Best smart speaker: great speakers for your smart home

The best smart speakers to upgrade your home and get a little helper for the family, from Google, Amazon, Sonos and more

best smart speaker: Google Nest Hub Max
(Image credit: Google)

Most of us would like for our daily lives to be a little more seamless, and one way to do that quickly and (relatively) inexpensively is to get a smart speaker for the home. Able to hook up with countless smart devices around the home, answer queries for you, set alarms and reminders, adjust your heating, or even just play music and podcasts, the best smart speakers can truly transform your daily life.

Maybe you are completely new to smart home technology? Or perhaps you already have some smart devices but aren't sure exactly how to get started? A smart speaker is basically a Bluetooth speaker that has an inbuilt assistant like Google Assistant, Amazon's Alexa, or Apple's Siri. 

And they're adding new features all the time, with Amazon recently announcing that it's Alexa assistant can answer your door for you even when you're not home! Now that's convenient. If you want your smart speaker to form part of your home office set up, check out our guide to the best small printers.

We've assembled some of the best smart speakers available right now, so scroll down to see what we thought.

The best smart speakers 2021

Amazon Echo StudioReal Homes Rated Gold badge

(Image credit: Amazon)

1. Amazon Echo Studio

Best smart speaker overall

Platform: Alexa
Release: 2020
Dimensions: 20.6 x 17.5cm
Weight: 3.5kg
Reasons to buy
+Unrivalled sound quality+Reasonable price point+Stylish design
Reasons to avoid
-One of the more expensive smart speakers on the market

Amazon recently announced the launch of the Amazon Echo Studio and not only do we think it might be their best – and more stylish – device yet. But it seriously outdoes anything else on the market, too. 

With built-in Zigbee, it's super easy for users to control their entire smart home system from one, central location. Simply use your voice to control everything from your lighting to your heating, with one simple 'Alexa...'

Aside from housing Alexa, the Echo Studio offers an impressive audio experience in its own right. Designed with five built-in directional speakers, it has been purposefully engineered to create premium sound with space, clarity and depth.

Designed to sense the acoustics of a space, the Echo Studio automatically fine-tunes audio playback in a bid to deliver optimal sound. This enhances the audio experience.

Real Homes rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Ultimate Ears Megablast

(Image credit: UE)

2. Ultimate Ears Megablast

Best outdoor smart speaker

Platform: Alexa
Release: 2017
Dimensions: 23.6 x 8.8 x 8.8cm
Weight: 1.9kg
Reasons to buy
+Able to be used outside+IP67 waterproof+Portable
Reasons to avoid

A more rugged speaker than the rest of the entries on this list, the Ultimate Ears Megablast has been created for those who want a smart speaker than can withstand extreme conditions and travel. With a look that's more in line with your standard Bluetooth speaker, it's still a great choice for the home.

The device has built-in Alexa but delivers far better sound than Amazon-branded speakers. Take it camping or pair it with up to eight other speakers in UE's 'Party Mode' for tunes in every room of the house. The Megablast will withstand pretty much anything, making it a good choice for both home and away.

Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen)Real Homes Rated Gold badge

(Image credit: Amazon)

Best smart speaker with display

Platform: Alexa
Release: 2018 (2nd Gen)
Dimensions: 24.6 x 17.4 x 10.7cm
Weight: 17.5kg
Reasons to buy
+10-inch HD screen+Easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-Newer version - the Echo Show 10 - available

One for those who want a smart speaker that's truly multifunctional, the original Amazon Echo offers all of the convenience of an Alexa speaker with the screen of a tablet - useful for everything from following recipes from YouTube while you're in the kitchen, or video chatting with your friends and family.

The interface makes it even easier and user-friendly to do thing like set timers, get reminders popping right up on the screen, or monitoring areas like the baby's room from wherever you are. As an early version of the smart display (updated in 2018), it's ideal for families.

Real Homes rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Sonos One (2nd Gen)Real Homes Rated Gold badge

(Image credit: Sonos)

4. Sonos One

Best smart speaker for variety

Platform: Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant
Release: 2017 (2nd Gen)
Dimensions: 16.5 x 11.9 x 11.9cm
Weight: 1.8kg
Reasons to buy
+Impressive sound quality+Compatible with Alexa, Google and Siri+Pair Sonos devices for a more immersive sound system
Reasons to avoid
-Microphone not as powerful as some competitors

One for the audiophiles amongst us, the Sonos One offers pretty impressive audio quality thanks to its combination of two class-D digital amplifiers, one tweeter and one mid-woofer. So, if you're looking for a speaker that's impressive in its own right, there's no need to look much further.

You can play music through the speaker even when Alexa isn’t on, as well as connecting it up with other Sonos speakers to have the same audio playing throughout your home. If you’re happy to spend a little more and you want Amazon Alexa as your voice assistant, the Sonos One is perhaps the best choice for your new smart speaker.

Real Homes rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Apple HomePodReal Homes Rated Silver Badge

(Image credit: Apple)

5. Apple HomePod

Best smart speaker from Apple

Platform: Siri
Release: 2018
Dimensions: 17.2 x 14.2cm
Weight: 2.5kg
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous design+Impressive sound quality
Reasons to avoid

An option that's sure to be popular with Apple lovers, the Apple HomePod is built for audiophiles who want a top-end speaker in their home that can integrate with Apple’s own voice assistant seamlessly. 

Siri is a little more limited in its general knowledge skills than the other two voice assistants, but the HomePod will suit anyone who’s used to using the voice assistant inside their mobile phone or iPad and wants to build a smart home system using the same technology.

Plus, Siri is constantly being updated with new features and has that top-end audio quality that makes for a different experience to the far more affordable smart speakers we’ve run through so far.

We're not sure any other smart speaker manufacturer has the same eye for design as Apple, which is why we're pretty keen on this super stylish, streamlined model. 

If you have any speakers in your home that use AirPlay 2, you can set it up so that they can interact with each other. This makes it super easy to play music around the house.

Real Homes rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Google Nest Hub MaxReal Homes Rated Silver Badge

(Image credit: Google)

6. Google Nest Hub Max

Best smart speaker with display (runner-up)

Platform: Google Assistant
Release: 2019
Dimensions: 18.2 x 25 x 10.1cm
Weight: 1.3kg
Reasons to buy
+Smart speaker with display and 6.5-megapixel camera+Face match and auto-framing+Decent speaker
Reasons to avoid
-Bulkier and harder to move around than other speakers

Even though Alexa may have more name recognition, that doesn't mean that Google's Assistant platform doesn't hold its own. The Nest Hub Max, for example, is perhaps the leader when it comes to smart displays, with great audio coupled with the convenience of the 10-inch HD screen.

Often you’ll find yourself asking queries to your voice assistant such as, 'how old is the queen' and the Google Home is generally the speaker that’s going to be better at getting that right. It’s because Google has all of that knowledge from its search engine that it can bring up pretty much immediately – but bear in mind, the two competing voice assistants are getting better at this all the time.

The Hub Max looks lovely with its characteristic fabric covering allowing the tech to blend better into the home. The display is invaluable when it comes to following recipes or talking with friends and family, and adds Face Match for personalized answers and more.

Real Homes rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Audio Pro G10Real Homes Rated Silver Badge

(Image credit: Audio Pro)

7. Audio Pro G10

Best Google smart speaker

Platform: Google Assistant
Dimensions: 19.3 x 14 x 14cm
Reasons to buy
+Slightly more stylish than Google-branded speakers+Solid sound quality+Simple to connect to smart home
Reasons to avoid
-Top buttons not clear-Not wireless like similar speakers

Just going on aesthetics, the Audio Pro G10 could easily be confused with the Audio Pro A10, but this model packs in a whole lot more power with in-built Google Assistant. Switching from Alexa to its main rival, Audio Pro has clearly designed the smart offering to suit those who value how their devices look as much as how they sound.

That said, the audio quality from the G10 is very impressive, knocking standard Google speakers out with clarity and bass. Our only complaint is that the buttons on top are difficult to see if you place it in direct light or on a higher shelf (like us), and it has to be plugged in. 

Real Homes rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Amazon Echo SpotReal Homes Rated bronze

(Image credit: Amazon)

8. Amazon Echo Spot

Best smart clock

Platform: Alexa
Release: 2017
Dimensions: 10.4 x 9.7 x 9.1cm
Weight: 4.2kg
Reasons to buy
+Smaller smart display for bedroom+Links to calendar for better organisation
Reasons to avoid
-Not a great speaker-Small screen not suitable for watching video

Though we've billed the Amazon Echo Dot as a smart clock, we should say that's not it's main purpose. However, because Amazon has moved beyond this small, spherical experiment to more advanced products like the other picks on this list, the Spot has developed a USP all its own.

The screen here isn't large enough to do much streaming or video chatting, with images being cropped significantly, but for basic tasks like setting alarms and reminders, it remains a top pick. Still available in the UK, it's a nice option for those who don't want the bells and whistles.

Real Homes rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Amazon Echo Studio on sideboard in grey room

(Image credit: Amazon)

How to choose the best smart speaker

When it comes to buying the best smart speaker, there are a few factors worth considering to ensure you get the most for your money. These include:

Smart assistant

Your choice in smart speaker will be determined by your preference in smart assistant. Popular choices include Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. Read each of our reviews to decide which is the best option for you:

If you're design conscious, it's worth seriously considering the aesthetic appeal of each smart speaker, ultimately opting for a design that suits the look and feel of your home.

Sound quality
You'll also need to decide if you're looking for a smart speaker with impressive sound quality, in its own right. This will likely cost you a little more than a more basic smart speaker, but it will replace any other sound systems in your home.

If you're looking to build a larger smart home system, it's worth ensuring your smart speaker has the capacity to do everything you're expecting of it.

Caroline Preece
Caroline Preece

Caroline has been part of the Real Homes ecommerce team in the UK since the start of 2021, after working for the last decade as a journalist across publications in technology, entertainment and more. In her spare time she's usually obsessing about space-saving and DIY hacks for small spaces, and how to affordably make a rental feel like a home.