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: Marshall Uxbridge Voice
(Image credit: Marshall)

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 its 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 be just the start of a wider home security system, check out our guide to the best security cameras.

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: 8.1 x 6.8in
Weight: 7.7lbs
Reasons to buy
+Unrivalled sound quality+Reasonable price point for standard+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: 10.5 x 8 x 7in
Weight: 6.9lbs
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 that 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: 6.9 x 9.7 x 4.3in
Weight: 3.8lbs
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 things like set timers, get reminders popping right up on the screen, or monitor 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: 4.7 x 4.7 x 6.3in
Weight: 3.9lbs
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 connect 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

Marshall Uxbridge VoiceReal Homes Rated Gold badge

(Image credit: Marshall)

5. Marshall Uxbridge Voice

Best retro smart speaker

Platform: Alexa
Release: 2020
Dimensions: 6.6 x 5 x 4.8in
Weight: 3.1lbs
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous retro design+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Despite appearances, it won't suit audiophiles

Smart speakers have become so popular that it was only a matter of time before classic audio brands got in on the action. The Marshall Uxbridge Voice is an Alexa speaker in classic, retro-style coverings. It looks pretty fantastic, and the black and gold finish will please those looking for something retro and futuristic all in one.

Unfortunately, the audio performance doesn't quite match up to the promise of the Marshall branding, but it's more than good enough for casual listeners. The heavier construction adds to the feeling that it's a bit more luxurious than your typical wireless speaker so if the style is more important than exquisite audio, it could be for you.

Real Homes rating: 4.5 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)

Smart assistant: Google Assistant
Release: 2019
Dimensions: 7.1 x 9.8 x 3.9in
Weight: 2.9lbs
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

Amazon Echo Studio on sideboard in gray 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 of smart speaker will be determined by your preference for a smart assistant. Popular choices 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.

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 system 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.