Best Smart Speakers 2018

Product Use case Rating
Amazon Echo Dot (2nd Gen) Best Overall Smart Speaker 8
Amazon Echo Dot Best Value Smart Speaker 9
Sonos One Best Sounding Smart Speaker 8
JBL Link 20 Best Portable Smart Speaker 9
Google Home Best Design 8

There's a good chance that your first smart home device will be a smart speaker. For one, it works just fine as a way to play music from your smartphone or the cloud. But if you start talking to it, the speaker will respond to your commands. It can do things like look up the weather and sports scores, turn on your coffee maker, read you a book or even change the channel on your TV.

Our favorite smart speaker is the second-generation Amazon Echo ($99). While we initially were disappointed in its sound quality, Amazon released a firmware update which greatly improved the listening experience. This all-new Echo is also smaller, more attractive, and less expensive than the original. Our budget pick is the Echo Dot, which costs just $50. Google Home is worth considering for its price and compatibility with Google's services, and now there's a $50 version—the Google Home Mini.

Latest News and Updates (April 2018)

MORE: Face-Off: Google Home Max vs. Apple HomePod vs. Sonos One

The second-generation Amazon Echo is smaller and more stylish than the original, and its outer skin can be swapped out for different colors and textures. An improvement to its firmware made this speaker sound as good as the original; if you're looking for a good all-purpose smart speaker, this is it.

At just $50, the Echo Dot is the least expensive way to get Alexa into your home. The Dot has both Bluetooth and a 3.5mm jack, so you can connect it to a better-sounding speaker, which we recommend you do if you're planning to use it to play music. The Dot is ideal for places where you want Alexa, such as a kitchen, but don't want another large device cluttering the space.

The Sonos One is based on the Play:One, but has Alexa 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 Spotify. Yes, you'll pay more, but the sound quality is worth it.

One problem with most smart speakers is that they need to be plugged in for them to work. The battery-powered JBL Link 20 takes care of that limitation: we found that it will last at least 10 hours on a charge. Its audio quality is great, too, for those times you want to extend Google Assistant's reach to your backyard. The Link 20 is also water-resistant: You can dunk it for up to 30 minutes.

The Google Home speaker is more attractive, and sounds better than, the 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.

Other Smart Speakers We Tested

Apple's first smart speaker sounds amazing, thanks to an array of speakers and beam-forming tech that automatically adjusts its audio properties based on the room in which the speaker is placed. However, Siri's smarts lag behind both Alexa and Google Assistant, and we don't like that if you want to use Siri to ask for tunes, you have to use Apple Music.

Google's competitor to the Echo Dot also costs $49, and in head-to-head tests, we found its audio to be far superior to Amazon's mini-sized Alexa speaker. To be sure, though, it's not intended primarily to play music. However, it will connect to other Chromecast devices, so you can play your tunes through something better equipped. The fabric top of the Home Mini is certainly more attractive than the hockey-puck Echo Dot, and comes three colors: Black, Gray, and Coral (pink).

The super-sized Google Home Max kicks out an impressive amount of sound—one is more than enough to fill a large living room—but you can also pair two of these together for fuller stereo sound. We liked that the Google Home Max could do, but you get just as good performance from two Sonos Ones as you do from one Google Home Max.

If you already own an Echo Dot, the Vaux could be for you. You slip the Dot into the Vaux to turn Amazon's device into a better-sounding, portable speaker. That's because the Vaux has a battery that will power the Dot for up to 6 hours, and the speakers are loud, with crisp treble.

At about $30, the Eufy Genie is a good budget alternative to the already inexpensive Echo Dot. With a single 2-watt down-firing speaker, the Genie offers better audio than the Dot, but lacks Bluetooth, so if you want to connect an additional speaker, you'll have to use the included 3.5mm audio cable.

Fabriq's speaker comes in a variety of colorful skins, and lasted about 5 hours on a charge. It also has pretty good bass for such a small speaker. However, you have to press a button on the speaker before you can use Alexa; its treble is thin; and it's not waterproof.

What to Look For When Buying a Smart Speaker

Before you purchase a smart speaker, decide how you plan to use it. If it's going to be the only device in your living room that will play music, then you'll want one that has good audio quality. But while sound is important, it shouldn't necessarily be the deciding factor in which smart speaker you choose. For example, the Amazon Echo Dot has perhaps the worst-sounding speaker among those we've tested, but its small size and low price make it useful for people who already have a good speaker and merely want to add some smarts to it. The Dot is also a cheap way to spread a voice assistant throughout your house.

If you want a speaker that you can take outdoors, though, you'll want to consider a portable option, such as the Amazon Tap (pictured above), or a third-party speaker, such as the Fabriq.

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  • s.oliver.daniel
    This is not a comment. I would just like to know whether I would get total stereo sound from these "single" speakers if I place one of them in front of a PC monitor placed right in front me?
  • eric.cazin
    Hi guys,

    The SONT LF-S50G is missing in your list.

  • jbukow
    Check out the insignia google voice speakers from Best Buy, normally I don't recommend store brands but these are stereo 2.0 or stereo+subwoofer 2.1 portable speakers with battery, obviously support Google Voice Assistant, they sound really good and can hear you really well when music is playing, and are in the $70-$110 range.
  • itsjoecool
    Im trying to help my mom, who recently had a stroke. She is having trouble with spelling and math. Which of these devices would be the best at helping her spell words and do math?
  • gditrecruiter

    I just read an article that said Google Home is better. The rationale was that Google's algorithm is superior to Bing, which Amazon's products utilize for commands. I must admit when searching on the web, I always find Google blows Bing out of the water...

    I think this is especially relevant for you/your mom. My mother, now deceased, had similar type of issues due to stroke. I know that the Google product would have suited her better.

    An example they mentioned about Bing was you have to construct the question a particular way, whereas Google's commands you didn't really need to do that as much. For someone with a stroke, you want it to be as simple as can be.....

    Wish you and your mom the best whatever you choose!

  • speakerfreak
    KitSound Voice One?
  • murraysandes
    Do you think google will get around to updating software in google home and google home mini to include latency delay ability. Both my google home minis receive and produce audio quicker than my other powered speakers retro fitted with chrome cast audio meaning I can't use my google home mini as part of an audio group..very frustrating
  • mdr1000ton
    You forget the Harman Kardon Invoke with cortana. A very good sounding speaker, better than most of the others, and a good price. Not too expensive and for the hardware it wort it.
  • murraysandes
    Anonymous said:
    You forget the Harman Kardon Invoke with cortana. A very good sounding speaker, better than most of the others, and a good price. Not too expensive and for the hardware it wort it.

    So what does that have to do with the google,Home lack of latency issue
  • speakerfreak
    murraysandes - have you tried doing the steps as outlined here?
  • murraysandes
    Hi speakerfreak, thanks for responding. Your link outlines the directions to correct speaker delay for chrome cast audio disc that is plugged into the 3.5 mm audio input of an existing powered speaker or hometheatre amp. And yes this allows to slow the speaker response how ever the issue is for the google home and google home mini where the chrome cast audio is built in to the unit. When sending for example Spotify music to it through wifi, there is less circutery for the signal to travel and so it plays the music more instantly than say a hometheatre unit that has an external chrome cast audio disc plugged into the 3.5mm input. Both the google home or google home mini speaker does not have built into its software an ability to slow the signal to match in my case the signal coming from hometheatre unit. Hope this makes sense
  • madtestengineer1
    amazon echo 2 as the best overall is kinda misleading. It does sound better then Gen1 but it still not much better then a low/mid level bluetooth speaker. A lot of the mid level JBL bluetooth speakers sound better then the echo 2. That is why the echo dot is the best selling echo. Everyone knows the sound is lacking. But people plug it into much better sounding speakers.

    As an overall best smart speaker, it should be a speaker first then the smart second. It really better as the best smart-smart speaker. Not the overall best smart speaker.
  • rsklein
    This article makes a direct comparison between a pair of Sonos Ones and a single Google Home Max. While this may be fair from a strictly price comparison, it doesn't answer the question many people face: How do a pair of Google Home Max compare with a pair of Sonos Ones? I'm guessing that the Google Home Max pair wins hands down, but guessing isn't hearing. I'd be interested in hearing from anybody who has had the opportunity to make this comparison.