it got to the point when we needed a replacement.

After searching around for a suitable replacement, I saw the Insignia Voice on sale at Best Buy and picked one up. Set up was fairly easy — just use the Google Home app and set it up the exact same way you would set up any Google Home product. Once it’s connected, you’re ready to go.

Insignia Voice Speaker from Best Buy

Using The Insignia Voice

The Insignia Voice I picked up was black, but it’s also available in grey. You’ll find an 8W speaker in the base, and while it won’t work for a house party, it’ll certainly wake you up in the morning. It’s perfect for filling up our bedroom with music, news, and weather while we’re getting ready for the day. You can give it almost any command you can give the Google Home. However, there are a few exceptions — I’ll get to those later.

On the front, there’s an LCD display which will show you the current time, along with a smaller display shows you the current temperature. The temperature is only displayed after you ask for the weather and only for a few seconds. It is not displayed continuously.

The top of the Insignia Voice is your control center. There’s a series of lights that light up after you say “Hey Google” or “Okay Google” so that you know it’s awake and processing your request. There are also plus and minus buttons, along with another control button. This will control the display brightness, volume, along with play/pause controls.

While the Insignia Voice has Bluetooth capabilities, you can use it like a Chromecast Audio. Similar to other Home products, you can include it in a group in order to hear music throughout the house. You can also turn on a proximity mode, so that when you pass your hand over the top of the Insignia Voice, it will, in theory, mute the volume and snooze the alarm.

On the rear of the unit, there is a USB output so that you can plug a cable with a USB-A plug to charge your phone as you sleep.

Controlling the Insignia Voice

You control the Insignia Voice just like you control any other Google Assistant device. You can get its attention by saying “Okay Google” or “Hey Google” and then the command. If you don’t want the Insignia Voice to listen in to your private conversations, there’s a mute button on the back that will turn off the “always listening” microphone.

The Insignia Voice responds to mostly the same commands you would give a Google Assistant. It does not appear to work with routines. If I tell the Insignia Voice “Good night” or “It’s time for bed” it just replies “Sleep tight.” It does not perform any tasks such as giving me the weather and changing the thermostat for nighttime temperatures.

The alarm sound on the Insignia Voice is very pleasant and does not give you a heart attack when it goes off. However, unlike other alarms that start off softly and then gradually gain in volume, the alarm on the Insignia Voice starts off at full volume.

In addition to the standard Google Assistant commands, the Insignia also has commands to control the brightness of the LCD display and the volume of audio playback.

Cons

Overall, the Insignia Voice is a worthy replacement, but there are a few negatives that need to be pointed out. There is no snooze button. My wife enjoys torturing me by setting an alarm and then snoozing the alarm before she gets up to face the day. There is no “snooze” button on the device. In order to snooze the alarm, you must pass your hand over the top of the Insignia Voice as if you’re trying a Jedi mind trick on the device. The problem with this is that no one is coordinated enough after being awakened by an alarm at 6 AM to pull this off.

The Insignia Voice also does not have an ambient brightness control. You must manually adjust the display brightness. That means either physically adjusting the unit or saying “Hey Google. Set the display to ___%.” We need to do this every night before going to bed and every morning when waking up.

The Final Verdict

My wife is the primary user of the Insignia Voice, so she told me for this review that she does enjoy using it. She likes that it’s her device to use. She’ll tell it to play her favorite music station when she’s getting ready in the morning, but she just doesn’t like the lack of a snooze button.

The suggested selling price of the Insignia Voice is $99, but I’ve never seen it sold at that price. It can usually be found for about $49. Occasionally, there are specials that bring the price down below $30.

My wife does enjoy being able to glance at the time on the Insignia Voice, which you can’t do on a Google Home Mini. So, if that’s worth spending closer to $50 for a device that’s basically a Google Home with an LCD display, then go for it.

Considering that the Insignia Voice is usually priced comparable to the Google Home Mini, in the opinion of this reviewer, I would wait for those special sub-$30 sales before picking one up.

Insignia Voice from Best Buy

About The Author

Neal Jacob

Neal lives in the Northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with his wife and kids. Neal often dreams of a having a UPS truck full of all the latest tech gadgets pull into his driveway.