The 10 Best Smart Speakers

Get the perfect sound with these smart speakers

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The best smart speakers let you voice control your favorite smart home devices, while also providing excellent sound quality and useful skills and features. The first thing most people look at when choosing a smart speaker is which voice assistant the speaker houses. The three most popular voice assistants are Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. Each assistant has its advantages and disadvantages. For instance, Alexa is known for its compatibility with numerous devices and easy-to-use app, while Google Assistant is known for being extremely quick and intelligent.

When it comes to sound quality, a good smart speaker should have exceptional voice recognition and music playback, so far-field microphones are just as important as tweeters and woofers. The far-field microphones must be able to hear your voice commands in the face of background noises, and you shouldn’t have to shout to get the speaker to pick up your voice commands from a distance. Audio software is also important, and more and more speakers are incorporating features like adaptive audio, which allow your smart speaker to adjust to the acoustic conditions of the room.

We tested an assortment of smart speakers, and our pick for the best smart speaker is the Sonos One because it offers Alexa and Google Assistant built into a speaker with amazing sound. We’ve also included our picks for the best smart speakers in other categories like the best budget smart speaker, the best for Amazon, the best for Apple, and the best smart speaker for Google.

The Rundown
Best Overall:
Sonos One at Amazon
Gives you both the smart features and the sound quality you'd want, all for a reasonable price.
The full-size Echo is prettier and more powerful than ever.
The adorable 4th generation Dot is the culmination of all of Amazon's smart home learnings.
A voice-controlled digital assistant for an affordable price.
Best Multilingual:
Google Home Max at Best Buy
One of the most popular and effective voice assistants today.
Best for iPhone owners:
Apple HomePod Mini at Walmart
The obvious choice for Apple fans
Best for LED Display:
Bose Home Speaker 500 at Amazon
A wide sound profile with balanced highs and lows that fills up a room nicely.
Best Splurge:
Sonos Beam at Amazon
Control your TV—and streaming music services, smart home products, and much more—completely hands-free.
Best for iPhones:
Apple HomePod Mini at Walmart
The HomePod Mini is an excellent companion for your iPhone, with its compact design and smart capabilities.
Best Smart Speaker:
Google Nest Audio at Walmart
The Nest Audio is one of the best smart speakers on the market, with Google's excellent voice recognition and adaptive audio.
What We Like
  • Alexa and Google Assistant

  • Premium sound

  • Airplay 2 support

What We Don't Like
  • No audio output jack

The second generation of the Sonos One gives you smart features to control your devices and premium sound quality to listen to your favorite tunes, all for a reasonable price. With both Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant built-in, the Sonos One offers a great deal of flexibility, as you can choose to use either of the leading voice assistants. The Sonos One does an excellent job at picking up voice commands. You can play music on more than 50 different music streaming services, hear the news, or control compatible smart home devices like your lights or thermostat. Although this speaker lacks an audio jack or Bluetooth audio streaming, it does support Apple AirPlay 2. It also has an Ethernet port for a hardwired connection.

In addition to the dual assistant support, sound quality is what makes the Sonos One particularly attractive, and the reason the speaker sounds so good is because of its audio hardware and tuning software. It has two class-D digital amplifiers, one tweeter, and one mid-woofer to deliver rich, clear sound with strong bass. You can hear a noticeable improvement in quality when compared with many other smart speakers on the market. At 6.3 x 4.7 x 4.7 inches, 4 pounds, and available in black or white, the unassuming unit fits in just about anywhere. It's easy to pair two Sonos Ones together for stereo sound, add the speaker to a surround sound system, or make it part of a multi-room audio configuration. Plus, with automatic firmware updates and intuitive touch controls, the Sonos One is extremely user-friendly for such a full-featured smart speaker.

“The Sonos One looks good, sounds great, and allows you to choose between Alexa and Google Assistant—what more could you really ask for?” — Erika Rawes, Product Tester

Best Appearance: Amazon Echo (4th Gen)

Amazon Echo 4th Gen
What We Like
  • Exceptional sound quality

  • Improved design

  • Built-in Zigbee hub and temperature sensor

What We Don't Like
  • Less mics for voice recognition than previous model

You might say Alexa was the original household name for smart home assistants, and the Amazon Echo was the smart speaker that gave it form. Now in its fourth generation, the Echo continues to justify why it's one of the most popular smart speakers on the market, and Alexa is still one of the most trusted virtual assistants. Alexa's thousands and thousands of available “skills” give you hands-free access to all sorts of convenient functions, usually specific to third-party apps and services—from getting news to ordering a ride to playing trivia games. Amazon Prime subscribers also can take advantage of having access to Amazon's vast collection of media, which includes a nice selection of free music.

The latest Echo sports a gorgeous, brand-new design, a spherical presentation that's simultaneously very attractive and easy to blend into home decor. It features a laundry list of improvements over its predecessor, including a faster processor, improved sound, better smart home integration, and a built-in temperature sensor. Erika, our product tester, loved the 4th Gen Echo's design, power, and value, and praised the AZ1 Neural Engine Processor (which plays a major role in the Echo's excellent voice recognition capabilities).

"A worthwhile investment, the new Echo looks better, sounds better, and it performs better in just about every category." — Erika Rawes, Product Tester

Best Design: Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)

Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)
What We Like
  • Improved spherical design

  • Front-firing speaker for improved sound

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Few internal improvements over previous generation

The Echo Dot has been a fantastic compromise between functionality and price since the release of the first generation in 2016. In the intervening four years, Amazon learned a lot about how to integrate a smart speaker/smart hub into other smart tech, and make it the core of an entire infrastructure of smart home technology. Alexa has continued to improve throughout that time, as well, and all of those learnings and upgrades are clearly evident in the adorable fourth generation of the Echo Dot.

First, the design: a cute-as-a-button rounded dot reminiscent of the candy of the same name, swaddled in soft cloth bifurcated into grey and blue. Our reviewer, Erika Rawes, loved the modern elegance of this new spherical form factor. And it's no slouch in terms of performance either. While the 4th Gen isn't a massive improvement over previous iterations, it continues to deliver great sound, amazing voice recognition, and near-flawless Alexa integration (and, by extension, smart home integration).

"The new Echo Dot is a great speaker at a great price...for first-time buyers, it's a no brainer." — Erika Rawes, product tester

Best Budget: Google Home Mini

Google Home Mini
What We Like
  • Clean design

  • Intelligent, multilingual assistant

  • Very affordable

What We Don't Like
  • No 3.5 mm audio jack

The Google Home Mini is Google’s flagship budget smart speaker. Its predecessor, the second-gen Nest Mini, hit shelves in late 2019, but we like the first-gen model because you can find it for such a low price. If you're not hoping for booming bass, this speaker is an excellent option for those who want the benefits of a voice-controlled digital assistant without spending too much cash. At less than 4 inches in diameter, the tiny pod makes Google Assistant available anywhere in your home, allowing you to ask a quick question, get a weather update, set a timer, or call out smart home commands. It even has an interpreter mode to translate conversations with someone who speaks a different language.

Available in charcoal, chalk, sky, and coral colors, the Home Mini offers a simple design. Four gentle LED dots light up on top as status indicators, and you can tap on the sides to control the volume. Although this speaker doesn’t have the superior sound you’d get from some of the larger speakers, the 360-degree sound output is powerful enough to play music throughout an entire floor of your home, and you can even pair two Google Home Minis if you want stereo sound. Voice recognition is exceptional on the Home Mini too, and the three far-field mics can hear your commands from across the room.

Google Assistant ties into the knowledge graph used by Google's search engine, which makes it the best smart speaker interface this side of IBM Watson for answering questions.” — Daniel Nations, Lifewire Technology Writer

Best Multilingual: Google Home Max

Google Home Max
What We Like
  • Great for music

  • Excellent bass

  • Multilingual Google Assistant

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Harnessing the power of Google AI, Google Assistant is one of the most popular and effective voice assistants on the market. You can ask questions in a fluid and natural way and get helpful, coherent responses. The assistant can even ask follow-up questions to ensure you’re getting the best answers to your questions, and (as we mentioned above) it has an interpreter mode to translate conversations.

Google Home Max is the speaker to go for if you're serious about how your music sounds. The Home Max puts an emphasis on clean sound and powerful bass. Within the simple exterior are two 4.5-inch woofers and dual 0.7-inch tweeters working together to produce big, room-filling, bass-heavy sound. It's further enhanced by a Smart Sound feature that uses machine learning technology to set equalizer settings based on the acoustics of the room and the speaker's placement.

You can set up the Google Home Max to stream from YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, and other services. Plus, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and wired auxiliary connection options, you have a lot of flexibility in your audio sources.

Best for iPhone owners: Apple HomePod Mini

Apple HomePod Mini
What We Like
  • Easy to use

  • Excellent sound quality

  • Great integration with Siri

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • Limited usefulness if you don't have an iPhone

If you’re a fan of Siri, the HomePod mini might be a good option for you. It's small, but makes a case for being one of the best-sounding smart speakers.

Unlike Alexa or Google Assistant, however, Apple's digital assistant lacks a vast selection of third-party skills. You can still do a lot with the HomePod mini though. You can check the news, use it as a speakerphone to make calls, check messages, control smart devices and create scenes, and so much more.

The HomePod mini sounds great, but you'll need to use all Apple products to get the best from it - and it comes at a premium price — Erika Rawes, Lifewire Technology Writer

Best for LED Display: Bose Home Speaker 500

Bose Home Speaker 500
What We Like
  • Has Alexa and Google Assistant

  • Good audio quality

  • Has an LED display screen

What We Don't Like
  • App could use improvement

Bose is known for putting out quality audio products, and the Home Speaker 500 fits right in line with the brand’s reputation. The premium-priced device boasts full stereo sound, with a pair of drivers aimed in opposite directions. The Home Speaker 500 offers the flexibility of both Alexa and Google Assistant, and a sensitive eight-microphone array picks up your voice commands without you having to repeat yourself. 

In addition to its digital assistant's features, the smart speaker also supports wireless connections via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Apple AirPlay 2, along with an aux input jack for wired audio connections. Bose SimpleSync technology also lets you sync music with portable speakers and headphones.

With an elegant design, the 8-inch tall speaker has options in black or silver. It's also not quite as minimal as other smart speakers, with the inclusion of a small color LCD screen to display info and album art for the current song you're playing. But, this device looks good with just about any home decor.

What We Like
  • Alexa and Google Assistant

  • Attractive design

  • Multifunctional

What We Don't Like
  • Limited ports

The Sonos Beam is more than just a smart speaker—it’s also a soundbar for your TV. With it, you can control your TV, streaming music services, smart home products, and much more with the built-in Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. At 2.70 x 25.63 x 3.94 inches, the Beam is noticeably compact for a soundbar, and it can easily fit under most TVs or mount on a wall. Despite the relatively small size, you get powerful, high-quality sound whether you're watching TV or listening to music. 

The Beam is loaded with a center tweeter, four full-range woofers for mids and lows, and three passive radiators to move air and improve the bass sound. It also has five D-class amplifiers tuned to match the speakers, as well as five far-field microphones for voice recognition. There’s an Ethernet port and HDMI with an Audio Return Channel (ARC) for sending TV audio back to the speaker. You can also take advantage of Airplay 2, as well as the brand's multi-room audio system capabilities if you have other Sonos devices.

“We just can’t get over how nice and modern the form factor looks and feels on this soundbar.” — Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Best for iPhones: Apple HomePod Mini

Apple HomePod Mini
What We Like
  • New round design

  • Excellent sound quality

  • Great voice recognition

  • Integrates well with iPhone

  • USB-C power connection

  • Emphasis on privacy

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive for a mini speaker

  • Fewer smart home partners

  • Power cable doesn't detach from speaker

  • No 3.5mm jack

At only 3.9 inches wide and 3.3 inches tall, the spherically shaped HomePod mini is Apple's mini smart speaker. It can do all of the things you'd expect a smart speaker to be able to do—control compatible smart devices, answer questions, tell you the weather, keep you up to date on the news, and play music. But, the mini also serves as an amazing iPhone or iPad companion. You can send audio from your mobile device to the speaker, text with your voice, and more.

The HomePod mini has exceptional sound clarity, with a full-range driver, dual passive radiators, and computational audio. Equipped with Apple's S5 chip, it has audio tuning software that can make real time adjustments to the volume or speaker movement based on the particular song. That, coupled with 360-degree audio makes for great music. Voice recognition is top notch too, with a four-mic array (including a mic that helps it decipher the difference between its own music and voice commands). 

Apple prioritized privacy in the HomePod mini, as well, so you can use the device securely without having to worry too much that your data will end up in the wrong hands. 

 

"Apple gained its vast user base by offering user-friendliness, clean and intuitive interfaces, and good build quality. The HomePod Mini fits right in." Erika Rawes, Product Tester

Best Smart Speaker: Google Nest Audio

Nest Audio

The newest addition to the Google Nest lineup of smart speakers, the Nest Audio is built for sound. It has a 19 mm (0.75-inch) tweeter, a 75 mm (3-inch) woofer, and audio tuning software to improve audio performance. With Ambient IQ and Media EQ, the Nest Audio can adapt its sound output based on what you’re listening to and where you’re listening, and it can change the volume or tuning to make your content sound its best. Voice recognition is also stellar, as the speaker makes efficient use of its three far-field microphones. The mics can hear you from across the room, and you’ll rarely have to shout over background noises like music, TV, or appliances.

Multi-room music lets you group Google Nest devices and play music on all your devices at the same time. You can switch your song or podcast from one speaker to another, so you can walk upstairs without interrupting your song. You even can pair two Nest Audios together, and they can provide amazing stereo sound.

Great sound isn’t the only thing the Nest Audio offers though. The built-in Google Assistant can help you organize your day, answer questions, keep up with the news, control your smart home, make voice calls via Google Duo, and so much more. It has a quad-core A53 1.8 GHz processor and machine learning engine, which help the assistant respond faster. On top of all this, the speaker is exceptionally durable, with a rounded rectangular shape and an eco-friendly enclosure made of 70 percent recycled plastic.

"The speaker can adapt to the environment and the content you’re listening to." Erika Rawes, Product Tester

The Sonos One is a great option for those looking for a flexible smart speaker with great sound. If you want a more affordable option, the Echo Dot (4th Gen) is the way to go for those who prefer Alexa, while the Google Home Mini is a stellar option for Google Assistant fans.

About our Trusted Experts 


Erika Rawes
has been writing professionally for more than a decade, and she’s spent the last five years writing about consumer technology. Erika has reviewed roughly 125 gadgets, including computers, peripherals, A/V equipment, mobile devices, and smart home gadgets. Erika currently writes for Digital Trends and Lifewire. 

Anton Galang started writing about tech in 2007 as an editorial contributor to PC Magazine and PCMag.com. He was also previously the Editorial Director of print and digital media at A+ Media.

What to Look for in a Smart Speaker

Voice Assistant - Do you prefer Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri? If you choose an Echo speaker, Alexa will be your assistant, and you’ll reap the benefits of wide compatibility, easy to create routines, and a huge library of skills. If you go with a Google Nest speaker, you’ll have Google Assistant, which offers an awesome interpreter mode and detailed answers to questions. Siri is a good option for those who prefer the familiar and tried and true Apple assistant. Some speakers, like the Sonos One, offer more than one assistant. However, these smart speakers typically cost a bit more.

Sound Quality - Many people use their smart speakers to listen to music, so the way that music sounds is especially important. Does it have good low, medium, and high tones? Typically, price and sound quality are positively correlated, and the sound might be the biggest thing that separates a $200 smart speaker from a $50 speaker. If you just want a smart speaker to act as a voice controller for your smart devices, go for an Echo Dot or Home Mini. However, if music is your primary concern, you’ll be happier with something like the regular Echo, the Sonos One, or the Nest Hub Max. 

Compatibility - Is the speaker compatible with the smart devices you want to control? Some devices require a specific Assistant, like Alexa, although most modern smart devices are compatible with both Alexa and Google Assistant. Additionally, check for features like Bluetooth compatibility, and compatibility with the music streaming services you typically use.

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