Best smart speaker: automate your home with the best smart assistants

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

best smart speaker: Amazon Echo on surface beside lamp and diffuser
(Image credit: Amazon)

A best smart speaker is ideal whether you’re a complete newcomer to smart home technology or an expert at this point. It will upgrade your home to be more organised, streamlined and just easier to live in.

Gone are the days when everything from your heating and your lights to alarms and music streaming had to be manually dealt with every time.

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

And if you’re looking for a bigger focus on audio quality, take a look at our ranking of the best soundbars - some of which also have smart features and compatibility.

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

The best smart speaker 2021

best smart speaker: Sonos Move


(Image credit: Sonos)

1. Sonos Move Speaker

Best portable smart speaker

Specifications
Platform: Google Assistant, Alexa
Streaming: Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible, Deezer, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Google Play Music, YouTube Music
Battery life: up to 11 hours
Colors: Black, White
Dimensions: H24 x W16 x D12.5cm
Weight: 3kg
Reasons to buy
+Wireless+Automatic tuning to fit sound with space+Supports both Google Assistant and Alexa+IP56 Waterproof
Reasons to avoid
-On the larger side-Expensive-Bluetooth connection can be tricky when away from Wi-Fi

The most expensive smart speaker on our list, the Sonos Move gives you a lot for your cash with complete portability, support for both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, and access to all the streaming services you could imagine. And it’s waterproof, so you can use it in the bathroom or outside with no problem.

Smart sound

Whether you want to put the Sonos Move in your largest room or your smallest, the onboard microphone will assess what kind of environment it has been placed in and adjust the sound levels to fit. 

Take it outside

The best thing about the Sonos Move is the ability to use it outside, whether that’s for garden parties or just relaxing by yourself on the patio. Though the device is relatively large, it’s not too heavy to carry around with you - the ultimate portable sound system. It even claims to be able to withstand extreme hot and cold temperatures.

best smart speaker: Amazon Echo (4th Gen)


(Image credit: Amazon)

2. Amazon Echo (4th Gen)

Best smart speaker from Amazon

Specifications
Platform: Alexa
Streaming: Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Audible
Colors: Charcoal, Glacier White, Twilight Blue
Dimensions: W10 x D10 x H8.9cm
Weight: 3.38kg
Reasons to buy
+Automatic tuning to fit sound with the space+Connect with Fire TV+Voice calling+Low-power mode when idle
Reasons to avoid
-Nothing!

Our deserving winner, and one that blows the competition out of the water when it comes to value. Amazon’s newest Echo speaker can be used alone as a smart assistant for alarms, reminders, random questions and a whole lot more, but it really comes into its own when you connect it with other smart-enabled devices around the home.

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

Voice calling

Not only is the Echo brilliant for calling friends and family completely hands-free, when synced up with other Bluetooth speakers around the house you can instantly call members of the household for dinner or anything else you might need to announce. If you often find yourself with your hands full, then it’s a feature that could transform your family routine.

Home cinema audio

If you care about having the best sound to go with your film and TV viewing, then the Amazon Echo makes this easier than ever (as long as you have a Fire TV stick). Connect the speaker with your Amazon streaming device and enjoy theater-quality sound.

Multi-room music

If you’re busy around the house, it can be annoying to leave music playing in one room but not the others. The Echo solves this by allowing multi-room music. Place a speaker in the rooms you need the most and you can have a song playing everywhere at once!

best smart speaker: Apple HomePod Mini


(Image credit: Apple)

3. Apple HomePod Mini

Best Apple smart speaker

Specifications
Platform: Siri
Streaming: Apple Music
Colors: Grey, White
Dimensions: H8.4 x W9.8cm
Weight: 3.45kg
Reasons to buy
+Wireless+Good, wide-reaching sound
Reasons to avoid
-Ties you to Apple services-Pricier than similar models from Amazon, Google-Heavy

It’s no surprise that the Apple HomePod Mini is a pretty good example of a smart speaker, as Apple has proven again and again that it knows how to design a lust-worthy piece of tech. The speaker claims 360-degree audio for full sound immersion, with ‘acoustically transparent’ fabric on the outside that makes it look slick in your space.

Only for Apple enthusiasts

The one big drawback of the HomePod Mini is the same as for any Apple product - the lack of interoperability with services and add-on products made by other companies. This means that, should you go for the HomePod, you should be prepared to settle for Apple Music for streaming, and not be super-interested in pairing the speaker with Alexa or Google devices.

best smart speaker: Bose Home Speaker 500


(Image credit: Bose)

4. Bose Home Speaker 500

Best smart speaker for ‘surround’ sound

Specifications
Features: Clock
Platform: Alexa
Streaming: Pandora, Deezer, Spotify, TuneIn, SiriusXM, iHeartRadio, Amazon Music
Colors: Black, White
Dimensions: W17 x D10.9 x H20.3cm
Weight: 2.15kg
Reasons to buy
+LCD clock display+Good voice command pickup+Control with voice or top buttons+App-controlled pre-sets
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-No Amazon Echo multi-room support

A high-end smart speaker with a stylish design, the Bose Home Speaker 500 claims to fill the room with wall-to-wall stereo sound without needing an entire surround sound system. It also boasts eight-microphone voice pick-up to ensure it hears you even over loud music, and you can customize the settings more than some competing speakers.

Front display

While most of the time the LCD display on the front of the Bose Home Speaker will display a clock, when playing music it will pull in album art from your chosen streaming service. This might not be a deal breaker if you’re more of a background music listener but, for audiophiles, it’s a nifty little feature.

Pre-sets

On top of the speaker you will find numbers 1-6. These are connected to the app and can be set to link to particular music playlists or internet radio stations so you don’t have to ask every time you want to listen to something specific.

best smart speaker: JBL LINK 300 Smart Speaker


(Image credit: JBL)

Best smart speaker for multi-room listening

Specifications
Platform: Google Assistant
Streaming: Pandora, Spotify, Google Play Music, Chromecast
Dimensions: W23.6 x D15.4 x H13.4cm
Weight: 1.7kg
Reasons to buy
+Good sound quality+Very lightweight for its size
Reasons to avoid
-Voice detection not the best-Some reviewers had trouble with the physical buttons-No voice call feature

A JBL speaker with Google Assistant built in, the LINK 300 2-Way Smart Speaker allows you to listen to everything from music to podcasts with impressive sound quality. While there are some features present in Google’s own speakers - such as voice calling - missing here, it’s a lovely lightweight option if you prefer JBL’s design.

Chromecast connect

If you happen to have any other speakers around the house with built-in Chromecast (most Google Assistant speakers will have this), then you and your family can connect them and listen together wherever you happen to be. Or if you’re moving from one room to another, then you don’t have to worry about missing your favourite song.

best smart speaker: Bose Home Speaker 500

(Image credit: Bose)

How do smart speakers work?

Smart speakers are devices for the home that can be activated 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, to checking the weather forecast, or pausing music or streaming without searching for the remote.

Because they’re also billed as speakers, many people use them as their main device to stream music, play podcasts or, in some cases, enhance their home theater set-up. 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 be able to hear a voice command over even the loudest background noise, but it doesn’t always work in practice. What we will say is that Google Assistant does have the option to turn up the sensitivity, and voice recognition goes a long way to making your smart speaker more compliant.

Google or Alexa?

This very much depends on personal taste, with many sticking with whichever assistant they encountered first. If you are new to smart speakers, then it’s useful 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 that doesn’t mind being tied to Apple Music etc., then you could go for a Siri device like the Apple HomePod Mini.

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 fulfil.

Of course, these companies are quick to 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.