The Best Smart speakers for 2021 – A Buyers Guide

The demand for smart speakers has seen massive growth over the past 2 years, thanks largely to Amazon’s range of smart devices. The functionality that these awesome little gadgets offer is only getting stronger by the day. With more people getting on board with the technology, we see a vast increase in companies offering even more interesting designs. We take a look at the best smart speakers for your home and go over some of the key features of each model to help you make the best purchase in 2021.

What can I do with a smart speaker?

The amount of cool things you can do with a smart speaker is growing by the day as more programs get written. Really we are talking hundreds if not thousands of functions, but here are some uses that may be of interest to you.

  • Setting alarms reminders and timers – You can tell your speaker what time you want to be woken up in the morning when you have your hair appointment or just do a countdown to let you know when your eggs are boiled. Pretty handy
  • Control Smart Devices – This is one of our favorites. Provided you have compatible smart devices; then you can set up your smart speaker to control a host of home smart devices. We like most are the control of the heating and aircon systems and the lighting from our Phillips Hue light bulbs.
  • Playback Music – You can, of course, listen to music on your smart speaker, and it is easy to control the song selection, playback, and volume all by using your voice as command input.
  • Do your shopping – Yes, Amazon built-in functionality to shop through their Alexa system, and with your account hooked up, you can simply ask it to order groceries without ever having to log onto your laptop.
  • Ask it questions – Want to know the latest sports scores? Gossip?Weather? No need to get out your phone or tablet. Just ask away.

Key Factors to Consider when Buying Smart Speakers

It goes without saying that not all smart speakers are created equal, so here are a few important areas to consider when making a purchase.

Operating System

Currently, there are three main players in the smart speaker market. Apple, Google & Amazon all are fighting it out to get your business, and whilst the speakers all offer the same basic functionality, what’s right for one person might not be as useful to another. I see it right now because you choose your speaker based on your phone operation, but the one alternative is if you use Amazon offers and services.

Basically, if you use an iPhone, I recommend either an Apple speaker or an Alexa speaker. If you use Android, then choose a google based speaker or again Amazon. Amazon works well from either side but using a google speaker if you have mainly apple products (and vice versa) is not as enjoyable.

Sound Quality

At its absolute heart, a smart speaker is a speaker. If you think you will get one to listen to music, then I suggest you put some priority on sound quality when buying. This negates the need for a secondary device and greatly enhances your listening experience.

Price

This is one area where the vast adoption has greatly benefited the consumer; most big companies now have smart speakers for every budget. The good thing here is that even the cheap speakers are still perfectly functional. This is one area of technology that started from a lower price point and expanded into more expensive models with additional features.

Style

If you are going to have the speaker located in your house, the aesthetic design will probably be important. There are many different designs now, so we are sure you will find something that suits your taste if you dig around.

Our Reccomendations:

Best for Home Control
Echo (4th Gen) | With premium sound, smart home hub, and Alexa | Charcoal
Best Bass
Sony XB402M Smart Speaker with Powerful Sound, EXTRA BASS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Alexa (Amazon Exclusive)
Multi Room Audio
Two Room Set with All-New Sonos One - Smart Speaker with Alexa Voice Control Built-in. Compact Size with Incredible Sound for Any Room. (Black)
Model
Amazon Echo
Sony XB402
Sonos One
Battery Powered
Assistant Support
Alexa
Amazon Alexa
Alexa, Google Assistand & Siri
Editors Comments
If you use the Alexa smart assistant this is the best smart speaker to control your home.
Outstanding bass performance, waterproof and a massive battery makes this perfect for use all around the house.
The best multi room audio setup using smart speakers with excellent sound quality.
Best for Home Control
Echo (4th Gen) | With premium sound, smart home hub, and Alexa | Charcoal
Model
Amazon Echo
Battery Powered
Assistant Support
Alexa
Editors Comments
If you use the Alexa smart assistant this is the best smart speaker to control your home.
Best Bass
Sony XB402M Smart Speaker with Powerful Sound, EXTRA BASS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Alexa (Amazon Exclusive)
Model
Sony XB402
Battery Powered
Assistant Support
Amazon Alexa
Editors Comments
Outstanding bass performance, waterproof and a massive battery makes this perfect for use all around the house.
Multi Room Audio
Two Room Set with All-New Sonos One - Smart Speaker with Alexa Voice Control Built-in. Compact Size with Incredible Sound for Any Room. (Black)
Model
Sonos One
Battery Powered
Assistant Support
Alexa, Google Assistand & Siri
Editors Comments
The best multi room audio setup using smart speakers with excellent sound quality.

The Best Smart Speakers List

  • Amazon Echo
  • Google Nest Audio
  • Apple Homepod
  • Sonos One
  • Apple Homepod Mini
  • Google Nest Mini
  • Bose Portable Smart Speaker
  • Bose Home Speaker 500
  • Amazon Echo Show 5
  • Sony XB402M

Amazon Echo – Best for Amazon Alex Assistant

Amazon Echo – Best Smart Speaker for Alexa
  • Robust interface
  • Links to your Amazon account
  • Excellent price
  • Sound quality decent for its small size

The Echo is Amazons most popular speaker for use with its Alexa digital assistant. With so many people around the world now having access to Amazon as well as those who have Amazon prime this speaker is an inexpensive yet easy way to integrate your account.

With the Echo smart speaker, you can do all the usual things like asking for weather updates and trivia questions but we enjoyed the playback compatibility the most. The Echo has the ability to hook up and control all your favorite audio apps like Spotify, Apple Music, and Sirius FM but it also gives you control over amazons podcast and audiobook apps.

Smart home functionality is of course here as long as your other smart devices are compatible with Alexa you should be able to do things like dimming lights, setting alarms, and controlling thermostats.

When it comes to sound we were impressed considering its size and while it won’t have the same fantastic sound quality as something like the Sonos we listed below it is a great little device to have around for some casual listening and background music.


Google Nest Audio – Best Google Assistant Smart Speaker

Google Nest Audio – Best for Google Assistant
  • Power of google search and AI
  • The small and attractive design in many colors
  • Excellent app support
  • Strong sound quality

Google takes second place on our list only because they lack the integration you get with Alexa and Amazon. But if we are talking pure bang for your buck and taking account of audio performance, the Nest is the hands-down winner. Chances are you are either use an android or OIS device and if you are with google then this will integrate seamlessly into your life.

Using the familiar “OK Google” command allows you to control a host of activities. Seriously the compatibility with Google assistant is unreal.


Apple Homepod – Best Smart Speaker for Siri

  • Incredible sound quality, perfect for music
  • Attractive design
  • The best solution for IOS users
  • Siri feels somewhat lacking next to Google voice

If you use an iPhone, iPad, or Macbook as your main device, then you will want to go with Apple Homepod for its ease of integration into your system.

While we feel like Google definitely has the best search and voice recognition program out there just now, Siri is certainly no slouch and offers a raft of cool tricks and features to enhance your life. Sound Quality is absolutely outstanding for the size, and this small speaker has more than enough oomph to fill even large rooms. Most impressive is the depth of bass the Homepod can reach, and as a result, this is one of our most recommended models if you listen to a lot of music.


Sonos One – Best Multi Room Smart Speaker

Sonos One – Best Multi Room Smart Speaker
  • Can integrate with another Sonos speaker to form a multi-room system
  • Best sounding smart speaker
  • Amazon Alexa support

If you want a premium speaker or intend to make a multi-room smart speaker sound system, then there really is only one option.

Sonos have been making their linked sound systems for over a decade but only recently added full Amazon Alexa support.

Despite being smart, this speaker also sounds incredibly good. By combing other Sonos one speakers and the companies bass unit, you can really have an advanced Hifi quality sound system in your house.


Apple Homepod Mini

  • Smallest Apple Speaker
  • Range of fun color options to customize your device
  • Airplay integration
  • You can connect 2 smart speakers to create stereo system

The latest batch of Homepod Minis have just been released at the end of 2021 and they have lots of new color options to suit your home. Again as with most Apple products these speakers are seamlessy integrated into the companies eco system. They work and they work very well.

The sound was also surprisingly good and a step above what amazon has going in its echo line (the Apple are almost doube the price). On top you have volume controls and the intergration with Airplay makes them a joy to use.


Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen

  • Lots of features from the full size Nest smart speaker included
  • Small and discrete
  • Lots of color options
  • Google Assistant is excellent
  • Sound quality isnt great compared to others on the list

The Nest Mini 2nd genereation is meant to be used as a smart speaker to give you access to googles voice assistant around your home. Its small size makes it easy to leave hidden without having it stick out like a sore thumb. I use a few of them around the house to keep me connected to various smart home functions but not as my primary speaker which is the full size nest I have in the kitchen.

For that purpose its great and its very responsive and easy to use. I also find that google assistant is far more advanced than Siri at this stage and there are lots of functions I can use that I cant get on an apple device.


Bose Portable Smart Speaker

  • Extremely impressive sound quality
  • Inbuilt battery means it doesn’t need to be connected to the mains
  • Waterproof
  • Expensive

The Bose Portable Smart Speaker is the most expensive speaker on our list but I have to admit all around it is by far the best. If you are someone who wants to be able to move the speaker around the home without having to remain tethered to your mains power. Yes it has an in built battery with 12 hours of music playback. Perfect for the way I use it.

If you want to take it outside and leave it in the garden you don’t have to worry about the rain as the robust design also has an IPX waterproof rating.

The sound is the star of the show and its built into the shape of the system. The speaker has what Bose calls 360 degree audio. It is not mono directional meaning it immersivley fillls a room. Bass is tight and punchy and mids clear.


Bose Home Speaker 500

  • Small playback screen
  • Multiple assistants integration
  • Incredible sound quality

Bose makes a list with this chunky and feature-rich speaker that gives full-bodied sound with deep rich bass. It is compatible with both android and OIS devices and will allow you to control compatible smart hardware around your house.

The top of the device has a wide range of touch controls that allow you to set preset functions along with the usual volume and playback buttons. One of the most appealing things about the Bose Home Speaker 500 is its ability to integrate with other Bose speakers that utilize BoseLink technology.


Echo Show 5

  • Large screen
  • Sound is very impressive for size and price
  • Alexa assistant enabled

The idea of having a screen on a smart speaker isn’t anything new but when done right it adds a whole extra dimension of functionality that you might not have realized you were missing.

Along with all the other tricks that you can perform with the other speakers the Echo Show 5 will change the way you use the device. Studies show that more calls are taking place on video and the Echos will do just that. You can talk to people in video conference format and still continue working away without needing to hold your phone.

I found myself using it a lot in the kitchen where I would play a recipe and follow along without needing to bring in an iPad or laptop.

The final use I found was to use the device with the RING doorbell system which I set up to display who was at the door when the system was activated.


Sony XB402M

  • A premium alternative to Amazon hardware with Alexa built in
  • The best sounding bass on the test
  • Portable with a built in battery
  • Waterproof

Amazon teamed up with Sony to create the XB402M which is a smart speaker with built in Alexa support. It derves its place on the list of the best smart speakers in 2021 for many reasons but the number one is bass. The XB in the name stands for extra bass and boy does it deliver. Deep, thumping pounding bass is here and the unit gets loud enough to fill a large room or outdoor space.

You can take it outdoors or next to the pool without worry as it is fully waterproof even to the point a being submergeble in water. It has 12 hours of battery life between charges. Sound can be adapted through the Sony App and it even has in built RGB lighting that flashes along with the music.

A fun well made speaker with big sound.

Audiophile Onhttp://www.audiophileon.com
Audiophile On is a website dedicated to high-end audio products. With over 15 years as a reviewer, all articles are hand-written by one person to allow the comparison of products. Headphones, earphones, speakers, amplifiers, or DAC's we cover here.

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