SMART assistants are ever-present in our smartphones wherever we go.
As smart home applications improve, however, so grows our need to find the best smart speaker possible to control music, lights, doorbells, and much more.
But how do you choose a smart speaker that's right for you? Sound quality is the first thing to consider, but there are others to keep in mind.
Your smart home ecosystem is an important one. If you're an Apple user, for example, you will possibly benefit more from a HomePod than an Echo.
Extra features like multi-user support and multi-room streaming can also come in handy, depending on your home setup.
Without further ado, down below are the best smart speakers you can buy right now.
1. Amazon Echo Dot
- (AD) Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) – £39.99 from Amazon – buy here
Cheap, easy to set up and featuring all-encompassing Alexa's voice commands, the third generation of the Echo Dot is probably the best entry-level speaker you can get.
Sound quality has been substantially improved compared to the Echo 2, and this despite the device is now even smaller.
The Amazon Echo Dot lets you make calls, stream music, check the weather, and control your smart lights, among other things.
The speaker's design is also pleasant, with the fabric mesh giving the Echo a classy kind of look.
Amazon recently released a fourth version of the Echo Dot, featuring a built-in LED clock.
Aside from that though, there are no substantial changes between the Echo 3 and 4, making the third iteration one of the best smart speaker choices if you're on a tight budget.
2. Google Nest Mini
- Google Nest Mini (2nd Gen) – £49 from Currys – buy here
On the other side of the budget speakers' arena is the second generation of Google Nest Mini.
Unlike Amazon, Google did not reduce the size of the Nest Mini, but it did improve its sound quality, particularly in the bass department.
Featuring Google Assistant capabilities, the Nest Mini can do all the things you'd expect from a Google smart speaker, including playing Spotify and YouTube Music, searching the internet, and making calls via the Google Duo app.
The Google Nest Mini is also environment-friendly, since it's outer layer is made from recycled plastic bottles.
A downside of this smart speaker is that it does not have an auxiliary port, so you won't be able to use it with devices that don't have Bluetooth or WiFi.
Still, for the price, it's still the best Google Assistant-powered smart speaker you can get for the price.
3. Sonos One
- (AD) Sonos One (2nd Gen) – £189 from Amazon – buy here
If you can't choose between Google Assistant and Alexa, and you have a slightly higher budget, the Sonos One might be the smart speaker for you.
The second generation of Sonos' One smart speakers supports both Google and Amazon's smart assistants, as well as Apple's AirPLay2.
But the Sonos One is more than that. The speaker features multi-room audio with flexible stereo and surround configurations.
It is also quite powerful for its size, and audio quality is an audible step-up when compared to entry-level smart speakers.
The Sonos' one design is similar to the company's higher-end speaker, the Play:1, which is quite minimal and elegant.
All in all, the second iteration of the Sonos One is a great, versatile option that is certainly worth its price.
4. Apple HomePod
- Apple HomePod – £279 from Apple – buy here
Like many Apple products, the HomePod is a premium device, and you can see that from a number of things.
To begin with, sound quality is truly premium here, with excellent clarity across the whole sound spectrum.
Setup is also a breeze, allowing you to simply turn on the speaker and hold your phone next to it. The HomePod will get Apple ID and Apple Music preferences from your mobile, as well as your router's password.
Unfortunately, you will need an iPhone to do so, so if you're an Android user, you should probably look for another speaker.
If you an Apple user, however, you will be delighted by the simplicity of it all, as well as the high-accuracy of Siri's speech recognition capabilities.
Just keep in mind you'll need an Apple Music subscription to truly enjoy the HomePod since the device has no Bluetooth or aux input.
5. Bose Portable Smart Speaker
- Bose Portable Smart Speaker – £289 from Amazon – buy here
If you're looking for a quality smart speaker that you can also carry around, this one from Bose may be the right one for you.
Featuring built-in support for both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and a well-designed companion app, the Bose Portable Smart Speaker is easy to set up and use.
Bose is a known brand to audiophiles, and this speaker uploads the company's reputation with a loud but balanced sound.
It can also be effortlessly set up as a satellite speaker in a Bose, multi-room setup.
Add in the possibility of streaming via AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, and you have one of the most versatile and portable smart speakers money can buy.
What is a smart speaker?
For a long time, companies have perfected the art of sound with multi-speaker surround systems, and more recently with soundbars.
As smart technology evolved, so did smart assistants like Siri or Google Assistant, until Amazon integrated Alexa into its first Echo in 2014.
Since then, all the biggest tech firms have developed their own smart speaker, integrating an artificial intelligence assistant within new sound speakers.
Even companies that don't own their own smart assistants have now struck deals with Google, Amazon, or Apple to allow for their hardware to be compatible with this new technology.
How does a smart speaker work?
Unlike regular sound systems, smart speakers have one or more built-in microphones, which are used to listen to users' commands.
These devices are typically always on, but they wait for a "wake word" before starting to record. Think "Hey Google", "Siri" or "Alexa".
After the command is issued, the recording is sent over the internet to the speaker's voice recognition service.
The information is then processed by the system, which deciphers the speech and then sends it back to the smart speaker.
If you enjoyed our roundup of the best smart speakers, you'll love our choice of the best gaming headphones.
Looking for a Bluetooth speaker instead? Here is our pick of the best ones you can buy right now.
Check out the Sun Selects dedicated tech section for more recommendations.
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