Following an unveiling at IFA 2017, Panasonic has finally launched its first smart speaker in Australia – with built-in Google Assistant, the GA10 (A$379) takes on the likes of JBL’s Link 300 (A$349.95), and Sonos’ One (A$299) with Amazon Alexa support.
Personally, Panasonic is a ‘brand of old’, and conjurs up memories from my childhood, featuring TVs and stereos which continue to thrive way past being obsolete.
For many, the Japanese company is known for its age-defying quality products. (My parents’ Panasonic TV last 10 years, and a stereo from the 90s still works well).
Consequently, I was excited to experience Panasonic’s first forray into the smart speaker world.
In contrast to Sonos’ One, Panasonic’s GA10 supports Google Assistant. For the Australian market this offers connection to significantly more devices – e.g. most smart light bulbs.
Despite its products’ age-defying reputation, one aspect where Panasonic sometimes trails behind is in aesthetics.
That being said, the GA10 is not a boring-looking device.
The GA10 is stylish, and features a metallic base with a black mesh upper – personally I think its more modern-looking than JBL’s Link 300.
That being said, Panasonic’s smart speaker is large and more ‘boxy’. Its sheer size renders it less ‘coffee-table-appropriate’ than its rivals, and is more suited to raised tables, cabinets or office desks.
In the ‘White’ version, the GA10 appears even more contemporary.
The speaker’s flat top has several light-up touch buttons. I will warn, the nature of this display makes it less robust, and more finicky – you struggle to activate buttons with slightly wet hands, or dirty fingers (e.g. whilst cooking), however, one could argue that’s probably why there’s voice control.
Buttons include; volume, play, pause, aux and Music Control, Bluetooth and ‘network’ for Google Cast.
The design is a deviation from the virtually buttonless Google Home, and more like the Sonos’ One.
The rear of the device features a handy 3.5mm aux input and the main power plug. Be warned the power plug base is bulky, which again restricts where you can place the smart speaker.
Again, mimalistic design, for a product which ironically takes up a lot of space.
I’ll be honest, if this were a smaller unit, I’d enjoy it more.
I’d love to place the GA10 on my bedside table, but alas it’s just way too big. A smaller size would make it better suited to compact rooms, and apartments.
Claimed to offer big Hi-Fi sound, Panasonic’s GA10 features two soft-dome tweeters which automatically adjust to provide wide spread sound.
With full Google Assistant functionality, consumers can ask the smart speaker to search the web, query the weather, set up alarms, directly stream music via Spotify and Google Play music, plus more.
As mentioned, you can also easily control other Google Assistant supported smart home devices – e.g. smart light bulbs.
Using Google Assistant on the GA10 is virtually identical to that experienced on my phone. There’s minimal delays responding to queries, and the device has little trouble recognising and understanding my voice.
Consumers can set-up the GA10 via the Google Home app, or the Panasonic Music control app.
The later allows you to stream music stored on your phone, adjust EQ settings and pair two GA10 speakers for a stereo set-up.
Streaming music on Spotify via one voice command was also virtually seamless – e.g. ‘Hey Google, play some music’, or ‘Hey Google, play James Blunt’.
I will say that once music is played at a higher volume, the speaker does slightly struggle to pick up your voice. You either have to shout/speak louder, or move closer.
There were also a few occassions when the speaker randomly disconnected from Wi-Fi, however, I’ll attribute that to network issues we’ve had in my area. A more powerful modem will likely alleviate this.
Streaming via Bluetooth connection is great, and users can also manually play music via the 3.5mm input.
Concerning sound quality – I’d summarise it as great, but not mind-blowing.
Sound produced is definitely spatial, and does offer a good degree of depth. Volume strength is great, bass notable [but not heavy], however, treble could be crisper.
I’d say overall sound is definitly not quite as impactful as Sonos’ One, but the GA10 makes up for that with extremely capable smarts.
For the tech-savvy, you can change the device’s EQ settings via the Panasonic Music Control app, which I’d definitely recommend for an added boost. I’d advise increasing the bass for starters.
Panasonic’s GA10 is a compelling offering, and a well crafted product – one synonmous with the company’s reputation for products which perform reliably as expected.
I experienced few faults, and the integrated Google Assistant is largely a pleasure to use.
However, the GA10’s comparatively large size does significantly restrict where, and how, it can be placed.
Because it’s too big for [my] bedside, there’s several voice assistant functions I don’t use – e.g. setting alarms, querying the news, scanning my schedule etc. I opt for Google Assistant on my smartphone instead.
As such, I primarily use the GA10 for streaming music on Spotify, which it does very well.
Retailing for A$379 the GA10 comes in at the pricer end of the market, however, it’s a product which appears congruent with Panasonic’s trusted reputation.
Performance – 8
Design – 7.5
Value – 7