Google Home Mini vs Amazon Echo Dot – Which is Better?

Post by Mark

A couple of weeks ago I got back from LA and brought back with me the Google Home Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot. I actually got two Amazon Echos, I put one in my bedroom and the other in the kitchen while I put the Google Home device in my living room. After using them for two weeks I sadly can’t tell you which is better because I don’t think there is a clear winner. But what I’ll do is explain how I’ve decided to use them and the issues I have with both of them and hopefully, that will give you an idea on which one you should get.

Firstly for those of you who have no idea what the Google Home and Amazon Echo are, they’re voice-controlled devices like Siri on the iPhone. Amazon’s assistant is called Alexa while Google’s is simply called Google Assistant. Recently Apple released the HomePod which uses Siri. The reason I didn’t get that instead is the price. At $350, the HomePod would be pretty expensive to add to every room in the house plus, I already have a legit speaker in every room of my apartment anyway the HomePod would make them redundant. On the other hand, both the Echo Dot and Home Mini cost $50 each, so the three I got cost less than half the price of one HomePod. I connected the bedroom Echo to my Bang & Olufsen Beolit 12 speaker and the kitchen one to my Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A2 speaker. I left the Google Home as is because I wasn’t planning to use it to play music.

Let me take the opportunity now to explain how I’m using the devices.

In the morning I tend to wake up and play music on the BeoLit 12 in my bedroom. Before I got the Echo, I used to launch Spotify on my phone and then AirPlay the music onto my bedroom speaker. My phone also used to be my alarm. Now on the other hand, I set the alarm on the Echo and when I want to play music I just go “Alexa, play music everywhere”. Everywhere is a group I created that includes my bedroom and kitchen Echo. So now I get music playing in my bedroom, and my kitchen downstairs. Then just before I leave my house I go into the kitchen, get my car keys and say “Alexa stop” and it stops playing music in my apartment. I also have Alexa setup to work with both my Amazon Music account and my Spotify account. When I say for example “Alexa play jazz”, it will connect to a jazz radio station on Amazon Music, but when I say “Alexa play music” or “Alexa play my discovery weekly playlist on Spotify”, it will either continue playing where I last stopped on Spotify, or play the specific playlist I asked for.

While I use Alexa for music, I use Google for questions, like I do on the web. I have it set up in my living room where I spend 90% of my time in. So far it’s been super helpful while friends were over. For example, I was sitting talking to a friend and they asked me how long the flight from NY to LA was. I estimated at around 5 hours but then I was like “Hey Google, how long is the flight from NY to LA?”. Within an instant, Google replied that a non-stop flight was 6 hours and 15 minutes long. Another time I was watching a movie and someone mentioned a banana daiquiri. I was curious to know what alcohol is used to make a daiquiri so I was like “Hey Google, whats in a banana daiquiri?”. A second later google responded back with the ingredients of a banana daiquiri. I’m picking up my phone to google stuff a lot less now because I can just ask Google a question verbally. And unlike with Siri, it just feels more natural to talk to Google. It just understands normal dialogue like a real person while with Siri I sometimes feel like I have to talk to it knowing she’s an AI. Not only that but Siri barely understands me sometimes and a good example is now while typing this post, I just asked Siri whats in a banana daiquiri and she responded with the weather report. Like WTF Siri?!

Another cool feature with Google Home is it can tell me if there is traffic on my way to work. Since Google knows where I live and where my office is (I had this setup on Google Maps from before), I can just ask “Hey Google is there any traffic on my way to work?” and it will respond with an answer and then tell me which is the fastest route to take and how long it will take me to get there. Not only that but I could ask it where the closest McDonalds is and how far it is to walk to and it will tell me!

I haven’t really asked Alexa a lot of questions but I did try the banana daiquiri question on her and she struggled. She struggled mostly to understand what I was saying and then told me what was in a daiquiri but not a banana daiquiri.

So you’re thinking Google Home is clearly the winner here. It’s not since I’ve had some weird issues with it. Firstly I can’t seem to set Spotify as my default music player so when I tell Google to play music, it replies saying I need to set up my default music player. But when I go to that section in the app, it won’t let me pick Spotify. To play music I have to say “Hey Google, play music from Spotify” which is annoying cuz its easier to just ask “Hey Google, play music”. Then the worst part is, Google Home doesn’t work with G-Suite. Since my Gmail account is connected to my 248AM domain I have a G-Suite account and it won’t work with Google Home. I can’t connect Google Home to my Calendar or email which is so bizarre. Amazon’s Alexa, on the other hand, connects to both my Gmail and Google Calendars! How weird is that? Alexa also has a ton of plugins so say we had Uber working in Kuwait, you could install the Uber plugin and then be able to call an Uber by talking to Alexa. I’m using Uber an example here but there are plugins for everything imaginable.

So which device to get I really can’t tell you. I like having both. Between the two, the Google Home Mini sounds a lot better than the Amazon Echo Dot but really if you want to use it as a speaker, both Google and Amazon have much better-sounding devices. You can also do a lot more with both devices like control home automation, have them tell you the news and with Google Home you can even play games with it or use it as a doctor (say “hey google, virtual nurse”). But my needs are very simple as you can see above. Both Google and Amazon devices are available in Kuwait, Xcite sell both at KD20 each and you can most likely find it at other stores as well. If you have any questions, let me know below.

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Pictures of the New Kuwait Airways Terminal

Post by Mark

Construction of the new Kuwait Airways terminal (Terminal 4) is now over 85% complete and is expected to be ready by June. The Kuwait Airways terminal is a temporary terminal being constructed to alleviate the pressure from our current airport until the new main and huge terminal 2 is completed.

So just to clarify things, we will have the following amount of airports/terminals:

– Kuwait International Airport (our current old airport)
– Sheikh Saad Airport (FlyDubai)
– Jazeera Airways Terminal (Opening May)
– Kuwait Airways Terminal (Terminal 4)
– Kuwait International Airport Terminal 2 (New huge one opening 2020)

To check out more pictures of the Kuwait Airways Terminal, click [Here]

Update: Here are some updated pictures of the interior [Link]

Thanks Ahmad

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Things to do in Kuwait this Weekend

Post by Mark

Lots of events taking place this weekend! Tonight is the last night of the Palestinian Cultural Exhibition and they’re having a bake sale. Friday you have the Kuwait Rising Music Festival which features Grammy award-winning artist Joss Stone among others. Finally, on Saturday you have a full day of activities taking place during Soul Fest. Check out the list below for all the events taking place this weekend:

Raclette & 3 Short Films
Cinemagics Rooftop Movie: Monsoon Wedding
48th Palestinian Cultural Exhibition

Kuwait Rising Music Festival

Peak Vertical Marathon
Soul Fest
Yoga with Cats
Market Space
8th Annual CELL Conference
Perspectives in Kuwaiti Art
Cinemagics Rooftop Movie: Buena Vista Social Club

If you’d like to share an event on the blog [Email Me]
For a full list of upcoming events click [Here]

Sometimes events get canceled or have details changed so always double check with the organizers.

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Movies Showing in Kuwait this Weekend

Post by Mark

Screenshot from Avengers: Infinity War

The movies below are now showing at either Cinescape, Grand Cinemas or Sky Cinemas:

New This Weekend:
Avengers: Infinity War (9.2) ♦
Finding Your Feet (6.7)
Here Comes the Grump (7.3)
The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales (7.4)

Other Movies Showing:
A Quiet Place (8.4)
Acts of Violence (5.1) ♦
Masha and the Bear (7.9)
Peter Rabbit (6.5)
Rampage (6.5)
Ready Player One (8.1)
The Hurricane Heist (4.8)
The Titan (4.9)
Tomb Raider (7.3)

The movies below are also now showing at the Scientific Center IMAX theater:

Amazing Mighty Micro Monsters 3D (7.4)
America Wild: National Parks Adventure (5.9)
Dream Big 3D (7.9)
Tiny Giants 3D (8.0)
Watermelon Magic 3D (7.4)

Numbers in brackets refer to the IMDB rating at time of publishing.
★ is for movies I’m interested in. ♦ implies movie might contain censorship.

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Inside the New VOX Cinemas

Post by Mark

Last night I was invited to drop by the new VOX Cinemas in Avenues phase 4 to get a tour of their space. This is their first VOX Cinemas location in Kuwait, and since there are three other cinema chains already in Kuwait, they know they’ve got to bring their A-game if they’re hoping to succeed.

VOX is nearly ready to open up to the public and tonight they will be premiering the new Avengers film with an invite-only affair. The only area that was still under construction and one that I wasn’t able to take photos in was the THEATRE by Rhodes section.

Tickets + Food
When you first go up the escalators into the VOX Cinemas you’ll find ticket machines on the sides and the food area in front of you. Ticketing and food are combined into one, so you can buy your tickets and popcorn at the same time. That’s pretty great and convenient if you didn’t buy your ticket online since instead of waiting in line to buy tickets and then a second line to buy food, you’re combining it into one line. The disadvantage is to those who already have their tickets. The food line is usually pretty long anyway but now you have to also wait for people to decide what movie they want to watch and where they want to sit. So I’d imagine trying to get food is a longer process with this system.

THEATRE by Rhodes
This is VOX’s equivalent to VIP theaters in other cinema chains. There are 4 small theaters located in a separate section and the reason the area is called THEATRE by Rhodes is because the food menu was created by Michelin star chef Gary Rhodes. THEATRE by Rhodes will have reclining seats with adjustable footrests, blankets, pillows and, a waiter service which you can call via a button on the seats. This area of VOX should be completed in two weeks time.

Their Largest Theater
The picture above is of VOX’s largest theater, they have two of those. It was huge, filled with seats and yet it still felt so spacious because of the fact they’ve left a really large gap between the screen and the first row of seats.

I liked the color scheme as well which was all black with red accents. The seats were comfy, large and had a pretty good amount of legroom as well as cupholder and a side table for your food or phone.

If you arrive to the theater when dark, you’ll be able to find your seat easily since the aisle and chair numbers are lit up.

Their Regular Theaters
VOX has 17 theaters in total, 4 are the Rhodes theaters, 2 are their large theaters which I’ve posted about above, then they have 2 more kids theaters (more on those in a bit), 1 rentable theater and finally, 8 regular theaters. These regular theaters are smaller in size, have smaller seats compared to their larger theater and, less legroom. If you notice in the picture above there are two colors of seats, black and blue. This is to separate their VIP or premium location seats (in black) which cost more than the seats in the not so prime viewing area (in blue).

The theaters I used to frequent in London had a similar setup, if you want to sit in the prime area you’ll have to pay more for the ticket. I’m not a fan of this system although in London it was great since nobody wanted to pay for premium seats so I always got great seats, even though I booked late.

Their Kids Theaters
VOX have a separate area for kids. The area is colorful with a play area and a separate entrance. You’ll be able to book the area for your kids birthday and they can run around and scream without bothering the rest of the movie goers.

The theaters themselves are small and have multi-colored seats. They look tacky but I guess kids will love it.

Thier Millennial Theater
It’s not really called the millennial theater thats just what I’m calling it because that’s the age group they’re targeting with it. The small theater is filled with reclining sofas and the concept behind it is that you would be able to rent it out for you and your friends to watch a movie or even to play video games on the large screen.

VOX Cinemas is opening tonight but like I mentioned already, it’s invite only. Once they’re done with tonight’s opening they have a few more things they need to finalize before they open to the public. No specific date has been set but it’s probably happening in the next week or two. Here is a link to their web site [Link]

Update: I went last night to watch Avengers and here are some observations. They don’t have any IMAX theaters. They have MAX theaters that sound like IMAX but are just regular theaters. I wish the chairs in the MAX theaters were slightly more reclined. The seat numbers that light up are actually a bit annoying in the dark since you can see light coming from the chairs behind you.

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Nintendo Labo is Out in Kuwait!

Post by Mark

I just left Rihab Complex with the Nintendo Labo variety kit. There is only one store at the moment in Rihab selling the Labo and its Kuwait Toys Center. They’ve got both the Variety Kit and the Robot Kit and they’re selling each for KD40. That might sound expensive compared to the US price, but it really isn’t that bad of a deal.

The Variety Kit sells for KD22 on Amazon while the Robot Kit sells for KD25 not including tax. The Variety Kit weighs nearly 3KG so if you shipped it using Shop&Ship they’ll charge KD17 for shipping without the customs fees. With PostaPlus they’ll charge you KD12 without the customs fees. So if my calculations are correct:

Variety Kit KD23 with tax
+ KD17 shipping (Aramex Shop&Ship)
+ KD1 clearance fee
Total = KD41

If you ship to your PostaPlus mailbox the total would still be around KD36. So paying KD4 more to have it first isn’t that bad of a deal. If you’re interested in picking up a Nintendo Labo, Kuwait Toys Center only had a handful in stock when I passed by so you’ve got to hurry. Check them out on instagram @kuwait_toys_center

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VOL.1’s Copycat

Post by Mark

Looking at the picture above you’d assume it was the VOL.1 location in Shuwaikh (pictured below), but in reality, it’s a new coffee shop in Saudi called 8oz. They basically just copy pasted the VOL.1 interior and opened up in Dammam. It’s funny and sad at the same time.

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New Shows To Watch

Post by Mark

If you’re looking for new shows to watch while you wait for a new Westworld episode every week, here are three:

Lost in Space
Even though I finished watching the whole first season, I am still undecided if I like the show or not. I managed to binge watch ten episodes over two days but that’s not really a tell on how good the show is since I also binge-watched the terrible Seven Seconds over two days as well. Lost in Space is a remake of a series from 1965 with the same name, it follows a family who get thrown off course in space and crash into an unknown planet. The show started off really entertaining but there was this one character and story plot I couldn’t stand which is why I’m not sure how I feel about the show. It’s worth checking out and I’m curious to see how the second season will develop. Lost in Space is on Netflix.

The Crossing
I originally thought this show was by the same creator as LOST, but while looking for info on the show for this post I realized it’s not. This should give you an idea on what kind of show this is. The Crossing is four episodes in and it has me hooked. The plot is very interesting and focuses on refugees that end up on a beach outside a small town, but the thing is, these refugees are from a war-torn future. The trailer above is what got me watching the show so check it out. The Crossing is available to watch on Hulu.

From the three shows here, Barry is my favorite. The show stars Bill Hader who plays the role of a hitman who moves to LA and decides he wants to quit to become an actor. Its a funny show that stars some legendary comedians like Stephen Root (Newsradio, Office Space) and Henry Winkler (Arrested Development, Parks and Recreation). Barry just recently started so only five episodes are out so far. If you’re interested, Barry is available to watch on HBO.

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VOX Cinemas Opening Tomorrow

Post by Mark

VOX Cinemas, the UAE-based cinema company is opening up in phase 4 of Avenues tomorrow night (April 25). They’ll be premiering the new Avengers movie but it’s an invite-only affair although, from my understanding, the box office should open up to the public tomorrow night if you’re interested in booking tickets for this coming weekend. *update below*

The VOX cinema has 17 screens with a seating capacity of over 1,500 seats. They’re the fourth cinema chain to open up in Kuwait and will be competing head to head with Cinespcape that is also open in Avenues. Here is a link to their [Website]

Update: I was just told tickets will NOT be going on sale tomorrow. They’re just opening the theater for the private premier and they are still waiting on some permits before they can sell tickets to the public.

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My Favorite Açaí Bowls in Kuwait

Post by Mark

A lot more places have started offering açaí bowls on their menu since I last shared a list in January. So far I’ve tried the açaí bowls at Liquid, Be Cafe, Bowl’d, Pick, Super Foods, Magnet, and JS Foods which is why decided to share my favorite ones below.

Here are my top 3 açaí bowls in Kuwait:

1- Be Cafe
2- Bowl’d
3- JS Foods

Be Cafe and Bowl’d both use the same açaí base but Be Cafe comes out on top because the granola they use is so much better (pictured above). But, they don’t always have açaí available and when I last spoke to them this past weekend, they were considering removing açaí from their menu completely. So without Be Cafe in the picture, my top 3 açaí bowls would be:

1- Bowl’d
2- JS Foods
3- Liquid

My only issue with JS Foods (pictured on the very top) is their location sucks and the fact they close at 5PM. If they had a location closer to my office or home, I’d probably pass by them more than I would Bowl’d or Liquid. If you have a favorite açaí place that isn’t mentioned here, let me know.

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