Most of us would like our daily lives to be a little more seamless, and one way to do that quickly and (relatively) inexpensively is to get one of the best smart speakers for your home. Able to hook up with countless other smart devices around the house, answer queries, set alarms, and reminders, adjust the heating, or even play music and podcasts while you tend to chores, they can transform your daily life.
Maybe you are entirely new to smart home technology in general? Or perhaps you already have a few smart devices but don’t know how to get the best out of them. A smart speaker is a Bluetooth speaker with an in-built assistant from Google, Amazon, or Apple.
And new features are being added all the time, with features like Alexa’s ability to take a message from visitors when you’re away or new sleep-focused features from Google being announced in recent months. And if you want your smart speaker to be just the start of a more comprehensive home security system, check out our guide to the best security cameras.
We’ve listed here what we consider the best smart speakers right now, and you can keep reading for more advice on how to choose.
The best smart speakers
There’s a reason that Amazon’s Alexa has dominated the smart speaker world for years now, and that’s its commitment to simplicity and functionality in its range of speakers. The Amazon Echo is the flagship display-free speaker, the larger sibling of the more minute Echo Dot, and a significant update when it was released in 2020.
The most significant additions to the 4th Gen speaker are Zigbee compatibility, improved speakers, and an in-built temperature sensor - all of which give the Echo an edge as a smart home hub. In addition, having Zigbee on board means you can use it with devices such as Philips Hue, and improved audio quality means it can be used more readily as a speaker for podcasts, music, and audiobooks.
Multi-room listening (providing you have more than one Alexa speaker) allows you to not only extend audio across multiple areas of the house but also make announcements to other rooms (e.g., when dinner is on the table). All in all, this still deserves the top spot in our best smart speaker rankings.
Now that the original HomePod has been discontinued, Apple's only offering in the smart speaker space (though there are always rumors of a new device) is limited to the HomePod Mini. But thankfully, this is a great device that can more than hold its own against the Amazons and Googles of the world.
The compact smart speaker uses Siri as its assistant, so it will be especially suited to those who already use an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV in their daily lives. Cross-compatibility with other devices is possible but will be a little more complicated than with a Google or Alexa speaker.
But if it suits you, the HomePod Mini is a great choice. With 360-degree audio with automatic audio tuning, it will offer excellent sound quality when playing music, podcasts, or anything else, and - good news for large families - Siri will recognize up to six different people, serving individualized answers and results.
A new version of Amazon's smallest smart display was revealed in 2021, featuring a 5.5-inch touchscreen and 2MP camera to fulfill our growing need for regular video calls and meetings from home. Its ability to do more than a screen-free Echo device, and the amount it offers to the average household, make it our pick for the best smart speaker with a display.
On standby mode as a standard voice-activated device, you can benefit from on-screen lyrics with music, step-by-step recipes, or a digital photo frame. When needed, it can become a small screen for streaming or - as mentioned - chatting with friends and family.
Amazon has thought of privacy, too, as a camera cover has been included along with a mute switch to turn the microphone off.
Taking a different approach to the smart display idea, Google's Nest Hub (2nd Gen) offers a 7-inch touchscreen for organization and other smart features but doesn't have a camera. If you don't plan to use it for video calls, this could be the better choice.
You'll often find yourself asking your voice assistant queries 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 immediately – but bear in mind, the two competing voice assistants are getting better at this all the time.
Sleep has been prioritized with this 2nd Gen device, with Sleep Sensing monitoring sound and motion, as well as the bedroom conditions, to give you a whole morning report. You can also use gestures to pause a song or snooze an alarm, which is a neat touch for convenience.
Many people would be happy with a smart speaker that listens to their commands and answers queries. Still, others will understandably want their device to function as a quality speaker for music, podcasts, and more. The Google Nest Audio has been designed with these people in mind.
Earlier speakers from both Amazon and Google were criticized for their low-quality audio output, but companies have worked hard to rectify this mistake. For example, Google's Nest Audio not only features updated hardware but also boasts adaptive tuning software that tweaks sound based on the environment.
You can also pair multiple speakers for multi-room listening and announcements or stereo sound in a single space. The only reason the Audio doesn't find itself higher on this list is its design, which is just an expanded version of the Nest Mini. Still, it comes in a variety of lovely colors.
How to choose the best smart speaker
When buying the best smart speaker, there are a few factors worth considering to ensure you get the most for your money. These include:
Your preference for a smart assistant will determine your choice of smart speaker. Popular options include Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri.
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.
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 more than a more basic smart speaker, but it will replace any other sound system in your home.
If you're looking to build a more extensive smart home system, it's worth ensuring your smart speaker can do everything you expect.