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It used to be that a speaker could play music, and that was it. However, those days are over, with speakers becoming increasingly intelligent and well-appointed with the best of features. The right speaker can transport you to faraway lands, transforming your mood with fine clarity and booming bass. But they can also automate our lives.
In fact, the best smart speakers offer everything from premium sound to intelligent home control. They not only play music but also set reminders, make phone calls, answer questions, and allow you to control other smart devices in your home all through voice commands. ZDNET's experts have reviewed the most popular smart speakers, and I've rounded up my favorite five.
Tech Specs: Compatibility: Alexa, Siri | Tweeters: 1 | Woofers: 1 | Dimensions: 6.36 x 4.69 x 4.69 inches
Sonos One is a fantastic bookshelf speaker that wins our vote for the overall best smart speaker. It features easy Wi-Fi connectivity with the option to pair your speaker with other Sonos speakers, or you can create a home theater system with Sonos Arc or Beam. Either way, you have the simple convenience of voice control with Amazon Alexa, or you can use Apple AirPlay2 or the Sonos app. This speaker is compatible with 80 different streaming services like Spotift, Apple Music, and Pandora. Plus, it's compact enough to go with you anywhere, thanks to a humidity-resistant design that is even fit for the bathroom.
Read the review: The best Sonos speakers
Tech Specs: Compatibility: Alexa, Siri, Ring | Woofer: 1 | Tweeters: 2 | Dimensions: 5.7 x 5.7 x 5.2 inches
The Amazon Echo speaker integrates Alexa into your smart speaker, as well as the Zigness smart home hub to greatly simplify life. There is also a temperature sensor, plus compatibility with Zigbee and Ring Smart Lighting products. Connect to one of several available services, including Sirius XM, Amazon Music, and Apple Music, and hit play. This speaker can adapt itself to any room, changing the highs and lows to suit its surroundings.
Read the review: The best Echo speakers
Tech Specs: Compatibility: Apple HomeKit | Speakers: 1 | Microphones: 4 | Dimensions: 3.3 x 3.9 inches
With the Apple HomePod Mini, you can easily connect to your favorite devices with the help of Siri built right in. Siri can recognize the difference in each user's voice to offer greater personalization when it comes to your favorite apps, tunes, and services. Once you pick your song, this speaker offers 360-degree audio, especially when you pair your speaker with other Homepod Minis. Use the intercom feature to check in with family members in other rooms, an especially convenient feature at dinnertime.
Read the review: HomePod mini review
Tech Specs: Compatibility: Google Assistant, Nest, Hue | Tweeters: 1 | Woofers: 1 | Dimensions: 3.07 x 4.88 inches
With the words "Hey Google," you can automatically summon automated help for a number of tasks, like changing tracks and stopping the music. Nest Audio is built-in, allowing you to erase your Google Assistant history and adjust the mic. It can also adjust the music to fit the room, offering thumping bass and crisp vocals that improve your overall listening experience. You can also connect to several other products, like Nest speakers and displays and Chromecast devices. Set up is simple to get you going that much faster.
Tech Specs: Compatibility: Google Assistant, Nest, Arlo, Hue, Wink, Ring, SmartThings| Tweeters: 2 | Woofers: 1 | Dimensions: 7.19 x 9.85 x 3.99 inches
Google Nest Hub Max is far from just a speaker. This smart speaker incorporates a 10-inch HD touchscreen that allows you to do so much more than just listen to your favorite audiobook, thanks to the help of Google Assistant. The 6.5MP camera allows you to take photos and make video calls with ease. For hands-free use, choose Duo to create video messages or make video calls. Either way, you do not have to sacrifice sound with this smart speaker that incorporates a 30W subwoofer and dual tweeters.
I love the Sonos One smart speaker for its fantastic performance, clear audio, and smart features. It may be among the more expensive smart speakers, but in this case, you get what you pay for with excellent value and reliability.
To see how the best smart speakers compare, here is an overview of each model.
Best smart speaker
Alexa, Siri, Ring
Apple HomePod Mini
Google Nest Audio
Google Assistant, Nest, Hue
Google Nest Hub Max
Google Assistant, Nest, Arlo, Hue, Wink, Ring, SmartThings
Finding the best smart speaker for your needs is not always so easy. Consider my expert recommendations to help you find exactly the right smart speaker for your home or office.
Choose this best smart speaker...
If you want...
An affordable smart speaker with excellent sound quality
A smart speaker with Alexa
Apple HomePod Mini
To use Siri with your smart speaker
Google Nest Audio
Google Assistant for your smart speaker
Google Nest Hub Max
The best display for your smart speaker
When searching for the best smart speakers, I considered a number of factors.
A smart speaker is a type of audio device that combines the functions of a speaker with a virtual assistant and voice control. The most popular brands that make smart speakers are Amazon, Google, Apple, and Sonos.
Amazon's popular smart speaker line is the Amazon Echo, which comes in a variety of sizes and styles, including the Echo Dot, Echo Show, and Echo Studio. These all have Alexa. Meanwhile, Google offers the Google Nest line of speakers with Google Assistant, and Apple's smart speaker range (HomePod) has Siri. Then there is Sonos, which offers premium sound in conjunction with support for popular voice assistants.
This guide tells you which of these smart speakers are worth buying, and what you'll get for your money.
A smart speaker works like a traditional speaker in that it plays audio content. However, that is far from all it does. Smart speakers also feature integrations like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, and provide access to your favorite streaming apps. You can also use a smart speaker for voice control, phone calls, and even video messages, depending on the smart speaker you choose.
The best smart speakers offer a wireless connection that allows you to connect to a number of programs. Stream from services like Pandora, Apple Music, and SiriusXM, with the cost all depending on which subscription you have.
Smart speakers can range significantly in cost, as seen here. The best smart speakers range in cost from $70 to about $180, depending on the model you choose.
In our search, we also found these options that almost made our list of the best smart speakers.
For more options, check out our picks for the best Bluetooth speakers, the best bookshelf speaker, the best portable speakers, and the best stereo speakers!