Traditionally, Dragon NaturallySpeaking has been the gold standard for speech recognition software for the general public.
Windows Speech Recognition, Google Voice Type and Apple keyboard dictation all offer the option to dictate text, but none is as powerful as Dragon.
Apple Voice Control
But there is a new kid on the block: Apple Voice Control.
Like Windows Speech Recognition and Dragon, Apple Voice Control, runs on the computer itself. It does not need an Internet connection; all processing of the dictation and commands takes place locally.
Unlike Windows Speech Recognition and Dragon, Apple Voice Control doesn’t need a Windows computer!
Finally, there is a comprehensive speech recognition software for the Mac and iPad. And it is free, which is a wonderful bonus.
For those of you who remember there being a Dragon for Mac, you are correct, but this product was discontinued by Nuance over a year ago. At the time I wondered about the reason, but problably Nuance got wind of Apple developing their own powerful Voice Control. They may have figured that, as a paid software, they wouldn’t be able to compete with a free built-in speech recognition app.
A comparison of Dragon and Apple Voice Control
Today I am comparing dictation with Dragon Professional Individual on a Windows computer to dictation with Apple Voice Control on a Mac.
For this comparison I dictated into two computers simultaneously. That is important, because we want both speech recognition programs to have exactly the same sound and pronunciation to work from. Then I analysed the dictated text on both computers and examined the results and calculated the number of recognition mistakes.
The text was rather off-the-cuff and it ended up being 215 words long.
In the video at the bottom of this post, you can see the results of my dictation on both computers simultaneously. I have indicated where errors occurred and put in some text comments when something unexpected happened. I’ve also cut out the longer pauses when I was thinking about what to say next.
Now before I start telling you more about how it went, I would like to stress the fact that Dragon for Windows has existed for a long time.
Although Apple is no stranger to speech recognition software, this is the very first iteration of the new Apple Voice Control feature on Mac OS Catalina. We cannot expect it to be perfect!
Both the Mac and Windows computer have Intel i5 processors. The windows PC has 8 GB RAM and the Mac has 4 GB RAM.
In general the Mac lagged a little behind the performance of Dragon on the Windows PC, but I did not find it slow or unresponsive at all.
That is the most important topic for today in this test. Which speech-to-text software was most accurate?
I found a total of 9 recognition errors for Apple Voice Control and 3 recognition errors for Dragon on Windows. Unless you insist that Dragon should have known that it was “Ciara” rather than “Chiara”, because in that case Dragon had 4 mistakes.
These are the ‘rules’ I used to come to this result:
- I have left out out multiple instances of the same mistake (e.g. Apple Voice Control refuses to write Windows with a capital W 😊)
- In one instance I mispronounced some words and I have not calculated the mispronounced words as errors.
- Also I used the words “open paren” to get “(“ which turned out not to be the correct terminology for Apple Voice Control. I have ignored the fact that those words were written down by Apple, rather than it writing down the “(“.
With 9 mistakes in a 215 word text theoretically the recognition percentage for Apple Voice Control would be 95.8%. In truth that would be slightly optimistic, as I disregarded the multiple instances of the same errors, e.g. with capitalisation. Still, it’s quite impressive!
Dragon, with only 3 errors, has a 98.6% recognition rate (or 98.3%, if we are very strict about the spelling of the name Ciara).
When I dictated “oops” the Apple Voice Control insisted writing down “poops” 🙂
Unexpected software behaviour
Voice Control deleted an entire paragraph when I said “scratch that” in order to remove a single word. Dragon correctly executed the command, so it was not my sloppy pronunciation that caused Apple Voice Control to misbehave. Also, I have verified that it is a valid command for Voice Control which should have behaved the way that Dragon did.
In one other instance, Apple Voice Control interpreted my dictation as a command where Dragon on Windows correctly wrote down the words.
Which one is better, Dragon or Apple Voice Control?
Dragon wins the contest hands down
There is a clear winner in this test: Dragon performed better than Apple Voice Control: Dragon made less than half the number of recogniton errors and it didn’t behave unexpectedly or confuse dication for commands.
However, like I said earlier, it is not fair to expect this first version of Apple Voice Control on the Mac to be as good as Dragon Speech Recognition on Windows. Dragon has been around for ages, after all. And, although I am a huge fan of Dragon, it DOES cost $500 in the US Nuance store (price updated 2021). Not exactly peanuts!
Apple Voice Control is 100% free for anyone with a Mac or iPad running on the latest operating system. I know, I know… there is the saying “pay peanuts, get monkeys”, but that really doesn’t apply in this situation.
Compared to what was available on the Mac before Apple Voice Control came out a few months ago, this is an amazing improvement. Voice Control may not be perfect, but it is eminently usable.
Even with the occasional error, you’ll most likely be way faster dictating with Voice Control than typing by hand.
Watch the video
Want to see how I went about the test? Then check out this 5 minute video.