We all always love to make our lives easier. A life in which the lights turn on for us, set the alarm, tell us the news, teach us to cook, that is, we like to feel comfortable and well informed.
We agree right?
However, we never remember the harsh reality, stress overwhelms you and tasks accumulate. In short, you would like to have more time for yourself and your whims.
Do not panic! You need a smart speaker in your life.
The quality of life that a virtual voice assistant gives you is not given by a kitchen robot or a vacuum cleaner. More and more electronic devices are incorporating intelligent systems such as smartwatch, light bulbs or thermostats.
Tired of using your mobile to see the weather and the news in the morning? Tired of reading recipes on your tablet and not being able to cook comfortably?
You just have to choose brand, model and virtual voice assistant to start the lifestyle that you now lead.
Quiet, we help you decide. We have compared the different types and models and show you the most successful ones in 2020. After knowing what today’s smart speakers offer you, you won’t want to hear about traditional homes anymore!
The best cheap smart speakers
Here are two speakers that, without being expensive, already have good features. On the other hand, they are not the most effective in sound matters, since their mini format leaves little space for speakers worthy of the brand.
Google Home Mini: the best cheap
- Compact design
- Good sound performance
- Varied Google Assistant offer
- Limited power
- No audio jack
Even if it’s little or nothing about the connected speakers, you’ve probably heard of Google Home. This is his little brother, a kind of miniature version (he will have imagined seeing his name), the Google Home Mini.
The first thing I highlight is its original design, as it has the typical shape of those rounded stones that are found on the beaches (in fact, it is available in a gray color very similar to those stones, in addition to coal and coral, my favorite !). It has a style that allows it to blend easily with any environment. It is small and light (174 g), and you can take it anywhere.
Although at first glance it may seem fragile, its assembly is of quality, as are its materials.
As you have noticed, this device has only one button on the back, which allows you to activate or deactivate the assistant’s microphone. To control the volume, just touch the device: on the left to lower it and on the right to increase it. It also has a series of LEDs that light up more or less intensely depending on the volume level.
Instead, some users have complained that it is not a very reactive model, which can be annoying in the long run.
Despite its portable appearance, this device only works if it is plugged into your micro-USB cable. When connected, the LEDs light up and a voice invites you to download the Home application.
After this, you just have to enter the access codes to connect it to the Wifi network and configure it. Moreover, the installation of this device is very simple.
As for voice recognition, the Google Home Mini does its job like a charm. Respond to all your requests without problem. The only negative is that sometimes it emits its own sound, therefore, it is necessary to raise your voice a bit.
When it comes to audio, I’m surprised at the quality of a device of such size. Obviously it does not have a perfect sound representation, moreover, it fails a bit in the bass, but considering that it only has one speaker, its sound is more than correct.
It is a pity that you do not have a Jack socket, as this will allow you to connect to other more powerful speakers. Surely many have also thought about it.
And what about Google Assistant? To make the interface work, just pronounce the keywords “Ok Google” or “Say Google”, and then use the voice command. Google Assistant is able to answer many of your queries and control your home equipment, such as smart bulbs or even surveillance cameras (always check compatibility with Google Assistant).
Although it was not the case when it was released, this system gives you time to reflect while making a query, it even recognizes what it says when it accompanies your speech with those famous “eh …” or “um …”. You can also recognize different voices and respond accordingly to the question that is asked, also has a certain memory that allows you, for example, to ask where you kept your passport (as long as you have entrusted such information … Google is not Nostradamus).
In the end, the Google Home Mini is an excellent option to fully enjoy Google Assistant without spending too much. Practical, efficient, compact and design, this model is perfect to start in the world of home automation.
Amazon Echo Dot (3rd generation): the cheap alternative
- Compact and discreet
- Simple installation
- Sound power
- Brand Charger
- Lack of sound finesse
In the same price range of the Google Home Mini we can find an alternative, but with the voice of Alexa (and its options, of course).
As for the design, although I like it less than Google, it has the merit of being quite compact (but heavier: 300 gr). It is offered in three shades of gray, a hue that will make it perfect for any interior.
It has four physical buttons: one to cut the microphone, two to adjust the volume and the last to go to the Amazon assistant, Alexa, without having to say his name before. Very practical, this last button can also be pressed when you want to cut the reading of one of your answers. Alexa can be talkative once in a while…
Its luminous led ring informs you about the status of the device according to its color: blue (ready to receive your requests), orange (Wi-Fi connection) and red (microphone deactivated).
To install it, it is very simple: connect the speaker to the mains, download the “Alexa” application and configure the wizard through the application settings. Without complications.
As for vocal recognition, as in the case of the Google Home Mini, it is sometimes necessary to force the voice to be heard. In addition, he barely recognizes very serious voices (apparently, Alexa prefers to talk to the girls …).
When it comes to sound, this speaker surprises us again. Despite its size it is able to provide correct power. However, the acute reproduces hardly. Fortunately, unlike the Google Home Mini, this speaker incorporates an audio connector that allows you to connect it to a more powerful cable speaker. In fact, if you want to listen to music really well with this device, you must do so.
As I mentioned, the assistant on board is Alexa. Alexa’s strong point is its efficiency in home automation, as many of the smart or electronic devices have partnered with Amazon. It is also effective in personalization, since it can record routines (for example, you can configure it to activate or deactivate the light or heating of the bathroom …).
However, in terms of music, the choice is much more limited than with Google Assistant, since Alexa only gives you access to Amazon Music Unlimited, Prime Music, Deezer and Spotify.
Although Google surpasses Amazon in this regard, the latter are continually being updated with improvements and new “skills” to make Alexa as complete as possible.
In the end, the 3rd generation Eco Dot is more oriented towards home automation management than for listening to music. If it wasn’t for his capricious voice recognition, it could be much more effective in home automation.
The best mid-range smart speakers
I invite you to discover the most famous smart speakers on the market between $100-200: solid and efficient manufacturing, rich performance, improved voice recognition and better music quality.
Google Home: the best mid-range
- Impeccable design
- Good sound balance
- Reagent assistant
- No audio jack
- Brand Charger
Having seen the Mini, we could not mention his older brother, the original Google Home. That at its launch stood out for being the first smart speaker to propose Google Assistant in French.
It is not the most recent in the market, but its general quality makes it a reference even today.
As for the design, you will notice a radical change with respect to the previous models: although sobriety is still present, it is a much larger model, but always integrable inside.
Like the Mini, it only has a physical button on the back to activate or deactivate the microphone. The rest goes through the upper touch surface, but unlike its younger brother, Google Home is very reactive.
The installation principle is the same: connect the loudspeaker (you have to plug it in…), install the Home application on your smartphone and, finally, configure the loudspeaker by following the steps marked by the application.
As for the audio, this time we have a three speaker model. Of course, the overall size of the enclosure does not allow it to offer great power, but the presence of the latter allows it to return a balanced sound, even at extreme frequencies. If you force the volume too much, a distortion effect can be created. a distortion effect).
However, I regret once again the lack of an audio jack that prevents it from being connected to another cable sound system. This would have allowed this device, on the other hand, very competent in home automation, to really excel at a sound level.
I will not extend too much to talk about Google Assistant, which has already been introduced with the Mini. As I explain in my shopping guide, whatever the speaker, Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant have the same features.
If this device has this place in my selection, it is because it has the merit of proposing a careful design, impeccable material quality, satisfactory ergonomics, and a very respectable audio quality (although the purists are not too content).
Amazon Echo Plus: the mid-range alternative
- Design worked
- Audio input / output jack
- ZigBee Hub
- Audio quality a bit lagging
Presented by the American giant as an improved version of the famous Amazon Echo (2nd generation), the Echo Plus is very similar, but a bit wider. Like the Dot version, released at the same time, this device can be obtained in three different shades of gray, so it will be very discreet in any interior.
It also has 4 physical buttons (volume up / down, turn off microphone and Alexa activation, which can be accessed without saying your name). The Led ring informs you of the status of the speaker.
Nor will I stop in its configuration, as simple as that of the Dot. However, unlike the latter and even the classic Echo, it has a Hub called “ZigBee”, which allows easy and fast coupling with all its compatible connected devices. He is not only able to record routines, but also the time to perform them. In addition, it has a thermal sensor that turns on when a certain temperature is reached. Amazon is betting heavily on home automation optimization.
As for voice recognition, this speaker brings us good news: it is not necessary to raise or force the voice to be understood.
If we talk about sound, the Eco Plus is committed to two expanded speakers compared to the classic one. This allows it to be remarkably more effective in the bass, but the general representation still lacks power and is unbalanced, since the bass and treble take over the medium and smooth. It is surprising that Dolby has worked with Amazon to design this speaker.
Fortunately, Alexa is perfectly audible, and it is best that this speaker has an audio input and output connector (you must configure its use from the application). It is something unpublished and very practical!
Like the Dot (but not with the same quality), this Amazon device has not been initially conceived for music, but for home automation management (where it stands out). At least it is to thank the American company, the fact of having integrated an audio input/output jack.
JBL Link 20: an alternative to Google Assistant
- Good sound performance
- Nomad and waterproof
- Excellent voice recognition
- The portability could be improved
Contrary to the speakers I have presented so far, initially designed as a support for a vocal assistant, here is a speaker compatible with a vocal assistant. That is why it presents a different approach.
As for the design, it is simple and sober, but a little less elegant, in my opinion, than the previous models. This is obviously due to his “nomadic” vocation, as it is not intended precisely to decorate his living room.
It has a range of 10 hours, but it is reduced if you use it with the maximum volume (it is respectable, but it is not up to the best Bluetooth speakers).
The overall design is very solid, it is also equipped with an IPX7 certification, which means it can withstand water immersions up to one meter deep for 30 minutes. There is no risk if it gets wet, so shower with great music!
It has several physical buttons: on/off, enable/disable the microphone, adjust volume, pause reading and Bluetooth connection.
It is compatible with Google Assistant. You can use it to configure your home automation, but also to enjoy your music from your Deezer, Spotify or Google Music account, or your favorite radio station through the free TuneIn service.
The vocal recognition has no defects: with its 360 ° microphone it reacts quite well, and works in both a quiet and noisy environment. It is a real advantage compared to what we have seen so far.
As for the audio quality, contrary to what one might believe by its shape, this enclosure does not provide 360 ° sound but is equipped with speakers distributed on both sides. Despite this amazing stereo setup, the sound is clean, accurate and relatively homogeneous (although bass distortion can be detected).
This will allow you to listen to music with good quality, and best of all, it doesn’t have to be plugged in to work.
In the end, I recommend this device to people looking for a music venue, but with “Smart” functions. However, I am a little disappointed in its audio performance, which, while it is satisfactory in models mainly dedicated to home automation, could be further improved. Also, the nomadic effect of this enclosure would have a greater impact if it were a little more portable (that is, a little less bulky and a little more resistant).
The best high-end smart speakers
In this category I propose two models that are distinguished by their manufacturing quality. They are excellent devices for which you have to bet hard.
Apple HomePod: the best high-end
- Impeccable finishes
- Excellent voice recognition
- Good sound performance
- Abusive Apple concept
- No key allows to deactivate the microphone
- High price
If Google Assistant and Alexa don’t convince you, maybe Siri does.
The Apple HomePod is the smart speaker proposed by the famous American apple and, the least that can be said, is that the design is true to the brand’s overall image: sober, no frills, elegant. Personally, it’s a bit bland for my liking, but everyone has their own opinion (I prefer it in white).
Unlike the previous speakers, it will be difficult to find a good place in the room, since its dimensions are rather generous.
The HomePod has no physical buttons: everything goes through the upper touch platform. The volume adjustment is clearly visible (a “+” and a “-” are printed on the screen), while the rest is in different support and representation modes (for example: a short support allows you to start playback of the music, while a long support allows Siri to wake up without having to question her). It is a habit that must be taken, in addition, the system is reactive. However, it is a pity that it does not have a button to deactivate the microphone. To do this you have to go through the application or make a fool of yourself and ask Siri.
Its installation is undoubtedly the simplest of my entire selection: bring your iPhone to the speaker, wait, and that’s it!
As for vocal recognition, there is no problem: it is effective in both a quiet and noisy environment, and you should only raise your voice when you use the speaker for Siri to hear you.
And what about audio? Well, the HomePod is designed as a musical venue equipped with an assistant and not vice versa. Therefore, its sound representation has been well worked. In fact, the representation is very good, well balanced, and almost no distortion is observed. Especially if you put it next to a wall! The HomePod is able, thanks to an integrated accelerometer, to detect walls and obstacles and adapt its calibration accordingly. And strangely, the representation is more pleasant if you put the enclosure near a wall than in the center of the room.
However, Apple has gone quite far in terms of the proprietary use of its devices. Even for a Bluetooth connection, for example, if you have a Samsung, you cannot make it. Only Apple devices can send and receive the signal!
Another aspect that has caught my attention is that even if you have an account on Spotify, you cannot use it directly in the HomePod, as it only accepts Apple Music and iTunes Cloud Library.
If you are not fully equipped with Apple, I advise you to follow your path …
In summary, it is an excellent speaker, with quality finishes, good voice recognition, good sound and a response adaptation according to position that is really interesting. If you are fond of apple products, this speaker will like it.
Sonos One: the high-end alternative
- Nice design
- Audio quality
- No cable audio output
I finish my selection with an intelligent Hi-Fi speaker that integrates Alexa. Although it was announced that it would also be incorporated into Google Assistant during 2018, unfortunately it is not the case when writing these lines.
As for the design, personally, I quite like its shape and its sobriety, which makes it an elegant asset inside. Everything is quite solid and the finishes are exemplary.
It has a touch control panel located on the upper face, in addition to a physical button that allows you to deactivate the microphone. The panel has the merit of being very reactive, both to the touch (to pause, for example) and to sliding (to move from one track to another).
Like the previous models, its installation is very simple, since the application guides you step by step, in addition to the luminous information that informs you about the status of the device.
It should be noted that this model can also be used in stereo pairs and even as a surround speaker!
The sound quality is present with a representation that is both homogeneous and natural, although I advise you to opt for a solution of two speakers (or more depending on the configuration of your space) to really have a good spatial representation.
This device is distinguished because it offers one of the most effective multi-mode configurations, as well as a simple and fast configuration. And all this with an extremely stable sound system (there are no untimely cuts, as often happens with other multirooms solutions).
The multiroom of Sonos is very nice for its direct integration to a multitude of music streaming platforms. In fact, it offers more than 30 services, including Spotify, Google Play, Soundcloud, Deezer or even Bandcamp. This allows to simplify and accelerate the navigation and the search of titles. And, of course, you can stream music stored in your music library or your smartphone.
I recommend it to those people who seek first and foremost a quality audio solution, while taking advantage of Smart technology, and who want to effectively launch themselves into the multi-room universe. I can’t wait to see this device with Google Assistant.
How to choose your smart speaker?
The smart speaker is a practical gadget, especially if it combines sound and intelligent control. But how to choose the right one? What are the criteria to consider?
The interest of a smart speaker
The smart speaker integrates a voice assistant (Amazon, Alexa, Google Assistant …), which, if used correctly, can simplify your daily life. Just ask your speaker to listen to music, know the weather, news, etc.
Devices with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri even allow you to control a series of compatible connected objects, allowing you to create a kind of network. For example, if you have smart bulbs, it is possible to control the lighting by voice.
So the smart speaker is at the service of what we call home automation.
Like a traditional speaker, it must be verified that it is easy to use, that it has complete controls and that its installation is simple.
It is also important to take a look at the connectivity options (whether or not you have an audio input / output port, if you can connect to other devices …).
As you should speak to the device, you should check if it responds: does it react correctly to any voice bell? Does he react in the same way in a quiet environment, in a hectic environment or when he himself emits sounds?
The fact that the enclosure is intelligent does not mean that it should mainly influence its second objective: to listen to music.
All the models (except perhaps the Echo Dot) that I propose allow you to listen to music correctly, but perhaps the most demanding will not agree very much.
If you want the sound emitted by your speaker to be properly balanced, you must have at least two speakers, one for the media and the treble and one for the bass.
The latter must have a diameter large enough to be able to offer powerful listening. For this reason, the first two devices of my selection, the “mini”, will not be suitable for everyone. However, it is always possible to have one of them and connect it to a larger audio system.
If you want to play your songs stored in the cloud, Alexa and Google Assistant dominate this service. It’s also good to know that the speakers come with more than 30 online services.
On the other hand, it should be noted that the audio quality refers to the quality of the listening … But also to the voice quality of the assistant. If this voice is unintelligible, it won’t help you much…
The voice assistance platform
Whatever it is, Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant have diverse and varied features. As for vocal assistance, you will have to choose a side.
If you want to have several, you will have to cling to a single platform. I would recommend Alexa to people who want a Smart home setup, as it is the best voice assistant when it comes to working with other Smart home machines.
Google Assistant will be your choice for more basic and question-oriented and music-oriented functions.
Finally, Apple fans will obviously opt for Siri.
Amazon and Google offer the possibility to register different users. They can also recognize the different voices and respond according to the database or previous history of each user.
Siri and Cortana, on the contrary. They cannot register different users, which limits customization possibilities.
Applications and alarms
All vocal assistants can set alarms, stopwatches, create lists, such as shopping, for example. With Alexa and Google Assistant you can even share lists between different accounts.
Alexa, Google and Siri can also activate stopwatches and alarms, which is the sea of practical, for example, if you make a recipe that requires performing multiple tasks.
In conclusion, which smart speaker to choose?
The first thing to ask yourself is if you are thinking of buying this speaker for home automation purposes or to have a music venue compatible with a vocal assistant.
When it comes to home automation management, Alexa-compatible enclosures rise to the top of the basket, as this assistant is currently in the lead.
If you don’t mind the musical options, the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd generation) is a very good choice and, above all, cheap. Even so, the Amazon Echo Plus has the merit of being more versatile, greatly facilitating the coupling of its devices and allowing a pleasant musical listening.
Of course, Google Assistant is also very complete in the field, and its smart speakers have the merit of providing quality sound for both the excellent Google Home and the Google Home Mini .
Finally, if you are thinking of using your speaker for musical purposes, and the assistant is a secondary option, I advise you to guide your choice based on your interface preference, or, above all, for the smart devices you already have.
If it is an Apple Fan, the Apple HomePod is the best option, despite its price. For its part, the Sonos One effectively compensates for the weakness of Amazon’s speakers in terms of sound performance.
As for the JBL Link 20, there is no doubt that it represents a good option is the option if you want a portable enclosure, capable of accompanying you from your room to the living room while passing through the bathroom … Of course, as long as you accept the Google assistant .
Amazon Echo (2nd generation): If you like Amazon Alexa and want to enjoy a slightly higher sound power than the Dot, but without spending as much as in the Eco Plus, this is the intermediate solution. However, compared to the Echo Plus, it has less sound quality and less vocal recognition, in addition to not including neither the ZigBee Hub, nor the dual audio output, nor the thermal sensor.
Amazon Echo Spot: in the “Echo” line, here is a model that, although not particularly distinguished by its sound qualities (a bit like its peers), is very practical thanks to the touch screen that integrates, and that It makes clock when it is on hold.
Ultimate Ears Megablast: this is a very good option if you want to have Alexa in portable mode. This Ultimate Ears device is adorned with an IP67 certification (protection against dust and immersion up to 1 meter for 30 minutes) and good sound power. But the best sound balance is only achieved if the volume is pushed thoroughly, which is a shame, and its configuration is much heavier than anything that has been proposed.
Google Home Max: If you don’t mind the portability of your speaker, Google’s Max model might be right for you. Because of its size, it manages to integrate speakers capable of providing a powerful and balanced sound, but it lacks customization options for a device that claims to be musical.
Marshall Stanmore II Voice: this is a model faithful to the Marshall range (which means that the sound quality is more than present), and that has the particularity of existing in two models, one that allows you to chat with Google Assistant , and another with Alexa. An option for those who are uncompromising with the sound quality.