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Automate Your Home With The Best Smart Speakers
Last updated: 28 Jul 2021
Smart speakers have introduced a whole new way of automating and organizing your life without the need to press any buttons. These little devices can potentially control everything from your fridge to your TV and your music playlist. A smart speaker can help plan your day, tell you the news, or book a table at the local restaurant. But which smart speaker is the best hands-free digital assistant for your home? We've curated a list of the best smart speakers in 2021 for a range of styles, budgets, and smart home ecosystems.
Most people think that you need to live in a smart home to benefit from smart speakers but digital assistants (Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, others) have other applications and can help you in dozens of ways. The amazing thing is that you don’t have to lift a finger to summon them—just speak their names.
Nowadays the industry has grown and evolved to a point where you get a lot more choices at a variety of prices. But this also makes selecting the right smart speaker more complex. So, you need to shop smart if you want to find the smart speaker that’s best for you. Our list below should make selecting the right model for you a lot easier.
Not to be confused with a wireless speaker for your tunes, a smart speaker is an IoT enabled bit of magic controlled by voice. A literal virtual assistant, they tell us the weather, the time, turn on the coffee machine (if connected) or the thermostat, even order takeout when asked. Kind of like a Siri on steroids, the tasks smart speakers can be connected to take care of are ever expanding.
Functions: Smart speakers come with such an array of functions that sorting through them can be overwhelming. Your best bet is to decide what you want the speaker to do, rank these requirements in order of importance, and avoid the lure of gimmicks. For example, if you want your speaker to primarily play music then make sure that is one of its highlighted functions.
Compatibility: When it comes to voice assistance, most third-party speakers are agnostic, but a few will only work with their assistants. Apple is famous for its closed system.
Data security: There has been some noise and fake news around smart speaker security, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken seriously. Anything that connects to your home Wi-Fi needs to have a robust security system in place. Even high-end smart speakers may cut corners when it comes to security, so it’s most likely cheaper products definitely are. Make sure to enable passwords and two-factor authentication to protect you and your data.
Futureproof: Smart speakers are an investment, and it can be tempting to futureproof by buying the most advanced one on the market. One that will lock your smart doors and start your smart car. That’s great if you have a smart door, but if you don’t and don’t plan to install one it’s not sensible. Sonos got in trouble when they announced that its older speakers wouldn’t be getting a software update. You might plan to keep your speaker for the next twenty years, but companies often have other ideas.
Portability and Power: If you plan to carry your speaker around the house with you then check its battery life to make sure it can make the journey.
Echo Dot (3rd Gen) Smart speaker enables you to use your voice to perform a myriad of activities in your home like set timers, add items to lists, and create calendar events and reminders. In a situation where you have compatible Echo devices in different rooms, it extends your audible reach across your whole home. With this compact smart speaker, you can listen to Audible, podcasts, radio stations, or pair with Fire TV to voice control movies and entertainment.
Echo Dot (3rd Gen) Smart speaker is a voice-controlled smart speaker powered by Alexa and is perfect for any room. This speaker enables you to use vocal cues and voice commands to play music, listen to the news, gather information, and more. Hands-free you can call almost anyone and control compatible smart home devices with nothing but your voice.
Bose Home Speaker 300 pairs with your home speaker to stream your favorite music and more via a Bluetooth connection, your home Wi-Fi network, Apple AirPlay 2, or Spotify Connect. You can easily control your Bose speaker with three different options to manage what you hear: your voice, the Bose Music app, or 6 one-touch presets on top of the speaker.
Bose Home Speaker 300 is a great-sounding compact size smart speaker with a room-rocking bass and 360-degree, lifelike sound. This device has Alexa and Google Assistant built in to accept and implement your voice commands and a noise-rejecting mic system that listens in every direction for your voice.
Certified Refurbished Echo studio makes your music sound incredible whatever the source. The device comes equipped with top-of-the-line Dolby Atmos technology that enables a multidimensional audio experience, adding space, clarity, and depth. Echo Studio automatically analyzes the acoustics of your room, fine-tuning playback for optimal sound, no matter where it’s placed. It is also the only Echo smart speaker that plays new music formats mastered in 3D and Ultra HD.
Certified Refurbished Echo studio creates an immersive, 3-dimensional soundscape, wrapping you in studio-quality audio from every direction. This device allows you to perform a number of tasks like check the weather, set alarms, and control compatible smart home devices with just your voice.
With Five strategically positioned speakers, Echo studio generates a sound that fills the room and sends different parts of the song to your ears from different directions.
Sonos One (Gen 2) smart speaker has a compact design that fits just about any space. Put it on your kitchen countertop, or tuck it away on your office bookshelf. This device is also humidity resistant so you can even put it in the bathroom. When you Pair 2 Sonos Ones together in the same room, you get more stereo separation and more detailed sound. Also, you have the ability to connect wirelessly to other Sonos speakers to enjoy brilliant sound in any or every room.
Sonos One (Gen 2) smart speaker is a powerful smart speaker with a brilliant rich room-filling sound and a built-in voice control feature. With Amazon Alexa is built right in, this smart speaker enables you to control the device, play music, check the news, set alarms, get your questions answered, and more, completely hands-free.
Marshall Stanmore II smart speaker is quite easy to set up in a few steps. You can use the app to control your music with playback commands, customize one-touch presets, or connect to other Alexa-enabled devices. The device connects seamlessly to your Wi-Fi network and sports a voice mute button for when you need your privacy to be absolute.
Marshall Stanmore II smart speaker is a smart Alexa enabled smart speaker with a revolutionary sound. This amazing device enables you to control your music without raising a finger and customize your sound to your sonic taste with the Marshall app or the analog controls.
Roku wireless speakers add immersive surround sound to your Roku audio system. They are designed to only work with Roku TV or Roku Audio, not other TVs, Roku players, or sound systems. This speaker enables you to easily stream music, podcasts, and more from a Bluetooth-connected device to open up a world of sound.
Roku Wireless Speakers are meticulously engineered to deliver full, clear sound and crisp dialogue with seamless audio/video sync to your Roku TV or Roku audio system. With Roku wireless speaker you can experience room-filling audio that moves with the action, conversations like you’re in the room, and soundscapes that transport you to another world.
Smart speakers are some of the most utilitarian devices you can own. They possess the ability to help you control your smart home devices, play music, and come equipped with voice assistants ready to answer your most mundane, simple, and or confusing questions.
Since you can control these AI virtual assistants with your voice, they are excellent assistants to have in a home. That’s why a lot of people have been giving them a try in their homes.
To find the right speaker for your home, you need to know the options you have available first and how to navigate them to one that fits your specific situation.
If you’ve already decided you want a smart speaker, you might need some assistance in choosing your next virtual assistant, take a look at our guide below.
Which smart speaker should I buy?
Usually, in most cases, your choice of smart speakers will be influenced by the services you've signed up for, the automation environment you want, and the products you already own.
Your choice will most probably come down to one of the three major digital assistants – Alexa, Google Home, or Siri. They're more or less the same in terms of features and functions but they handle commands a little differently. Let’s examine them;
Amazon’s Alexa is the only major digital assistant that isn't tied to an existing product or software line. This allows Amazon a little more freedom to partner with whoever it wants. Unlike Apple’s Siri and Google Home, Alexa does not have the ability to complete all of its tasks out of the box. You need to download 'Skill' kits for specific tasks. This feature is very useful and enables you to tailor Alexa to your needs but this will require a bit of work. Another interesting feature of Alexa's is its intercom system that allows you to communicate between all your Amazon speakers throughout the house, like an intercom system.
Google Home is the most comprehensive and humanlike of the three digital assistants. It works well with existing Google products like Pixel phones and Chromecast line. A major advantage of Google-based smart speakers is that they allow you to send content to Google Chromecast dongles using your voice and also control playback using nothing but your voice. It is great at controlling first and third-party smart devices over a Wi-Fi network, although its responses are slightly slower than Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.
Smart speakers run by Google Home also group very easily. It is definitely worth a try if you already have other google devices or applications
If you already have an Apple ecosystem going then this is the obvious choice. This way you get a seamless connection to your iPhone, Apple TV, or iMac as Siri recognizes first and third-party smart device commands in a heartbeat. The little hitch is that it is not quite as polished as its competitors, – it sometimes struggles to recognize requests occasionally, and can only complete basic tasks for now.
A large chunk of the market also misses out on this because it requires that connected smart devices be HomeKit enabled.
What should I look for in a smart speaker?
Before selecting your preferred smart speaker device, you should also consider these points:
The audio quality of your smart speaker matters a lot, especially when you are looking to use yours as a media player of sorts. However, in a situation whereby you only need to use your smart speaker to control other devices or listen to spoken word content such as the news then this becomes less of a big deal. In this case, you could get away with one of the smaller, cheaper models.
The Bluetooth feature is a handy workaround if you want to stream music on a smart speaker that doesn't support your service of choice. You can simply access your service this way via your smartphone or PC.
The manufacturers in the smart speaker’s space have been gradually expanding their partnerships with third-party companies making smart home devices. Before you purchase any smart appliances and entertainment products from specific companies, try looking into whether they can directly communicate with each other. This will make your set-up process a lot easier.
This feature is part of what makes smart speakers stand out. A good Smart speaker can hold a conversation after the initial question has been asked. What this means is that you really do not need to repeat yourself. For example; "Show me the closest Chinese restaurants,", can be followed by "When do they open?" rather than having to say "When do local Chinese restaurants open?".
Ease of use
This is a measure of how easy your smart speaker is to set up, how accessible the physical controls are, and, most importantly, how well it responds to commands in various environments. Poor quality speakers need you to repeat commands even in quiet rooms. Great speakers can pick up your voice, even in busy situations. You should tone down your expectations however, your smart speaker is unlikely to perform optimally in a noisy environment, for example at a party.
Smart speakers also have the ability to connect directly to certain services such as Netflix, Spotify, News channels, and so on. You can issue vocal commands from the speaker without having to hassle about extra connections like Bluetooth. To get the best out of your experience, you need to choose a smart speaker model that generally supports services you subscribe to.
Smart Speaker FAQ
What can smart speakers do?
Smart speakers can do a lot. First up they're speakers in their own right, from the really premium-quality Apple HomePod to comparatively simpler Amazon Echo Dot. Smart speakers are capable of a lot of other things, unlike Bluetooth speakers. With their voice-activated smart assistants, you can literally ask them to do a range of things. You can ask them to play music for you, answer your questions and also control other smart home devices. And that's not all.
Which voice assistant is best?
This usually is a subjective thing. People that have always loved Apple will stay loyal to Siri. Others may have fallen in love with Alexa after purchasing an Echo as soon as the smart speaker was first launched. Google Assistant is largely by general consensus, the most accurate voice assistant. There are no hard and fast rules but here a few tips; If you own a lot of Apple products, Siri is the best for you (Obviously). For overall compatibility, you should opt for Alexa.
Is my smart speaker always listening?
The answer to this question is Yes. Your smart speaker is always listening and idling, waiting to react to its ‘wake word.’ This factor has been a cause for concerns regarding privacy and security. A great tip if you are really concerned about Google or Amazon eavesdropping, is that you can turn off the microphone on your smart speaker manually.
Technology fascinated Alex from a very young age, and he's carried his passion into his career as an aeronautical engineer, designing new technologies for airplanes. Dealing with such advanced technology emphasized to Alex the need for simple tech in our everyday lives, and he recommends computer products that will make anyone's day-to-day operations easier.