Advertisement

Panasonic SC-GA10 review: A smart speaker that fails to stand out

Panasonic SC-GA10 review: A smart speaker that fails to stand out
From Engadget - April 16, 2018

A lot of smart speakers are round, cylindrical affairs, but Panasonic chose to go the boxy route with the SC-GA10. The speaker's cube shape is not novel, but it's different enough from a lot of the popular options (Echo, Google Home, etc.) that it feels somewhat unique. Sure, it's rather plain, but I kind of like that. The GA10 blends in easily on a shelf, thanks to its unassuming aesthetic.

Panasonic offers two color schemes for the SC-GA10: a mix of black and silver or white and silver. Both of those varieties are pretty standard fare for smart speakers. The SC-GA10's look is simple, with some Panasonic branding on the front and power and auxiliary jacks around back. There are also a few white lights on the front edge: one stays lit when the speaker is on, while others light up in a row whenever Google Assistant is active. Other than those few items, this speaker is basically a box that looks a bit like a miniature tower speaker.

As with many speakers, not just the smart ones, Panasonic put all of the physical controls up top. While this is the most convenient position, the height of the SC-GA10 poses some issues. All of the onboard controls are on a touch panel on the top of the speaker. There are controls for power, volume, muting the microphone, play/pause and several input options.

So far so good... until you try to make any tweaks when the speaker is sitting at eye level (or above) -- like on a shelf. Unless the SC-GA10 is sitting in a spot where you have a full view of the top, you really have no idea what you are tapping. Play/pause is pretty easy to remember because it's alone in the center, and I quickly learned the location of the volume controls, but there are no raised dots or anything to let you know which of the features you are close to. This may seem like a small thing for some people, but for me it was frustrating.

Sure, this is a voice-controlled speaker, and most of the time I just used spoken cues. For things like volume adjustments, though, I prefer to make the change manually rather than rely on Google Assistant. A lot of smart speakers, like Google Home and the Sony LF-S50G, solve this with gesture controls. There can be a bit of a learning curve with those as well, but you do not have to worry as much about where you place those speakers, since you do not really need to see the top. As frustrating as the gestures were on the LF-S50G at first, I found myself wishing the Panasonic SC-GA10 had them.

When it comes to smart speakers, there's a range of sound quality. While most aim to simply get the job done, others offer impressive audio in a compact device. Sonos One is a perfect example of the latter. With the SC-GA10, Panasonic promises "premium hi-fi sound" and tosses the word "supreme" around. But I found the sound to be mostly just... fine. It will certainly fill the void if you are looking for a smart speaker, but if all you are after is voice control, there are more affordable options, like Google Home Mini, Echo and Echo Dot. Even the Sonos One is $50 cheaper, and it offers both Alexa and better sound quality.

Advertisement

Continue reading at Engadget »