We’re all spending more time at home than ever before and that means it’s the perfect time to upgrade our homes to make our lives easier.
There’s nothing simpler in this respect than smart speakers but there are so many to choose from, how do you know which is best suited to the tasks you have in mind for them?
We’ve tested a heap of different smart speakers and come up with a list of our favorites that should see you right in every room in your home.
The 3 Things We Look For In A Smart Speaker
There are lots of ways to choose a smart speaker but our main criteria are:
- Price – this has to reflect the amount of use we’re going to get out of the smart speaker, we’re not going to spend a fortune on a speaker used in a corridor but are happy to pay more for a superb living room speaker
- Sound quality – the speaker needs to be loud enough and clear enough to do the job that we want it to do
- Smart assistant – Google Assistant, Alexa and Apple’s Homekit are all fine for most tasks but occasionally one does a better job than the other. For example, we like Google for office use thanks to its integration with Google office products but if we used Amazon Ring cameras for a job, then Alexa would be our first choice.
The Best Smart Speaker for Living Rooms
Sonos One (Gen 2) – Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in
When we say “best smart speaker for living rooms” we mean on the proviso that you don’t already have a home theater audio system in there, if you do, skip ahead to our best smart speaker for home theaters as that’s a better match for your needs.
Otherwise, the Sonos One is a superb choice of speaker for a living room, it’s on the pricier side but it comes with a choice of Google Assistant or Alexa and most importantly, it can put out enough noise to fill space.
And if, in the future, you ever do decide to implement a home theater system in your living room, then the Sonos ecosystem allows this device to be incorporated into that system, which means it won’t end up redundant.
You don’t have to install a Sonos One in the living room mind you and if you really want to shell out on a luxury unit for your kitchen or bathroom, then it’s fully humidity resistant (just don’t take it in the shower, it’s not waterproof).
One thing that we found when testing, however, was that if you want the best out of this unit, you really need two of them, so you can get that jaw-dropping stereo separation for the most detailed sound.
The Best Smart Speaker for Kitchens
Echo (4th Gen) | With Premium Sound, Smart Home Hub, and Alexa
It’s handy to have a smart speaker in the kitchen but unless you’re spending a large amount of time in your kitchen every day over and above preparing meals – it’s not worth spending a huge amount of cash on a smart speaker for this room.
That’s why we went with the fourth generation Echo.
It’s got a decent sound that’s married with reasonable volume and at a price that won’t leave your wallet cowering in a dark corner weeping after you buy it.
We also like the ability to do a Whole Foods (Amazon) shopping list on this speaker as you’re going through your kitchen cabinets and the refrigerator.
There are also some excellent privacy controls built in to all Amazon speakers and while Jeff Bezos is happy to assure you that he won’t snoop on your data or sell it on, you can use the mic-off button to be 100% certain that he’s not getting that data in the first place.
The Best Smart Speaker for Home Theaters
Sonos Arc – The Premium Smart Soundbar
You probably want to take things up a notch, in terms of the audio quality, if you have a home theater set up in your house.
This is because you’re already invested in making things sound great and you’re going to spend a lot of time around this smart speaker.
So, let the Sonos Arc Soundbar handle the task of upping the quality of your already stunning movie soundtracks.
One interesting feature of this soundbar is that it automatically uses “Enhanced Trueplay” to customize the sound that it produces for the room that it’s being used in, this is meant to give you the best possible audio experience in any environment.
It’s capable of running Google Assistant and Alexa which is very handy and the Dolby Atmos 3D functionality might even save you shelling out on a subwoofer.
The Best Smart Speakers for Bedrooms
All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen) | Smart speaker with clock and Alexa
If you can wait for Prime Day to buy this speaker, it might be worth doing so as they usually have a nice discount on it.
As you’d expect the Echo Dot leaves you tied to Amazon’s Alexa but it does so at a very reasonable price point and it’s loud enough for the bedroom without becoming overwhelming.
We really like the clock, it’s an excellent replacement for your old school alarm clock but it’s never so bright that it stops you from sleeping.
We’re happy to let our favorite get-to-sleep tunes on it just before bed time too.
One really handy thing about the Amazon Echo Dot system is that it’s very easy to network multiple Dot devices throughout your home – this can be a big bonus if you’re not very technically minded.
The Best Smart Speaker for Entryways, Hallways and Spare Bedrooms
Nest Mini (2nd Gen) – Smart Home Speaker with Google Assistant
In these parts of your home, unless there’s a really compelling reason to do otherwise, you don’t need much in the way of a smart speaker.
Most of us won’t be hanging out in a hallway looking for hi-fidelity sound to catch the latest Grimes album on.
The sound is improved over the previous generation of Nest Minis though and it no longer sounds like an FM radio trapped in a tin can.
So, the Nest Mini is an ideal choice, it’s super cheap and because of its tiny form factor, you can mount it pretty much anywhere and have it remain unobtrusive.
The Nest Mini also comes in a reasonable range of different colors which makes it easier to blend in with the environment than some of the other smart speakers that we tested.
The sound quality won’t blow your mind, but as you won’t interact with it all that often, who cares?
The Best Smart Speaker for Home Offices
Google Nest Audio Smart Speaker
I never thought I’d put a smart speaker in my office, but now that I have one, I don’t know how I lived without it before.
Pair it up with your calendar and you can have the equivalent of secretarial support reminding you to go to meetings without any extra charge at all.
I also love to get a traffic forecast when I’m leaving the office to head off to a meeting with a client.
We went with a Google-based system for the office because it works easily with Maps, Docs, Calendar, etc. and that makes it the perfect productivity companion.
And the key selling point for this speaker is that there’s a physical mute button, so you can be 100% certain it’s not spying on any confidential conversations.
The Best Smart Speaker for Bathrooms
OK, it’s probably not essential to install a smart speaker in the bathroom, though it might be handy if you ever slip and fall and need urgent assistance.
However, the big win with the Sonos Roam is that it’s fully waterproof and the smart functions let you change up the tunes as you shower.
The Roam has a rechargeable battery which offers up to 10 hours of playback time each use which is more than enough for a day out with a picnic or if there’s a power cut.
You can also mute it easily in case you’re worried it’s going to overhear an intimate moment that you’d rather it didn’t.
The Best Smart Speaker for Backyards
Bose Portable Smart Speaker — Wireless Bluetooth Speaker with Alexa Voice Control Built-In
As the name suggests the Bose Portable Smart speaker is actually portable and it’s designed to be carried about and put down anywhere that your heart desires.
And that’s why it made our list for backyard use, it’s simply the only truly portable smart speaker device that we found to be up to the challenge.
The sound quality is excellent, as you’d expect from the Bose brand, so it’s a great companion while you’re warming up the BBQ or for those lovely summer afternoon parties in the sun.
It’s also water-resistant, though not fully waterproof, which means it ought to survive the first splashes of rain well enough for you to get it back indoors.
Final Thoughts On The Best Smart Speakers
Wherever you are in the home, there’s a smart speaker that’s perfect for you and mostly, they’re very affordable too.
Our best smart speakers for 2021 should have helped you find the smart speaker that will make your year even more awesome.
If you’re looking for other speaker options for your home, you might also want to check out The House of Marley, browse through My Modern Met or even check out our list of the best bookshelf speakers.