Best smart speakers 2020: the best Amazon Echo, Google Home and other picks for you | T3

Best smart speakers 2020: the best Amazon Echo, Google Home and other picks for you

Whether you're after the best Alexa speakers, the best Google Assistant speakers, or any other smart speaker, here are our top picks

best smart speakers 2020
(Image credit: Amazon)

Smart speakers have, in no small part, changed the way a lot of us live, and they're just getting started. The best smart speakers make playing music instant and easy, they make information available at a moment's notice, and they let us control smart home devices without fighting with awkward interfaces or even touching our phones. They're awesome.

The fact is that smart speakers aren't just for those with their finger on the tech pulse: they're perfect for the less tech-savvy, at least once they're properly set up, because they put complex controls behind a totally non-threatening voice command. All you have to do is ask. 

Smart speakers have, though, exploded onto the scene rather quickly. The first Amazon Echo launched, in a very limited amount, in 2014; six years is a long time in tech, and their immediate popularity and relative simplicity means hundreds have popped up since. It's not always easy to pick the best of the best.

No problem: T3 is here to help. Whether you're looking for the best mini smart speaker, the best sounding smart speaker, the best for Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, we've picked out our favourites - and there are portable smart speakers and top smart screens in there too.

Amazon Echo Dot best smart speakers

(Image credit: Amazon)

What to look for in a smart speaker?

The first question to consider about smart speakers is which assistant you want it to use. The most common options are Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant – for most people, it’s between these two. Apple’s Siri is also an option, but it’s only available on one (premium-priced) speaker, and isn’t as capable as the other two overall, so it’s more of a niche option for those reasons – though later, we’ll go into why it still may be worth choosing.

But for the majority, it’s Alexa or Google Assistant. And actually, for most people, it won’t make too much difference still – they’re both able to play music pretty comprehensively, they can both answer most question types, they both offer a lot of smart home control. We’ve done an in-depth comparison of the two here:

•  Alexa vs Google Assistant: which should you choose?

But the gist is: we’d slightly recommend Alexa more overall, because it’s a bit more flexible and has more cool additional abilities you can add. Google Assistant ties into the Google ecosystem better, though, so if you’re deep into Google services, that will probably the better choice.

Honestly, though, if talk of advanced extra skills and ecosystems makes you shrug, you can choose either and be happy – it will probably come down to the hardware.

For the speakers themselves, the things to look at are size, design, audio quality and any additional hardware features, such as having a screen to display information too.

Price will obviously be a major factor, but likely in combination with the above – you might well choose a smaller and nice-looking option if it’s going prominently in your living room, but if you want a powerful music speaker for the office, your priorities will be a bit different. When it comes to speakers of all kinds, bigger usually means better sound.

Finally, a vital component of a smart speaker is the microphone, naturally. Everything we’ve recommended has a strong mic setup, designed to pick voices out from other sounds, and to hear you from across a room.

Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday smart speaker deals

Oh, you can bet there'll be plenty of Amazon Prime Day deals and Black Friday deals on smart speakers. Tons of them. From the cheaper Echo Dot and Nest Mini up to the bigger and more expensive models – expect to see 30% or more taken off in many cases. The same goes for smart displays – there'll be some great discounts there.

The one slightly confusing factor here is that we expect to see new smart speakers from both Google and Amazon soon, so we're not sure if the new models will have discounts, or whether it'll just be on the models available right now. It may mean bigger discounts than we've ever seen, though, if there's stock to get rid of…

Nest Hub Max best smart speakerT3 Awards 2020

The Nest Hub Max from Google gets just about everything right.

1. Google Nest Hub Max

The T3 Awards 2020 Best Smart Speaker is a powerhouse speaker and screen combo

Reasons to buy
+Lots more screen space+Lots more audio oomph

The Google Nest Hub Max is one of the newer arrivals here, but it was the winner of our T3 Awards 2020 award as the best smart speaker for doing absolutely everything in one package. Sure, some will prefer the compact simplicity of the Google Nest Mini, or the smaller screen of the original Nest Hub, but the Nest Hub Max gives you a full-on Google smart speaker experience.

You get a crisp 10-inch screen, a heavy-duty speaker that can fill a room with good-quality audio, a forward-facing camera for making video calls (and using the device as a security camera), and of course all the magic of the Google Assistant.

With that screen, the Google Assistant can do even more, and the touchscreen controls let you pause videos and music. The smart speaker/display does double duty as a central hub for all your smart home gear (as long as it's Google Assistant-compatible), and it works as a Chromecast speaker and display too.

Amazon Echo Plus

The Amazon Echo Plus is a stylish, powerful smart speaker and AI assistant.

(Image credit: Amazon)

2. Amazon Echo Plus

The most powerful Echo on the market, with excellent built-in smart home control

Reasons to buy
+The most capable Echo+Seamless smart home integration

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 best smart speaker of 2020 to go for (and Amazon offers some excellent bundle options on its site). The 2nd-gen model improved hugely on the looks of the original Amazon Echo Plus as well, though we have a sneaking feeling a third-gen model might be waiting in the wings.

Sonos One Best smart speakers Best Amazon Echo speakers Best Google Home

For music streaming, the Sonos One is the best smart speaker on the market.

3. Sonos One

A winner for music streaming, this is the best Sonos for Alexa-wanting audiophiles

Reasons to buy
+Top-quality audio+Intuitive, powerful apps

Sonos has 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 (with Google Assistant on the way).

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 the Sonos One is easily one of the best smart speakers around in 2020 in our expert opinion.

Amazon Echo Dot Best smart speakers Best Amazon Echo speakers Best Google Home

The Amazon Echo Dot may look understated, but it is one of very best Amazon Echo speakers available today.

4. Amazon Echo Dot

The cuter-looking Echo competes strongly with the best smart speakers on the market

Reasons to buy
+Compact, cute, capable+Recently updated

All the smarts of Alexa and all the compactness of a Google Nest Mini make the Echo Dot a very appealing option in our best smart speaker list – especially considering its latest refresh, which upped the audio quality and added options like a clock-packing version for the bedroom and a snazzy kids edition too.

If you're just getting started with smart speakers then the Echo Dot is an excellent entry point, and unlike the Nest 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.

Amazon Echo Studio

Amazon takes on Sonos with one of the newer Echo devices, the Amazon Echo Studio.

(Image credit: Amazon)

5. Amazon Echo Studio

The best-sounding Amazon Echo out there

Reasons to buy
+Superior sound quality+Rather fetching design

Watch out Sonos and Apple, because Amazon has unveiled its best-sounding Echo yet: the Amazon Echo Studio. It comes with support for the Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio standards, so it's capable of filling a room and then some with rich, vibrant acoustics. Three 2-inch midrange speakers, one 1-inch tweeter, and one 5.25-inch woofer are fitted inside.

As well as the superior sound quality, you do of course get all the smarts of Amazon Alexa, and it's reasonably priced too. Amazon recently launched a HD version of its music streaming service as well, which is probably the perfect app to pair with the Amazon Echo Studio.

Amazon Echo Show 5 best smart speaker

An Amazon Echo with a dinky screen: the Show 5.

6. Amazon Echo Show 5

The best smart speaker for compact Alexa-on-a-screen

Reasons to buy
+Mic and camera switches+The price is just right

The smart speaker category continues to be invaded with smart speaker/display combos, which brings us to the Amazon Echo Show 5 – it's obviously intended to go head to head against the Nest Hub, with a smaller display (5.5 inches) than the standard Echo Show.

It's significantly smaller than the big Echo Show but it's significantly cheaper as well, and has all the magic of Alexa on board. The screen is still perfectly readable when it comes to weather forecasts, recipes, calendar entries and so on, just not so great for video footage.

Apple HomePod Best smart speakers Best Amazon Echo speakers Best Google Home

The Apple HomePod is the best smart speaker for iPhone users.

7. Apple HomePod

The best smart speaker for Apple fans

Reasons to buy
+Superb design and build+Works well 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, and definitely one of the best smart speakers of 2020.

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 anything else not made by Apple is pretty much non-existent (though you can stream audio from iTunes on Windows). Still, it's the best smart speaker for those already heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem.

Google Nest Mini best smart speakers 2020

The Google Nest Mini is a small but worthwhile upgrade over the Google Home Mini.

(Image credit: Google)

8. Google Nest Mini

Great assistance in a compact package, the Nest Mini is a perfect small smart speaker

Reasons to buy
+The smartest smart assistant+Small form factor that goes anywhere

Besides the rebranding that's taken place to reflect Nest becoming the umbrella label for everything in the Google smart home range, the Nest Mini adds a wall mounting hole and boosts the audio from the original Google Home Mini.

Voice detection should be improved with the introduction of a third microphone, and Google has brought back the tap controls as well – just touch the top of the speaker to pause or resume audio playback, and slide along it to change the volume.

Otherwise the Google Nest Mini is very much like the Google Home Mini: all the power of the Google Assistant in a very compact, aesthetically pleasing form factor. Your choices for colours are chalk, charcoal, coral or sky.

Amazon Echo best smart speakers 2020

The Amazon Echo is not just one of the best Amazon Echo devices on the market, but one of the best smart speakers full stop.

(Image credit: Amazon)

9. Amazon Echo

Say hello to the third-generation Amazon Echo

Reasons to buy
+Where it all started+Better looks, improving Alexa

Amazon recently unveiled the third-generation of its standard Echo speaker, and it's better than ever: more stylish, more capable, and better sounding. All you are really missing out on in comparison to the Echo Plus is that additional smart home integration that lets you ditch some of the other hubs you might have set up.

Amazon has kept the price the same as it was for the previous edition, and the colours have been tweaked a little bit too. There are now a host of Amazon Echo speakers to choose from, but this might hit the sweet spot in terms of audio quality and price.

Google Home Best smart speakers Best Amazon Echo speakers Best Google Home

The Google Home now looks a little dated, but if you can get it cheap, it is still one of the best smart speakers lining store shelves.

10. Google Home

One of the very best smart speakers, but it now looks a little dated

Reasons to buy
+Google Assistant is fantastic+Choice of colour finishes

Google gladly name-checked the Amazon Echo when it first unveiled 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 Nest Mini might be a slightly better value proposition, and this speaker is now getting on for a couple of years old, but don't let that put you off. The software keeps getting regular updates, and it remains a fantastic smart speaker and one of the best Google Home speakers available.

Amazon Echo Show 8

For those who find 10-inch screens too big and 5-inch screens too small comes the Amazon Echo Show 8.

(Image credit: Amazon)

11. Amazon Echo Show 8

The best bigger Amazon smart displa

Reasons to buy
+Could hit the display size sweet spot+Integrated camera privacy shutter

You don't have to be a genius to work out what the story of the Amazon Echo Show 8 is – it's another smart speaker display from Amazon, this time with an 8-inch screen. That puts it right in the middle of the 10-inch and the 5-inch Amazon Echo Shows that were already on the market.

The price is in the middle too, so it might be the sweet spot for some people. For us, it kind of falls between two stools: either you want a compact display, or you want a large one... why would you want a middling one? We do like the design though, which continues to improve with each Show.

Google Home Hub Best smart speakers Best Amazon Echo speakers Best Google Home


12. Google Nest Hub

A recent arrival gatecrashes the best smart speaker party

Reasons to buy
+Clean and simple interface+Perfect for videos

Relatively new to the best smart speaker scene – or should that be the smart display scene? – is the Google Nest 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 Nest Hub (originally called the Home Hub), and there's no camera to worry about.

Google Home Max Best smart speakers Best Amazon Echo speakers Best Google Home

The Google Home Max is the best smart speaker for those who love sound quality.

13. Google Home Max

Turn it up to the max, with this beefy smart home speaker

Reasons to buy
+Audio quality sounds great+Wired or wireless connection

There's a lot to love about the big-boy Google Home Max. In this case, you're getting some fantastic audio quality, some serious volume, and a room-filling smart speaker in the same sort of space as a traditional bookshelf woofer.

Top-level audio quality, then, 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.

Amazon Echo Spot Best smart speakers Best Amazon Echo speakers Best Google Home

The T3 award-winning Amazon Echo Spot is the best Amazon Echo for adding video to a compact form factor.

14. Amazon Echo Spot

The best Amazon Echo for combining a compact form with video

Reasons to buy
+Dinky little video screen+Fits in any room

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.

Best smart speakers: Beosound Balance

(Image credit: Bang & Olufsen)

15. Bang & Olufsen Beosound Balance

High-end sound from a superior, expensive Google smart speaker

Reasons to buy
+Spectacular build quality+Impeccable design+Adaptable sound
Reasons to avoid
-Premium pricing, to say the least

See the B&O Beosound Balance at Bang & Olufsen's online store

Some smart speakers work best when placed closer to the centre of the room while some, like the Beosound Balance, are made to sit next to a wall. It's almost a shame the beamforming smarts of its speaker layout are set up with such a bias, because the Balance's raw Scandinavian-inspired design is worth celebrating, particularly in its natural oak colourway. That said, you can select between a couple of sound profiles, one of which is more omnidirectional than the other. Both profiles, inherited from the B&O's Beolab speakers and pumped through a high quality seven-speaker array, sound just great - as you'd hope, at this price.

This is premium stuff through-and-through, right down to the aluminium top plate with its shine-through controls. But this lamp-sized speaker won't necessarily do everything: unlike some others, which started with Alexa and added Google Assistant support later, the Balance has launched with only Google support for now, with Amazon's assistant coming in a later update. 

Best smart speakers: Lenovo Smart Clock

(Image credit: Lenovo)

16. Lenovo Smart Clock

Time for a new smart screen, perhaps?

Reasons to buy
+Compact and convenient+Visual Google Assistant support+Handy as a clock
Reasons to avoid
-Not an audio whiz

Lenovo has found the sizing sweet spot for bedside table smart screens. The 4" display of the Smart Clock lans somewhere between the tiny circle of the Echo Spot and the bit-bigger-than-it-truly-needs-to-be Nest Hub Max. 

But it's not just the size that matters: the company has built in so many little extras to help it earn its place next to your pillow. There's an integrated USB port for charging, a screen that dims itself automatically at night, a comfortable cloth covering that just blends in. It's a very neat take on Google Assistant.

OK, it's no audio powerhouse, but the Smart Clock is perfectly adequate at waking you up with a tune or two. And at the time of writing it's super-cheap, too: you can pick one up direct from Lenovo for £40, which is an absolute bargain.

Best smart speakers: Bose Portable Home Speaker

(Image credit: Bose)

17. Bose Portable Home Speaker

Get the Bose mix wherever you might be

Reasons to buy
+Quality sound you can carry around+Multi-room support+Choice of assistants
Reasons to avoid
-Rather expensive

Bose clearly wants you to drag this thing around, because we doubt it would have included a bucket-style handle otherwise. You'll be glad you did, because Bose's typically EQ-mastered sound makes this a fine addition to everything from a classy picnic to a full on garden rave, and the 360° sound means nobody misses out on the tunes.

If you're within Wi-fi reach, it's a perfectly competent smart speaker supporting your choice of Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, though the two aren't quickly interchangeable so you'll need to make up your mind when you set it up. Outside of that, it's a battery powered speaker with Bluetooth.

It's not the smallest or the lightest portable smart speaker, but a lot of that weight is battery: you'll get a solid 10-12 hours out of this with ease, so it could even be a worthy carry-along while you're camping in the wilds. 

Best smart speakers: Sonos Move

(Image credit: Sonos)

18. Sonos Move

Multi-room audio in whichever room works for you

Reasons to buy
+Full Sonos support+Multi-room ready+Pretty rugged+As happy inside as it is out
Reasons to avoid
-Rather expensive

Sonos' jump to the outdoors isn't just a battery-powered Sonos One, even though we would have been happy with that. The Move has been engineered for outside. It's weather resistant, with an IP56 rating; that first digit means there's dust protection, and the second means it should be protected against strong water jets. It's drop resistant, too, making this by far the most rugged speaker Sonos has ever made. There's also a carry handle moulded into the casing. 

Sonos states 11 hours of battery life, which obviously depends on volume and usage, and there's a charging base included which means this doubles nicely as an indoor speaker when you're not carting it around - it also charges via USB-C if you're looking to power it from a power bank.

Hook it up to Wi-fi and you can choose your smart ecosystem, as Sonos has joined Bose in offering both Alexa and the Google Assistant, and you can obviously tap into Sonos' rich app and multi-room expertise to expand your playback possibilities.

Best smart speakers: UE Megablast

(Image credit: Ultimate Ears)

19. Ultimate Ears Megablast

A rowdy smart speaker you can take in the shower

Reasons to buy
+Perfect for a party+Fully waterproof+Highly portable
Reasons to avoid
-Not exactly a reference sound

Ultimate Ears' whole attitude just seems to be to make the most balls-out speakers it possibly can. Speakers made to be handled while not entirely in control of one's faculties. Speakers that can handle a party or twelve, and deal with being hurled into a swimming pool and come out shouting. And, critically, speakers with a loud, bouncy, full-on audio mix that will make you nod your head.

The Megablast absolutely fits the mould. The company has imbued its 360° (or, let's be realistic given that large volume panel, more like 300°) output with some truly rocking bass, and given it all the element-proofing possible to boot. And yes, it's an Alexa speaker, and not a bad one either; great to take in the bathroom or get tunes running in a busy kitchen. Perhaps leave the Alexa functionality switched off if you're partying though - that's just asking for trouble.