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Smart Speakers For Home
Whether you want Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri to be the voice of your home, there’s a smart speaker for you. Here are our top picks.
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David Andres is a senior writer for broadband providers, smart home devices and security products. Prior to joining, David wrote his industry expertise for the Allconnect broadband market. David’s work in 5+ years of broadband coverage has been cited by various sources including ArcGIS, DIRECTV, etc. David has been around ever since and lives in the Charlotte area with his wife, son and two cats.
Smart speakers have become a staple in many homes these days, and it can be a little intimidating to join them. There are many options that vary in price, size, and sound quality, and each has its own voice assistant. Almost any smart speaker lets you control lights, play music, ask questions, and set reminders with simple voice commands. It can simply come down to a brand you’ve already invested in.
If you are interested in a particular brand, whether you are an Amazon, Apple or Google fan, choosing a speaker is easy. Go here for a guide to choosing a smart speaker from Amazon, which paved the way for the original Echo and other smart speakers with the Alexa voice assistant. In the meantime, if you want a Google-powered smart speaker, here’s a guide.
For those who are platform oriented, the range of choices can seem daunting at first. We’ve been testing volume control devices and smart speakers here since they first hit the scene. We considered all the important features of a smart device, from the inclusion of a smart display to the ease of installing multiple speakers. Here are our thoughts.
Google Home Smart Assistant
Deciding which smart speaker and companion assistant you want is at the heart of your smart home. Both Alexa and Google Assistant work with many devices. Both help you manage and control them easily with good audio performance. While Google Assistant is a little smarter, Alexa works with more smart home devices and makes setting up easier with voice commands.
Finally, thanks to Alexa and the $100 fourth-generation Amazon Echo, we’ll give Amazon the smart home edge in the best smart speaker category.
The latest Echo combines the usual Alexa smarts with a great-sounding speaker and has a built-in Zigbee radio. It’s a great inclusion that lets you connect Zigbee lights, locks, sensors, and other devices to your setup without needing a separate hub device. The Echo is also useful when you’re away, as Alexa can send an alert if your smart speaker’s microphone hears breaking glass or a smoke alarm.
Google has done an admirable job of beating Amazon in the smart speaker race. At this point, the choice between these two companies’ smart speaker devices at the cheapest price is a hair’s breadth.
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Google Assistant is now almost as capable as Alexa, and if Google Assistant is your preference, it makes the $50 Google Nest Mini a solid alternative to the Amazon Echo Dot. Also, according to our tests, Google Assistant is slightly smarter than Alexa. If you can’t remember the exact names of your smart home devices, Google’s voice commands and grouped commands, called routines, respond more flexibly to more smart devices than Amazon’s similar routines. let’s work Google Assistant can recognize multiple voices, so it will give you and your partner different answers if you each ask about your calendars, although Alexa can do that now, too.
If Alexa is your voice assistant of choice, you should opt for the latest Echo Dot. It’s affordable and offers all the Alexa skills and smart home integration you need. Overall, Google continues to excel in smarts, and the Google Nest Mini is a great, low-cost way to take advantage of those smarts.
Apple’s tiny Siri-powered smart speaker has an odd place among competitors with $100 price tags like Google’s Nest Audio and Amazon’s Echo, and other cheaper speakers that come in smaller packages like the Nest Mini and Echo Dot.
Features such as intercom, voice transmission and stereo pairing make this small smart speaker quite practical. It looks and feels great. When it comes to the smart home, Siri and the HomePod Mini are limited to devices that work with Apple’s smart home platform, HomeKit. These HomeKit-compatible devices are fewer than those that work with Alexa or Google Assistant, but that may soon change with the arrival of the global smart home standard meter later this year.
Google Home Smart Speaker
If you love Apple — and if Siri is your smart assistant of choice, or if HomeKit is your preferred smart home platform — you’ll love Apple’s latest smart speaker. For those who already use an iPhone, Apple TV, or the original HomePod, it makes sense to add this smart speaker to the lineup.
The $220 Sonos One lets you connect two devices for stereo or multi-room audio, but even one speaker sounds great for playing a wide variety of music. Even better, the Sonos One includes both Alexa and Google Assistant — just choose which one you want to use for your voice commands during setup. Additionally, Sonos features Apple’s AirPlay 2 so you can control it from any Siri-enabled device, including your iPhone.
Add it all up, and the Sonos One is a great-sounding, affordable smart speaker that could fit into smart hub families focused on Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri. This is a tough field to beat.
Those smart speakers are our favorite, but if you’re looking for something special in audio performance, you still have plenty of options. If you want to know the pros and cons of each and decide on a smart home device based on platform, read our Alexa vs. Google Assistant vs. Siri breakdown.
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Note that neither the original Amazon Echo nor the Nest Audio are shown above, as you can get the same features for less with the smaller versions (Dot and Mini). That said, both are still good options if you want a smart speaker that bridges the gap between affordable and premium audio.
If you’ve always liked the idea of a hearing aid but want something more intuitive, check out our list of the best smart displays. Smart displays basically combine a smart speaker with a touchscreen so you can watch videos on YouTube, make video calls, browse photos, and control your smart home gadgets with touch. Both Amazon and Google have several options worth checking out in this category.
Figure out which platform or features you prefer, and you should be able to quickly narrow down your options and find the best smart speaker for you and your family.
Almost any Amazon Echo smart speaker can stereo pair with other Echo speakers. The list is quite long, so take a look at Amazon’s stereo devices compatibility page. You’ll find a list of speakers that can be paired together for stereo sound.
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All Google smart speakers can be stereo paired as long as they are the same model. Google’s Nest Audio speakers are the best option for stereo pairing, and a two-pack of these speakers often offers a discount of $99 MSRP per speaker. You can set up the speakers in your Google Home app and tell Google which speaker is right and which is left. Bass and treble settings can also be adjusted from the Home app.
Apple’s HomePod Mini (currently the only smart speaker Apple makes), can be paired with another HomePod Mini to listen to left and right stereo channels. You can also connect your HomePod Minis to your Apple TV for surround sound cinema. These little speakers won’t blow you away, but they’re a nice extra feature.
If cinema surround sound for your TV is your smart speaker priority, Sonos offers the best sound quality in our opinion. Two Sonos speakers (of the same model) can be stereo paired.
If you’re interested in connecting your speakers to a larger system, the following smart speakers are equipped with an auxiliary jack:
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Today, the competition between Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa is very close. Apple’s Siri is in the field, but ranks third in terms of reliability, knowledge, and understanding of human requests.
Overall, we like Google Assistant for its high pitch, natural tone, and ability to understand (and answer) questions and consistently follow up on questions. Still, it’s close enough that you can safely invest in Google Assistant or Alexa with other priorities like speaker style, compatibility with devices, and other popular smart home products.
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