Sony LF-S50G review: This smart speaker has Google Home firmly in its sights
Smart speakers are quickly becoming dime a dozen. Whether designers are choosing to adopt the Alexa API from Amazon Echo or pick up Google Home’s Google Assistant, it’s clear these connected speakers are determined to find a way into our homes.
The latest is the snappily named LF-S50G Bluetooth speaker from Sony. Announced at this year’s IFA 2017 trade show in Berlin, and recipient of our coveted Outstanding Product award, this compact and stylish Google-enabled speaker could be just what you’re looking for.
Instead of being simply a connected speaker, Sony has bundled in a handful of thoughtful additions, making this more than simply a Google Home surrogate with a better speaker.
Sony LF-S50G review: UK price and release date
Pleasingly, Sony has already given its smart speaker a price point of £200, along with a release date of November 2017.
As smart speakers go, that’s a little high, but not insurmountably so if the sound quality is up to snuff. It’s £70 more than Google Home at full price and £50 more than an Amazon Echo. It comes equipped with Sony’s audio technology, which is superior to that of both Amazon and Google’s own smart speakers, and the extra features Sony includes make that extra £50 far easier to swallow.
Sony LF-S50G review: Design, hardware, and features
Visually, Sony’s LF-S50G is somewhat reminiscent of Apple’s own Siri-powered Home Pod smart speaker. It’s cylindrical in shape, measuring little more than 162mm in height, with a circumference of 110mm. It is surprisingly heavy though, weighing 750g despite not having a built-in battery.
Still, this fabric-covered smart speaker is quite the looker. Hidden underneath its mesh exterior lies a distinct LED screen, setting it apart from its contemporaries. This display is used to display the time, view alarms, volume counter etc but, if you’d rather not have it on show it can be completely turned off.
On the features front, it matches Google Home, except for the odd decision not to include Spotify Connect. On the plus side, it does add NFC to the mix. A Bluetooth 4.2 pairing button is located on the speaker’s rear, along with a mic mute button to stop Google Assistant listening in via the device’s two microphones. It’s IPX3 rated, meaning it survive a few splashes with little worry – and the removable cover is completely washable.
But what really sets Sony’s speaker apart from the crowd is its use of smart gesture controls. For instance, by tracing a circle in the air over the top of the speaker with your finger you’ll adjust the volume. Swiping your palm over the top changes the audio track you’re listening to and it also has automated volume control, adjusting sound levels to your environment.
In the audio department, Sony has clearly gone all-out with its speaker technology. The LF-S50G uses a two-stage diffuser to spread sound evenly throughout a room, even with just one speaker unit. This is enhanced by the use of a “two-way facing” speaker designed to improve sound coverage.
I’ll give the speaker a full test as part of our review, but on first listen it certainly sounds far better than the likes of Amazon Echo and Google Home.
Sony LF-S50G review: first impressions
From my short time with the device, it’s clear to see that the Sony LF-S50G offers up a great alternative to both Google Home and Amazon Echo. There’s clearly stiff competition in the space from the likes of Panasonic’s own connected speaker, Apple’s HomePod and more leftfield alternatives like the Lenovo Tab 4 Home Assistant, but Sony’s offering seems more than capable of competing.
Expect a full review on Alphr ahead of the LF-S50G’s November release date.