More than any other year, 2020 felt like the year where voice-enabled smart speakers really came into their own as a fully realized product. In addition to a wave of new product offerings from the likes of Amazon, Google, Sonos and Apple, the software powering all of these devices also saw improvements and refinements to make the experience of using the best smart speakers feel less like a novelty and more like something that is actually helpful.
But as we’ve seen this product category expand, we now know which smart speakers are better suited for certain situations and which are less-than-optimal for others.
In general, this is a good thing, because you can find the right smart speaker that has all of the features you want and none of the ones you don’t. But with all that choice, figuring out which speaker to buy can be a bit tricky.
While some people may be looking for a well-rounded speaker that is the jack of all trades and the master of none, others may be on the hunt for a high-end smart speaker that they can integrate into their home theater setup, or a relatively cheap one that they’ll primarily use as a means to interact with their voice assistant.
To try and make that process a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of the best smart speakers for each part of your home.
Which Voice Assistant Is Best for You?
As you make your way through this list, you may notice that some speakers only work with Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa, and you may be wondering if you have to choose one side or the other if you are entertaining the idea of having a whole network of smart home devices. The short answer to that is mostly no . . . but also possibly yes.
Over the past year or two, most connected devices that work with these smart speakers have become platform agnostic, which is to say that they’ll work equally as well with Google Assistant and Alexa, and in most cases, they’ll also work just as well with Apple’s Homekit platform.
But there are some products, such as Amazon’s Ring cameras, which integrate better with Alexa, and some services, such as Google Maps, which mesh better with Google Assistant.
But because you can set up your different smart home products (such as plugs, lightbulbs and door locks) to work with multiple platforms at the same time, you can mix and match speakers from different platforms to get the most out of all your products and still have a smart home that functions seamlessly. Sure, you’ll have to go through the process of configuring those products in multiple apps, but once you get through that, it’s a painless experience.
It’s also worth mentioning that while we think the speakers we’ve picked below will give people the most bang for their buck in each use case, these are mere suggestions to help you think about how to use these different products. If you want to set up a soundbar in your kitchen, go for it. Or if you want to use an Echo Dot as a TV speaker, live your life. We are not the boss of you.
With that in mind, here are the best smart speakers for every corner of your home.
The Best Smart Speaker for Living Rooms
OK, so maybe you are the type who doesn’t care about home theater audio, or has decided to forego a TV in the living room all together. Whatever the reason may be, you want something that makes your music sound amazing, but you don’t necessarily need a whole soundbar with virtual surround sound. In that case, we think the Sonos One is the best smart speaker for your living room.
Like the Sonos Arc, this speaker is equipped with both Google Assistant and Alexa, but the real killer feature here is the audio that comes from this little speaker. Sure it may cost twice as much as the Echo or Nest Audio, but it is every bit as smart, and capable of producing audio that is louder and more detailed than either of those speakers. And if you ever decide that you want to expand or reconfigure your audio setup in your home, the Sonos ecosystem of products are best equipped to do this: You can turn a Sonos Arc soundbar and two Sonos One speakers into a surround sound system, and thanks to Sonos own software installed on speakers, its the best for managing a multi-room audio setup.
The Best Smart Speaker for Kitchens
Between cooking, eating, and the never-ending task of doing the dishes, the kitchen is another place where you spend much of your time. And whether you’re using your speaker to listen to music, take in a podcast, talk to a friend or follow along with a recipe, you’re going to want something that sounds good and is easy to interact with
When it comes to Alexa-compatible speakers, we think the best one for the kitchen is the fourth-generation Echo. It gets loud enough and sounds good enough to provide a pleasurable experience, but you also don’t have to break the bank to buy one. With an integrated Zigbee hub, it’s equipped to control most smart home devices you own (or plan to own), and if you do your grocery shopping through Amazon or Whole Foods, you can simply do your shopping by rummaging through your fridge and pantry, then telling the Echo what to add to your cart.
The Best Smart Speaker for Home Theaters
Sonos Arc Soundbar
Assuming you don’t already have some sort of home theater setup already and you generally watch a lot of TV, you’re going to want something that sounds good, since this is where most people hang out and entertain themselves. And when it comes to a smart speaker that can immerse you in the world of a blockbuster film while also having the intelligence to manage your other smart home devices, the Sonos Arc soundbar is the ideal pairing for your fancy 65-Inch TV.
The Sonos Arc works with both Alexa and Google Assistant, which means that you can have hands-free access to both assistants. Not only can you use your voice to launch music services and streaming TV apps, but also take advantage of Dolby Atmos 3D audio, can generate plenty of bass without a subwoofer. And, generally, this is just one of the best soundbars you can buy right now even without the voice assistant functionality.
The Best Smart Speakers for Bedrooms
Echo Dot with Clock
The bedroom is the place where you typically start the day and end your night, and for that, you’ll want a speaker that helps you manage your life. Whether it’s helping you wake up on time and manage your schedule in the morning, or making sure your doors are locked and lights are off before you go to bed, the Echo Dot with Clock is the best speaker for the job.
This little orb has all the same Alexa abilities as the other Echo speakers, but as the name implies, the Echo Dot with Clock also has an LED display that glows through its cloth exterior so that you can always check the time with a quick glance. It also still packs decent audio for its size. While you might not use this as the speaker for your next get-together, it more than serves its purpose for those moments when you’re in need of some background music.
The Best Smart Speaker for Entryways, Hallways and Spare Bedrooms
Amazon Echo Flex
These are the areas of your home where you don’t necessarily need a full-fledged speaker, but still want to be able to interact with your voice assistant to adjust the lights or set a reminder. This is why the Amazon Echo Flex is the best Alexa smart speaker for these areas of your home.
The smallest and cheapest of Amazon’s speakers, the Echo Flex isn’t really meant for listening to music, but rather summoning Alexa to do your bidding around the house. It has a form factor that sits directly on the wall so that there are no cords to deal with which is what makes this perfect for areas like the entryway where you pass through often, but don’t necessarily spend a lot of time in. And because it has a USB port on its underside, you can even attach specially designed accessories such as a clock, nightlight or motion sensor, the latter of which can trigger smart home routines when you pass by it.
The Best Smart Speaker for Home Offices
Google Nest Audio
Depending on your work habits, having a smart speaker around could be indispensable. For some, having an album or podcast playing in the background is a huge help when it comes to concentrating on the task at hand. For others, it’s nice to be able to quickly ask your speaker what’s next on the agenda, set a timer or reminder to help with time management, or get a traffic update before you have to head out for a work-related meeting. And for all of these things, we think the Nest Audio is the best smart speaker for your home office.
Packing a 3-inch woofer and 0.75-inch tweeter inside a stylish frame, the Nest Audio delivers quality sound without you having to spend on a more expensive speaker that may be overkill for the 9-5 segment of your day. And when it comes to services such as navigation and daily schedules, we think Google Assistant has the edge here, thanks to the fact that it’s deeply integrated with Google Maps and Calendar. But the other added bonus here is that Nest speakers come with a mechanical mute switch, so that if you have a Zoom meeting or a conference call where sensitive subject matter is being discussed, you can rest assured that your speaker isn’t listening in as an unnamed participant.
The Best Smart Speaker for Bathrooms
Google Nest Mini
Sure, a smart speaker in the bathroom may seem like overkill, but who doesn’t like having music while taking a shower or getting ready? And furthermore, who wants to have to mess with trying to skip songs or adjust the volume with hands that are covered in water, hair product or shaving cream? It’s for reasons such as these that we think the Google Home Mini is the best smart speaker for the bathroom.
In addition to letting you control your music with only your voice, we like the Nest Mini because it’s wall-mountable, which means that it isn’t taking up valuable real estate on your bathroom counter or running the risk of having any number of bathroom products splash all over it. And like the Nest Audio, the Nest Mini has a mechanical mute switch, offering you total privacy when you’re — ahem — answering the call of nature.
The Best Smart Speaker for Backyards
Bose Portable Home Speaker
For the most part, a true smart speaker is almost exclusively designed to be used indoors and constantly connected to a power outlet, since having WiFi audio and an always-on voice assistant isn’t the most efficient feature for a battery-powered speaker. But there are a few, which while not truly portable, are portable enough that you can easily carry them outdoors and enjoy all the same features that you would from some of our other top picks on this list. And of the smart speakers which are best for the backyard, we like the Bose Portable Home Speaker the best.
Along with giving you the choice to enjoy all the functionality of Alexa or Google Assistant without having to connect your phone, this speaker is water-resistant, can provide up to 12 hours of playback on a single charge and even comes with a handle to make it easier to lug around. Furthermore, since it’s a Bose speaker, you can rest assured that this thing will produce the same top-shelf audio quality you’ve come to know and love from other Bose products.