Like a genie on your countertop, smart speakers let you speak a command and have your wish come true. You can turn on the lights, play music, set a reminder or ask a question. If that sounds appealing to you, it might be time to give in to the growing hype of this burgeoning category and buy a smart speaker.
Unlike when this category first took off with the Amazon Echo in 2014, you now have lots of options. Amazon, Google, and Apple all have competent smart speakers, and the competition between these tech giants has made this category better and better.
If you have an affinity for one of those brands in particular, your job of picking a speaker is pretty easy.. The company that started the smart speaker trend still has the most options.
If you want a Google-equipped smart speaker, pick up the $50 Google Home Mini if you want a low-cost entry point. Grab the $400 Google Home Max if you want impressive sound quality and are willing to pay for it. The original $130 Google Home is also a solid option if you want something in the middle.
The $350 Apple HomePod is your only option if you want a Siri-enabled smart speaker, but good news: it sounds great. (Just don't set it on .)
If you're platform agnostic, all of your choices might seem intimidating at first, but picking the perfect smart speaker for you can be easy if you know what you're looking for. We're here to help you do just that.
Best entry point: Amazon Echo Dot
Why it's great: Alexa's still the best. Amazon's digital assistant still has more abilities than the competitive assistants from both Google (called ) and Apple (Siri). If you don't want to deal with the nitty gritty of the category and just want a simple answer for which one you should buy so you can try out a smart speaker, get this one.
Thecosts only $50 and you can often find it on sale for less. It offers all of the same smarts as more expensive Echo devices. You sacrifice some sound quality for the size and price, but it plugs into your own speakers, so you can easily make up for that difference.
Best bang for your buck in sound quality: Sonos One
Why it's great: The $200is the best option if you want a smart speaker that sounds great. You can buy two Sonos Ones for roughly the same cost as Google's premium smart speaker, the Google Home Max, or Apple's HomePod. Pair the two units to play stereo sound, but even a single speaker sounds awesome playing a wide variety of music genres.
If you don't already have an affinity for Alexa or the Google Assistant, you can rest assured that Sonos doesn't either. The Sonos One has Alexa built in now and Google Assistant support coming later this year, making Sonos One a great-sounding, reasonably priced smart speaker that'll have the combined smarts of an Amazon Echo and a Google Home. Plus, Sonos is getting Apple's Airplay 2 later this year as well, letting you control the speaker from any Siri-enabled device such as your iPhone. That's a tough pitch to beat.
Best for personalized assistance: Google Home Mini
Why it's great:in the race for the best smart speaker. Google Assistant now has almost as many capabilities as Alexa, making the $50 a solid alternative to the Amazon Echo Dot. Plus, . It understands context if you ask multiple questions on the same topic. For example, if you ask for a list of George Clooney's movies, Google will tell you. Follow that up with the question "How old is he?" and Google will know you mean George Clooney and answer. Plus, Google Assistant uses Google's massive search engine in order to find an answer.
Google's smart speakers also work with Google Calendar and Google Maps, making this speaker that much smarter if you regularly rely on those services., as you can go step-by-step and skip forward or back. , so it'll give you and your spouse different answers if you each ask about your calendars. , but Google still has the edge in assistant intelligence. The Google Home Mini is a great, low-cost way to take advantage of those smarts.
Best for smart home controls: Any Alexa device
Price: $50 to $230
Why Alexa's the best: Deciding between Alexa and Google Assistant for best the smart home assistant is a bit like splitting hairs at this point. Alexa has more integrations, but Google has all of the major ones and plenty of its own. Google responds to commands more fluidly, but Alexa's app is a little easier to navigate.
Ultimately, we'll give the smart home edge to Alexa for a couple of reasons. The extra hardware options make a difference. The $230 Echo Show has a screen that can show you a feed of your smart home. The $150 Echo Plus has a smart-home hub built in so you can sync your small sensors directly to it. Finally, companies still tend to come out with Alexa integrations first. When a new smart-home device launches, Alexa integration feels like table stakes. Google Assistant integration usually comes later, and that's just enough of a difference for us to give this round to Alexa for now.
Best sound regardless of price: Apple HomePod
Why it's great: Siri's first smart speaker adapts its sound to the room you're in and sounds fantastic playing all genres of music. Its sound outclasses the Sonos One and even squeaks by the similarly priced Google Home Max. Thanks to Siri, you can also control your smart home and ask for help as you would with the other smart speakers.
The Apple HomePod is a bit more limited that the rest, however. You can only play music from Apple's music service. The rest give you a few popular streaming options to pick from. As for the smart home, you're limited to devices that work with Apple's smart-home platform called. So the HomePod has a few limitations that the rest don't have, but that shouldn't matter to you if you're already invested in Apple products and just want great sound quality.
Those smart speakers are our favorites, but you still have lots of other options if you're looking for something specific. Head here for a breakdown ofif you'd like to decide by platform.
Otherwise, neither the originalnor the original made an appearance above because you can get the same smarts for less with smaller versions of each. That said, if you want a smart speaker that splits the difference between affordability and premium sound, both are still solid options.
Amazon also has a, a and lots of other . Check out the or the if you want Alexa in a portable body. , and . The and the are portable versions of the Google Home.
Finally, the Cortana. It's competent enough if you're a Windows fan, but otherwise doesn't have enough going for it to stand out from the crowd.uses Microsoft's assistant
Figure out what platform or features you'd like, and you should be able to quickly narrow your options and find the best smart speaker for you and your family.
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