Best smart speakers 2021: top Amazon Echo, Google Nest, Apple HomePod and other picks

Our best smart speakers cover the best Alexa and Google Assistant devices to play music, control your smart devices, chat and more

Best smart speakers 2021
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(Image credit: Amazon)

To be the best smart speaker a device needs to not only be a great audio speaker, but also a capable smart device. While this sounds obvious, an advanced smart speaker that doesn't deliver in the audio department defeats the purpose. Equally, a great sounding speaker that lacks intelligence, is a pointless purchase. 

The best smart speaker is one that excels in both camps. Whether you want to look up a recipe, turn on your lights, play an audiobook or your favorite tunes, it should be effortless – and sound great! 

A smart screen can give you even more. You get the brains of a smart speaker, you generally get some strong speakers, but that screen opens up options: you can pull up a live view of compatible security cameras, watch videos, skim through recipes, and get visual notifications – they're much more than just digital photo frames. Although they'll do that, too.

The very smartest smart speakers give you a little extra smart home control, incorporating smart hubs which allow you to do away with dedicated bridges for smart home gear. This isn't a requirement for smart home – 'works with Alexa' devices will work as well with a Dot as they will with the big Amazon Echo – but if smart home control is a big draw for you, this is definitely something to consider.

Check out our best smart bulbs to integrate into your home setup, or go all out with our best smart home gadgets to connect even more. 

You'll probably already know which niche you want to fill with your next smart speaker, and we'll show you the best smart speaker options below. If you're just starting your journey, we've got options for you too, but you'll have to work some things out first. Question one: which smart assistant should you go for?

What to look for in a smart speaker

The most common options for the best smart speaker are Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant – for most folks, it’s a choice between these two. Apple’s Siri is also an option, but it’s only available on two smart speakers at this point, and generally isn’t quite as capable as the other two overall, so it’s more of a marginal option. Mostly. 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, the choice 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. 

To help decide which is right for you, read our in-depth comparison of the two: Alexa vs Google Assistant. The gist of all this is that 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, consider their size, design, audio quality and any of the additional hardware features we've talked about, such as having a screen or a smart hub inside. Price will obviously be a major factor, but it's likely to be something you'll consider 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.

best smart speaker 2021T3 Awards 2020


1. Google Nest Hub Max

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

Specifications
Communication: Google Assistant
Dimensions: 3.99 x 9.85 x 7.19 inches (DxWxH)
Weight: 2.91 lbs
Speakers: 2x 18mm 10W tweeters, 1x 75mm 30W woofer
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth
Additional features: 6.5-megapixel camera, 10” HD touchscreen (1280x800)
Reasons to buy
+Lots more screen space+Lots more audio power

Oh, sure, the Google Nest Hub Max may be a baby compared to some of the more venerable entries in this list, but there's a long list of reasons it's taking the top spot. It was the winner of our T3 Awards 2020 award as the best smart speaker because it does absolutely everything in one package. Sure, if you'd rather run the compact Nest Mini, or opt for a smaller screen in the Nest Hub which came before it, you can. But for the most full-on Google Assistant smart speaker experience, this is the way to go.

Why? It's the combination. The screen is a crisp ten inches, so you won't need to squint. The speaker is a heavy, loud and great quality cone. There's a camera for video calls, and you can use it to monitor your security cameras. And Google Assistant is a great smart environment to play in.

Assistant is made even better with that screen on board: you can control your music with touch controls, watch videos, skim through photos and a lot more, and this also works as a Chromecast speaker and display.

Read our full Google Nest Hub Max review

Best smart speakers 2021: Amazon Echo (4th gen)


(Image credit: Amazon)

2. Amazon Echo (4th gen)

Better-sounding than ever, and with new capabilities built in

Specifications
Communication: Alexa
Dimensions: 5.7 x 5.7 x 5.2 inches (DxWxH)
Weight: 34.2oz
Speakers: 3.0” (76.2 mm) neodymium woofer and two 0.8” (20 mm) tweeters
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth
Additional features: 3.5mm line in/out
Reasons to buy
+Good triple-speaker system+Seamless smart home integration
Reasons to avoid
-New design is bigger than previous models

The new Amazon Echo is bigger than the previous model, but that's because it added extra muscle to its speakers and features as well as its shape. A large woofer and two tweeters provide better balance and clarity for music, while the Zigbee smart home hub functionality that used to be exclusively part of the Echo Plus has been moved into the standard Echo.

Alexa is as capable as ever, but it can also respond a little faster to some queries in this model, thanks to Amazon's new learning chip, which can process some common voice requests on the device itself, making it quicker to respond to questions such as turning the lights off.

We think the new design is a little less decoration-friendly than the old one, but that's made up for by all its new improvements – it's the best Alexa speaker overall.

Read our full Amazon Echo (4th gen) review

Best smart speakers 2021: HomePod mini

(Image credit: Apple)

3. Apple HomePod mini

Smaller, cheaper, and just as smart as its big brother

Specifications
Communication: Siri
Dimensions: 3.9 x 3.9 x 3.3 inches (DxWxH)
Weight: 0.76lbs
Speakers: Full-range driver and dual passive radiators
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth
Additional features: AirPlay 2
Reasons to buy
+Works as a HomeKit hub+Great phone-to-speaker experience+More affordable

The big-boy HomePod is a beautiful thing, but next to the competition it's hard not to look at its price without wincing. Apple has, with customary casualness, taken its time in bringing home a HomePod for the rest of us. Now the HomePod mini is here, it's clear the folks from Cupertino have pulled off a cost-effective sequel in magnificent style. 

This is a quality little speaker with all the brains of its chunkier cousin – including, importantly, the ability to act as a HomeKit hub to control smart home devices – and even some new capabilities; support for up-and-coming smart protocol Thread means it may help the growth of your smart network. Siri's focus may be on mobile, but don't discount it as the driver here either. If you're using an iPhone, going HomePod is the slickest phone-to-speaker experience there is.

The HomePod mini also packs a surprising punch in the sound department, with 360-degree audio filling most rooms without issue. It's the size of the Echo Dot, yet sounds as good (arguably better, depending on preference) to the full-size Echo or Nest Audio.

Read our full HomePod mini review

Best smart speakers 2021: Sonos One

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

4. Sonos One

The best smart speaker for excellent music quality

Specifications
Communication: Google Assistant / Alexa
Dimensions: 6.36 x 4.69 x 4.69 in (HxWxD)
Weight: 4.08lbs
Speakers: One tweeter, one mid-woofer
Connectivity: Ethernet, WiFi
Additional features: AirPlay 2, touch controls
Reasons to buy
+Top-quality audio+Intuitive, powerful apps

Sonos has been making great wireless speakers for years, capable of streaming music from multiple online services and local media libraries all around the home. With the Sonos One, they've started adding voice assistants to the mix – specifically, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. You can choose which you prefer.

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 2021 if you listen to a lot of music. At a base price of $200, it's more expensive than the similarly-sized Echo (4th gen) or Nest Audio, but in terms of audio quality, it sits at the more luxury end of the market alongside the Echo Studio or Google Home Max.

Detail and balance is just a level above here, thanks to Sonos' extensive expertise with hi-fi. You can play music using the voice assistants, or via Sonos' app and Apple AirPlay 2. It works as part of a multi-room system with either of those options, too.

The mic quality isn't quite as good as the latest from Amazon and Google at picking up your voice over other noises, but it works more than well enough. Just bear it in mind if your house is regularly chaotic.

Best smart speakers 2021: JBL Link Portable

(Image credit: JBL)

5. JBL Link Portable

A third-party contender that's better than you'd think

Specifications
Communication: Google Assistant
Dimensions: 6.69 x 3.46 x 3.46 in (HxWxD)
Weight: 1.62lbs
Speakers: One x 1.93in woofer
Connectivity: Bluetooth, WiFi
Additional features: Rechargeable battery, waterproof, AirPlay 2
Reasons to buy
+Great sound+Great price+Decent construction

JBL's neat little speaker is something of an under-the-radar option, but that doesn't mean it's not a quality device. In fact, it's really rather good, particularly in its price bracket, with Google Assistant support built-in and AirPlay 2, Chromecast and hi-res support topping its surprisingly strong list of speakers. 

Physically, this is also more premium than its price would suggest, with a tidy cloth finish and a delicate curve to its shape; in terms of audio, it can fair belt out the tunes, with a loud and detailed mix which includes a serious amount of bass if you want it.

The only points it loses are in connectivity. There's no way to pair this with another speaker, there's none of JBL's PartyBoost functions, but this is seriously affordable and seriously good nonetheless.

Best smart speakers 2021: Amazon Echo Dot


(Image credit: Amazon)

6. Amazon Echo Dot (4th gen)

The best small smart speaker – and it has the option of being a clock too

Specifications
Communication: Alexa
Dimensions: 3.9 x 3.9 x 3.5 in
Weight: 12oz
Speakers: 1.6in speaker
Connectivity: Bluetooth, WiFi
Additional features: 3.5mm line out
Reasons to buy
+Compact, cute, capable+Can get with a clock built-in

All the smarts of Alexa in a little ball that fits in the palm of your hand make the new Echo Dot a very appealing option in our best smart speaker list – especially considering its latest refresh, which upped the audio quality. 

The genius of the Dot is that it's just good enough. Its audio isn't spectacular, but it's miles ahead of the disappointing sound of early versions. Its price isn't super-low, but it's low enough; at $50, you can pretty much just piecemeal upgrade each room as you come to it. It doesn't have a Zigbee hub, but it can pull off the full range of Alexa voice commands and functions.

Keep an eye out for sales, because they're when the Dot really comes into its own. If you find an Echo Dot for under $50, seriously consider buying - that's the sweet spot, and it lands there often.

Read our full Amazon Echo Dot (4th gen) review

Best smart speakers 2021: Beosound A1 (2nd Gen)

(Image credit: Bang & Olufsen)

7. Beosound A1 (2nd Gen)

Waterproof, tiny, but plenty loud

Specifications
Communication: Alexa
Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.8 x 5.2 in (WxHxD)
Weight: 1.23lbs
Speakers: 1x 3.5in woofer, 1x 3.5in tweeter
Connectivity: Bluetooth, USB-C
Additional features: rechargeable battery, dust and waterproof
Reasons to buy
+Amazing sound for the size+Brilliantly portable
Reasons to avoid
-Needs to be tethered to your phone-Some voice command restrictions

Size, say the insecure, is not everything, generally without any proof. Here, B&O has the goods that cements it as true: the Beosound A1, about the size of a Sausage and Egg McMuffin (so slightly larger than a third-gen Echo Dot, but not by much) is a stormer in the sound department. It's nimble, capable, and handles dynamic performances with no effort at all, everything you could ask for from a speaker. And more, in fact: it's portable, with up to 48 hours battery life if you're careful about the volume, and IP67 rated, meaning you could fling it in the bath (if you really wanted to) and it would emerge just fine.

Admittedly its Alexa functionality is a little, shall we say, subjective - this is a Bluetooth speaker, so it only works when tethered to your phone. Good job it supports the extra range of Bluetooth 5.1, we suppose, although the funky way in which Amazon links audio streaming services to devices means you won't be able to fire up Spotify or Tidal via your voice - but get them going using your phone, and you'll be more than happy with the results.

Best smart speakers 2021: Amazon Echo Studio


(Image credit: Amazon)

8. Amazon Echo Studio

The best-sounding Amazon Echo out there

Specifications
Communication: Alexa
Dimensions: 8.1in (H) x 6.9in (Diameter)
Weight: 7.7lbs
Speakers: 3x 2in midrange speakers, 1x 1in tweeter, 1x 5.25in woofer
Connectivity: Bluetooth, WiFi
Additional features: 3.5mm/mini-optical line-in
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 mid-range 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 an HD version of its music streaming service as well, which is probably the perfect app to pair with the Amazon Echo Studio.

Best smart speakers 2021: Amazon Echo Show 5 best smart speaker


9. Amazon Echo Show 5

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

Specifications
Communication: Alexa
Dimensions: 5.8 x 3.4 x 2.9in
Weight: 14.5oz
Speakers: 1.65in speaker
Connectivity: Bluetooth, WiFi
Additional features: 3.5mm output, 5.5in touchscreen, 1MP camera
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.

Read the full Amazon Echo Show 5 review

Best smart speakers 2021: Apple HomePod


10. Apple HomePod

The best smart speaker for Apple fans

Specifications
Communication: Siri
Dimensions: 6.8 x 5.6 x 5.6in (HxWxD)
Weight: 5.5lbs
Speakers: High-excursion woofer, seven horn-loaded tweeters
Connectivity: Bluetooth, WiFi
Additional features: touch controls, AirPlay
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 it's in to make sure your ears are always hearing your tunes at their best. It also looks and feels fantastic, a very premium product, and definitely one of the best smart speakers of 2021.

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 tends towards the difficult or non-existent (though you can stream audio from iTunes on Windows). Nonetheless, it's the best-sounding smart speaker for those already heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, only bested (arguably) by the cheaper HomePod mini. 

Read our full Apple HomePod review

Best smart speakers 2021: Google Nest Mini


(Image credit: Google)

11. Google Nest Mini

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

Specifications
Communication: Google Assistant
Dimensions: 1.65 x 3.85 x 3.85in (HxWxD)
Weight: 6.24oz
Speakers: 360-degree sound with 40 mm driver
Connectivity: Bluetooth, WiFi
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 colors are chalk, charcoal, coral or sky.

Read our full Google Nest Mini review

Best smart speakers 2021: Google Nest Audio

(Image credit: Google)

12. Google Nest Audio

Improved sound and all the power of Google Assistant

Specifications
Communication: Google Assistant
Dimensions: 6.89 x 3.07 x 4.89in (HxDxW)
Weight: 2.65lbs
Speakers: 75 mm woofer and 19 mm tweeter
Connectivity: WiFi
Additional features: Pairs with second unit for stereo
Reasons to buy
+Decent audio quality+Google Assistant is excellent+Nice-looking design

Google's replacement for the Google Home upgrades the sound over its predecessor by including a woofer and dedicated tweeter, giving a more full sound overall – though the audio doesn't quite match the new Amazon Echo, and definitely trails behind the likes of the Sonos One.

The new tall, slim design is attractive and is smaller than it comes across in photos. It has hidden controls on top – slightly too hidden, in our view, but if you know they're there, it's nice not to have the look broken up.

Google Assistant is excellent, of course, and though there are no unique features to it on this device, it's a really good balance of speaker quality and capability for those in the Google ecosystem.

Read our full Google Nest Audio review

Best smart speakers 2021: Amazon Echo Show 8


(Image credit: Amazon)

13. Amazon Echo Show 8

The best bigger Amazon smart display

Specifications
Communication: Alexa
Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.4 x 3.9in (WxHxD)
Weight: 36.6oz
Speakers: 2x 2.0in neodymium speakers
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth
Additional features: 8in touchscreen, 1MP camera
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. This is all blindingly obvious stuff.

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.

Best smart speakers 2021: Google Home Hub


14. Google Nest Hub

A recent arrival gatecrashes the best smart speaker party

Specifications
Communication: Google Assistant
Dimensions: 7.02 x 4.65 x 2.65in (WxHxD)
Weight: 16.9oz
Speakers: Full range speaker
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth
Additional features: 7in touchscreen
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 center 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, up the heat or tweak the HVAC on your Nest Learning Thermostat, ask Google a question, 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.

Best smart speakers 2021: Google Home Max

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

15. Google Home Max

Turn it up to the max with this heavyweight smart home speaker

Specifications
Communication: Google Assistant
Dimensions: 13.2 x 7.4 x 6.0in (WxHxD)
Weight: 11.7lbs
Speakers: Two 4.5 in (114 mm) high-excursion (+/- 11 mm) dual voice-coil woofers
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth
Additional features: 3.5mm and USB-C ports
Reasons to buy
+Audio quality sounds great+Wired or wireless connection

There's a lot to love about the largest 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.

Read our full Google Home Max review

Best smart speakers 2021: Beosound Balance

(Image credit: Bang & Olufsen)

16. Bang & Olufsen Beosound Balance

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

Specifications
Communication: Google Assistant (Alexa coming soon)
Dimensions: 7.87 x 14.96 x 7.87in (WxHxD)
Weight: 15.9lbs
Speakers: 2 x 5.25in woofer drivers, 1 x 0.75in tweeter
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth
Additional features: line-in/optical jack and USB-C ports, AirPlay 2
Reasons to buy
+Spectacular build quality+Impeccable design+Adaptable sound
Reasons to avoid
-Premium pricing, to say the least

Some smart speakers work best when placed closer to the center 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 colorway. 

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 aluminum 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 2021: Lenovo Smart Clock

(Image credit: Lenovo)

17. Lenovo Smart Clock

Time for a new smart screen, perhaps?

Specifications
Communication: Google Assistant
Dimensions: 3.14 x 4.48 x 3.12in (WxHxD)
Weight: 0.723 lbs
Speakers: 1x1.5” 3W Speaker
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth
Additional features: 4in touchscreen, USB 2.0 charger
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 lands 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: it has reached as low as $25 in many places.

Best smart speakers 2021: Sonos Move

(Image credit: Sonos)

18. Sonos Move

Multi-room audio in whichever room works for you

Specifications
Communication: Google Assistant / Alexa
Dimensions: 9.44 x 6.29 x 4.96 in (HxWxD)
Weight: 6.61 lbs
Speakers: One downward-firing tweeter, one mid-woofer
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth
Additional features: AirPlay 2, rechargeable battery, shock-resistant case, weather resistant
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 molded 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 2021: UE Megablast

(Image credit: Ultimate Ears)

19. Ultimate Ears Megablast

A rowdy smart speaker you can take in the shower

Specifications
Communication: Alexa
Dimensions: 9.33in (H) x 3.46in (Dia)
Weight: 2.6 lbs
Speakers: Two 25mm tweeters
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth
Additional features: Rechargeable battery, waterproof and dustproof
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 your 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 mold. 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. 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. Maybe leave the Alexa functionality switched off if you're partying though – that's just asking for trouble.

Best smart speakers 2021: Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition

(Image credit: Amazon)

20. Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition

It's the Echo Dot, but a lot cuter

Specifications
Communication: Alexa
Dimensions: 3.9 x 3.9 3.5in
Weight: 12oz
Speakers: 1.6in speaker
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth
Additional features: 1 year of Amazon Kids+
Reasons to buy
+Useful extended warranty+Kid-friendly skills+All the other Dot smarts

The Echo Dot Kids' Edition is really just an Echo Dot with a kid-friendly cloth outer. Right? Well, yes and no. Yes in the sense that the hardware is technically exactly the same, so you get all the benefits of the Echo Dot, but no in the sense that you get a lot more besides.

You get a no-quibble two-year warranty (extended from the 90 days of the usual Echo Dot) perfect if your kid decides Mr Panda needs to see what the shower is like. You also get a far cheaper subscription to Amazon's Kids+ (formerly Freetime Unlimited) which gives you extra control over what they can do with their Echo and offers up a bunch of child-friendly skills too. It works out a lot cheaper to buy the Kids' Edition, if you put that subscription in the equation, so even if it does cost $10 more than the standard version this is worth a look.