There's a good chance that your first smart home device will be a smart speaker. For one, all of the best smart speakers let you play music from your smartphone or the cloud. And if you talk to it, the speaker will respond to your commands. It can do things like look up the weather and sports scores, control your smart lights, read you a book or even change the channel on your TV.
After reviewing dozens of the best smart speakers, our favorite overall is the third-generation Amazon Echo. It sounds stellar for the price, has an attractive design and lets you access all of the best Alexa skills. Our budget pick is the 3rd-gen Echo Dot, which can often be found for a tiny cost.
These speakers use Amazon's voice assistant, Alexa. If you prefer Google Assistant, then check out the Google Nest Mini, which offers the best Google Assistant skills, and sounds awesome for its size.
The third-generation Echo is more stylish than the original and one of the best Alexa speakers. In fact, it's a replica of the powerful Echo Plus. An improvement to its interior audio hardware made this speaker even better than the last Echo; if you're looking for a good all-purpose smart speaker, this is it.
The third-generation Echo Dot has vastly improved sound over the previous generation and, with a fresh, cloth-covered design, looks better too. Like before the Dot has both Bluetooth and a 3.5mm jack, so you can connect it to a better-sounding speaker. The Dot is ideal for places where you want Alexa, such as a kitchen, but don't want another large device cluttering the space. And, at $50, it's the same price as the last model.
For $60, you can get the new Echo Dot with Clock. It's quite similar to the basic Echo Dot, but features an LED clock display on the side.
If you're looking for an even cheaper smart speaker, the $25 Echo Flex is an excellent variant. The plug-in Alexa device doesn't sound the best, but its useful nonetheless.
The Sonos One has Alexa and Google Assistant built in, as well as six microphones to pick up your voice. It produced the best audio we've yet heard from an Alexa-powered speaker, and, like other Sonos devices, you can pair two of the Ones for true stereo sound, or link them with other Sonos speakers for whole-home audio. Plus, it also works with streaming services such as Spotify and Red Bull Radio. Yes, you'll pay more, but the sound quality is worth it.
The JBL Link 20 is one of the best Google Home speakers. It sounds awesome, and offers portability and ruggedness. When using Google Assistant, it's responsive to commands. The only thing it can't do is make hands-free calls. If sound matters and you plan to take the speaker out and about, the Link 20 — or its smaller, less expensive sibling, the $149 JBL Link 10 — is an excellent choice.
Like the Echo Dot, the Google Nest Mini is a solid, sub-$50 smart home speaker. Without changing the price or general appearance of the original Google Home Mini, Google made significant interior upgrades that make the Nest Mini better than its predecessor. The added microphone, twice as strong bass and in-house learning chip give it spectacular value for the price. Plus the hook on the back lets you hang it on the wall to save counter space.
For $229, the Google Nest Hub Max offers a large display, powerful speakers and a camera with a host of advanced features. Its motion-tracking and facial recognition features are put to good use, and help separate it from other smart displays. We also appreciate the camera privacy switch, and imagine others will, too. It’s taken Google longer than Amazon to come out with a 10-inch smart display, but the Echo Show now has a more than worthy competitor in the Nest Hub Max.
The Echo Studio is the high-end Alexa smart speaker you may have been waiting for. It delivers great room-filling audio and visceral, chest-pounding bass. You can use this device as a speaker for your HDTV as well as your Amazon Fire TV device. If you have two Echo Studios, you can pair them for an even better surround sound experience. And if you subscribe to Amazon's HD music streaming service, the Echo Studio supports those 3D tracks.
The Sonos Move is the best-sounding portable smart speaker on the market. You're able to transport it around the home and outdoor spaces while still taking advantage of Sonos' extensive streaming collection. It also introduces Auto TruePlay, a technology that allows the speaker to adjust its sound for its location using the internal microphones.
The UE Megablast sounds great for its size. If you want a speaker that cranks out tunes, offers some smart speaker functions and is portable and rugged, it's a good match. You get a solid 16 hours battery life, meaning the UE Megablast will survive a day outdoors on a single charge.
The best Google Home speaker from Google itself is more attractive and sounds better than the original Echo. Take your pick from six colors and two finishes for the base (fabric or metal). At $129, it's also cheaper than the Echo. Plus, you can use Google Home to control Chromecast-enabled devices, such as TVs. Alexa can't do that. However, in a face-off between the two assistants, we found Amazon's to be more well-rounded than Google's. If you opt for the Google Home, make sure you check out our list of the best Google Assistant commands.