Smart speakers are the booming new category in tech with Amazon and Google leading the way. It's so easy to make one that everyone wants a slice of the pie. Here we round up the best smart speakers you can buy in 2020.
Note that many of these speakers are frequently discounted - you can check out the best smart speaker deals right here.
Best smart speakers 2020
1. Google Nest Mini
Despite the big name change, the Nest Mini is far from an overhaul of the Home Mini - though you can essentially think of it as the Home Mini 2.
If your house is already kitted out with the originals there’s no real reason to swap them out for the newer model, as the design and functionality is basically the same. Audio has improved a lot though, if you want to use it as a standalone speaker, while a machine learning chip makes basic commands quicker to use.
The design is essentially unchanged, aside from a new Sky colour, but there is one welcome tweak: a small indentation on the back for wall-mounting, letting you easily hang the Nest Mini from any nail or screw.
So don't rush out to grab a Nest Mini to replace an existing Home Mini. But for anyone looking to add Google to more rooms, or get the Google Assistant into their home for the first time, the Nest Mini is the new best, and cheapest, way to do it.
Read our full Google Nest Mini review
2. Sonos One
The Sonos One is a top-quality smart speaker, essentially a Play:1 with Alexa and Google Assistant voice-control built-in. We'd have liked some Sonos-related voice commands that most people will expect.
It's more expensive than many other smart speakers but it's worth the extra if you want those smart speakers. And compared to non-Sonos rivals it offers much better build quality and sound.
The Sonos One has Google Assistant added in the US, and from July it will be supported in the UK, Australia, Canada and other countries.
Read our full Sonos One review
3. Amazon Echo Dot with Clock
The Echo Dot with Clock is a great alternative to the regular Echo Dot, especially if you plan to use it on your nightstand. It’s a relatively minor change but it’s genuinely helpful to be able to see the time and how long is left on a timer.
So if those are two features you like the sound of, the Dot with Clock is well worth the extra money.
Read our full Amazon Echo Dot with Clock review
4. Pure DiscovR
Pure's first smart speaker is an excellent sounding speaker with a few unique tricks up its sleeve.
Its key advantage lies in its flexibility, with a choice of three modes of listening depending on your situation. It's also great if you value privacy, with an option to physically deactivate It could be held back by a high price, or slightly underwhelming set of microphones, but if money is no object you can't go wrong with the DiscovR.
Read our full Pure DiscovR review
5. Amazon Echo (3rd-gen)
The Amazon Echo 3 is a great improvement on the Echo 2 not only in terms of design but audio output too. It's very similar to the second-gen Echo Plus, featuring the same 3in subwoofer and 0.8in tweeter that provides crisp vocals and booming bass, but you miss out on the smart hub and thermometer functionality.
Still, for £89.99/$99.99, it's a great-sounding smart speaker that'll be able to answer almost any query you throw at it - just make sure you've got the appropriate Skill enabled first.
Read our full Amazon Echo (3rd-gen) review
6. Google Home
The original and standard Google Home is arguably still one of the best, carefully balancing decent audio quality with great functionality to achieve an incredible price.
It's true that it now sees competition within its own home, with Google Home Max besting it on sound (at a much higher price), and Nest Hub adding a display but sacrificing audio quality. Google Home Mini is cheaper too, but if you love the Mini this is the device you'll want to buy next.
Google Home answers all our questions, keeps us entertained and up to date, and even turns on and off our lights. It is quite literally one of the best and most exciting talking points our home has seen.
Read our full Google Home review
7. Google Home Mini
Mini but mighty is the only way to describe this affordable smart speaker from Google. Thanks to the inclusion of Google Assistant it's packed with functionality, and despite its diminutive size the audio is surprisingly good.
It's since been replaced by the Nest Mini, which packs better audio and faster processing, but the Home Mini is still worth considering if you can find it at less than full price.
It's priced low enough to appeal to those looking to try a smart speaker for the first time, and it's ideal for those who wish to pair it with other Google Home devices in order to stream audio and broadcasts all around the home. While the more expensive Google Home devices might feel at home in the kitchen or lounge, Google Home Mini is ideal for the bedrooms.
Audiophiles aren't going to be impressed by Google Home Mini's reproduction of lows and mids, but we're not all audiophiles. Many users will be quite satisfied with its highs, and for everyday conversing with the Assistant the 40mm driver is adequate. Now that you can connect a Bluetooth speaker, there's a workaround for this in any case.
Read our full Google Home Mini review
8. Amazon Echo Plus (2nd-gen)
The second-gen Echo Plus is shorter, louder and nicer-looking than the original speaker while still boasting an integrated smart hub to control ZigBee smart home tech (along with Alexa-supported devices).
The audio is clear, vocals are warm and it has a strong bass presence, and thanks to Dolby Play 360 audio support, it does a great job at filling the room with music.
If you've got ZigBee-supported smart home tech, the Echo Plus is the ideal option.
Read our full Amazon Echo Plus (2nd-gen) review
9. Google Home Max
If you're looking for a smart speaker with the biggest sound, the Google Home Max delivers in bucket loads. This this is a huge speaker with more power than you'll know what to do with.
It's perfectly capable a fueling a house party on its own, never mind getting two for a stereo pair. It's on a similar level to the Sonos Play:5, but with the addition of smart functionality through Google Assistant.
It's big and it's expensive compared to other smart speakers, albeit now less expensive than previously. If you're looking for a cheaper option that's just as big on sound consider the Play One.
Read our full Google Home Max review
10. Apple HomePod
You might not like the price (even reduced), but the HomePod sounds impressive and works well.
It's not very flexible, so only consider it if your household is fully kitted out with Apple or HomeKit devices. If not, it's still a good choice if you simply want to use Apple Music, but it's features are limited beyond that.
Read our full Apple HomePod review
What is a smart speaker?
In simple terms as smart speaker is an audio speaker that you can talk to and interact with like you might already do with your smartphone.
They’re internet connected virtual assistants – just like Siri, Cortana and others – which can answer questions, tell you the latest news and weather, play music and control smart home gadgets such as heating, air conditioning, lights and switches.
We list the best Google Home devices here
We list the best Amazon Echo devices here
What should I look for?
Like regular speakers, smart versions come in various shapes, sizes and prices. You should consider how much you want to spend and also where you want to put it in your home. A smaller one, like the Google Nest Mini or Amazon Echo Dot will fit in more places, for example.
There's also whether the design fits in with your décor. Some come in a set range of colours while others have interchangeable covers.
Size, of course, will have an impact on audio quality so if you want to play a lot of music then it will be worth spending a bit more on a bigger model. The Sonos One and Apple HomePod are two options.
Which smart speaker you choose should also come down to the AI assistant you prefer – essentially Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant at the moment, with Siri only in the HomePod. Some, like Sonos, will even let you choose.
They both do the same thing so in a similar way so it's a bit like choosing between an operating system. A big factor here is whether you already use various Amazon and Google services – even shopping on Amazon - particularly for music streaming as you need to be signed up to listen to whatever you want.
There's also the question of whether you have products that play nicely with the smart speaker. If you have a Google Chromecast then it makes sense to get a device with Google Assistant, for example.
As mentioned earlier, smart speakers can be used to control smart home products like lightbulbs so you'll also want to check compatibility with anything you have or are thinking about getting. Many, like Philips Hue, are supported by both but you can check out the lists for Google here and Amazon here.
Some smart speakers are beginning to arrive with screens. Amazon's Echo Show and Echo Spot are included here and you can read our full reviews to better understand whether a screen will be a useful feature for you.