Best Smart Display
- Google Nest Hub 2nd Gen
Best Smart Speaker
- Nest Audio
Best Portable Smart Speaker
- Sonos Roam
Of all the pieces of smart home tech that are now available, one of, if not the most central item is a smart speaker. Smart speakers act as a voice interface between you and the digital world, keeping you updated with the news, playing your favourite tunes, calling friends and family, and controlling other smart home devices. Of course, all of this tech doesn’t come too cheaply, or at least you’d think so. Thankfully, however, the market does actually provide reasonably priced models. While you can get budget smart speakers, they often struggle with lower quality speakers and microphones making them worse to actually live with and use. You can also spend a lot of money on a high-end smart speaker, but with solid options in the middle of the price range, it’s a good idea to work out what you actually need or want before paying too much for overkill.
To help you find the best reasonably priced models, we’ve drawn up a list of the best mid-market smart speakers in 2022.
- 10 hours of battery life
- IP67 Waterproofing
- Automatic Trueplay adjusts the audio constantly
- Size: 6.61 x 3.32 x 2.44 inches
- Weight: 0.93lbs
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
The Sonos Roam is a pretty neat smart speaker offering. It is battery powered, so you can take it around the house with you and not need to constantly keep it plugged in. It’s even waterproof so you can place it near a sink, shower, or even a pool without needing to worry about it taking an accidental bath. Its low weight and small stature help to make it easily portable, though they do somewhat limit the speaker quality, especially in the bass ranges.
Smart assistant wise, it has both Alexa and Google Assistant integrated, though they only work when connected to Wi-Fi, not Bluetooth. The use of a single microphone rather than an array may make the roam worse at handling ambient noise, though it does a decent job. It charges wirelessly or via USB-C and has a batty life of up to 10 hours.
- USB-C charging
- Wireless charging
- Integrated smart assistants
- Only one microphone
- Smart assistants only work on Wi-Fi
- 10-inch screen
- Physical camera shutter
- Integrated Alexa
- Size: 7.03 x 10.23 x 5.56 inches
- Weight: 2.28lbs
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
The Facebook Portal is a smart screen from Facebook. It features a 10-inch screen, an array of four microphones, and three speakers. As with any smart screen, privacy is a concern, one that is alleviated with a physical camera shutter so you can be 100% sure that you’re not being recorded by the 13MP camera. You can also turn the microphones off. Being a Facebook product, however, there are of course the generic privacy concerns of using its platforms, though realistically, you’ll face similar privacy concerns with literally any smart speaker.
The screen itself is pretty flat and uses a single foot to stand upright, it can then be placed on its side for a vertical screen orientation. A particularly cool feature is the automatic camera framing and panning; when the camera recognises a person it will zoom on them and then track them as they move around the frame, it can even support this for up to three people at once. Augmented reality features allow you to apply backgrounds and filters to calls. The built-in Alexa is significantly more reliable and capable of responding to queries than the Facebook Portal assistant.
- Facebook Portal commands
- Augmented reality effects
- Automatic camera panning
- The Facebook Portal commands are unreliable and limited compared to Alexa
- Facebook privacy issues
- Soli motion sensing chip
- 7-inch smart screen
- Sleep tracking feature
- Size: 4.7 x 7 x 2.7 inches
- Weight: 1.23lbs
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Thread
The Google Nest Hub 2nd Gen is another smart screen, though interestingly this one lacks a camera. The lack of a camera means you can’t make video calls, but also means you don’t need to be worried about being filmed. A hardware microphone switch allows you to turn off the microphone. The screen itself is 7-inches across. Thread support futureproofs connectivity, though it will only be added via a software update in the future and it’s unclear if Matter will be supported.
The Nest hub features the innovative Soli motion-sensing chip. This uses a form of radar to track nearby movement, though exact range sensitivity and resolution is unclear. This allows for cool features such as gesture controls that don’t require you to touch the screen, which may be useful when doing things like cooking. It also forms a core part of the sleep tracking functionality which is free for 2022, tracking your activity while you sleep. This may be interesting or creepy depending on your point of view, it also may be more of a privacy concern to have a somewhat 3D representation of you rather than a simple 2D video, though again it’s unclear how good the range or resolution of the Soli chip is. Unfortunately, the Nest Hub can also only track one person’s sleep quality.
- No camera to worry about
- Physical microphone switch
- Thread support
- The camera-less radar detection is a little creepy
- Sleep tracking may be intrusive for some
- Can only track one person’s sleep per device.
- 75mm woofer
- 25mm tweeter
- Triple microphone array
- Size: 6.89 x 4.89 x 3.07 inches
- Weight: 2.65lbs
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Chromecast
The Nest Audio is an update to the original Google Home smart speaker that brings in years of updated technology to provide a worthy upgrade. It features two speakers, a 75mm woofer and a 25mm tweeter, as well as a triple microphone array. The microphones can be disabled with the hardware switch on the back for those that are particularly privacy-conscious.
The audio can’t get particularly loud, meaning it isn’t great for use as a solo sound system for a party, but it is loud enough for normal use at home. It can be placed landscape or portrait, though the stereo sound is disabled in portrait mode. It can be paired with a second speaker, though there can be some slight delay in sound between the two that can be disconcerting. The Google Home app allows you to adjust the levels of both the bass and the treble independently. It also comes in five colours, which may suit your personal aesthetic.
- Physical microphone mute switch
- Separate bass and treble adjustments
- Comes in five colours
- Stereo setups with two speakers can end up with a slight but noticeable delay between the speakers
- Doesn’t get particularly loud
That was our roundup of the best mid-market smart speakers in 2022. Have you recently bought a mid-market smart speaker? What sold you on it and what has your experience been with it so far? Let us know down below.
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