The best smart speakers: See where the Amazon Echo Dot, others rank
If you’re searching for a new speaker, the market is flooded with options. Whether you’re looking to spend your time listening to music outside, in search of the perfect indoor acoustics, or both, there are hundreds of speakers for you to choose from.
But what about smart speakers? You know, the kind that come with built-in voice assistants and can be found in almost any home at this point? If you have a bunch of “smart” devices lying around your home — perhaps a robot vacuum, or even a smart toaster (yes, that’s a real thing) — a smart speaker is pretty much essential in keeping all of them connected. In short, a smart speaker is what makes your home truly smart.
But like regular speakers, smart speakers are also totally saturating the market. You could spend all day scouring product descriptions and review sections to find the best fit for your home — but we would never make you do that. Instead, we compiled a small list of what we feel are the best smart speakers you can get right now.
Are smart speakers worth the money?
Although smart speakers aren’t always the best way to listen to your audio and aren’t really prioritized for music in the first place, we think they’re absolutely worth having if you have the budget for it. (And you might not even notice the audio downgrade unless you’re really looking.)
The real reason to get a smart speaker is — and you probably already guessed it — convenience. Hands-free voice assistants are the name of the game when it comes to smart speakers, as well as compatibility with other connected smart tech like robot vacuums, streaming devices, and much more. Being able to hear your day at a glance, catch up on news, play music, and control most of your smart tech by way of simply asking a speaker is a truly unmatched feeling for those who enjoy doing less. And let’s be honest: Most of us enjoy doing less. Plus, smart speakers don’t always have to break the bank — there are plenty of budget options out there, including the fantastic Echo Dot, which we’ll get into more below.
What’s the best voice assistant?
There are really only three worthwhile voice assistants out there: Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Siri. Out of those three, most would put Siri at the bottom. That’s not to say that Siri is a bad voice assistant, but Apple is just way too exclusive about their propriety operating systems, and Siri is only available to Apple devices — that means if you get a third party brand like Bose or Sonos, Siri won’t be possible for you (although Apple AirPlay is an option). In our opinion, getting a worse-sounding speaker just for Siri isn’t worth the sacrifice.
That brings us to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and when it comes down to choosing, our answer is probably the most annoying one possible: It’s subjective. It will all rely on your voice assistant habits, and both Amazon and Google have specialties that they do better than the other.
If you’re an online shopper and have an arsenal of smart devices throughout your home, Alexa will probably be your best bet. Amazon’s smart speakers recognize more devices than Google’s Assistant, so you’re more likely to have a better time with an Echo if you really want to go for a true smart home. Alexa’s direct connection to the Amazon store also makes online shopping easy, allowing you to add things to your cart and check out solely through voice commands. If you get a lot of your goods from Amazon, Amazon’s smart speakers are kind of a no-brainer.
While Google Assistant does get edged out by Alexa in terms of skills, it is better at things like general knowledge, location services, and other real-world information that you might need at a moment’s notice. Google Assistant is also great for those with Android phones, enabling easy exchanges of information between your smartphone and smart speaker when using Google-supported apps. Google speakers also tend to be better at networking, so if you’re looking to buy more than one smart speaker to connect them, Google is probably where you’ll want to start.
Both assistants are great, so you can’t really lose with either choice here — just think about what features you want most, and go for the one that fits that vision best.
What’s the deal with wattage?
When you’re shopping for a new speaker, you’re going to see the word “wattage” a lot. While that might be meaningless gibberish to you when you see it on a product page, it’s actually a pretty simple concept. Basically, wattage defines the limit of how high your speaker can go without distorting the sound. Unless you enjoy really blasting your tunes or you regularly host parties, 50 watts is normally going to be more than enough for the average listener. But if you really like to crank it up to 11, the more (watts) the merrier. While smaller speakers tend to have the least amount of wattage, there are certainly some exceptions.
What are the best smart speakers?
If you’re ready to start building out your smart home, let’s take a look at the best smart speakers to serve as your jumping-off point.
Great sound quality at most volumes • Sonos app consolidates your playlists • Compatible with AirPlay
Sound can distort at super high volumes
The Sonos One may be expensive, but it boasts great sound quality and easy compatibility with the most popular smart assistants.
Sonos OneThe Sonos One may be expensive, but it boasts great sound quality and easy compatibility with the most popular smart assistants.
Google and Amazon
You control everything using the Sonos app, which consolidates all of your music libraries and playlists into one place. You can connect multiple speakers to play the same song throughout your home, or even customize the speakers to play a different track in each room for a little varitey.
New shape emits fuller, more balanced audio • All the benefits of other Echo Dot models • Affordable as it is, plus it goes on sale all the time
Bulkier than earlier Echo Dots
Amazon’s newest Echo Dot is the best-sounding one yet, packed with the convenient features you’ve come to love and a brand new look.
Echo Dot 4th GenNew look, better sound, and all the Echo Dot features you’ve come to know and love at an affordable price.
And did we mention it’s super affordable? (Also, it goes on sale quite often.)
Excellent sound quality and balanced audio • Minimalistic look will fit nicely into most spaces • Google Assistant has come a long way
Bass could be more powerful
The Google Nest Audio offers style, high-quality sound, and a robust voice assistant that rivals Amazon’s Echo line.
Google Nest AudioThe Google Nest Audio offers style, high-quality sound, and a robust voice assistant that rivals Amazon’s Echo line.
At this price, the size, convenience, and sound quality that the Google Nest Audio brings to the table easily rivals Amazon’s comparable Alexa-compatible speakers. If you’re a Google Assistant user, the Nest Audio won’t let you down.
Sound quality is great • Automatic room calibration • Minimalistic design • Easy to set up
Only compatible with Apple Music • Siri isn’t the best smart assistant
If you want most of the perks of the Google Home Max in an Apple product, the HomePod is the way to go.
Apple HomePodApple’s HomePod scores high marks when it comes to sound quality, and features many of the same benefits of the Google Home Max, save for a few.
To put it simply: If you like the idea of the Google Home Max but prefer Siri when it comes to smart assistants, the HomePod is the way to go. It has great sound quality just like the Google Home Max, a beautiful and minimalistic design, automatic room calibration, and a super simple setup process.
If you’re married to only buying Apple products for your tech, the HomePod is definitely your best bet.
Great audio quality • Easy switch from WiFi to Bluetooth • Durable enough to take on trips
Large size can make travel inconvenient
The Sonos Move has the quality and flexibility to be a great at-home smart speaker, as well as portable Bluetooth speaker.
Sonos MoveThis easy-to-use, rechargeable speaker streams over Bluetooth as well as WiFi, which is convenient if you want to use it at home or on the move.
Google or Amazon
It’s quick to set up, easy to control through the Sonos app, and you can easily switch from WiFi to Bluetooth streaming when needed. It’s also weather-resistant and able to stand up to humidity, rain, snow, dust, sun, and salt.
Integrated display • Useful preset buttons • Streams via Bluetooth or WiFi • AirPlay support
Sound quality should be better at this price
The Bose Home Speaker 500 offers solid audio, but really shines when it comes to its voice assistant compatibility and visual elements.
Bose Home Speaker 500The Bose Home Speaker 500 offers solid audio, but really shines when it comes to its voice assistant compatibility and integrated visual display.
Google or Amazon
The Home Speaker 500 is compatible with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Apple AirPlay, so you’ll have a lot of choices when it comes to how you want your smart speaker to work. It also has an integrated display that allows you to see what you’re playing at any given time, as well as easy-to-use preset buttons for when you don’t feel like using more complicated voice commands.