The best smart speakers not only let you listen to your favorite albums and tracks, they also come with a voice assistant built-in. So whether you want to hear the latest news, weather report, or get your burning questions answered, a smart speaker can take care of it all for you.
Whether you prefer to use Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, there’s a smart speaker to suit you. While the most well-known smart speakers are manufactured by the brands behind the voice assistant, such as the Amazon Echo, the Google Nest Audio, or the HomePod Mini, there are a number of third-party smart speakers to choose from, too.
Sonos and Bose are just some of the names combining a choice of voice assistants with their audio expertise to create a wireless smart speaker that doesn’t mean you have to compromise on sound quality.
Unlike the best smart displays, which feature a screen so you can see as well as hear the information a voice assistant is serving up, the best smart speaker only offers audible responses from the voice assistant. But they can still be used to make calls, and get smart home devices to work together.
So whether you have smart plugs, smart lights, or even video doorbells or home security cameras, if they’re compatible with the voice assistant built-in to your smart speaker, you’ll be able to use voice to control them, even if they’re made by different manufacturers.
With so many options on the market, choosing the right smart speaker for you may leave you feeling confused. So we’ve put an array of models to the test to discover just which is the best smart speaker for 2021.
The best smart speaker 2021
How we test smart speakers
To discover the best smart speakers on the market, we assess the the sound quality of the speaker and how effective the built-in voice assistant is at controlling playback for you; from selecting specific playlists, albums and tracks to adjusting the volume, skipping tracks and even the number of streaming service its compatible with.
We also evaluate each model on its ability to pick up your voice when issuing commands to the voice assistant, privacy features that help ensure the smart speaker isn’t constantly watching and listening, and the smart home devices it’s compatible with, as well as how compact and durable the design is.
What to consider when buying a smart speaker
When it comes to choosing the right smart speaker for you, there are a number of factors to consider.
Start by working out which voice assistant you want your smart speaker to offer access to. If you already use a voice assistant on your smartphone or tablet, or have existing smart speakers or smart displays in your home, it makes sense to plump for a smart speaker that has the same assistant baked in. However, if you’ve yet to settle on the voice assistant for you, Alexa vs Google Assistant can help you decide.
Next, consider where you intend to locate the smart speaker; smaller, more compact smart speakers are best suited to bedrooms and kitchens, for setting timers when cooking, while larger smart speakers work in rooms with bigger footprints such as a lounge or dinning room.
If you intend to use the smart speaker as your main listening device, make sure you consider the number of speakers, and the sound output and quality they offer. Those with smaller speakers are best suited to background music, while larger smart speakers will offer a louder, more room-filling sound. Also look for models that can be paired together to create stereo sound if you’re planning to use a smart speaker as part of your home cinema set-up.
What is a smart speaker used for?
As we’ve already mentioned, a smart speaker can do more than just offer a way to listen to your favorite music streaming service, or the albums and tracks stored on your smartphone. The built-in voice assistant can control the playback of your music for you; adjusting the volume, skipping tracks and even selecting a specific song, album or playlist for you, leaving your hands-free.
It can also provide a weather report, offer an audible summary of the day’s headlines, and answer your burning questions; whether that’s ‘what is the tallest mountain in the world’ or simply ‘who is the Queen of England’.
Smart Speakers can even be used for light entertainment in the form of jokes and games and also allow you to stay in touch with friends and family by making audio calls through the device.
If that wasn’t enough, a smart speaker can also control compatible smart home devices; for example it can dim or brighten any smart lights you have in your home, turn the temperature up or down if you have a smart thermostat and let you converse with anyone at your doorstep by connecting to your video doorbell.
Which voice assistant is best?
On the whole that’s subjective. Some people have always liked Apple products the best and stay loyal to Siri. Others really like Alexa after snapping up an Echo as soon as the smart speaker was first launched.
The general consensus seems to be that Google Assistant is, largely, the most accurate voice assistant. If you’ve got a lot of Apple products, of course Siri is the best and for overall compatibility, you’re best opting for Alexa. But they’re not hard and fast rules.
Is Alexa better than Google?
For starters, the choice might depend on which speaker you like the look of the most. Sure Amazon’s Echo range is very similar to the Google Home, but the Show, Spot, and Dot look quite different – check out our guide to the best Alexa speakers for more information.
When it comes to the smart assistants within the speakers, they’re both extremely capable. Amazon’s Alexa has many, many Skills, which set it apart from the rest. But Google has been a leader in the AI game for a long time now, well before the smart speaker market emerged. It’s a lot harder to change Alexa’s voice, too.