Best Smart Speakers 2018 - Best Smart Home System Reviews For Choose Ideas

Best Smart Speakers 2018

By Smart Home System 0 Comment June 4, 2018

There’s a good chance that your first smart home device will be a smart speaker. For one, it works just fine as a way to play music from your smartphone or the cloud. But if you start talking to it, the speaker will respond to your commands. It can do things like look up the weather and sports scores, turn on your coffee maker, read you a book or even change the channel on your TV.

Our favorite smart speaker is the second-generation Amazon Echo ($99). While we initially were disappointed in its sound quality, Amazon released a firmware update which greatly improved the listening experience. This all-new Echo is also smaller, more attractive, and less expensive than the original. Our budget pick is the Echo Dot, which costs just $50. Google Home is worth considering for its price and compatibility with Google’s services, and now there’s a $50 version—the Google Home Mini.

Latest News and Updates (May 2018)

  • Apple has introduced multi-room audio streaming with its iOS 11.4 update; this feature, part of Airplay 2, will let you stream music to specific speakers around your house, and, if you have two Homepod speakers, will let you pair them in stereo.
  • Amazon has rolled out the Echo Dot Kids Edition ($79). Essentially an Echo Dot with a protective rubber case, it also comes with a free year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited ($119/year), a service which offers child-friendly content, as well as parental controls. Read our full review of the Echo Dot Kids Edition, as well as how to get FreeTime Unlimited on the Echo device you already own.
  • Sonos has partnered with Danish design firm Hay to offer the Sonos One speakers in red, yellow, and green. These limited-edition models (available in September) will cost $229, a $30 premium over the standard black and white Sonos One speakers.

The second-generation Amazon Echo is smaller and more stylish than the original, and its outer skin can be swapped out for different colors and textures. An improvement to its firmware made this speaker sound as good as the original; if you’re looking for a good all-purpose smart speaker, this is it.

At just $50, the Echo Dot is the least expensive way to get Alexa into your home. The Dot has both Bluetooth and a 3.5mm jack, so you can connect it to a better-sounding speaker, which we recommend you do if you’re planning to use it to play music. The Dot is ideal for places where you want Alexa, such as a kitchen, but don’t want another large device cluttering the space.

The Sonos One is based on the Play:One, but has Alexa built in, as well as six microphones to pick up your voice. It produced the best audio we’ve yet heard from an Alexa-powered speaker, and, like other Sonos devices, you can pair two of the Ones for true stereo sound, or link them with other Sonos speakers for whole-home audio. Plus, it also works with Spotify. Yes, you’ll pay more, but the sound quality is worth it.

One problem with most smart speakers is that they need to be plugged in for them to work. The battery-powered JBL Link 20 takes care of that limitation: we found that it will last at least 10 hours on a charge. Its audio quality is great, too, for those times you want to extend Google Assistant’s reach to your backyard. The Link 20 is also water-resistant: You can dunk it for up to 30 minutes.

The Google Home speaker is more attractive, and sounds better than, the Echo. Take your pick from six colors and two finishes for the base (fabric or metal). At $129, it’s also cheaper than the Echo. Plus, you can use Google Home to control Chromecast-enabled devices, such as TVs. Alexa can’t do that. However, in a face-off between the two assistants, we found Amazon’s to be more well-rounded than Google’s.

Other Smart Speakers We Tested

The

Apple HomePod ($349 on Apple)

(7/10), Apple’s first smart speaker sounds amazing, thanks to an array of speakers and beam-forming tech that automatically adjusts its audio properties based on the room in which the speaker is placed. However, Siri’s smarts lag behind both Alexa and Google Assistant, and we don’t like that if you want to use Siri to ask for tunes, you have to use Apple Music. Read our full review of the Homepod.

We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of audio from the

Harman Kardon Invoke ($199.95 on Harman Kardon)

(6/1), but Cortana’s smart home skills are far behind those of Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. Read our full review of the Invoke.

Speakers with Amazon Alexa

The

Amazon Echo Plus ($182.70 on Amazon)

(7/10) looks and sounds much like the original Echo, but has a built-in Zigbee radio, so it can act as a smart home hub. However, the smart home automation you can enable through Alexa is fairly limited at this point. Read our full review of the Echo Plus.

At about $30, the

Eufy Genie ($32.99 on Amazon)

(7/10) is a good budget alternative to the already inexpensive Echo Dot. With a single 2-watt down-firing speaker, the Genie offers better audio than the Dot, but lacks Bluetooth, so if you want to connect an additional speaker, you’ll have to use the included 3.5mm audio cable. Read our full review of the Genie.

The Alexa-enabled

Fabriq ($49.99 on Amazon)

(7/10) speaker comes in a variety of colorful skins, and lasted about 5 hours on a charge. It also has pretty good bass for such a small speaker. However, you have to press a button on the speaker before you can use Alexa; its treble is thin; and it’s not waterproof. Read our full review of the Fabriq.

If you already own an Echo Dot, the

Vaux ($49.95 on Amazon)

(8/10) could be for you. You slip the Dot into the Vaux to turn Amazon’s device into a better-sounding, portable speaker. That’s because the Vaux has a battery that will power the Dot for up to 6 hours, and the speakers are loud, with crisp treble. Read our full review of the Vaux.

Speakers with Google Assistant

The

Onkyo Smart Speaker G3 ($199.00 on B&H Video)

(9/10) sounds fantastic, is relatively small and competitively priced for its performance. However, you can’t use it to make calls with Google Assistant. Read our full review of the Onkyo G3.

The

Google Home Mini ($39 on Best Buy)

(8/10), Google’s competitor to the Echo Dot, sounds far superior to Amazon’s mini-sized Alexa speaker. And, it will connect to other Chromecast devices. The fabric top of the Home Mini is certainly more attractive than the hockey-puck Echo Dot, and comes three colors: Black, Gray, and Coral (pink). Read our full review of the Google Home Mini.

The super-sized

Google Home Max ($399 on Google)

(7/10) kicks out an impressive amount of sound, and you can also pair two of these together for fuller stereo sound. Still you get just as good performance from two Sonos Ones as you do from one Google Home Max. Read our full review of the Google Home Max.

Unlike most other smart speakers, the

Sony LF-S50G Smart Speaker ($199.99 on Wal-Mart)

(7/10) has a display on the front that shows the time and volume. This speaker is splash-resistant and sounds good, too. It can also be controlled using gestures, but we found they didn’t work well. Read our full review of the Sony LF-S50G. Read our full review of the Sony LF-S50G.

JBL Link 300 ($249.99 on Best Buy)

(7/10): This smart speaker also pumps out a ton of sound, and has great bass. However, its treble tones are lacking, and like most third-party speakers, can’t make phone calls with Google Assistant. Read our full review of the Link 300.

The even larger—and pricier

JBL Link 500 ($299.95 on Amazon)

(7/10) has an even wider sound field, but we found bass was lacking unless the volume was turned up. Read our full review of the Link 500.

What to Look For When Buying a Smart Speaker

Before you purchase a smart speaker, decide how you plan to use it. If it’s going to be the only device in your living room that will play music, then you’ll want one that has good audio quality. But while sound is important, it shouldn’t necessarily be the deciding factor in which smart speaker you choose. For example, the Amazon Echo Dot has perhaps the worst-sounding speaker among those we’ve tested, but its small size and low price make it useful for people who already have a good speaker and merely want to add some smarts to it. The Dot is also a cheap way to spread a voice assistant throughout your house.

If you want a speaker that you can take outdoors, though, you’ll want to consider a portable option, such as the Amazon Tap (pictured above), or a third-party speaker, such as the Fabriq.