- 2nd Generation Amazon Echo
- Sonos One – 2nd Gen
- Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Gen
While Amazon was first into the field of smart speakers with the Echo, the marketplace has expanded substantially as Google, Sonos, JBL, Marshall and more have joined the competition. These new companies use the groundwork laid by Amazon and are using Amazon’s Alexa or Google already integrated into their new speaker offerings. They are then either boosting the audio power or making them budget worthy for all households as they make their sojourn into the marketplace. Whether you want to spend a little or a lot for an AI speaker, do your research so you can pick the proper one to meet your needs as well as your budget.
12nd Generation Amazon Echo – (Best Overall)
Echo is a great smart home speaker and one of the most popular. It comes with literally 100’s of apps, smart home support and quality audio. You increase the depth of what is available on Echo if you are an Amazon Prime member. A yearly subscription offers you lots of options not only for Echo but with Amazon overall.
The prices have come down since Amazon originally introduced Echo, but the quality has been maintained. This second-generation comes in different finishes to suit your decorating tastes and is smaller with better sound. This small product comes with awesome Bluetooth speakers for high-quality audio. You know Alexa (Echo’s name) is awake when the blue light spins around the top of the speaker to hear your request. You have the option of listening to music from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora and so much more. You can also listen to audiobooks if you subscribe to that service as well. Alexa can give you the basics of a recipe, place an order on Amazon, read out your texts or call you an Uber. Further to all these apps, Alexa can also work with other home smart devices that turn on lights, control temperature, open garage doors or work security. Echo works with more smart home devices than any other current smart speaker allowing you to control your surroundings with simply a word or two.
What Reviews Are Saying
Buyers love Echo and Alexa. They are happy with its good depth of sound and the numerous apps that allow the user to access music, books, shopping, and daily information within seconds of asking. However, the downside of Echo involves concerns about privacy. It’s not about whether Amazon is gathering data on those using it but what they will do with that data and how safe it is. Amazon offers reassurances that everything is protected and encrypted so it is up to you in regard to what you are comfortable with. The privacy issue is followed up by the fact that users feel that the search engine is not as good as other devices such as Google. This is problematic if your goal is to use your Echo as an in-depth information portal.
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity
- Compatible with Android, iOS & Fire OS
- Voice Recognition
- Great depth of apps
- 7 microphone array
- 2.5” woofer
- .6” Tweeter
- 3.5mm audio output
2Sonos One – 2nd Gen (Premium Pick)
Sonos is a higher-end AI smart speaker. It comes with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant preinstalled, so you are getting almost everything Echo offered with better speakers. The sound quality is outstanding. While it has Alexa and Google, it also can use Apple’s AirPlay 2 so no matter what you prefer, Sonos fits the bill. It can play from any of the music apps that Amazon has access to and allows you to use all the commands you would with Alexa. Along with music apps, Sonos One can sync up with more than one speaker in your house letting you create a great theatre type experience. It also offers better musical balance when you are listening if you have multiple devices in different areas.
What Reviews Are Saying
Buyers really like Sonos for its quality of sound and adaptability when it comes to increasing the number of speakers in the home. Others like it for its ease of transport to offsite function allowing simple access to music for events. Those that had issues with the speakers focused their frustration on the Sonos app. They found it outdated and clunky to use. Connection issues were difficult to repair due to the slowness of the app. Some also felt that Alexa’s response time was longer than it was on Echo.
- Rich sound
- Voice control with Alexa
- Pairs with more than one Sonos
- Simple set up
- 2 Class D digital amplifiers
- 1 mid-woofer
- 1 Tweeter
- Wi-fi and ethernet connectivity
If you are an Android fan then this smart speaker is for you. Google Home AI has the best search ability in the market of smart speakers. This powerful little speaker is ruled by its Google Assistant. It’s small and subtle to fit in with your home style and is angled to be easily accessible for touch interaction. When you address it, it lights up with the Google colors on the top. It can play music from multiple platforms found in the Google Play Store and that music sounds great, even when the volume is at maximum level. There is very little distortion. Google Home comes with a lot of good features such as daily briefing, an ability to answers questions and can search anything you ask it. It is formatted to understand even the heaviest of accents and speech patterns making it a comfortable system for all. Google Home also can interact with smart home devices for lights, thermostat and media should you wish to do that as well.
What Reviews Are Saying
People really like the search capabilities of Google Home. You can’t go wrong with that portion of a smart speaker when you are Google. But beyond its great search ability, you have quality sound, good voice recognition and lots of flexibility with apps. Those who are not fans of Google Home may find its breadth of abilities less than something like Sonos One or Amazon Echo. If your main desire is for music, games and education then Google is good but if your focus is a smart home then you may want to look at another product other than Google. However, Google changes and updates quickly so keep an eye on their plans because they will stop up the game to catch up with producers such as Amazon and Sonos.
- Strong search feature
- Great voice recognition
- High excursion speaker
- 16.5V power
- Bluetooth 4.1
- Micro USB Port
4Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Gen (Best Value)
This Echo Dot is a great smart speaker that is affordable. This versatile speaker has all the perks of the bigger Alexa but in a smaller presentation. It can be synced with larger speakers and other Dots to make sound broader and clearer. It can play music, work with smart home devices, make calls, read text and emails, answer questions and much more. While it doesn’t have the sound, you would get from the bigger speaker, but each generation is improving in this area and putting forward a much fuller sound. It has Bluetooth so you can connect other Dots this way or through a 3.5mm stereo cable and use streaming from the multiple apps of the Google Play Store. Dot can control lights, fans, doors etc. should you wish to use it for that as well. A great smart speaker if you are on the budget. Small in size, large in content.
What Reviews Are Saying
Reviewers like this smart speaker as a smaller cost item. While the sound is not top of the line due to its size, they do like it for all the reasons they like full-size Echo as well. Its ability to access apps, home controls and much more continue to please buyers. People who had issues with the Dot seemed to be surprised with the speaker level and found that the AI was not as responsive as other smart speakers. It sometimes seemed to have trouble discerning their voices and commands.
- AI Alexa
- Easily set up
- Can be used with multiple Dots
- Access to large number of apps
- 3.5mm stereo audio output
- 15 W power adapter
5Echo 2nd Gen
The Amazon Echo show is new to the speaker market and takes great features from Echo and puts them into a touchscreen style speaker. It has a 10.1” touchscreen with 1280×800 resolution. You can watch videos, look at photos or make video calls. It has a 5MP camera that is perfect for all of this. The other benefit of this unique speaker is that it can show a live feed of Alexa compatible security cameras you may have for your home. There is also something called a Glance feature that can show you video clips from news stations while you watch and listen. As this product is new, apps are still being tested and created for this new format. This means that the screen isn’t doing all it should be able to, but more is on its way in a short period of time. The Echo Show has 2 speakers so it can hold its own when compared to other smart speakers. You can streamline any of Google Play stores apps for music to make the most of the good sound.
What Reviews Are Saying
Reviewers like this product early offering and realize it has even greater potential as further generations are released. They enjoy the quality of sound, ability to make video calls while doing almost everything the Echo does. The most common complaint came from those outside the US who said while the US version was great, places such as Canada didn’t have access to half the promised features. This means that the higher money spent was not thought to be worthwhile considering how much of was missing.
- Dolby speakers
- Video calls
- Alexa AI
- 10.1” touchscreen
- Speakers – duel 51mm premium drivers
- Bass radiator
- Wi-Fi& Bluetooth
Features to Look For in Smart Home Speakers
As you start to research what smart home speaker you want to buy, you need to look at the reason you are buying it. You will have to decide on which Operating System do you prefer such as Alexa or Google. Both have their strong points, with Alexa being a thoroughly all-round solid program and Google being a fantastic search engine.
Do you want one for music? Then you need to assess the speakers themselves and the quality of their output. If questions and information aren’t your first priority, then look at the streaming app you like best and see which smart speaker supports it. Then once you can hear the music you want to listen to the quality of the sound. Speakers are a central feature in any smart speaker.
Do you need it for smart home connections? Once again, it’s a feature not all smart speakers have. You want to make sure you choose one that offers the feature of being able to support smart home capabilities such as cameras, temperature and lights.
Are you looking to call people? One of the newer features smart home speakers offer is a screen or no screen. Both have their benefits. With a screen, you have easy access to do video calls and watch movies, but many people have tablets or laptops to do that. However, the beneficial side with a smart speaker with screen means the sound is much clearer and crisper than on a tablet or other device.
There are lots of great features for smart home speakers. You just need to choose a budget and what features you need and want. Once that is done you can make an educated decision on what is best for your household.
Differences Between Smart Home Speakers
Smart home speakers come with an immense amount of differences depending on make, model, and seller. The first significant difference is price. You can find a solid smart speaker at the low end of the price scale without sacrificing a lot of features but the other option is to move all the way to the high end of the price line where you can spend hundreds for a speaker quality that outstanding not only in sound but in apps and OS as well. Neither is a poor choice; it just depends on where your budget lands.
Further differences are found in the internal speakers themselves. There are products that have high-quality speakers but perhaps lag behind in other AI areas. If music is your number 1 priority, then pay attention to the make and quality of the speakers you are looking at. There are extensive differences ranging from average level speakers to Dolby. None are horrible but once again there are differences present so do your research.
One of the biggest differences is the Operating System used in smart home speakers. Who do you prefer to speak to? Alexa or Google? And probably Siri in the near future. These systems are both good AI systems that can respond, direct and work with you almost as well as if you were typing into a search engine yourself. Some people only want the original Alexa, but others are hardcore Google fans. Either way, if you are bound to a particular system, that will limit which home speaker you can choose.
Size of a home speaker is probably one of the most noticeable differences when looking for one. You have the small economy dot sized ones, then the original Alexa size, followed by new ones with touchscreens. You have round, cylindrical, square that can then all be adapted with holders and stands. Once again, none are good or bad, but one might look better with your décor than another. Perhaps you want it unnoticeable and hidden from view. Either way, the plethora of differences available will give you lots to choose from.
FAQS When Buying Smart Home Speakers
Why should I get a smart home speaker?
These speakers offer great flexibility when it comes to things you can utilize it for. Rather than setting up your laptop or tablet in the kitchen to cook while the kids do homework on the table, you can keep the space clean by asking Alexa or Google for a recipe while keeping your hands free to measure and chop. The kids can jump in and ask questions so the system can answer and help out. Maybe you just need quiet music and dim lights to wind down from the day or you need to make a quick video call to end the evening. All these things are can be done simply by speaking a few words. No programs, no computers, no hands needed. A great way to interact with your environment easier and with less stress.
Are there many home services and apps available that connect with Smart home speakers?
There is an amazing number of services and apps available. Obviously, each speaker has its own set of things you can access lots of crossovers. If you are already subscribed to Amazon Prime then that opens the door to not only more apps but products, skills and services. There are also many home services you can like to but once again read the fine print, so you know what is supported before you buy. If you are looking for a smart speaker to control household things such as lights and temperature, then you need to make sure you are getting a speaker that allows that.
Do I need to worry about hackers and privacy?
That’s a yes and no answer. When you buy a smart speaker, the AI has to listen all the time for the words that trigger them. Companies assure us that they aren’t keeping track of what is being said unless the speaker is woken up then they keep data to improve services. However, they say its all encrypted so a hack or breach should not affect much. There are also ways to delete data from Echo where you can delete recordings and search history. Google Home allows you to change permissions to limit data collection.
There are still worries about it though, as you never want the chance that your data will be used by the government or by your particular provider to figure out advertising. There is no way at this point to figure out how best to combat this, but you can bet it will be at the front of people’s minds while the new generations are being marketed.