There’s never been a better time to get a smart speaker, especially if you’re a music fan. When voice assistants first started infiltrating these devices, hands-free controls were really the star of the show. Even now, one of the most common ways that people interact with Siri, Alexa and the Google Assistant is through a smart speaker. But now you have dozens of options to choose from, and most of the sound much better than the first smart speakers did. Sonos recently entered the game with its own voice assistant on its stellar-sounding speakers, and even lower-end models like the Echo Dot and Nest Mini have better audio quality than their first iterations did. If you're struggling to pick the best smart speaker for your needs, we at Engadget can help. We've outlined our top picks below, plus all of the things you should consider before buying a smart speaker today.
Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen, 2022 release)
Best smart speaker under $50
Amazon Echo (4th Gen)
Best smart speaker under $100
Sonos Era 100
Best midrange smart speaker
Best smart speaker for music lovers
Best portable smart speaker
Picking an assistant: Google vs. Alexa
The first thing most people should do is decide what voice assistant they want to use. Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa are both well-supported options that are continually evolving, with new features added at a steady clip. A few years ago, Alexa worked with more smart home devices, but at this point, basically any smart device worth buying works with both.
It's mostly a matter of personal preference. If you already use Google Assistant on your Android phone, it makes sense to stick with that. But while Alexa isn’t quite as good at answering general knowledge questions, it syncs just fine with things like calendars from your Google account. And it works with perhaps the widest variety of smart home devices, as well. If you’ve never used Alexa or Google Assistant, you can download their apps to your smart phone and spend some time testing them out before buying a speaker.
There are downsides to having a smart home device that’s always listening for a wake word, as giving more personal information to Amazon, Apple and Google can be a questionable decision. That said, all these companies have made it easier to manage how your data is used — you can opt out of humans reviewing some of your voice queries, and it's also less complicated to manage and erase your history with various digital assistants, too.
Sonos vs. Apple
If you buy a Sonos device with a microphone, you can also use the company's own voice assistant, voiced by Giancarlo Esposito. It's focused purely on music control, so you won't use it to do things like send messages or ask the weather forecast. But as a music assistant, Sonos Voice Control is generally quite fast and reliable.
As for Apple, you won’t be surprised to learn the HomePod and HomePod mini are the only Siri-compatible speakers on the market. Apple's Siri has a reputation for not being as smart as Alexa or Google Assistant, but it’s totally capable of handling common voice queries like answering questions, controlling smart home devices, sending messages, making calls and streaming music. Technically, Siri and Apple’s HomeKit technology doesn’t work with as many smart home devices as the competition, but it’s not hard to find compatible gear. And Apple has most definitely improved Siri’s capabilities over the last couple years, with handy features like and Intercom tool and routines that take advantage of the built-in temperature sensor in the HomePod and HomePod Mini.