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Popular virtual assistants are taking the world by storm, causing the smart home market to begin to gradually dominate.
Many people are considering smart speakers as the future of home automation, not only to control simple smart home devices (such as Philips Hue bulbs or smart locks ), but also to take charge of all the complex products from the refrigerator to the garage door within, and they will automatically run when you give the command.
This may sound a little unbelievable, but with the continued development of intelligent voice technology, all of this could soon become a reality.
Now you can communicate with an increasing wealth of IoT devices, with smart speakers that can manage your schedule, keep track of your shopping list, and even learn your personal preferences over time.
1. Apple HomePod
It’s Apple‘s latest offering in recent years, not just a great smart speaker device, but also represents the route the tech giant has been exploring over the past decade, from the iconic iPod, to the golden age iPhone, and now HomePod.
Sure, HomePod borrows half of its name from iPod , but we still have to ask the same question about this device: Is it worth paying this fee for the Apple ecosystem?
In many ways, HomePod is a latecomer to the smart speaker space, but Apple isn’t worried too much about it. They’ve taken a new form factor, offered a unique edge, and typically competed with more expensive and sleeker designs – a strategy that has worked well so far.
By far the easiest smart speaker to set up, it’s also one of the most expensive models, but Apple hopes to justify the price with great Siriand excellent sound quality.
As with AirPods, you simply place your phone near HomePod , configure the Apple Musicpreferences information, and fill in the verbose Wi-Fi password, and the setup is complete. But this highlights a key element of HomePod : you must have iPhone or iPad to complete the process, so if you don’t have one of these two devices, there may be no reason to buy HomePod.
The whole setup process is very quick, and you’ll be glad it only takes a minute at most compared to the lengthy setup process of Amazon Echoor Sonos One. HomePod actually determines its location by playing some music and then receiving the return status of the sound. Another fancy design: when you give a voice command, the top of the speaker turns into a multi-colored Siri logo that looks very pleasing to the eye.
All you get is a compact speaker covered with a layer of acoustic mesh designed to provide protection while still emitting as much sound as possible. While there are no decorative touches, the exterior doesn’t look all that inconspicuous, with the only interface for the protective mesh located at the top, where the circular counter disc sits. As mentioned above, this is where the light-emitting pulse indicates that Siri is listening and processing commands, and can also be used to adjust the volume.
Unfortunately, the buttons don’t have haptic feedback, but given that most of the time you’ll be using your voice to control the HomePod, this isn’t a big deal.
In terms of hardware, the HomePod comes with Apple ‘s A8 chip, which has been used in iPhone 6 since 2015 . That may sound old, but considering it’s powering a powerful smartphone, it’s more than enough for such a simple smart speaker.
The sound from Apple HomePod easily fills the room, and all elements between tracks are very clear. Bass sinks deep and sharp notes are good, electronics possess great clarity, and bass guitar has some slight reverberation. In fact, the audio quality is so good that it easily compares favorably to Amazon Echoand Sonos One, with Echo having the worst sound quality of the three and Sonos One coming closer to HomePod, but still not close enough.
There is no Bluetooth capability and no audio output port, so if you only want to play audio from
products then this is not a big deal, but if you are like playing other streaming Bluetooth music then choosing
would be better.
Speaking of the future, we have AirPlay 2 (spaced playback 2 ) to thank for the introduction of the AirPlay 2. You can now connect two HomePods together for stereo sound, or add different brands of speakers to deliver sound.
Even though Apple tells the world it’s a music-first product, HomePod is more than just a speaker. You can talk to it, ask all sorts of questions, and have your voice picked up accurately even when loud music is blaring around you, which may seem impossible.
Siri has the ability to do more than just respond to your voice; it can control a wide range of smart home devices. Apple ‘s smart home ecosystem is called HomeKit and is primarily controlled through Home APPon iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch .
With so many smart speakers to choose from now, judging which one is best can be very subjective.
However, the HomePod sounds great and offers some smart voice features. If you already own other products in the Apple family, then the HomePod would be a nice addition to your life. However, if you live a more frugal life and are not fully integrated with the Apple ecosystem, then Amazon ‘s Echo product line is more than worth checking out.
- Excellent sound quality
- Siri has a high level of voice accuracy
- Understated, attractive design
- Siri has limited capabilities
- No Bluetooth streaming
- A subscription to Apple Musicis required to get a better experience
2. Amazon Echo 2nd Generation
Smart speakers are all the rage right now, but Amazon Echois where the real craze began, dating back as far as 2014 .
Of course, it wasn’t long before other technology giants tried to join the field, with Apple HomePod, Google Home, and some other third-party speakers competing fiercely, but the recently updated Amazon Echo is still a step ahead in this game.
In many ways, the latest version of the Echo is in the best position in the affordable but fully featured line of smart speakers and home audio. It sounds much better than the smaller Echo Dotthanks to its dual speakers with Dolby sound, but in terms of price, it still compares favorably to the more expensive Echo Plus.
For most everyday needs, we believe the sound quality of the Echo is good enough, but music enthusiasts may be disappointed: it’s not ready to replace your hi-fi system. Instead, if you’re looking to add a wonderful smart device to your home space but don’t want to incur the high cost, then Echo is a great starter option.
Since the first version was released, Amazon has made subtle improvements to the look of the Echo , with new fabrics and wood finishes that may suit your home decor better than brushed aluminum. But to be honest, it may look a little tacky at times.
speakers can’t compete with
is more expensive, but doesn’t sound amazing. On the other hand, most low-cost units are just another
Echo Dot in a different guise.
The upgraded Echo is smaller and wider than its predecessor, which is actually a rather welcome change. Amazon decided to combine the design elements of the Dotwith the full-sized device, adapting the volume dial to a pair of buttons before adding the mute button for a more ergonomic experience. Still, the buttons aren’t the only improvements to the Echo ; Alexa has undergone several updates and received new skill lists and routines, as well as improved voice recognition and scene understanding.
If sound quality is your first choice, the Echo may not compare to your current audio equipment, but there is a good solution: you can connect it to larger speakers or hi-fi. The Echo has built-in Bluetooth for wireless connectivity and a 3.5 mm audio output jack on the back.
Alexa currently has over 50000 skills, each representing a different processing capability, which is kind of like a smart speaker app. But if you want Echo to sing, it’s time to dive into those skills and make some modifications, and don’t worry, the process is pretty simple.
The Echo has very clear sound quality and good bass, but if you want better sound quality, then the Echo Pluswill be better. Having the ability to take calls is a nice addition, although essentially a home intercom between Echo devices. The Routine feature is also popular, allowing a series of smart actions to be brought together and then triggered by a single command.
the most popular of Amazon’s
line of smart speakers, with a lower price point, a more attractive design, and
getting better every month.
Amazon is facing stiff competition from Google Home, Apple HomePod, and even Sonos One. It’s too early to tell if one of these systems will dominate the smart home market, but all reports indicate that Amazon Echo outpaces all of its competitors. Even if you don’t like the idea of smart home technology, you can still use Echo as a mere Bluetooth music player.
- New design
- Lower prices
- Excellence Alexa Skills
- Alexa APP needs to be improved
- No more rotating volume dials
3. Google Home
It’s Google’s smart assistant with a built-in AI voice assistant that wants to make your life easier. For example, it can give you the weather forecast, lower the temperature inside while you’re out, or find your favorite clips and push them to Chromecast.
From the price of a plane ticket, to some random fact (like the weight of a macaw or the cost of PlayStation 4 Pro), Google Home can tell you almost anything. But when you ask a question using different words or a different tone of voice, you may suddenly get a completely different answer.
Google Home is far from perfect at the moment, but it’s sure to get better over time as the AI voice assistant continues to improve. One of the biggest advantages of this speaker, according to Google , is the ability to answer many questions at once without you having to keep repeating: Hey Google.
The Smart Assistant now supports Pandora Premium, simply set the platform as your default music streaming service and it will play at your command. There’s also a new extension called Pretty Pleasedesigned to ensure your kids remain respectful of the voice assistant and help encourage polite conversation between people. Finally, Google will also add six new voices to the assistant in order to make it feel more natural and personal.
The appearance looks like an air freshener, or a simpler description might be a small vase that can be varied depending on your location. Each Google Home comes with a standard gray woven base and rubber bottom, and can be interchanged for different materials or colors.
From a purely aesthetic standpoint, the Google Home
is more attractive than the all-black cylindrical shape of the
. The colors are less abrupt than black, and the height is shorter, making it easier to blend into its surroundings. Echo
offers physical controls to adjust volume, as does Google Home
, but the touch controls don’t feel as precise, and it lacks a mute button.
The assistant picks up your voice through two built-in microphones in the upper half (instead of the five on Echo ), but often doesn’t work, which means you end up needing to repeat questions or raise the volume to get more attention.
Although the main strength of Google Smart Assistant is the internal speaker and voice skills, it is actually also a very powerful audio playback device with access to a variety of major music services: Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Spotifyand Pandora, and thanks to the built-in Google Castfeature, it also can be used as a Wi-Fi speaker.
Compared to Bluetooth speakers in the same price range (such as the Creative Sound Blaster Roar 2or Razer Leviathan Mini ), the Google Home is not as musically powerful, with little separation between individual tracks, a lack of deep bass sink, and little clarity in the upper mids. However, you can connect to other, better speakers to make up for the lack of raw sound quality, and Google Home is capable of receiving and sending Google Cast signals, not only for music from your phone, but also for streaming to any device compatible with Google Cast .
Google Home can now control Nest thermostats, Philips Hue light bulbs and Samsung SmartThings platforms, and will also support more third-party devices. While further hardware integration is great, one of the biggest problems Google Home faces is its inability to integrate with many of their own services, such as Gmail, Voiceand Docs, which has been their strength for years.
When you buy
Google Home and expect it to be a smart home control center, it’s easy to be disappointed. It’s a bit harsh on language understanding and the list of supported devices is growing, but it’s still a bit frustrating. Perhaps most disappointing is that it doesn’t have many of Google’s core services built in.
Obviously, the best comparison for Google Home is Amazon Echo, which have the same features and get music from similar sources. But because Alexahas a huge list of skills, Echo is still the most powerful of the two, while Google Home — in the worst case scenario — is about six months behind in development.
- Customizable base
- Huge library of songs
- Scalable hardware ecosystem
- No integration of own core services
- Your orders will only be picked up correctly if they are worded accurately
4. Ultimate Ears Megablast
Ultimate Earsis a brand known for its Bluetooth speakers. The latest Megablast introduces the Alexavoice assistant, which not only has fantastic 360° surround sound, but also provides a smart operating experience like Echo.
As far as design is concerned, Megablast looks great, and its slender cylindrical shape means that not only is the quality reliable, but it also takes up very little space. Even if it falls off the table, you don’t have to worry, the superior quality allows it to withstand the usual accidental drops.
It’s also feature-rich, and since it can withstand the inevitable accidental drops, it’s great for families with small children. The sturdy quality has led to an increase in price, which is more expensive than the main competitors, which may include some peace of mind costs. Admittedly, many people don’t currently have children, but as a careless youngster, you can benefit from it.
Smart home speakers are generally either black or white, but Ultimate Ears has created a few other colors such as yellow, blue, red, green, and soft jewel tones to make your choices more interesting. Of course, if you don’t like the fancy look, the black and white option is still the safest choice.
Despite its great potential and many positives, Megablast is not perfect and fortunately some of the most significant problems are not permanent. Note that unlike the Echospeaker, it doesn’t support popular music streaming services like Apple Musicand is pretty much limited to Amazon Musicand Spotify, but you can still connect to other services via Bluetooth, just not with Alexa for voice control.
Perhaps to offset this limitation, Ultimate Ears
has done something to remedy the situation: Anyone who buys a smart speaker will get three months of
service for free. However, many people need other streams, and UE
is working to move forward with this plan, but there is no exact time frame at this point.
It’s hard to call Megablast a replacement for Amazon Echobecause you need to buy the Power Up d ock sold separately to truly recreate the Echo experience. This dock attaches to and charges the silver D ring on the bottom of the speaker, but it doesn’t work with Boomand Megaboommodels. Megablast can run for 16 hours, and if there’s no dock or no music playing, it automatically goes into power save mode and Alexawon’t care, no matter how much you yell.
Of course, the power-saving mode is very useful for Bluetooth speakers, which tend to stay by your side, but this is not convenient for smart devices. Especially considering the expensive charging dock, this does put a significant barrier for potential customers.
In terms of sound quality, the Megablast delivers excellent 360° surround sound, filling every room we tested with sound. Even in more open outdoor venues, it was able to match higher volume devices, and not only was the sound loud, the audio was distortion-free, likely thanks to two additional tweeters that give it a full range of high-frequency sounds over previous models. Even with such a loud sound, you don’t have to worry – Alexa picks up your voice requests easily.
To a large extent, Megablast
feels like a smart speaker rather than a fully intelligent voice assistant. But that’s not a bad thing; Ultimate Ears
is primarily a speaker brand, and
performs well, sounds loud, is solid, looks great, and has a stable Bluetooth connection.
If you’re out for an evening walk, or at a friend’s party, it’s a good idea to take Megablast with you. Alexa functions as just a Wi-Fi connection. It’s a portable smart speaker that can make up for almost any Echolacking occasion.
- Sturdy quality and very good waterproof performance
- Very good portability
- Integration with Alexa
5. Google Home Hub
We have seen some arms races in the last few decades. The U.S. conflict with the Soviet Union is probably the most familiar, but the modern competition between Amazonand Googleis equally interesting.
The key to this battle is your home, or more specifically, a smarter home. These two companies are constantly pushing the envelope to try to win you over, and their latest attempts: Amazon Echo 2nd Genand Google Home Hub, are just the beginning of the next battle.
From appearance to functionality, the similarities between the two are uncanny, and once you change Hey Googleto Hey Alexa, even many of the commands sound the same.
The result is a device that you may feel like you’ve used before, but it still has some unique new features: like an automatically updated Google Photosand Google Homeview that shows your entire smart home at a glance. All bundled together by the Google smart assistant, it’s smarter than what we’ve seen on Google Home Maxand Google Home MiniCombine that ease of use with the speaker itself, and you get the essential smart home ecosystem.
Google Home Hub is not only cheaper than Google Homebut also cheaper than its main competitor Amazon Echo Show . One of the main reasons for this is that Echo Show includes a camera that allows live video chat with anyone who has Amazon a smart speaker. Google didn’t put any cameras here to eliminate privacy concerns, and they want Home Hub to enter your bedroom without fear of having some inappropriate scenes recorded.
The top of the screen is designed with a light sensor to reduce brightness when the surroundings become dark. Google calls the light sensing feature Ambient EQ, which not only adjusts the brightness but also changes the color temperature and background of the screen.
If you have not yet purchased any smart home products and are inclined to use the
Google Home Hub
is worth considering. The platform currently works with over
smart devices from
companies, including many popular TV manufacturers (e.g.
Sony, LG, Vizio ), smart light manufacturers (e.g.
Philips, LIFX, TP-Link ), and smart thermostat manufacturers (e.g.
Ecobee, Honeywell, Lux ), these companies and products are just the tip of the iceberg of many more brands and models.
In addition to the physical products integrated with Google Smart Assistant, there are a large number of runnable apps and services such as Google Calendarand Google Play Musicand other mainstream services in their own right, as well as third-party apps such as Spotify, HBO Now, Uber, NPR, ESPN, Walmart, Targetand more.
If you consider Google Home Hub a competitor to Amazon Echo Show , then you’ll be happy to find the full YouTube here (includes YouTube TV). While Echo Show has a list of thousands of skills, Google has more quality than quantity. In terms of overall intelligence and breadth of knowledge, Amazon is slightly ahead, but from a pure knowledge perspective, Google seems to know more answers to queries, which may not sound important, but would be a competitive reference for curious kids.
The audio quality isn’t great enough, and the tiny screen isn’t ideal for watching videos, and to a large extent, this still won’t be the primary way you watch shows and listen to songs.
For those enthusiasts who go a little overboard with their smart devices, the Home Hub makes perfect sense. You may not remember the names of all your smart displays, but the Hub does a great job of showing you the location and status of each device, an important feature that lets you use commands like turn off the TV in this room or turn on the lights in the living room without having to remember device names like TP-Link Bulb 7or Sengled B8EFS.
Google Home Hub
doesn’t leave out many features compared to
, the smaller screen means that most movies need to be viewed in the living room. Another contentious design is the lack of a camera, and while we certainly appreciate
concerns about privacy protection, some will be disappointed that video chat is not available.
Thankfully, this is all offset by some important features, such as the integration of Google Photos. Plus, even without a larger screen, the Home Hub is still a good alternative, especially when you’re standing in front of it cooking.
- Unable to make video calls
- Smaller screen
- Moderate sound quality
6. Google Home Mini
Sleek, compact, and affordable, Home Mini can do something the best Bluetooth speakers can’t understand: the built-in Google Smart Assistant can do a lot for you: turn on music, dim the lights, or play a TV show, all with just a word from you.
There is definitely some subjectivity when it comes to judging sound quality, but most people find Home Mini to be quite middle of the road. Although it has 360° surround sound, it is in a completely different class than Ultimate Ears Megablast.
On the other hand, if you already have Google Home, or speakers set up via Chromecast Audio, then Home Mini can make the audio even sweeter, but that comes at an additional cost. If you let other, better devices play your music, then that’s not a problem, but on its own, this little device isn’t powerful enough.
Nonetheless, we still highly recommend it. The built-in smart assistant, rich features, and low price easily make it stand out from the crowd of competitors.
It looks as if Google Homewas turned upside down and compressed into a smaller size version. The palm-sized Home Mini is covered in a mesh weave material, which helps recognize your touch actions. Tapping on the top performs pause or play, and a long press once also summoned a smart assistant, but this feature has been permanently disabled due to privacy concerns. In addition, placing your finger on the left/right side will lower/raise the volume and whenever you navigate by voice or touch, Home Mini will light up the four LEDs at the top.
The lower half is matte plastic, and the back features a micro USB port that provides power (like the Amazon Echo Dot, this device does not include a battery), and a microphone switch to turn off active listening.
Google Home Mini is the most affordable Google smart speaker, and it’s comforting to know that its voice recognition is not affected by size or price, and that it picks up your voice accurately whether it’s in front of you or a long distance away.
The list continues to grow in terms of what is supported on Home Mini . You can make free phone calls in the US and UK, play music through various music apps ( Pandora, Spotify, YouTube Music, iHeartRadio, etc.), send requests to extract YouTube videos to your Chromecast. In addition, Home Mini is a smart home hub that can integrate TP-Link Bulb, Philips Hue, Wemo Light Switchand other IoT devices.
Once you’ve set up Home Mini with your smartphone, you can easily start listening. Either leave the speaker alone and play music out loud, or tap the Cast button near the top to push audio from your phone directly to Home Mini, Google’s speaker performs best among the many devices that support Cast.
Similar to the
is trying to get the
into as many homes as possible. If you’re looking for an inexpensive smart speaker, it will fit the vast majority of people. But remember, it’s best to think of it as an addition to your home center, not a primary control device.
- Integration with Google Cast
- Good support for IoT devices
- Bluetooth support available
- Affordable price
7. Amazon Echo Show 2nd Generation
First introduced in 2017 , the Amazon Echo Show redefined Amazon Echo and designed another possible outward appearance, which has now been replaced by a second version.
When considering bringing home an Amazon Echo (or four), you now have more options than ever before. While the audio-only Echo device was a pioneer in the smart home market, and many were skeptical of the Showand Spotwhen they first launched, the fact that Amazon went on to release another improved Echo Show proves that more people have a need for visual enhancements.
With Echo Show providing auditory and visual feedback, it now delivers an even richer smart experience: more detailed weather reports, better cooking tutorials, easy-to-use video calls, and of course Amazon Prime movies at your fingertips.
If you still need compelling evidence, then adding screens to smart speakers seems like a good idea, with the Echo Show starting the trend, Googletaking action, and even Facebook having it on the agenda.
Unlike the cylindrical Amazon Echo, the Echo Show fits into almost any home environment with a subtle black frame that blends into the corner of your kitchen, living room or bedroom without overly drawing your attention.
A 10 inch touchscreen may sound relevant for a smartphone, but the size is really small for a device designed to fit on a desktop, especially if you like to watch a 65 inch TV or play games on a 32 inch monitor. The size of the screen may prevent you from watching a full movie on Echo Show , but it’s big enough to allow you to view other relevant information.
The speakers have been significantly upgraded from the original, and while they still sound thin and tinny at times, they’re perfectly adequate for everyday use. The magic of the Echo Show is the far-field microphone array that separates your voice from loud music. Admittedly, your commands can still be occasionally misinterpreted, but the microphone array is rarely wrong, and this technology remains Amazon ‘s true secret weapon.
One of the key features of Echo Show
is its ability to make video calls to other
Show, Spot, or contacts with the
. The voice and video quality is good and the interface is intuitive, and we think it’s a strong competitor to existing video calling solutions like
, just with more limited features for now.
Amazon has been busy upgrading its paid Prime Musicservice so that it is (at least in terms of number of songs) on par with competitors like Spotifyand Apple Music. It also offers some nice improvements that now work brilliantly in concert with Echo Show . One of them is the ability to display lyrics on the screen, not only showing you the album or song you’re listening to, but also guiding you to make the most of the screen.
Alexahas grown a lot in the last few years, and while Google Assistantand Siriare playing catch-up, Alexa is still getting stronger and is at the heart of Amazon Echo Show . Another major update to Echo Show is Tap to Alexa, which was developed specifically for the hearing impaired and puts common Alexa commands on the home screen and introduces a virtual keyboard that allows users to enter commands manually.
The Amazon Echo Show
is a competent home assistant, and the addition of the screen is unique and helps set it apart from the competition. While the display is underutilized, this is at least a good attempt.
Like the previous Echo , the Echo Show is more of an interesting aid than a necessity like the Echoor Echo Dot. But all in all, Show is a significant improvement on the original and deserves a place on the kitchen counter.
- Awesome voice recognition capabilities
- Powerful Smart Home Center
- Visually rich touch screen
- Sound quality still doesn’t sound good enough
- Limited video calling capabilities
8. Sonos One
When Amazon first released Amazon Echo, there were two main criticisms of the device that launched the home voice assistant revolution: the first was centered on Alexaas a brand new service with initially very limited functionality that people eventually found more novel than actually useful; the second was the sound quality, with the initial Echo failing to deliver better sound and being noticeably lacking in the low frequency area was noticeably lacking.
After years of continuous improvement, Amazon has added countless features to its ecosystem, making much progress on the first point, and now Sonosis making up for the second with its first smart speaker that supports Alexa .
While Sonos did a great job with Alexa debut, there’s still a lot of work to do to get it perfect. At the top is a responsive touch surface that is more stylish than the buttons on Sonos Play:1. It’s a very simple set of controls, but, as with the other speakers on Sonos , you’ll spend most of your time controlling them from your phone APP .
For enhanced voice control, Sonos has six built-in microphones to pick up exactly what you’re saying at any given time. The top of the speaker also has a power indicator and a small LED light to let you know when Alexa is listening.
Because of the combination of Amazon and Sonosservices, Sonos One is more complicated to set up than the regular Echo, but you don’t have to worry too much about it. The process involves installing the Son os and Alexaapps, and you’ll need to sign in to both Sonos and Amazon accounts, as well as configure other music streaming services.
Given that this is a Sonos speaker, the excellent sound quality should not surprise you. While not offering a pair of stereo speakers, it does a good job for its size and price, and is capable of being paired with additional Sonos speakers to further enhance its sound.
With the addition of Spotifymusic service, Sonos One is now an impressive multi-room speaker, supported by the equally great Sonos APP, an app that has continued to improve and evolve over the years and now integrates with all the major music streaming services.
But that’s not all, Sonos has announced that it will be adding Google Assistantto the mix in addition to Alexa . Details on how it will work are scarce at this point, but this will bring many benefits, including allowing you to sync Sonos One with any other Chromecastaudio device.
It feels like
could end up being the perfect
speaker, fundamentally because it’s a huge step up in sound quality from
series and also works well with other
Since additional support will be available for Google Assistantand Alexa will be released in the next few years, Sonos One will only get better over time.
- Excellent sound quality
- Combining the best of Alexa and Sonos
- Support AirPlay 2
9. Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Generation
For years, Amazonhas been striving to be the company that ultimately controls your smart home, and to that end, they’ve developed a line of smart speakers to fit in every room of your home. For example, the bedside Echo Spotis used to replace the alarm clock; the Echo Showsits in the kitchen, replacing your cookbook and auxiliary TV.
There’s also the Amazon Fire TV Cube, which brings Alexa to the TV’s shelf, and finally the new Echo Auto, which brings Alexa into your car for roadside assistance.
Despite this wealth of options, there is only one that works in more than one room: Amazon Echo Dot, the best-selling smart speaker of all time.
You might think that the Echo Dot has been redesigned several times and that the previous versions might have had some problems or not quite lived up to expectations. But in reality, that’s not true – all the older models are still great, and Dot gets better and better every time.
Like previous models, the latest Echo Dot is quite affordable, can make calls from almost anywhere, can control your smart home with a few commands, and integrates with the world’s top music streaming services. Small in size, but powerful!
However, despite all the iterations, the Echo Dot still lacks necessities like the 3.5 mm audio cable.
We think the latest Amazon Echo Dot is the best version yet, but is it worth upgrading if you already have a full home smart speaker? The short answer is: it’s probably not worth it.
The Echo Dot now offers rounded edges to separate it from the abrupt hockey puck shape of the older version, and a mesh weave material on the outside for a modern and elegant look. Apparently, Amazonhas been keeping an eye on the Google Home Mini.
The speaker is very easy to set up, especially if you already have one or more Alexa devices installed, all you need to do is go to Alexa APPand click the plus icon in the devices section. Alexa APP has been redesigned and it is now easier to combine devices together and add additional smart devices.
itself has not received the same attention. That’s because
has outsourced a lot of functionality to application developers to create skills for
. These skills vary greatly in quality and usefulness, but the best ones may be in development.
The audio system has also been improved and now sounds better than any previous version, but you probably don’t want to use it as your primary listening device: vocals are easily lost in the music and bass is almost completely non-existent. The quality of the microphone array is very good and Amazon has implemented noise reduction algorithms for phone calls, so call quality is good, which is one of the best features of the Echo Dot and of course the smart home controls.
For external music, the Echo Dot has the exact same features as the full-size Echo. You can have it time your cooking, listen to a one-minute news report while you eat breakfast, and even use it to take a cab if you’ve recorded your Uberlogin information.
If you’re looking for an affordable wireless speaker that you can use to make calls, control your smart home, and occasionally play a song or two, then the
Amazon Echo Dot
is probably the best choice, even better than the
in terms of call quality and music playback.
However, if you plan to sit and listen for longer periods of time, then we recommend connecting external speakers or choosing a device like Amazon Echothat is more professional in terms of audio.
- Sophisticated and compact design
- Easy setup and integration
- Clear call quality
- Improved Alexa application
- No auxiliary cable provided
- Sound quality is not very good
10. Google Home Max
If you’re sticking with a high-end smart speaker that supports Google Assistantbut don’t like the low sound of Google Home, Google Home Minior Chromecast Audio, then Home Max could be your next best best friend.
Google Home Max may not appeal to true audiophiles, but Google promises excellent audio delivery and support for high-fidelity file types: FLAC, LPCM, HE-AACand more, which is second to none. As always, the way you sound will ultimately depend on the source, but even when playing music through Google Play Music, Home Max still sounds like good value for money.
What appears to be a product from Libratoneor B&O Playis huge in size and very unassuming. Between the soft mesh grille and the beige base, there is a complete lack of eye-catching design, but oddly enough, the overall look is very sleek.
The speakers can be placed horizontally or upright and the magnetic pads allow you to not worry about scratching your furniture. Like the other Google Home products, Max includes a series of lights that display when you say Hey Googleor OK Google.
On the back there is a microphone switch, a spare USB-C port for charging, and a 3.5 mm audio jack. With Homeand Home Mini, Google seems to have satisfied the audio-hungry masses of families, and Max is aimed at a specific group of music lovers. As long as you have plenty of space and budget, this speaker will deliver in glorious color: layered sound from the moment you plug it in.
No matter what level you turn the volume to, the sound sounds professionally tuned so that the highs and lows in your mix are never constrained by each other. Despite its size, Home Max can add a surprising amount of versatility to any size home space thanks to its excellent audio delivery and intelligent controls.
What is the main reason for choosing Max ? Reasonable price, much more affordable than Google Homethen with other bars. If you’re very serious about sound quality, it’s easy to realize that this is a good audiophile product.
If your home space needs more sound, there are plenty of products out there that will fit the bill. But Google Home Max is one of the smartest choices, with a clever design that makes it superior to many of its competitors.
- Excellent audio quality
- Available for Google Castproducts
- Bluetooth compatible
- As the size is too big and too heavy for some people
11. Amazon Echo Plus 2nd Generation
The first Echo Plus When it first launched in 2017 , the premium smart speaker offered the same Alexaskills as other Echo devices, but with near-acceptable sound quality.
The refreshed Echo Plus 2nd Gen still offers all the same features, but with an updated design and improved audio to help it win over the competition in the marketplace.
Visually, it now has a lot in common with the standard Amazon Echo, both with a beautiful mesh woven enclosure that looks more like a homey home device. And in keeping with most of the Echo line, the physical volume dial has been replaced by a button on top. On the top edge is a ring of LED lights that flash blue when it speaks or listens. On the back is the power port and 3.5mm AUX connector for connecting external speakers or headphones.
The new Amazon Echo Plus 2nd Genlooks warmer, friendlier and less obtrusive than ever before looks warmer, friendlier and less obtrusive than ever before, as some users still worry about having an always-on listening device in their homes.
Seven microphones are used to pick up your various whims and voice commands, and excel at picking up sounds from noisy environments to play music, podcasts, connect other smart home devices, and tell you the day’s weather, traffic, news, and various trivia. And we haven’t even mentioned the Alexa skills system, which allows you to download additional enhancements for specific needs.
together to create a stereo pair, an audio feature unique to the new
that creates a more realistic sound than standard mono. Another product in the Echo
can also be used to enhance bass performance.
The really smart add-on also includes a built-in temperature sensor, which you can monitor via theAlexa APPor query verbally to Alexa . This is a standalone feature, but very useful if you choose a broader range of smart home devices (such as connecting a smart thermostat).
The main appeal of the Echo Plus
has always been better audio performance relative to other
devices. However, this argument is starting to fade in the face of advanced hi-fi systems that support
Sonos One ). Nevertheless, the Echo Plus
retains Dolby Audio and
inch tweeters, as well as a slightly larger
inch neodymium magnet subwoofer.
When it comes to other smart devices, you’ll usually want to avoid having too many Echoes in the same room, only it will make you struggle to figure out which one you want to talk to. But it’s relatively easy to connect them in the Alexa APP and then enjoy sending notifications, messages or voice calls to other Echo . This internal connectivity has come a long way, but for now you’re better off using the streaming joystick, Fire TVor remote control alone.
has a number of significant improvements that we’ve positioned as a lifestyle product rather than an industrial audio output, plus a built-in temperature sensor and enhanced audio drivers that make it a better smart home device than the standard
With the redesign, the Echo and Echo Plus seem to share more similarities, and Amazon may not maintain both products long term in the future. But overall, by combining Alexa with mid-range audio, Echo Plus is a smart move to continue its entry into the smart home space.
- Better audio drive unit
- Attractive fabric design
- Built-in temperature sensor
- Incompatible with Fire TVcommand
- Still not favored by audiophiles
12. Amazon Echo Spot
Even with more Echo speakers available than ever before, the Amazon Echo Spotremains one of the most popular models, with a cute look and a small screen that makes good demands on desktop space.
The Echo Spot immediately grabs your attention as you stare and watch, a natural progression for Amazon ‘s smart speakers, with new models arriving regularly each year.
Most of the key benefits of the Echo series basically apply to the Echo Spot: an affordable price, a wealth of features and a reliable smart assistant that is easy for novices of all levels to master. There’s no doubt that Echo has become a necessity for smart home living.
The Ringo Echo Plusis best for small bookshelves, the Echo Showis great for kitchens, but the Echo Spot is great for almost any venue. It can all be very subjective and placement will depend on your house match, but we think the Echo Spot is a great fit next to your bed.
With its rich features and powerful performance, the Echo Spot is much more than just a smart alarm clock. In fact, this device carved out its own niche in the Echo line and is not a replacement for the Echo Dot, which is priced beyond controversy and has more versatile features.
The top of the screen is equipped with a camera, and there are three additional buttons, and they all sit flush with the surface for a truly streamlined look. Anyone familiar with the series will understand what they do: volume up, down and microphone mute, and the last button also disables the camera to leave you with more privacy. There are also four pinhole microphones for listening to wake words.
The standard Amazon logo, power jack and 3.5 mm audio jack are printed on the back. The speaker grille is located at the bottom and is largely invisible when viewed at a normal angle.
The capabilities you get from Amazon Echo Spot depend largely on what you use it for, and like the rest of the Echo family, the Echo Spot is extremely versatile – in fact, it may be one of the most feature-rich Echo devices available.
If you just use it as an alarm clock, you get everything you need with it. Echo Spot offers a myriad of dials, both analog and digital, as well as a large variety of themes. It also has a night mode, turning it on will dim the screen so you can sleep better. Echo Spot can wake you up with a song or radio, the latter using the TuneInskill, where you need to tell it in advance which station to play.
Initially it may be strange to watch 16:9 video on a circular screen, but Amazon has set up zoom for Spot . The circular screen is perfect for video calls, a feature that Alexa has been implementing for a long time with great results.
Another way Amazon wants you to use the Echo Spot is as a smart video monitor, where you can see a live image taken by another smart camera on your screen (e.g., transmitted from a nursery), with the whole picture clear and bright.
Alexa voice assistant is getting smarter on all these Echo devices, and vague requests can now be directed to the appropriate skill, so you don’t have to remember the exact wording every time. Another recent update means Alexa can more naturally understand what you’re babbling about, and it can continue to listen and answer questions even if you don’t say Hey Alexa every time.
The Echo Spot
does almost everything that the
does, but this smaller size makes it feel better. Essentially, Amazon
seems to want the
to replace the
Echo Dot, but it’s much more expensive than the
and even more expensive than the
While we haven’t seen the killer skills that come with the screen, it does enhance the look of the Echo Spot and opens up the possibility of being more than just a smart speaker. Amazon ‘s competitors are also busy making smart devices with screens, which is worth everyone’s attention.
- Small size for any location
- Delicate and lovely design appearance
- Clear video
- Circular screen means video will be cropped