“What’s the best smart speaker?” Seems like a pretty straight-forward question, though the reality is a bit more complicated.
While high-end smart home setups are still far from common, smart home technology continues to break into the mainstream. The smart speaker is easily the gateway drug into the world of smart homes. A smart speaker holds all the same capabilities you’d find from a Bluetooth speaker but significantly extends its this functionality thanks to the virtual assistant that lets you use voice commands to play music, set reminders, play games, and much more.
There are literally dozens are smart speakers on the market today. Most speakers use the Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant virtual assistant, though there are a few outliers including the Cortana-powered Harmon Kardon Invoke, the Siri-powered Apple HomePod, and the upcoming Bixby-based Samsung Galaxy Home.
Finding the right one comes down to two main choices: Alexa or Assistant.
Before you can buy a smart speaker, you need to figure out if you prefer Alexa or Assistant. Both can set appointments, reminders, tell you news and weather, control smart home, and more. They just have a few different strengths and weaknesses.
It’s also possible to have multiple speakers with different platforms in the same house, but this can make things a bit more complicated and so in most cases we recommend picking one platform for all your smart speakers.
Reasons to get an Alexa-powered speaker:
Reasons to get an Assistant-powered speaker:
What about Apple’s HomePod? Honestly, unless you’re a hardcore Apple user we recommend sticking to the former two options. HomePod isn’t nearly as good at the “smart” part as its competition, even if the speaker itself is pretty solid.
As for the “other guys”? Cortana is also pretty much a “no”, and Galaxy Home isn’t out yet.
If you’re going to get an Alexa device, we highly recommend going with Amazon’s in-house Echo brand. There’s currently five Echo devices on offer, and the options will likely only grow over time. In most cases we recommend just getting the standard Echo, though a Dot is a great way to test the waters without spending a lot. Dots are also great for adding Alexa into multiple rooms.
Here’s a quick look at your options:
Echo Dot 3rd Gen ($49.99): It has a single 0.6-inch speaker. It’s cheap and also small. The new version is better than the first generation Dot for audio quality. Buy only as a complement to other Echo devices or for a cheap way to dip your toe in.
Echo 2nd Gen ($99.99): It has a 2.5-inch woofer, along with a 0.6-inch tweeter. This new speaker looks good, with much better sound for music.
Echo Spot ($129.99): It has a single 1.4-speaker. It’s the best designed Echo, with a screen and camera for video features.
Echo Plus 2nd Gen ($149.99): It has a 3-inch woofer, and a 0.8-inch tweeter. This is Amazon’s best sound offering. It also offers smart home hub services.
Echo Show ($229.99): It has dual 2.0-inch stereo speakers anda large 10.1-inch video screen. It combines excellent sound combined with video calling and messaging.
The Sonos One is one heck of a smart speaker. If you want to go the third-party route, you won’t find much better.
Here are just a few reasons to consider it:
If you’re on Android and shopping on Amazon isn’t a big thing for you, the Google Assistant is the most capable AI, especially if you’re already using it a lot. There are currently four devices on offer, though most users will probably just want to go with the default Google Home or the Google Home Mini if you want to try out the smart speaker thing without spending a lot.
Google Home Mini ($49.99): A Single 40mm driver speaker offers compact sound without much bass. Aggressively priced and often found bundled with other Google products, it’s the best device to try before investing further.
Google Home ($99.99): A single high-excursion speaker with 2-inch driver and dual 2-inch passive radiators for good sound. The original Google Home remains a quality device, although the design isn’t for everyone.
Google Home Max ($399.99): Two 4.5-inch high-excursion dual woofers and two 0.7-in custom tweeters. The big new Google Home device, designed as a rival for the HomePod has great sound and a big price. Two can also pair for stereo, and it has aux audio input for flexibility.
Google Home Hub ($149.99): The latest in the Google Home family is a smart video speaker, with a 7-inch touchscreen. It’s cool to use just your voice to bring up instructional YouTube videos. The audio quality is about the same as on the Google Home Mini, and it lacks a video camera.
The JBL Link 300 is the best third-party Google Assistant speaker you can currently buy.
Some of the reasons for this include:
05/12/2018 08:18 PM