Best smart speakers: the best smart home speakers to help automate your life

The best smart speakers to upgrade everyday tasks, play music and get a (digital) helping hand

best smart speaker: Sonos Roam on bedside table
(Image credit: Sonos)

The best smart speakers are the ideal helping hand, whether you're a complete newcomer to smart home technology or an expert. The best smart speakers will make your home more organized, streamlined, and just plain easier to live in.

The days of your heating, lights, alarms and music streaming needing to be manually controlled are way behind us, with these clever devices now allowing you to control pretty much everything in your home using just your voice (or a couple of taps on your phone if you prefer).

Choosing a smart speaker for your household will depend on what you want out of it, whether that's excellent audio quality for playing music or just something sleek that fits into your existing home aesthetic. We know that there's sometimes nothing worse than technology that sticks out like a sore thumb on the mantelpiece, so we've included a few different design options on our list.

And if you want to narrow your search to one type of assistant, take a look at our ranking of the best Alexa speakers.

To help make the buying process easier, we've ranked some of the best smart speakers available right now. Keep scrolling to see what we thought.

The best smart speakers in 2023: tried and tested by us

Why you can trust Livingetc Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Sonos Roam smart speakerLivingetc badge – tried, loved

(Image credit: Sonos)
Best portable smart speaker

Specifications

Assistant: Google, Alexa
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Dimensions: H6.1 x W2.3 x D2.4in
Weight: 0.93lbs

Reasons to buy

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Wireless with up to 10 hours of battery life
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Automatic tuning to fit sound with space
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Supports both Google Assistant and Alexa
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Rugged and waterproof

Reasons to avoid

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Bluetooth connection can be tricky when away from Wi-Fi

A significant upgrade from Sonos' former portable smart speaker - the Move - the Sonos Roam is fantastic value with support for both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, an intuitive and user-friendly app, and a small and lightweight design that makes it truly possible to take it anywhere.

Using it outside, while doing the dishes, or just by the bath is entirely plausible as the speaker is totally dust and waterproof. In addition, you can place it vertically or horizontally without losing sound quality, and unlike the bulky Sonos Move, the Roam is small enough to fit into the palm of your hand.

The design is functional and clean, though more attractive speakers are out there (including from Sonos). 

You can stream over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and we were seriously impressed by the audio quality of such a small speaker. In addition, TruePlay adapts the sound to the environment's acoustics, and you can connect multiple Sonos speakers together for multi-room listening.

We used it with our Google Assistant account, and integration is seamless. In addition, the microphone actually picked up our voice better than our Google Home Mini, which is a bonus.

Livingetc rating: 5 out of 5 stars - read our full review of the Sonos Roam

Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen)Livingetc badge – tried, loved

(Image credit: Google)
Best smart display from Google

Specifications

Assistant: Google
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Dimensions: H4.7 x W2.7 x D6.9in
Weight: 1.1lbs

Reasons to buy

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7-inch touch display
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Works with Nest, Hue, and Samsung SmartThings + Chromecast support
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Sleep tracking features

Reasons to avoid

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No camera for video calls

Smart speakers are a brilliant way of making your home modern and seamlessly automated, but smart displays like the Nest Hub go a step further by adding a touch screen that makes it easier to organize your smart home and more. This 2nd Gen device from Google has a big focus on sleep tracking and wellness, adding a sensor that promises detailed stats on your shut-eye.

This is a great selling point, and on test, we were impressed by the in-depth feedback the display was able to offer each morning. One big drawback of the Nest Hub, though, is its lack of a camera. Despite having a screen, you won't be able to make video calls, but it does mean you can use it to watch content from YouTube and other streaming apps.

Livingetc rating: 4.5 out of 5 - read our full review of the Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen)

Marshall Stanmore II Voice smart speakerLivingetc badge – tried, loved

(Image credit: Marshall)
Best smart speaker for music fans

Specifications

Assistant: Alexa
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Dimensions: 7.6 x 13.8 x 7.2in
Weight: 10.5lbs

Reasons to buy

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Gorgeous chic design from classic brand
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Multi-room listening
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Good audio quality

Reasons to avoid

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Large and bulky
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Quite expensive

Classic rock fans will get a kick out of the design of this Marshall Stanmore II smart speaker, which packs all sorts of modern tricks inside a decidedly retro package. Given the popularity of smart speakers, it makes sense that classic brands would want to upgrade their own tech, and this is a great example.

Marshall sent us a version with integrated Google Assistant, but you can also purchase the Stanmore II Voice with Alexa.

The device is a multiroom speaker, so you can hook it up to other smart speakers around the home and use it as a standard Bluetooth speaker if you want to play music or a podcast. Of course, you'll also have all of the features of Google, such as the ability to control your smart devices, heating, and more.

The speaker is nothing short of stunning, with its bulkiness adding to the quality feel. It looks fantastic on a bookshelf or side table and, as most people drawn to it will be so because of its classic aesthetic, that's a massive point in its favor. 

The audio offering is better than most Amazon or Google-branded speakers (except maybe for music-focused releases like the Echo Studio and Nest audio). We especially love the physical dials on top, allowing you to customize bass, treble, and volume.

One note - be careful before you purchase, as Marshall also produces a Marshall Stanmore II speaker that is strictly Bluetooth, without an integrated smart assistant.

Livingetc rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars | read our full review of the Marshall Stanmore II Voice

Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen)

(Image credit: Amazon)
Best smart speaker for video calls

Specifications

Assistant: Alexa
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Zigbee
Dimensions: H9 x W6.7 x D5.6in
Weight: 5.6lbs

Reasons to buy

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10-inch touch display
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Smart display perfect for video calls and streaming
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Motion sensor moves with you

Reasons to avoid

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No wireless option
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Quite bulky compared to other models

The original Amazon Echo Show has had a massive update in the form of this 3rd Gen model. The Echo Show 10 display boasts all of the brilliant features of other Amazon smart speakers but with a 10" HD screen that follows your movement to boot.

This makes the Echo Show particularly good for those who use their devices in the kitchen to follow recipes (or listen to music and watch YouTube for entertainment) and makes calling friends and family that much more straightforward. All of this is entirely hands-free.

We particularly love smart displays for their integration with home security devices around the house. So, for example, the best wireless security cameras or smart doorbells can beam their footage to your Echo Show 10, where you can choose to speak with the person at the door without ever leaving the room.

Before you know it, you'll have automation set up for your heating, music, TV, air conditioning, and anything else you'd rather not spend time thinking about every day.

Livingetc rating: 4 out of 5 stars - read our full review of the Amazon Echo Show 10

The best smart speakers: more top picks

Apple HomePod mini

(Image credit: Apple)

5. Apple HomePod mini

Best Apple smart speaker

Specifications

Assistant: Siri
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2
Dimensions: H3.3 x W2.9
Weight: 0.7lbs

Reasons to buy

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Lots of color options available
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Good sound quality
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Works seamlessly with other Apple products

Reasons to avoid

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Compatible devices for Siri are more limited

Despite being such a huge figure in the tech world, Apple has so far been very cautious about entering the smart speaker world. Beginning with the original HomePod (which has since been discontinued), we now have the HomePod Mini - a smaller, less expensive offering ideal for existing Apple fans.

As with a lot of Apple-branded devices, the HomePod will serve those who already use things like the iPhone, iPad, and/or Apple TV in their everyday life. Products from the brand are known for being high-quality, but they're less versatile than smart speakers from Alexa and Google, requiring you to choose from a smaller selection of compatible smart home devices. 

Amazon Echo

(Image credit: Amazon)

6. Amazon Echo (4th Gen)

The original Alexa smart speaker

Specifications

Assistant: Alexa
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Zigbee
Dimensions: H5.3 x W5.6in
Weight: 2.1lbs

Reasons to buy

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Multi-room audio with additional Alexa speakers
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Zigbee compatibility
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Great price

Reasons to avoid

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5th Gen model (opens in new tab) will soon be available
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Larger than the Echo Dot

Amazon's flagship smart speaker, the Echo (4th Gen), may feel like a more basic choice, but it's a great way to go if you want everything Alexa has to offer without paying for a more luxurious casing. This generation of speaker looks completely different from the puck-shaped Echo (3rd Gen) (opens in new tab) range, and things like the sound quality and privacy features have all been improved.

The speaker has a nice, simple design, even if it doesn't have the modern allure of those from competitors like Sonos. This means it's a bit of a bargain, though, and may soon become even more affordable with the release of Amazon's 5th Generation models later in 2022.

Bang & Olufsen Beosound Level

(Image credit: Bang & Olufsen)

7. Bang & Olufsen Beosound Level

Best premium smart speaker

Specifications

Assistant: Google
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Beolink, Chromecast, AirPlay 2
Dimensions: H9 x W13.7 x D2.2in
Weight: 7.2lbs

Reasons to buy

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16-hour battery life
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Can be mounted to the wall or placed flat
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Gorgeous high-end design

Reasons to avoid

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Very pricey

Who said the best smart speakers had to be utilitarian? The Bang & Olufsen Beosound Level is by far the most expensive example on this list, but it gets our recommendation because of its superior style. Of course, as you would expect from a high-end brand, fantastic audio and quality materials are both top of the list of priorities. Still, the Level also adds a lot of convenience with 16 hours of battery life and a versatile build that can be mounted to the wall. 

It's also splash resistant and completely portable, so you'll have Google's help wherever you are. The smart version of the speaker is essentially the same as the non-smart model, so make sure you select 'with Google Assistant' when buying.

caroline preece author image
Caroline Preece

Caroline has been a tech journalist for a decade and is the go-to person for all things smart home at Livingetc, lending her lifelong love of gadgets to everything from reviews and news to buying guides. This guide to the best smart speakers brings together both top picks from brands and speakers she and contributors have tested themselves at home. These devices are chosen based on how well they fit into daily life, how good they look, and whether they're worth their price tag.

How to choose the best smart speaker for your home

Sonos Roam

(Image credit: Sonos)

How do smart speakers work?

Smart speakers are devices for the home that users can activate with a simple term like ‘Alexa’ or ‘Hey Google’ before being asked to perform a task. This could be anything from answering a general knowledge question, checking the weather forecast, pausing music, or streaming without searching for the remote.

Because they’re also billed as speakers, many people use them as their primary device to stream music, play podcasts, or, in some cases, enhance their home theater setup. How you use yours is totally up to you.

Will my smart speaker be able to hear me over loud music?

Most smart speakers claim to hear a voice command over even the loudest background noise, but it doesn’t always work in practice. However, we will say that Google Assistant can turn up sensitivity, and voice recognition goes a long way to making your smart speaker more compliant.

Bang & Olufsen Beosound Level

(Image credit: Bang & Olufsen)

Google or Alexa? Which is the best smart assistant?

This very much depends on personal taste, with many sticking with whichever assistant they encountered first. If you are new to smart speakers, it's helpful to look at what you already use. If you're a devoted Amazon Prime user, for example, then Alexa-enabled speakers may have a few more features for you.

Similarly, if you are an Apple devotee who doesn't mind being tied to Apple Music, you could go for a Siri device like the Apple HomePod Mini.

We'll note that should you be interested in hooking your smart display or speaker up with a Ring doorbell, Alexa is the way to go. 

Will my smart speaker spy on me?

It’s a totally legitimate question and one that many have asked since it became common knowledge that smart speakers from the likes of Amazon and Google are effectively ‘listening’ to every word you say, just waiting for a command they can fulfill.

Of course, these companies quickly assure everyone that this data does not actually get stored long-term, and everything is done to ensure your privacy is not compromised. In any case, many speakers have switches that turn off the microphone when you don’t want it listening in on your conversations.

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