Panasonic aren’t new to the electronics game, so it’s not surprising that they’ve joined the charge on smart speakers. The question that needs to be asked is – have they hit the mark? Let’s take a look!
Panasonic GA10 Hardware
The GA10 has 3 physical speakers putting out 40W RMS which (particularly for its physical size) is very impressive. The power output aside, I really like what Panasonic have done with the presentation of their smart speaker, the footprint is 100 x 100 mm and it’s 284mm high and really nicely coloured so it will fit in with pretty much any homes interior.
It’s a really slick looking device that (unlike the plain old Google Home) has some really nice controls on the top for power, volume control, play/pause, mic mute as well as source select. Unlike many of the other options on the market and as a point of differentiation for the GA10, it has Bluetooth connectivity and an auxiliary line in which opens up the pathway to so many entertainment options.
From a hardware design perspective, the main issue I found was the size of the power adaptor – that thing is huge! I mean really huge, like my laptop has a smaller power adaptor huge. For most users, this isn’t going to be a problem because the adaptor will be behind a cupboard or generally hidden away somewhere but it certainly warrants a mention.
If you’re not already aware, you’ve probably guessed from the fact that we’re reviewing this speaker on Ausdroid that it’s got Google Assistant on it. What this means for anyone who already has a Google Home speaker or other assistant device is that the Panasonic speaker will feel very comfortable and familiar to you.
It will work with any other smart and streaming devices you have in your house such as other speakers, Chromecasts or even smart lights. The functionality is identical to Google Home speakers or even using the Assistant on your mobile phone.
Setting up the GA10
The beautiful thing here is it’s a Google Assistant based speaker, so the setup is through the Google Home App on your mobile. As easy as adding any other Google Assistant based speaker to your network – just follow the bouncing ball and you’re running in a matter of a few minutes.
Panasonic also have a standalone controller app for their speakers which allows users to stream music from your local device, select the source remotely and some tweaks to the equalizer if you choose to do so.
OK – So here’s where the GA10 makes a bit for the front running spot on the smart speakers. It’s got a far superior sound quality to the Google Home speakers (standard, not the mini) which is a good thing given the Home is more than a bit lacking in terms of range and depth of sound.
In terms of the sound output the GA10 performs really well with one minor issue that occurs at a very specific volume and with a specific bass frequency. The issue is a rattle that appears when you’ve got the speaker up beyond 60% volume and a “drone” bass line plays.
Now the sound mix people enjoy is very personal and quite subjective to the type of music that an individual listens to. Panasonic have done a great job of creating a speaker that is well balanced out of the box and will be great for the vast majority of users, but adjustable enough for users who are a bit more picky about the sound quality they have.
What’s interesting here is the price of the GA10 at AU$379 positions it alongside the likes of the Sonos One Smart Speaker (AU$299) that Scott reviewed a couple of months back. In terms of sound thee GA10 doesn’t quite stack up, but for now at least it’s got a distinct advantage… Google Assistant!
In a recent chat – I laughed somewhat uncontrollably to hear Alexa described as “The weird kid in the corner of the classroom eating glue” and in my limited experience so far, while it’s an unusual way to describe Alexa – it’s not far from the mark. So until a time that the Sonos One speakers have Google Assistant running, the Panasonic GA10 has the edge in a side by side smarts battle.
When you’re looking into smart speakers, it is important for you to understand why you want it. Is it for the smart functionality? Is it for the sound quality? Or is it for the combination? The answer to this will likely have some bearing on the final decision you make.
Taking cost out of the equation – Side by side, I’d happily put the Panasonic GA10 at the top of the pack at the moment. The sound quality is far superior to the Google Home or Home Mini and it’s got Google Assistant which given my investment in the Google world, far superior to Alexa.
The big question here is: Is the $379 worth the upgrade from $199 for a Google Home speaker?
If you’re after the smart speaker functionality only, no way – That $180 difference could go a long way to a lot of other goodies. But if you’re after a smart speaker with Google Assistant built in, that has a solid sound output without going to the cost of a Home Max (around $600 depending on where you purchase it) then the GA10 is a clear winner.