Which smart speaker or smart display is right for you? 17 top options for 2023
Will it be Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri for your smart home? Let us help you find the right smart speaker for your new smart home.
Will it be Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri for your smart home? Let us help you find the right smart speaker for your new smart home.
When it comes to building a smart home, the smart speaker is most people's starting point. Prices start at just $50 - or sometimes less when sales are on - and can be used to control a huge range of smart devices with voice commands.
Smart speakers combine music playback, a voice assistant with artificial intelligence, and a smartphone app to create a product that answers questions, cues up playlists, play games, and tells jokes, but also adjusts your lights, locks the doors, turns up the heating, waters the garden and much more besides.
The most important question to answer first of all is, do you want to use Alexa, the Google Assistant, or Siri to control you new smart home? This dictates which of the three main ranges of speakers - from Amazon, Google, and Apple, respectively - you should buy.
You should also ask yourself what your budget is, how important music quality is to you, whether you already have a good-quality speaker who could do with some added smartness, and what you intend your smart home build to go. Will you want speakers in every room, or will you be satisfied with just one?
Finally, do you want your smart speaker to have a screen? A growing range of smart displays are now available from Amazon, Google, and others to fulfill this need.
Here's a brief rundown of all the major options currently available:
GearBrain Best Smart Speakers and Displays for Smart Homeswww.youtube.com
Amazon's Alexa is available on a wide range of devices, but its skills can varyAmazon
Alexa can already do many things out of the box, but there is a catalog of thousands of 'skills,' which are like apps and enable the assistant to do much more.
For example, Alexa can read out the day's news headlines and weather forecast when asked, help you with recipes in the kitchen, run several timers at once, check on your commute, read out calendar events for the day, play music from services like Amazon Prime Music and Spotify (subscription required), send text messages and make phone calls.
When you introduce Alexa to other apps, she can order you an Uber or a Domino's, and being an Amazon product, and she can also buy items when you ask.
Through the iOS and Android smartphone apps, Alexa can be configured to control a vast range of smart home devices. These can then be grouped into rooms and made a part of 'routines.' This means you can, for example, say: "Alexa, goodnight," and she will switch the lights off, turn down the heating and lock the door. You could also set Alexa to switch your lights on gradually, turn up the heating, open the blinds, read the news headlines, and switch on your connected coffee machine at 7 am every weekday.
2023 Echo Dot smart speaker
First in the Echo hierarchy (as the $35 Echo Input is no longer available) is the Echo Dot. Now in its fifth generation, the Dot has the same Alexa intelligence as every other Echo device but costs under $50. Sound quality and loudness have greatly improved over older generations of Dot, and the latest model has a new spherical form factor, matching the equally new Echo.
The new Echo Dot, Dot with Clock, and Echo all come with Amazon's new AZ1 processor, which speeds up Alexa's responses by doing more neural processing on the device instead of relying on Amazon's cloud servers. It also has a bigger speaker than previous Echo Dot models, motion detection, a temperature sensor and eero built-in to provide up to 1,000 sq ft of wifi coverage and support for speeds up to 100 Mbps to a compatible eero network.
The Echo Dot 5th Gen is available in charcoal, white, and blue.
Fourth-generation Echo smart speaker
The fourth-generation Amazon Echo is available in three colors: charcoal, white and blue fabric. A blue, glowing light sits at the bottom of the Echo to let you know when Alexa is listening and speaking. This turns red when the microphone is muted (pressing a button on top of the speaker) and green when the Echo's listen-in feature is activated, where multiple Echos can be used as a household intercom system.
The Echo has a 3.0-inch woofer speaker and dual 0.8-inch front-firing tweeters with Dolby Sound technology. The new Echo has integrated support for the Zigbee smart home standard, previously only offered on the (now-discontinued) Echo Plus. While the Echo is fine for daily use, you might want to hook it up to something more significant for a party – which you can do via Bluetooth or the Echo's 3.5mm auxiliary port.
This speaker is powered by a wall outlet (no battery) and measures 5.7" wide and 5.2" tall. The Echo weighs 34.2oz.
Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition (5th Gen) is available as a Owl or Dragon
The fifth-generation Echo Dot comes in a $60 'Kids Edition' of the Alexa smart speaker. Available as a dragon or owl, the speaker is technically the same as the regular 5th Gen Echo Dot but includes a 12-month subscription to Amazon Kids+ (previously known as FreeTime Unlimited), which gives access to thousands of hours of kid-friendly Audible books, interactive games, and educational skills. After the first year, Kids+ costs $2.99 a month, should you want to keep using it.
The Echo Show range includes five smart displays of varying sizes. The entry-level Show 5 (2nd Gen) and Echo Show 5 (2nd Gen) Kid's Edition with Alexa have a five-inch screen. Next up is the Show 8 (2nd Gen), which has – you guessed it – an eight-inch screen. Amazon Echo Show also comes in a 10-inch version: Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen), which measures 10.1 inches, and the Echo Show 15, a full HD 15.6" smart display with Alexa built-in for the entire family to enjoy.
All models have the same Alexa intelligence as other Echo products, but the added display can be used to view extra details related to what Alexa says. This includes visual weather forecasts, music album art, and video chatting with other Echo Show (or discontinued Echo Spot) owners.
Like the Echo 4th Gen, the Echo Show 10 also features Zigbee, so you can control smart home devices without needing a hub or bridge acting as a middleman. The other Echo Show smart displays do not have Zigbee built-in.
The Echo Show range can also be used to watch TV and movies from Amazon Prime Video, music videos from Vevo, movie trailers, news briefings, some live TV content, and sports via a Hulu subscription. Finally, it can view a live feed from compatible security cameras and video doorbells in your home.
The Echo Show 15 can be mounted on the wall and work in either portrait or landscape mode. And as in the past few years, the Echo Show 10 automatically rotates on its base, keeping you in the frame as you move around during a video call and turning the display to ensure it's always visible.
For 2023, Google and Amazon have agreed to allow new Google security cameras and video doorbells to work with Alexa. What does this mean? Suppose you have an Amazon Echo smart display. In that case, you can download the Google Nest Alexa skill and start streaming live video from your new Google Nest security cameras and video doorbells on an Echo Show smart display. The companies are working together to have older Google Nest cameras work with the skill.
All Echo Show smart displays are available on Amazon and most major consumer electronics retailers like Best Buy. But don't go to Walmart. They don't sell Amazon products.
The latest smart speaker from Sonos that works with Amazon Alexa is the Sonos Era 100. This new smart speaker replaces the Sonos One (2nd Gen). It is a premium smart speaker with stereo sound and a compact design. It comes with its own voice platform, Sonos Voice, but you can use Amazon Alexa commands if you want. The speaker works with the Alexa voice platform to control your smart home. You can set up integration using the free Sonos app for iOS and Android mobile devices.
The Sonos Era 100 provides a detailed stereo sound with a deep base. It features two angled tweeters that give the left and right sound and a large woofer for a big, bold deep base sound. Users get an incredible sound experience that allows them to hear crisp highs and full-sounding lows.
This speaker takes the networking functions Sonos is famous for and throws in Amazon Alexa. This smart speaker with excellent, room-filling sound quality has the ability to stream music, audiobooks, radio stations, and podcasts from over 80 different services and a system for adjusting its sound based on where it is located in the room.
This all sounds great – literally – but there is a caveat. The Alexa here cannot perform certain functions. For example, Amazon's Drop In intercom feature is not available, nor is the option to call a friend on their Echo device.
There are also limitations in how the Sonos can be grouped in the Alexa app and how it functions as part of an Alexa routine. However, this smart speaker can provide high-quality sound or be added to a home theatre system or a bunch of compatible speakers to provide a unique sound experience which makes up for the lack of Alexa controls.
The Beam (2nd Gen) offers the same Alexa integration as the former Sonos One (2nd Gen) but takes the form of a soundbar. This means it can sit below your television and dramatically enhance the sound quality of anything you watch on the big screen, be it movies or video games.
The Beam comes with Dolby Atmos to help enrich all your entertainment as long as you have a TV that supports Dolby Atmos and Atmos-encoded content. Because it works as part of the Sonos home audio system, you can add more speakers in different rooms or sync up a pair of Sonos bookshelf speakers to create a surround sound system. Control is easy, with the Sonos app, your voice, and Apple AirPlay 2.
Sonos Era 300 Smart Speaker works with Amazon Alexa
In addition to the new Sonos Era 100 smart speaker, Sonos also introduced another new high-quality speaker with great sound called the Era 300. This new smart speaker has six class-D digital amplifiers, two woofers, four tweeters, and a far-field microphone array. Users can adjust the sound via an adjustable EQ in the Sonos app. The Era 300 also comes with Trueplay, which will help you find the perfect sound in the room.
But what sets this smart speaker apart from the others that work with Amazon Alexa is its ability to play spatial audio. For those of you who don't know what spatial audio is, sound technology takes height into account when processing the sound from your speaker. For instance, stereo sounds are heard from the left and right. Spatial audio sounds with Dolby Atmos mixing, a user will listen to sounds from left, right, center, and height. Think of it as the ultimate surround sound for music or watching TV/Movies, but instead of on your headsets, it’s in speakers. (Learn more by visiting What is Spatial Audio and How it Works article.)
The Sonos Era 300 is also a high-quality smart speaker with two voice platforms built-in, Sonos Voice and Amazon Alexa. It also works with Google Assistant but on a limited basis (app control only). The Era 300 is a good choice for people who want a speaker that is easy to use and control via an app, voice, or manually.
Two speakers facing in opposite directions produce room-filling sound
Another option for high-quality Alexa integration comes from Bose. The Home Speaker 500 produces a loud and high-quality sound, despite its relatively compact size and features a basic display for simpler ease of use. The smaller and cheaper Home Speaker 300 also has Alexa but does away with the display.
Both models have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, can be used with Apple AirPlay 2, and can play music through the Alexa app or Bose itself. There's also integrated support for Spotify, Deezer, Tune In, and Amazon Prime Music.
The Home Speaker 500 produces room-filling sound by having two drivers facing opposite directions, firing sound at the walls, which then bounces back and gives the illusion of it coming from a more extensive music system.
This speaker is waterproof to one meter for 30 minutes
This speaker by Ultimate Ears is waterproof and wireless, so you can take Alexa to the beach if that's your vibe – and we're not just talking showerproof. This speaker still works when submerged in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes, so it's properly water-resistant.
There's Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, and you can use Alexa much as you would on an Echo device. The speaker is available in six colors and has a battery life of up to 12 hours.
Arch rival to Amazon Alexa is Google Assistant, which works similarly but can harness the power of Google to answer your general knowledge questions more successfully. Google Assistant can also look up information like flight times and prices, then set up an email alert to nudge you every time the price changes.
Google Assistant can talk to a similarly broad range of smart home devices as Alexa, and devices can be split into groups (or rooms) in a similar fashion. In our experience, we have found Google Assistant devices are less susceptible to false positives (where it mistakenly hears itself and starts talking) than Amazon Echo devices.
The assistant can also play music in the same way Alexa can, and when hooked up to a Chromecast device, can play content on your television.
The Google Nest Audio smart speaker is priced at $99.99
Google's smart speaker is priced at $99.99 and is a significant upgrade over the now-defunct Google Home. The Nest Audio has a design that they claim is 75 percent louder than the Home, with 50 percent stronger bass, thanks to a 75mm mid-woofer and 19mm tweeter.
Its enclosure is made from 70 percent recycled plastic and is available in five colors: green, pink, blue, gray, and black.
As ever, Nest Audio provides access to Google Assistant, which can answer questions and control your smart home devices. Several Nest Audio speakers can be used to create a whole-home music system.
The Nest Mini is Google's answer to the Amazon Echo Dot
The Nest Mini (2nd Gen) (formerly the Google Home Mini) is a direct rival to the Echo Dot. It is roughly the same size and weight and can be connected to a larger speaker over Bluetooth (however, there is no 3.5mm output). Although you won't want to throw a party with it, the loudness and quality from the Nest Mini driver are about on par with the Dot.
As with Alexa on Echo devices, the intelligence of Google Assistant and the features on offer are identical on every Home and Nest smart speaker (and Nest display).
The Move is a wireless speaker with Alexa and Google Assistant
The Move is the first wireless speaker by Sonos. When plugged into a wall outlet and connected to Wi-Fi, it works like the Sonos speakers, meaning there is access to Google Assistant or Alexa. But note voice commands with Google Assistant don't work. You have to use the Google Home app to control the Sonos speaker. To make up for this lack of voice control, you can take Sonos Move off the charging dock and head outside, and it turns into a wireless Bluetooth speaker with up to 10 hours of battery life and IP56 water resistance.
The Bose has access to both Google Assistant and Alexa
Similar to the Sonos Move, the Portable Home Speaker by Bose does exactly as you would expect. When plugged in and connected to Wi-Fi, it functions as a smart speaker and can access either Alexa or Google Assistant. At this point, we should clarify that all smart speakers with both assistants can only use one at a time, which they operate is changed in the companion smartphone app. You can't use both assistants at the same time.
The Bose also provides access to Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Apple AirPlay 2. Battery life is a claimed 12 hours of music playback, and there is IPX4 weatherproofing.
The Sonos One already has Alexa, and nowworks with Google Assistant enabled devices.
The Sonos One is the only speaker to appear twice in this article because it offers both Alexa and Google Assistant. Sonos One delayed the addition of Google Assistant several times until it arrived in 2019. There are no voice commands for you to use with Google Assistant but you can. use the Google Home app to lower or increase the volume of your Sonos One.
Buying the One in the hope of getting Google Assistant access might feel like a bit of a punt for now, but we remain confident in Sonos' abilities, the company will figure out how to get both voice assistants to work equally on their smart speakers and devices.
The Google Nest Hub Max is an upgrade from the formerly called Google Home Hub. This Nest smart display is to Google Assistant, and the Echo Show 10 is to Alexa. But beyond displaying graphics like the weather forecast to compliment your questions, the Nest Hub Max also acts as a touchscreen command center for your smart home devices. This makes it easy to control lighting without speaking to the Assistant (perhaps because you want to be quiet at night).
When not in use, the Nest Hub makes for an attractive digital photo frame, scrolling through your image library, or some which Google regularly updates with its images.
Working in a similar way to the Google Nest Hub, Lenovo's Smart Display also offers full access to the Google Assistant, along with a touchscreen. It's available in seven-, eight- and 10-inch variations; the Lenovo is larger than Google's Home Hub, making it ideal for YouTube videos and cooking recipes in the kitchen. And Lenovo smart displays come with a camera for video calls.
Lenovo also offers smaller smart displays in the format of a alarm clock. Lenovo Smart Clock Gen 2 is the second generation of the Lenovo Smart Clock and comes with a 4-in LCD touch screen. You can also add a wireless charging pad for you to charge your Lenovo Smart alarm clock as well as a smartphone and/or a wearable. It costs only $49.99 for the alarm clock and $69.99 if you add the charging pad.
Apple has just one smart speaker, the HomePodiStock
Finally, we have Siri. The original voice assistant has fallen behind in recent years as Amazon and Google have locked horns over control of our smart homes. Siri on the iPhone and iPad can perform various smart home tasks through Apple's HomeKit platform. This includes controlling lights, operating motorized window blinds, and adjusting the thermostat.
However, at least, Siri on Apple's smart speaker, the HomePod mini, is limited for now.
Apple HomePod Mini and the iPhone 12
The HomePod Mini is the first time Apple has directly aimed at Amazon and Google in the smart home space. Priced at $99, it costs exactly the same as the latest Amazon Echo and Nest Audio. Siri powers it and taps into Apple Music and other services.
Standing 3.3 inches tall, the HomePod Mini promises a 360-degree sound that can be turned into a stereo pair when placed near one another and is offered in black and white. The HomePod Mini also has a new intercom system for sending audio messages to any or all HomePods in your house. It also acts as a way to control smart home devices compatible with Apple's HomeKit platform.
The HomePod's price was recently cut by $50 to $299Apple
The new version remains a counter-strike against the dominant Echo and Google Home speakers. Like the 1st Gen HomePod, it is spherical and is wrapped in a mesh fabric. It also has seven tweeters and one woofer and supports Apple Music, Siri, and AirPlay 2.
Where they differ, the HomePod (2nd generation) is slightly smaller and lighter than the HomePod (1st generation). It also has a new S8 chip, which is faster and more efficient and supports Spatial Audio, which creates a 360-degree soundscape.
In addition, Siri has been improved in the years since, with extra features added and its intelligence improved. An outstanding feature is that you can switch music playback from an iPhone to the HomePod (when you get home) by holding them near each other. If you are looking for a high-quality smart speaker with excellent sound, the HomePod (2nd generation) is a great option.
Echo Dot (5th Gen, 2022 release) | With bigger vibrant sound, helpful routines and Alexa | Charcoal
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