Welcome to T3's best smart speaker buying guide. Here we've expertly curated a guide to the very best smart speakers for the home currently available. As such, if you're looking for the best Amazon Echo, best Google Home, or best Sonos smart speakers currently going then you have definitely come to the right place.
And, now is a better time than ever to pick up one of the best smart speakers on the market. Since the Amazon Echo launched in 2014, the smart speaker has become one of the indispensable gadgets of the smart home: affordable, intelligent, easy to use, and not a complete eyesore. In 2018, there are now more smart speakers to choose from than ever.
We're here to help make that choice a little bit easier – we've tested out just about every product on the market and will talk you through the options you've got. Here are our picks for the best smart speakers you can buy right now, and why you'd want to have them.
- Let there be light: the best smart bulbs money can buy
- The T3 guide to the ultimate in smart home tech in 2018
How to choose the best smart speaker for you
The good news when it comes to choosing a smart speaker is that you've got a lot of models to pick from. Your primary considerations are probably going to be the speaker design – how well it fits in with your home decor – and the digital assistant that comes built into the device.
If you're already firm friends with Google Assistant from your Android smartphone, for example, it might make sense to stick with a Google speaker. Likewise Siri and the HomePod, Alexa and the Amazon Echo, and so on.
Make sure your speaker can do everything you need it to (like control your smart lights and work with the apps you use every day). Beyond that, you will of course want to look at the price of each device to help with your decision, and it's worth having a check to see what accessories are available for each speaker too.
1. Amazon Echo
The original and best smart speaker, improved
The second-generation Amazon Echo builds on what made the original so great, and puts it in a more aesthetically appealing form factor – with a choice of finishes, so you can get one to suit your own style. It's a winning formula, and it puts the Echo top of our list.
Alexa has been around for four years now and continues to get friendlier, cleverer, and generally better with each passing month. The audio output isn't top-notch, but it's still fine, and we're big fans of the price (almost a quarter of the price of a HomePod).
2. Google Home Mini
Great assistance in a compact package, the Google Home Mini remains one of the very best smart speakers
Amazon Alexa came before Google Assistant, but such is Google's prowess with AI that it's Assistant that is generally considered the smartest of the digital assistants out there – at least in terms of understanding natural language and pulling data from the web at large.
That's enough to get the Google Home Mini up to second in our list: it has an attractive design that fits into just about any room, it has a clean and appealing companion app, and it just works. We would like to have the option to connect it to an external speaker, though.
3. Amazon Echo Dot
The cuter-looking Echo competes strongly with the best smart speakers on the market
All the smarts of Alexa and all the compactness of a Google Home Mini make the Echo Dot a very appealing option – especially considering its 2018 refresh, which gave it a more curved appearance and added some attractive-looking fabric finishes to the Echo Dot mix.
If you're just getting started with smart speakers then the Echo Dot is an excellent entry point, and unlike the Google Home Mini you can hook up a different speaker with the 3.5mm audio jack or via Bluetooth. At this price you might as well get one for every room.
4. Google Home Hub
A new arrival gatecrashes the best smart speaker party
New to the smart speaker scene – or should that be the smart display scene? – is the Google Home Hub, essentially a Google Home with a tablet attached. It acts as the centre of your smart home operations, controlling other devices and all your Google apps.
So, you can watch YouTube videos, see a slideshow of Google Photos, change the temperature on your Nest thermostat, ask Google a question, and so on and so on. We like the style and feature-set of the Google Home Hub, and there's no camera to worry about.
5. Sonos One
A winner for music streaming, this is the best Sonos for Alexa-wanting audiophiles
Sonos have been making top-quality wireless speakers for years, capable of streaming tunes from multiple online services and local media libraries all around the home. With the Sonos One, they've started adding some AI to the mix – specifically, Amazon Alexa.
You get the usual Sonos quality plus the ability to use your voice to change songs (and check the weather and so on). It's an appealing combination, and Sonos says Alexa (and hopefully Google Assistant and Siri) will be on a lot more of its speakers in the future.
6. Google Home
One of the very best smart speakers, but now with a little dated looks
Google gladly name-checked the Amazon Echo when unveiling its very own smart speaker, and the Google Home does everything you would expect – it has the excellent Google Assistant on board of course, which continues to lead the pack of AI apps for the moment.
The Google Home is a little lower in our listings because we think the Google Home Mini is a better value proposition and this speaker is now getting on for a couple of years old. The software keeps getting regular updates though, and it remains a fantastic smart speaker and one of the best Google Home speakers available.
7. Amazon Echo Spot
The best Amazon Echo for compact form with video
We're big fans of the Amazon Echo Spot, which takes the considerable smarts of Alexa and adds a dinky little screen. That small display is more useful than you might think in terms of what you can do with it: watching videos, putting up an alarm clock display, and more.
The Echo Spot looks good in any room in your house, which means it can be used as a timer in the kitchen or a video caller in the study. We would put it higher in the list but the display makes it significantly more expensive than alternatives such as the Echo Dot.
8. Amazon Echo Plus
The most powerful Echo on the market, and arguably the best smart speaker for tech enthusiasts
The full-fat, top-of-the-line Amazon Echo with all the bells and whistles is the Plus – essentially, you get better-sounding audio and tighter integration with other smart home kit for another £50/$50. Is the extra price worth paying? For most of you, probably not.
That said, if you want the ultimate Alexa-equipped device and have the budget to match, this is the one to go for (and Amazon offers some excellent bundle options on its site). The 2nd-gen model has improved hugely on the looks of the Amazon Echo Plus as well.
9. Apple HomePod
The best smart speaker for Apple fans
Here's the Apple HomePod, which has a lot going for it: very impressive sound quality, for instance, which can adapt to the room its in to make sure your ears are always hearing your tunes at their best. It also looks and feels fantastic, a proper premium bit of kit.
On the downside, you're going to be disappointed if you need to go beyond Apple Music, Siri and the iPhone with your HomePod: support for the likes of Spotify or streaming from a Windows laptop or anything else not made by Apple is pretty much non-existent.
10. Amazon Echo Show
Alexa gets a display, and the second generation unit looks better than ever
The Amazon Echo Show is pretty easy to explain: an Echo with a screen. That means Alexa can show as well as tell you information about your schedule and the upcoming weather forecast, for example. Video calling and movie watching are easy with the Echo Show too.
There's a lot to like about the Amazon Echo Show then, especially the redesigned 2nd-gen model, but there are some small reservations. It's relatively expensive, and support for non-Amazon video services (such as YouTube) remains something of a sore point.
Regardless, though, the Show is one of the absolute best Amazon Echo devices on the market, and also one of the best smart speakers money can buy.
11. Sonos Beam
A fantastic sound bar
The Sonos Beam is another of the newer Sonos speakers with Alexa built in (and with Google Assistant and AirPlay support coming soon, hopefully) – it's a compact sound bar that can play audio from your television set or from a host of music streaming services.
It's a hugely impressive bit of kit – don't let its 11th position on this list fool you – but in terms of smart speakers it's at the pricier end of the range. Only get this if you have the budget and are going to make full use of all the extra features you get with a Sonos device.
12. Google Home Max
Turn it up to the max, with this beefy smart home speaker
Just because the Google Home Max is at the end of our list doesn't mean you should discount it: this is still a list of the best smart home speakers money can buy, and all these models are worth their place. In this case, you're getting some fantastic audio quality.
Top-level audio quality, plus the excellent Google Assistant on board, plus the option of a cabled connection, plus casting abilities – what's not to like? It'll cost you a lot of money, that's the key drawback, and it's probably overkill for most people's smart speaker needs.