Saturday, June 22, 2024

Which smart speaker should you get?


If you’re looking for the best smart speaker but don’t know where to start, fear not! We’ve lined up a list of the best smart speakers in various categories to help you decide which one to add to your home. Our best overall choice is the Sonos One due to its price, performance, and interoperability with multiple platforms.

What are the Best Smart Speakers?

When we talk about the best smart speakers, many minds jump to the Alexa and Amazon’s Echo devices. The voice assistant’s name has practically become synonymous with the category, and yet Amazon wasn’t the first player in this space. Its speakers are also not necessarily the best for every consumer.

Our top pick for the best smart speaker comes from one of, if not the category pioneer — Sonos, and it’s the Sonos One (Gen 2). It is the perfect size to set on an end table, desk, or bookshelf and can be paired with dozens of other Sonos devices as part of a larger speaker ecosystem. It has amazingly rich, room-filling sound for its size, and it is compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and even Apple’s AirPlay protocols.

If you’re looking for the best Alexa speaker, we think the best all-around option is the Amazon Echo (4th Gen). This iteration of the popular smart speaker underwent its most drastic design change ever, taking on a futuristic spherical shape to better spread the sound around the room. It also packs a Zigbee smart hub for better home automation controls.

For those considering a smart speaker with a screen, the Nest Hub Max is the best option right now. It’s the perfect device for video calls, and Google is continuously adding new features and controls for privacy and the smart home. Plus, it makes for a killer digital photo frame!

Now that the preliminaries are over let’s jump right into our guide to the best smart speakers you can buy in 2021!


Sonos One (Gen 2)

The Best Overall Smart Speaker

Bottom line: The Sonos One is our favorite overall smart speaker because it looks and sounds amazing, and it fits nicely in with the well-established and easy-to-use Sonos audio ecosystem. It also works with other smart assistants and is one of the most affordable Sonos smart speakers around.

Dimensions 4.72×4.72×6.34 inches
Weight 4.08 lbs
Speakers Two Class-D digital amps, one tweeter, one mid-woofer
Portable 🚫
Weather-Resistance 🚫
Privacy Features Microphone mute button


  • Dynamic, room-filling sound
  • Integrates with Sonos ecosystem
  • Supports a wide variety of music services
  • Works well with Alexa and Google Assistant


  • Not as powerful as bigger speakers like Echo Studio
  • Not for TV audio
  • No Bluetooth support

Like most Sonos speakers, the Sonos One offers audiophile quality sound at a compelling price. In particular, the One punches above its weight class considering its relatively small size at less than four pounds. This allows the device to fit in just about any space, from a bookshelf to a fireplace mantel, to your kitchen counter.

The One packs two Class-D digital amplifiers, one tweeter, and one mid-woofer in that small-ish frame. You can combine it with other Sonos devices in multi-device groups, or you can create a stereo pair. The device has a far-field microphone array to enable it (and whatever smart assistant you use) to hear your commands from across the room, and there is also a physical mute switch for when you don’t want it to hear you.

One thing that we love about the Sonos One (and the family of Sonos products in general) is that it is as platform agnostic as possible when it comes to working with the widest range of content providers and smart voice assistants. Sonos speakers support more music services than Amazon or Google/Nest and work with Google Assistant, Alex, and AirPlay 2. You can also control the One and any other Sonos speakers you may have through the Sonos app.

The biggest downside to the Sonos One is that it does not support Bluetooth playback, and you can’t use these speakers to stream TV audio unless you have an Apple TV and use AirPlay 2. While it puts out a strong sound, it can’t quite compete with bigger, more room-filling devices like the Echo Studio.

Best Overall Smart Speaker

Sonos One

  • $199 at Amazon
  • $200 at Best Buy
  • $199 at B&H

The Sonos One is great for pairing and putting all-around your home, and it supports every major music service.


Amazon Echo (4th Gen)

The Best Smart Speaker for Amazon Alexa

Bottom line: The newest mainline Echo has been redesigned to feature even better sound quality than the more ubiquitous Echo Dot at a price less than half that of the Echo Studio or even the Sonos One. It has a soft, spherical, inviting design available in multiple colors, including a gorgeous Twilight Blue, as well as a Product Red version.

Dimensions 5.7×5.7×5.2 inches
Weight 34.2 oz
Speakers dual front-firing 8-inch tweeters and 3-inch woofer
Portable 🚫
Weather-Resistance 🚫
Privacy Features Physical mute button with red LED indicator light


  • Better sounding front-firing speakers
  • Built-in Zigbee hub
  • Newer AZ1 Neural Edge processor
  • 3.5mm audio jack and 1/4-inch thread mount


  • No smart display or LED clock
  • Inconsistent button response

Amazon introduced the original Echo to Prime users in late 2014. Since then, the product has spawned not only a whole line of Amazon smart speakers but an industry full of competition. The Echo, in particular, is now on its fourth iteration, with a completely new spherical design and enhanced functionality that has made it our pick for the best overall Alexa speaker.

The Amazon Echo (4th Gen) has a rounded design and front-firing speakers that contribute to a richer overall sound. It’s eye-catching for sure but doesn’t stand out more than it needs to. The components are largely made from recycled materials, and Amazon has engineered the device to be more sustainable when it comes to energy usage. The speakers are still not as complex as the Sonos One’s, but the Echo does come with a line-out 3.5mm cable and Bluetooth capability, so you can pair with other speakers or connect with other Echos.

As with smartphone iterations, one way that the likes of Amazon and Google have distinguished minor outward upgrades is to add new colors, and this year the Echo brought back a fan favorite in Twilight Blue. I’m a big fan of this color palette and am happy that we’re now seeing it come to more Echo speakers across the line, like the new Echo Dot (4th Gen).

Some may consider the Echo’s lack of display to be a drawback, particularly for the price. If that’s you, then you may be happier with an Echo Dot with Clock (4th Gen) or Echo Show 5. You’ll also save some money in the process.

Best Smart Speaker for Amazon Alexa

Amazon Echo (4th Gen)


  • $90 at Amazon
  • $100 at Best Buy
  • $100 at B&H

This Echo is built for better sound with a rounded, new neural chip and built-in Zigbee smart home hub.


Nest Audio

The Best Smart Speaker for Google Assistant

Bottom line: The newest Assistant speaker from Google has a soft, inviting shape that comes in several comforting colors. It is a big leap over the original Google Home speaker and is the perfect addition to any space.

Dimensions 6.89×4.89×3.07 inches
Weight 2.65 lbs
Speakers Two .75-inch tweeters and 2.95-inch woofer
Portable 🚫
Weather-Resistance 🚫
Privacy Features Two-stage physical mute switch with orange LED indicator lights


  • Fantastic sound for the price
  • Understated design
  • Multiple color options
  • Intuitive touch controls


  • Some software glitches

Google’s newest smart speaker is the understated yet impressive-sounding Nest Audio. With a look somewhere between the diminutive puck of the Nest Mini (2nd Gen) and the shelf-sized Google Home Max, the Nest Audio is more than capable of serving as your primary smart speaker or part of a stereo pair. The device is a huge improvement over the original Google Home smart speaker, which resembled a Glade scented air freshener. It’s available in five soft colors, including Chalk, Charcoal, and our favorites, Sand, Sage, and Sky.

We’ve been so impressed by the Nest Audio’s performance that we even called it the best Google Assistant speaker available. We think it can go toe-to-toe with the latest regular-sized Amazon Echo, or even the Sonos One (2nd Gen). Where it beats those speakers is in its next-generation Google Assistant integration. It can get up to 75% louder than the original Google Home and features 50% more bass than that first-generation smart speaker.

Like the Nest Mini (2nd Gen) before it, the Nest Audio’s fabric shell is made from 70% post-consumer recycled materials like plastic water bottles. We applaud these efforts and look forward to future designs incorporating even more recycled and recyclable materials.

Best Smart Speaker for Google Assistant

Nest Audio


  • $49 at B&H
  • $50 at Best Buy

Nest needed to add a quality mid-sized smart speaker to its lineup, and it knocked it out of the park with the Nest Audio.


Amazon Echo Studio

The Best Sounding Amazon Alexa Smart Speaker

Bottom line: Audiophiles rejoice, for we’ve found the perfect smart speaker for you! The Echo Studio can fill a room with dynamic sound and be placed in a studio pair or connected to your Fire TV. Like the Amazon Echo (4th Gen), it also comes equipped with a Zigbee hub.

Dimensions 8.1×6.9 inches
Weight 7.7 lbs
Speakers 1-inch tweeter, 3 2-inch speakers, and a 5.25-inch woofer
Portable 🚫
Weather-Resistance 🚫
Privacy Features Physical mute button with red LED indicator light


  • Multi-directional, immersive sound
  • Supports multi-room audio
  • Can be paired with another Echo Studio or Fire TV
  • Supports multiple music services, Airplay 2
  • Physical microphone mute switch
  • Built-in Zigbee smart home hub


  • First-gen product
  • Most expensive Echo device

The Echo Studio is Amazon’s first big bet on big sound. Think Apple’s HomePod, but bigger, with arguably more room-filling sound and at about half the price.

It’s no coincidence that this product follows hot on the tail of Amazon’s HD music service launch. It has three midrange 2-inch speakers, a 1-inch tweeter, a large 5.250-inch woofer, and Dolby Atmos technology, making it more than capable of handling high bitrate music formats that have been mastered for 3D music.

The Echo Studio also has a nod to smart home management and security, with a physical microphone mute switch and a built-in Zigbee smart hub. Amazon recently introduced a new program it calls “Certified for Humans,” which aims to help smart device partners make their setup and user experiences much easier for novices. In the interim (and for older smart devices), the Zigbee hub should help make that smart device setup and interoperability much easier.

Like all Echo devices, you can pair two Echo Studio speakers together for stereo sound, or you can group them with other speakers in multi-room groups. You can also pair them with your Fire TV for a richer TV viewing and listening experience.

There are a few drawbacks to these big boys. They are bulky, weighing in at eight pounds each! They are also the most expensive Echo speaker on the market to date. But for what you get, I think they’re worth it.

Best Sounding Amazon Alexa Smart Speaker

Amazon Echo Studio


  • $200 at Amazon
  • $200 at Best Buy
  • $200 at B&H

The Echo Studio is about providing the best sound possible, whether on its own or paired with others.


Sonos Move

The Best Sounding Google Assistant Smart Speaker

Bottom line: The biggest and best portable smart speaker is the Sonos Move. It’s waterproof, has a built-in battery, and works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Dimensions 9.44×6.29×4.96 inches
Weight 6.61 lbs
Speakers Two Class-D digital amps, one tweeter, one mid-woofer
Portable 🚫
Weather-Resistance 🚫
Privacy Features Microphone mute button


  • The best sound in a portable speaker
  • Built-in handle for easy transport
  • Up to 10-hour battery life
  • It has Bluetooth!
  • It’s tough with water and dust resistance


  • Even though it’s technically portable, it’s still pretty big
  • Available in your favorite color, as long as it’s black
  • Very expensive, particularly for a portable

The Sonos Move appears to have met or even exceeded expectations as the outdoor speaker that many audiophiles have been waiting for. It brings the great sound quality that Sonos is renowned for, as well as Sonos’ great connectivity and multi-platform, multi-assistant support.

As with other Sonos speakers, the Move works just as well with the Google Assistant as it will with Alexa, and it can handle Apple’s AirPlay 2 support on WiFi. Perhaps most interestingly (to me) is that it is one of the first Sonos speakers to be able to stream via Bluetooth (though Sonos advises you do this only when out of WiFi range, as Sonos streaming still works best over WiFi).

This portable speaker is durable too. It comes with an IP56 rating, which means it can tolerate a fair amount of outdoor moisture, including humidity, rain, snow, and sea spray. It’s not quite as tough to take a tumble as the Ultimate Ears speakers, but it can certainly hold up to extreme heat and cold, as well as UV rays (bet you never thought your speakers needed sunblock, too!).

This outstanding outdoor speaker’s biggest drawbacks come down to its size (it’s a bit of a chunky monkey) and its price. The Move weighs in at almost 7 pounds, which is more than double what another outdoor speaker like the Ultimate Ears Blast weighs. It’s also more than four times as expensive as the Blast and twice as much as the indoor-only Sonos One (2nd Gen)

Best Sounding Google Assistant Smart Speaker

Sonos Move


  • $399 at Amazon
  • $400 at Best Buy
  • $399 at B&H

The Sonos Move is a bigger, better-sounding Sonos One that you can abuse — and leave the house with.


Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (4th Gen)

The Best Amazon Alexa Smart Speaker Value

Bottom line: The Echo Dot is perennially Amazon’s most popular smart speaker, and the 4th Generation Dots saw many improvements over the previous generation, including a brand new spherical design. The version of the Echo Dot with Clock is only a little bit more than the regular option but adds so much more value thanks to its LEDs that can show you the time, temperature, and timers.

Dimensions 3.9×3.9×3.5 inches
Weight 12 oz
Speakers 1.6-inch front-firing speaker
Portable 🚫
Weather-Resistance 🚫
Privacy Features Physical mute button with red LED indicator light


  • New spherical design
  • Available now in two colors
  • Subtle LED clock display
  • Snooze functionality at a tap
  • Retains all of what’s good about Echo Dot (4th Gen)


  • Display can’t show notifications
  • Moving the light ring to the bottom may make it more difficult to see

Amazon didn’t have to do much to update the fourth-generation Echo Dot, but did it ever! Amazon brought the new spherical design down to the Echo Dot line, including the Echo Dot Kids Edition and Echo Dot with Clock.

Even though all the fourth-generation Dots got the same revamped styling, everything else about the Echo Dot with Clock is the same as with the Echo Dot (4th Gen) except for the “clock” part. Amazon brought its nifty LED clock to this device, which it features behind the fabric cover on the Dot. It sounds simple, but this little adjustment makes it much more useful as a smart speaker and even better value for the money than before.

The LED display can’t show you notifications or much text, but what it can do is still helpful. It can show you the time, all the time, which is so much better than calling out to ask Alexa. The display can also show you the weather and any timers that you have asked Alexa to set. Such a simple upgrade that goes such a long way!

Best Amazon Alexa Smart Speaker Value

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (4th Gen)


  • $60 at Amazon
  • $60 at Best Buy

This small Echo speaker comes with an LED clock, making an already fantastic value even better.


Nest Mini (2nd Generation)

The Best Google Assistant Smart Speaker Value

Bottom line: The perfect little puck to place around your home. Put this Google Assistant smart speaker by the bedside, or mount it to the wall for ultimate utility.

Dimensions 3.85×1.65 inches
Weight 177-183 g
Speakers 40mm driver
Portable 🚫
Weather-Resistance 🚫
Privacy Features Physical mute switch with orange LED indicator lights


  • Upgraded processor
  • Now can be wall-mounted
  • Fabric cover made from recycled materials
  • Better bass for fuller sound
  • One more microphone than the previous generation


  • Touch controls are not great
  • No information display
  • Still fewer microphones than Echo Dot

Nest followed a time-honored formula with the look and design of the Nest Mini (2nd Gen): If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Formerly known as the Google Home Mini, the new Nest Mini follows the first generation’s design cues, with some subtle but important tweaks.

For starters, the fabric mesh covering the exterior of the product is made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles (more of this, please!). Nest also updated the pink and blue colors to have a more subtle shading (now Coral and Sky), and it added a nook on the back of the device so that you can easily mount it to your wall.

The biggest improvements are on the inside (where it counts). The speakers are much better, and Google claims they are capable of twice the bass as before. There is one more microphone than the previous model, so the Google Assistant can hear you even better than before. The Nest Mini also has an updated processor, which means the Google Assistant should be able to handle requests much more quickly, accurately, and securely.

As with the third generations of the Echo and Echo Dot (sans clock), the Nest Mini does not have any sort of display, save for the basic LED touch controls on top. Speaking of those touch controls, some have reported that they can be a bit unresponsive and fidgety, so keep that in mind when considering this otherwise solid speaker.

Best Google Assistant Smart Speaker Value

Nest Mini (2nd Generation)


  • $50 at Best Buy
  • $35 at Walmart
  • $49 at B&H

There isn’t much room in such a small device for large improvements, but somehow Nest pulled it off.


Nest Hub Max

The best ProductCategoryTKTKTK

Bottom line: Even though it’s nearly two years old now, the Nest Hub Max remains the best smart speaker with a screen because it is continuously updated with Google’s top-of-the-line apps and services.

Dimensions 3.99×9.85×7.19 inches
Weight 2.91 lbs
Speakers Two 18mm 10W tweeters, 1 75mm 30W woofer
Portable 🚫
Weather-Resistance 🚫
Privacy Features Physical mute switch and camera cover with orange LED indicator light


  • Cool new Face Match feature
  • Physical microphone and camera cover switch
  • Google Photos integration


  • Nest Cam feature not fully-baked
  • Rear-firing speakers could be better

While Amazon started its smart display product lineup large with the Echo Show (1st and 2nd Gen) at 10 inches and then started making smaller smart screens, Google/Nest approached the problem from the other end. The first Google Home Hub (now Nest Hub) was a mid-sized form factor, and now Nest has followed that up with a much anticipated Nest Hub Max, which comes in at around 10 inches.

What makes the Nest Hub Max such a great product is not just its beautiful touchscreen or its surprisingly good-sounding speakers. It’s all of the great Google-y and Nest-y features that come with it. With its built-in Google Photos integration, this device makes an amazing smart picture frame. Its Face Match feature lets it recognize individual faces and family members and show them their daily itinerary (multi-user support for the win!). There’s simply no better way to watch YouTube videos in the kitchen while prepping your next meal.

One of the more intriguing features of the Nest Hub Max is its Nest smart home integration. Not only does the device function as a smart home hub and controller, but with its front-facing camera, you can actually turn it into a Nest camera to monitor your space (requires a Nest Aware subscription). Our initial review of the Nest Cam feature considered it not quite ready for prime time, though your mileage may vary.

Best Google Assistant Smart Speaker Display

Nest Hub Max


  • $230 at Best Buy
  • $229 at Walmart
  • $229 at B&H

Improved speakers and a larger screen combine seamlessly to make a solid upgrade from the original Nest Hub.


Amazon Echo Show 8

The Best Amazon Alexa Smart Speaker Display

Bottom line: Amazon was one of the first companies in the smart screen speaker space with the original Echo Show, but the Echo Show 8 is far and away the best version so far. Its screen is large, its speaker loud, and it features physical mute and camera shutters.

Dimensions 7.9×5.4×3.9 inches
Weight 36.6 oz
Speakers 2×2-inch @ 10W per channel
Portable 🚫
Weather-Resistance 🚫
Privacy Features Physical camera cover and mute button with red LED indicator light


  • Sits in the “Goldilocks” zone of Echo Show devices
  • Disable camera/mic with one switch/cover
  • Cheaper than the competition


  • Can’t adjust viewing angles without a stand
  • No Dolby processing built-in

In the Echo Show 8, Amazon took the best features of its other products in the line and brought them to this mid-sized smart screen that I like to refer to as the “Goldilocks” speaker. It’s not much bigger than the Echo Show 5, but it is substantially smaller than the Echo Show (2nd Gen).

This device has the safety features introduced in the Echo Show 5, like the physical shutter for the camera and physical mute button for the microphone, as well as the same high definition screen of the Echo Show (2nd Gen). Its speakers and camera are much better than the little Show 5’s, and unlike the Nest Hub, it has a front-facing camera for video chatting.

This is a great device to put on your desk, bedside table, or even in the kitchen without compromising space or taking up too much room. Amazon’s Ring and Eero integration and Alexa Guard features make a super-smart home automation hub. That home hub would be a little more useful if you could adjust the viewing angles, but this feature is sadly not included. However, you can purchase an Amazon or third-party Echo Show 8 stand to accomplish this.

Amazon recently announced a new addition to the Echo Show lineup in the form of the Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen). Once that device is available, we’ll evaluate it against the Echo Show 8 to determine the best Alexa smart speaker with a screen.

Best Amazon Alexa Smart Speaker Display

Amazon Echo Show 8


  • $130 at Amazon
  • $130 at Best Buy
  • $130 at B&H

The Echo Show comes to a more natural size that’s easier to place than the 10-inch Echo Show.


Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition (4th Gen)

The Best Smart Speaker for Kids

Bottom line: An Alexa speaker can be a great addition to any kid’s room, but before you give your child a smart speaker, you’ll want to make sure it’s safe and appropriate for them. The Echo Dot Kids Edition comes in fun kid designs and colors with built-in parent controls, as well as age-appropriate content.

Dimensions 3.9×3.9×3.5 inches
Weight 12 oz
Speakers 1.6-inch front-firing speaker
Portable 🚫
Weather-Resistance 🚫
Privacy Features Physical mute button with red LED indicator light


  • New spherical design
  • Fun animal prints
  • Comes with kid-friendly content
  • 1 year of Amazon Kids+ included
  • 2-year worry-free guarantee


  • More expensive than regular Echo Dot

Amazon has created parallel product lines for its Fire tablets and the Echo Dot that it calls its Kids Edition devices. Generally speaking, these come in more playful colors and feature kid-friendly content, strong parental controls, and even stronger product warranties. Oh yeah, and they’re more expensive than the “regular” versions of the products.

What you get for the increased price, though, is value and peace of mind. The Echo Dot Kids Edition (4th Gen) comes with one year of Amazon Kids+, which is Amazon’s curated service of kid-friendly and age-appropriate content. In addition to kiddie music, stories, and audiobooks, and many kid-friendly skills can be used on this Dot as well. Amazon Kids+ makes parental controls easy, allowing them to set time limits, content, and purchase restrictions.

Just as important as controlling what content your kids have access to is protecting the device. Let’s face it; kids destroy things. The Echo Dot Kids Edition comes with a two-year worry-free guarantee, which means that Amazon will replace the device if it breaks, no questions asked!

Best Smart Speaker for Kids

Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition (4th Gen)


  • $60 at Amazon
  • $60 at Best Buy

This little speaker comes in fun kids’ designs and features access to tons of kid-friendly content and parental controls.


Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST

The Best Outdoor Smart Speaker

Bottom line: The Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST is the ultimate weatherproof Alexa speaker that you’ll want to bring with you to your next BBQ event, beach party, or backyard get-together.

Dimensions 3.5×3.5×9.4 inches
Weight 2.60 lbs
Speakers Two 25mm tweeters, two 55mm active drivers, and two 85 x 50mm passive radiators
Portable 🚫
Weather-Resistance 🚫
Privacy Features Microphone mute button


  • Hands-free Alexa voice control
  • Battery-powered and rechargeable
  • Pair up to eight Ulitmate Ears speakers
  • Waterproof and nearly indestructible


  • Needs to be charged occasionally
  • Fairly expensive

One of the biggest drawbacks of smart speakers is their lack of portability, particularly when it comes to the great outdoors. One of the best and most rugged portable speakers on the market is the Ultimate Ears Megablast. You can feel confident bringing this speaker with you to your next pool party or picnic since it has an IP67 water-resistance rating and can be immersed in water up to one meter for 30 minutes. It’s shockproof, too, so you don’t have to worry if it takes a tumble off of the tailgate!

The Megablast is not only tough, but it sounds great too. It has a crisp and loud 360-degree sound with a deep bass response and a 16-hour battery life to keep the party going outside. When the battery gets low, there is an available base charging unit that you can purchase so that Megablast can sit on the charger and stay in operation, allowing you to top off your power quickly without fiddling with a USB cord. If you want to really amplify the sound, you can pair it with other Ultimate Ears speakers or up to seven other Megablast speakers for a neighborhood block party!

The Megablast is optimized to work with Amazon’s Alexa smart voice assistant right out of the box. You can ask Alexa to change the song, set a timer, or order pizza with just your voice, which is very handy when your hands are all messy.

We don’t have a lot of bad things to say about the Megablast. One thing to keep in mind is that, because it is battery powered, you’ll need to remember to charge it every once in a while (not a concern for stationary, plugged-in speakers). It’s also quite pricey, but trust us — it’s well worth it if you’re after loud, booming sound.

Best Outdoor Smart Speaker

Ultimate Ears Megablast


  • $159 at Amazon
  • $227 at Best Buy

The Megablast is a great device for the outdoors. It has 360-degree sound, 16 hours of battery life, and is water-resistant.


Apple HomePod mini

The Best Smart Speaker for Siri

Bottom line: Amazon and Google better keep an eye over their shoulder for the HomePod mini. It sounds amazing and is priced competitively. It’s a great smart speaker if you have Apple devices in the household.

Dimensions 3.3×3.9 inches
Weight .76 lbs
Speakers Full-range driver and dual passive radiators
Portable 🚫
Weather-Resistance 🚫
Privacy Features Microphone only listens for the wake word, but no physical controls


  • Amazing sound for its size
  • One of the most affordable Apple devices you can buy
  • Tight integration with Siri and Apple services


  • Doesn’t play well with non-Apple services
  • You can get a comparable audio experience for even less with the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot
  • Siri still lags behind Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant in smarts and utility

Apple was a bit late to the smart speaker game, as it often is for many of the categories it ultimately chooses to enter. Its first attempt at a smart speaker — the HomePod — received mixed reviews initially. It was viewed more as a fancy Apple speaker and less of a true competitor to Amazon and Google’s smart offerings. Regardless of how useful you may feel Siri is, that original HomePod sure sounded great, and many Apple fans still faithfully standby theirs.

After relative radio silence for a few years, Apple reinvigorated its smart speaker lineup with the smaller and more affordable HomePod mini. This fits a nice spot in Apple’s product lineup because it gave people who may have been turned off by the larger HomePod’s price a chance to jump into Apple’s walled garden and potentially ignore some of the drawbacks of Siri.

Like its larger sibling, the HomePod mini sounds fantastic and uses spatial audio to help fill the room it’s in with immersive sound. It can be paired with another mini for stereo sound, and it works flawlessly with iOS devices. The main drawback here is its lack of third-party support for services and devices, at least when pitted against Nest and Echo devices.

Best Smart Speaker for Siri

Apple HomePod mini


  • $99 at Apple
  • $100 at Best Buy
  • $100 at B&H

If you are all-in on Apple, the HomePod mini is a great option, though you may want to look elsewhere for greater compatibility.

How to pick the best Smart Speaker

There are lots of great Bluetooth speakers out there, but you just might want to go even further and get a smart speaker to really round out your sound. If smart speakers excite you, then this is a great time to be a consumer. There are more options out there that are more affordable than ever before. The tricky part is that many of them are increasingly platform-specific, so if you are all-in on Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, that may sway you one way or another.

If you want a good-sounding smart speaker with platform and assistant flexibility, we recommend going with the Sonos One (Gen 2). It works with both Alexa and Google Assistant, has the most content partnerships, and sounds great.

1. Are you locked into a particular ecosystem?

While not universally true, many of the best smart speakers are made by Amazon, Apple, or Google. They are intertwined with those companies’ software platforms, smart voice assistants, and overall ecosystems. Chances are, if you are an Alexa household, you’re not going to be well served by considering an Apple or Google smart speaker.

Beyond platform and OS lock-in, however, you will also want to consider the third-party apps and connected home devices that you want to pair with your smart speakers. Some speakers like the HomePod mini don’t work with Spotify or YouTube Music, while Nest devices don’t play well with Ring security products. And speakers from companies like Sonos and Bose have mixed results with smart home integrations. Before you purchase your smart speaker, take an inventory of your apps, devices, and services, and see which are compatible with what devices.

2. Do you need portability?

Many smart speakers are intended to be stationary, remaining plugged into the outlet somewhere in your home or office. You can indeed unplug and move them to another room, but unless they have a built-in battery, you’re not going to be taking them to the beach or pool. For those use cases, you’re going to want to look away from Amazon, Apple, and Google and towards companies like Ultimate Ears and Sonos.

2. How much do privacy and security matter to you?

If you’re concerned about always having connected microphones and/or cameras in your home, you’ll definitely want to look at devices that have built-in physical controls like mute switches and camera covers. The latest smart speakers from Amazon and Google/Nest have these features and even show indicator lights and play audio cues to let you know when they’re not watching or listening. Even the more basic smart speakers these days have a mute button to prevent voice assistants from accidentally hearing something they perhaps shouldn’t. And Amazon, Apple, and Google all give you various degrees of control over your voice recordings and history, with some even offering the ability to delete voice records at a certain time automatically or to do so on-demand.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide


Jeramy Johnson is proud to help Keep Austin Weird and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he’s not writing about smart home gadgets and wearables, he’s defending his relationship with his smart voice assistants to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.


Hayato is a recovering trade show addict and video editor for Android Central based out of Indianapolis. He can mostly be found complaining about the cold and enthusing about prog metal on Twitter at @hayatohuseman. Got a tip or inquiry? Drop him a line at [email protected].

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