Bottom line: Sonos brings out the music
At SafeWise, we tend to focus more on the smart home and home security advantages of smart speakers. But guess what else we’re suckers for? Audio quality. That’s why we decide to the Sonos One( Gen 2 ), which produces rich audio–at both high and low frequencies–that most folks will enjoy.
Sonos One also has a superpower: it employs both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant + voice controls( sadly not at the same time ). This means you can choose your favor voice assistant to manage your smart-alecky home. Read our full comparison to see how other smart speaker brands stack up and which tasks suit them best.
Best smart speakers of 2020
Compare smart-alecky speakers
Wireless music streaming
Best audio quality
Best voice controls
Best portable speaker
Best for HomeKit
Sonos One( Gen 2)
Echo Dot( 4th Gen)
JBL Link Portable
Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant
1.6 in. front-firing speaker
0.75 in. tweeter3 in. woofer
1.9 in. transducer
Custom tweeters( 7) 4 in. woofer
Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2
Wi-Fi, Chromecast, Bluetooth
Wi-Fi, Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Bluetooth
Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2
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* Amazon.com list price as of 10/ 30/2020 at 11:34 a.m.( MT ). Read full disclaimer.
There are a ton of options in the smart talker marketplace, so we needed to narrow down our list before select products to review. Ultimately, we decide to 12 voice-controlled talkers( down from over 70) with callouts to other simulates that deserved at least a passing mention.
We saved smart presentations for later review, but we might shout out a few where relevant–this cut 13 products and two brands: Facebook and Lenovo. We also ruled out streaming machines and soundbars–so Roku, TiVo, and NVIDIA aren’t on this list. Then, we removed all smart-alecky talkers over $300, which are mostly upgrades of less expensive speakers from brands like Bose, Harman Kardon, JBL, and Sonos. Next, we skipped dual-purpose smart speakers like Ecobee thermostats and some Google Nest products. Finally, we curated representative products that symbolize each brand’s strengths.
While we tested some of these speakers in-house, we didn’t test them all. We researched patron reviews and online audio communities to fill in the gaps for a more comprehensive perspective. Learn more about our ranking philosophy.
Smart speaker reviews
1. Sonos One( Gen 2 ): Best audio quality
Sonos One( Gen 2)
This one’s for the music buffs. We preferred the Sonos One( Gen 2 ) for our audio quality pick thanks to tons of online examines praising its balanced performance with music. It expenses around $200, which is $ 100 cheaper than similar offerings like the Google Home Max and Apple HomePod( but on par with the Amazon Echo Studio ).
Rich, balanced audio performanceReasonably pricedAmazon Alexa and Google Assistant built inApple AirPlay 2 assistance
Alexa and Google don’t work simultaneouslyNo Bluetooth audio
The Sonos Move( about $400) is basically a portable version of the Sonos One. Its battery lasts up to 11 hours, it supports Bluetooth audio, and it’s weather resistant so you can enjoy music poolside.
Sonos One can also link wirelessly to other Sonos talkers for a whole-home audio system. Now your music doesn’t need to stick to a specific room. In our experience, Sonos does multi-room audio better than Echo and Google. We also like that this speaker works with Apple AirPlay 2, allowing you to play tunes from your favorite Apple devices.
Although the two voice platforms live in the same house on the Sonos One, they don’t speak to each other, so you need to toggle between them in the mobile app if you plan to use both. We recommend trying out both when you first buy the speaker and choosing one that stimulates sense for your needs.
While the Sonos One includes a Bluetooth radio, it doesn’t stream audio from smartphones like you’d expect. You should plan to use supported mobile apps and services like Spotify, YouTube Music, Amazon Music, and Sonos Radio.
Projects with Sonos
2. Amazon Echo Dot( 4th Gen ): Best value
Amazon Echo Dot( 4th Gen)
Amazon Echo smart speakers could predominate this entire list in almost every way. Instead, we chose the dimension that best describes them: value. Nothing screams this more than the Amazon Echo Dot( 4th Gen ), which costs around $50 and is a gateway to the broader Alexa ecosystem.
Amazon Echo( 4th Gen)
The $100 Amazon Echo( 4th Gen ) is a bit larger than the Echo Dot but sports the same ball-shaped design. That bigger sizing packs in a 3-inch subwoofer and two 0.8 -inch tweeters for great audio performance. It also has a built-in Zigbee smart hub that controls machines like smartbulbs, smart-alecky locks, and smart plugs.
This Amazon smart speaker boastings a seriously cute spherical shape( specially the $60 Kids Edition–go Team Panda !). Its front-firing talker projects sound out into a room rather than at the ceiling like older puck-shaped Echo Dots. The audio quality doesn’t match larger talkers, but it’s more than enough for most folks, especially at this price.
Apart from the new intend, Alexa’s smart home compatibility is still the best in the business, with more brands supporting Alexa than Google Assistant or Apple HomeKit( Siri ). But if you read our Google vs. Alexa article, you probably know we’re not fans of the Alexa app’s clunky smart-alecky home controls.
While Amazon sells a vast selection of smart speakers, it doesn’t genuinely have a portable Alexa speaker you can take on the go( we “ve missed you”, Amazon Tap ). Overall, we think that Echo smart speakers are the best choices for most folks since they balance price and quality–even if they don’t quite match pricier audiophile brands like Sonos, JBL, and Bose.
Amazon Echo Flex
The Echo Flex is a lesser-known Echo speaker that costs around $25, making it great for adding Alexa voice controls in chambers. We like that it comes with a 3.5 mm line out if you want to play music on an existing speaker. Plus, it has some cool USB accessories( motion sensor and night illumination ).
In our experience, Google Assistant’s voice controls outperform Alexa because they make it easier to issue multiple commands and offer more accurate answers to questions. That’s why we decide to the Nest Audio( about $100) as our favorite smart speaker for voice controls.
The Google Nest Mini expenses around $50, inducing it a great Echo Dot alternative for folks that favor Google Assistant. We especially like the wall-mounting notch on the back–you don’t need a third-party mounting bracket, unlike the Echo Dot.
Google took four years to supplant its Google Home speaker–this new version sports a more attractive design, fabric cover-ups, and improved sound quality. But it doesn’t pack the bass of premium talkers like Google Home Max and Sonos One.
We love that its app controls for smart home devices are a little easier to use than Alexa’s. But Google Assistant fails to match the smart-alecky home selection and compatibility of Amazon Echo, which had a two-year head start into the category.
Google also supports fewer music streaming services than Alexa( more so since discontinue Google Play Music this year ). While it supports popular services like Spotify, TuneIn, and Pandora, it’s missing heavy-hitters like Apple Music and Amazon Music. In any case, we think that Nest Audio is the best smart speaker for voice controls and Google purists.
The Google Nest Hub Max( about $230) is our favorite smart display because it supports so many video streaming services. These include big names not available on Amazon Echo Show smart displays like Netflix( coming to Alexa soon, though ), HBO, and YouTube. Plus, its integrated camera works with Nest Aware cloud storage as a security camera.
4. JBL Link Portable: Best portable talker
JBL Link Portable
There’s a carnival quantity of rival for portable speakers with built-in voice controls, but we think that the JBL Link Portable( about $180) is the cream of the crop. Not only does it use Google Assistant, our favorite digital aide, but it’s likewise waterproof and has glowing reviews for audio quality.
Excellent audio performanceLightweight, compact designWaterproofGoogle Assistant voice controls
Shorter battery life than competitionLess powerful bass than larger portable speakers
Secretly a Samsung smart speaker
Samsung owns Harman International, which manufactures JBL and Harman Kardon products. While we may never recognize the mystical Samsung Galaxy Home smart-alecky speaker with Bixby, Samsung devotees certainly have some good alternatives make their own choices.
We like that the JBL Link Portable is fully waterproof. If the rain starts falling, simply pack up your picnic to some tunes and grab the speaker before you head out. It also has a compact design that isn’t too bulky to throw in a bag and even looks great indoors on a charging dock.
At 1.6 pounds, it’s one of the lightest portable smart-alecky speakers we look back, specially in comparison with the 6.6 -pound Sonos Move and 3.3 -pound Sony Extra Bass. Unfortunately, that lightness results in low battery life( merely eight playback hours ). Most larger smart talkers can last as long as 12 hours.
Because it’s a smaller speaker, you don’t have access to the booming subwoofer that heavier portable speakers give. Fortunately, this isn’t too big of a deal for folks that crave some bass but not enough to rattle windows. In the end, the JBL Link Portable is a worthwhile acquisition when you want a Google smart speaker on the go.
JBL Link Music
The JBL Link Music doesn’t have the portability of its colleague. But it’s an affordable indoor smart-alecky speaker with decent sound quality and a chiclet-style design that predates the Nest Audio by a year.
5. Apple HomePod: Best for HomeKit
From an audio view, the Apple HomePod is probably one of the best smart speakers you can buy. It achieves this rich audio thanks to seven custom tweeters and a four-inch woofer. It also has software that accommodates audio fixes automatically for ideal performance in any room.
You can use the HomePod as a hub for HomeKit machines like smart-alecky locks and security cameras. While we adoration how convenient the Apple Home app is, HomeKit-compatible machines are among the most expensive you’ll find on the market. It’s light-years behind Alexa and Google in both compatibility and affordability.
Top-tier audio performanceHomeKit smart hubSiri voice controls
PriceyRequires Apple device to use
The Apple HomePod is a bit of a black sheep among smart talkers; not only is it the only speaker with Siri voice controls, but it’s likewise exclusive to Apple consumers. You can’t even go through setup unless you have an iPhone or iPad. This isn’t a problem for iPhone users, but HomePod misses a huge swath of the market because Apple is the paragon of incompatibility.
At $300, this is the most expensive smart speaker on our list, inducing it a tough pill to swallow in addition to the other pricey Apple machines that it requires. Still, if you’re an iPhone user and crave one of the best music experiences, it’s hard to go wrong with the HomePod.
Apple HomePod mini
Apple is launching the HomePod mini on November 16 for $100. Its accessible cost will build more sense for casual Apple fans reluctant to invest $300 on a talker that works only with Apple machines( looking at you, HomePod ).
More brands we considered
Bang& Olufsen Beosound A1
The Bang& Olufsen Beosound A1( around $230) is a portable Alexa alternative to Google-powered JBL. It’s just as compact but athletics an 18 -hour battery life and is a bit lighter. It just missed being our top portable picking thanks to a price tag that’s 25% higher than JBL.
Bose Home Speaker 300
The Bose Home Speaker 300( about $200) is almost as talented as the Sonos One. It can link to other Bose speakers for multi-room audio and includes both Google Assistant and Alexa voice controls. Ultimately, we chose Sonos because it’s much easier to use and set up, but Bose devotees won’t regret choosing the Home Speaker 300 instead.
Cavalier Audio is a relatively new brand, with its Maverick( about $180) wireless speaker boasting built-in Alexa. It sports a sleek designing and isn’t much bigger than the JBL Link Portable. But customer evaluations criticize the sound quality and battery life versus more established brands like Bang& Olufsen and Sony.
Harman Kardon Citation ONE
The Harman Kardon Citation ONE( about $230) is another alternative to the Sonos One topping our list. Like Sonos, it’s part of a suite of premium talkers you can link together for wireless whole-house audio. Most user reviews speak positively to function, but since it simply was working with Google Assistant, it can’t adapt to different smart home needs like Sonos.
The Polk Assist( about $200) is very similar to the Sonos One but with real Bluetooth audio for playing music from phones and computers without a Wi-Fi connection. It use Google Assistant for voice commands, so it doesn’t match Sonos’ appeal to Alexa users.
Sony Extra Bass XB402M( Amazon Alexa)
Sony stands out for its identical Extra Bass portable speakers: the XB4 02 M( Amazon Alexa ) and the XB4 02 G( Google Assistant )–about $250 each. We like that they’re water resistant, have colorful LED lightings, and can last up to 12 hours on a charge. But they’re not something to carry around in a purse. They clock on at 3.3 pounds–twice as heavy as JBL–and aren’t as compact.
Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST
Logitech has a strong showing with the Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST( about $200) portable smart speaker. We’re fans of its powerful bass, durable design, and 12 -hour battery life but favor JBL’s smaller and lighter speaker.
We think that the Sonos One is the best smart speaker for most folks since it gives you remarkable audio quality and your option of voice deputy. If it’s too expensive for your savors, there’s no reproach in choosing the Amazon Echo Dot( 4th Gen ) or Google Nest Audio, which are just as worthwhile.
When it comes to building your smart-alecky home, smart-alecky talkers are the tip of the iceberg. Check out our related articles below to discover your next smart-alecky home product you didn’t know you needed.
Smart speaker FAQ
What does a smart talker do?
The defining attribute of a smart-alecky speaker is voice control( and the internet connectivity behind it ). This means you can play music, activate smart-alecky home machines, and ask for information using the music of your voice. Smart speakers likewise have a mobile app, but voice controls are generally more convenient.
How do I select a smart-alecky speaker?
Voice assistant: Look for a smart talker that includes your preferred voice aide. The basic functionality of digital aides is comparable, but there are subtle differences in compatibility and performance. Music: If you’re a music connoisseur, most smart speakers that expense $100 or more are great for this. Many cheaper smart-alecky speakers work penalty for music, but don’t expect a ton of bass or volume. Smart-alecky home: If you’re into smart-alecky home controls, focus on compatibility with your favorite smart-alecky home devices It’s okay to buy a cheap smart talker ($ 50 or less) if music isn’t your primary goal. Aesthetic: If you’re into interior design, choose a smart talker to match your style. Most frameworks are available in multiple colours, and there are attractive options for every major smart assistant.
Are smart speakers always listening?
Yes, smart-alecky speakers ever listen for specific wake terms like “Alexa, ” Hey Google, ” and “Hey Siri” so they know when to act. Fortunately, you can quickly delete tapes and adjust privacy decideds using the app for the virtual assistant equipped with your smart talker. Most talkers likewise have a physical mute button that turns off voice commands wholly when you don’t need them.
Can smart talkers construct telephone calls?
Smart speakers can usually make outgoing phone calls, though this feature isn’t available in every country. Alexa assistances calls in the US, UK, Canada, and Mexico, while Google Assistant can call numbers in the US and Canada. Siri requires an iPhone to stimulate phone calls.
Best Smart Home Automation Systems Google Home vs. Alexa: Which Assistant Is Best ? Ultimate Guide to Google Assistant and Google Nest Product Ultimate Guide to Alexa and the Amazon Echo Family Outfitting Your Smart Home: Google Assistant Machine Outfitting Your Smart Home: Amazon Alexa Device
* Amazon.com list price as of ten/ 30/2020 at 11:34 a.m.( MT ). Product costs and accessibility are accurate as of the date/ time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and accessibility information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.
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