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 2019.
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.
In a YouGov survey published in April 2018, it was revealed that Google Home holds 7 percent of the UK smart speaker market (plus 9 percent for the Google Home Mini) compared to Amazon Echo's (combined) 75 percent.
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 Home 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 will even let you choose – Sonos will soon via an update.
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.
Best smart speakers 2019
1. Sonos One
- Reviewed on: 2 April 2019
The Sonos One is a top-quality smart speaker, essentially a Play:1 with Alexa 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 will get even better when the Google Assistant is added.
Read our Sonos One review.
- Reviewed on: 16 November 2018
This latest Echo Dot sounds a lot better, looks a lot better and is great value at this price. You can even pair two Dots for stereo sound.
It's a great entry into the world of Alexa to listen to radio, podcast and music as well as ask queries. You can have one, or put several about the house.
Read our Amazon Echo Dot (3rd-gen) review.
3. Google Home
- Reviewed on: 16 November 2018
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 Home 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 Google Home review.
- Reviewed on: 16 November 2018
You should get the regular Echo instead of the Echo Dot if you want to listen to music through it. It has better, louder, clearer sound. Otherwise the functionality is fairly similar.
It's a good choice for hands-free audio in a living room or kitchen as it's loud enough to be heard over the noise of daily life.
Read our Amazon Echo (2nd-gen) review.
- Reviewed on: 18 January 2019
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 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 Google Home Mini review.
- Reviewed on: 15 November 2018
The second-gen Echo Plus is shorter, louder and nicer-looking than the original speaker while still boasting an integrated smart home 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 Amazon Echo Plus (2nd-gen) review.
- Reviewed on: 22 November 2018
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, however, so if you're looking for a cheaper option that's just as big on sound consider the Play One.
Read our Google Home Max review.
- Reviewed on: 4 April 2019
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 Apple HomePod review.
9. UE Megablast
- Reviewed on: 4 December 2017
If you’re looking for a high-end Alexa-enabled speaker, the only better one out there at the moment is the Sonos One.
Our main quibble is the price but the Megablast offers a portable design that's vibrant and water-proof, which rivals do not. It offers incredible sound quality and long-lasting battery life in a single device.
Read our UE Megablast review.
10. JBL Link 300
- Reviewed on: 27 June 2018
The JBL Link 300 is a powerful home speaker with a sound profile that undeniably puts bass first and foremost, but never lets it dominate to the detriment of anything else.
It also includes built-in Google Assistant support, with simple setup and the full range of Google Home features, all at a price point that Google itself has left vacant, with better sound quality than any of Google's own offerings (unless you're in the US and can buy the Google Home Max).
If you’re happy with bass-forward sound and don’t mind the occasional microphone mishap (we found it slightly prone to misunderstanding us), you should be happy.
Read our JBL Link 300 review.
- Reviewed on: 20 March 2019
The Orbi Voice is very expensive compared to rivals but you have to factor in the way you're buying multiple products in one. It's a smart speaker with Alexa as well as a mesh network, and if you already have Orbi kit then you can buy the Voice on its own.
We like the idea of combining what would normally be something you'd hide away with something useful like a smart speaker. Add in that this is one of the fastest mesh networks we've tested and you can't go too wrong.
The app is decent enough so you just need to check if the speaker supports the music streaming service you use.
Read our Netgear Orbi Voice review.