Elasticsearch and Solr are beautiful tools for data analysis and document search. We even use Elasticsearch to process our logs. But they were not designed to provide a great user-facing search.
In a benchmarking test, Algolia returned results up to 200x faster than Elasticsearch on every query performed.
Algolia provides exact prefix matching for “as you type” searching, typo-tolerance with smart result highlighting, and a ranking formula that is designed to be flexible, easy to configure and very powerful when you need to combine textual relevance and business objectives.
Algolia is not only a different search algorithm, it’s a different search experience, designed to empower the users by giving them a direct and intuitive access to what they want to find.
Also, Algolia provides a state of the art infrastructure, with an availability on search of 99.99%, distributed in the entire world to provide the same speed no matter where your users are.
You can read more about the differences in this Quora question or in the Algolia vs. Elasticsearch blog post.
Also, we'd be happy to set up a call and answer your questions.