Sonos MoveSource: Daniel Bader / Android Central

Best Smart Speaker Android Central 2021

If you're looking for the best smart speaker but don't know where to start, fear not! We've lined up a list of the best smart speakers in various categories to help you decide which one to add to your home. Our best overall choice is the Sonos One due to its price, performance, and interoperability with multiple platforms.

Best Overall Smart Speaker: Sonos One

Sonos One in white next to a poolSource: Android Central

Like most Sonos speakers, the Sonos One offers audiophile quality sound at a compelling price. The One, in particular, punches above its weight class considering its relatively small size at less than four pounds. This allows the device to fit in just about any space, from a bookshelf to a fireplace mantel, to your kitchen counter.

The One packs two Class-D digital amplifiers, one tweeter, and one mid-woofer in that small-ish frame. You can combine it with other Sonos devices in multi-device groups, or you can create a stereo pair. The device has a far-field microphone array to enable it (and whatever smart assistant you use) to hear your commands from across the room, and there is also a physical mute switch for when you don't want it to hear you.

One thing that we love about the Sonos One (and the family of Sonos products in general) is that it is as platform agnostic as possible when it comes to working with the widest range of content providers and smart voice assistants. Sonos speakers support more music services than those from Amazon or Google/Nest and work with Google Assistant, Alex, and AirPlay 2. You can also control the One and any other Sonos speakers you may have through the Sonos app.

The biggest downside to the Sonos One is that it does not support Bluetooth playback, and you can't use these speakers to stream TV audio unless you have an Apple TV and use AirPlay 2. While it puts out a strong sound, it can't quite compete with bigger, more room-filling devices like the Echo Studio.

Pros:

  • Dynamic, room-filling sound
  • Integrates with Sonos ecosystem
  • Supports a wide variety of music services
  • Works well with Alexa and Google Assistant

Cons:

  • Not as powerful as bigger speakers like Echo Studio
  • Not for TV audio
  • No Bluetooth support

Best Overall Smart Speaker

Sonos One

An attractive smart speaker for whole-house coverage

The Sonos One is great for pairing and putting all-around your home, and it supports every major music service.

Best Smart Speaker for Amazon Alexa: Amazon Echo (4th Gen)

Amazon Echo 4th GenSource: Joe Maring / Android Central

Amazon introduced the original Echo to Prime users in late 2014, and since then, the product has spawned not only a whole line of Amazon smart speakers but an industry full of competition. The Echo, in particular, is now on its fourth iteration, with a completely new spherical design and enhanced functionality that has made it our pick for the best overall Alexa speaker.

The Amazon Echo (4th Gen) has a rounded design and front-firing speakers that contribute to a richer overall sound. It's eye-catching for sure but doesn't stand out more than it needs to. The components are largely made from recycled materials, and Amazon has engineered the device to be more sustainable when it comes to energy usage. The speakers are still not as complex as the Sonos One's, but the Echo does come with a line-out 3.5mm cable and Bluetooth capability, so you can pair with other speakers or connect with other Echos.

As with smartphone iterations, one way that the likes of Amazon and Google have distinguished minor outward upgrades is to add new colors, and this year the Echo brought back a fan favorite in the Twilight Blue. I'm a big fan of this color palette and am happy that we're now seeing it come to more Echo speakers across the line, like the new Echo Dot (4th Gen).

Some may consider the Echo's lack of display to be a drawback, particularly for the price. If that's you, then you may be happier with an Echo Dot with Clock (4th Gen) or Echo Show 5. You'll also save some money in the process.

Pros:

  • Better sounding front-firing speakers
  • Built-in Zigbee hub
  • Newer AZ1 Neural Edge processor
  • 3.5mm audio jack and 1/4-inch thread mount

Cons:

  • No smart display or LED clock
  • Inconsistent button response

Best Smart Speaker for Amazon Alexa

Amazon Echo (4th Gen)

Having a ball

This Echo is built for better sound with a rounded, new neural chip and built-in Zigbee smart home hub.

Best Smart Speaker for Google Assistant: Nest Audio

Nest AudioSource: Daniel Bader / Android Central

Google's newest smart speaker is the understated yet impressive-sounding Nest Audio. With a look somewhere between the diminutive puck of the Nest Mini (2nd Gen) and the shelf-sized Google Home Max, the Nest Audio is more than capable of serving as your primary smart speaker or as part of a stereo pair. The device is a huge improvement over the original Google Home smart speaker, which resembled a Glade scented air freshener, and it's available in five soft colors, including Chalk, Charcoal, and our favorites, Sand, Sage, and Sky.

We've been so impressed by the Nest Audio's performance that we even called it the best Google Assistant speaker available. We think it can go toe-to-toe with the latest regular-sized Amazon Echo, or even the Sonos One (2nd Gen). Where it beats those speakers is in its next-generation Google Assistant integration. It can get up to 75% louder than the original Google Home and features 50% more bass than that first-generation smart speaker.

Like the Nest Mini (2nd Gen) before it, the fabric shell to the Nest Audio is made from 70% post-consumer recycled materials like plastic water bottles. We applaud these efforts and look forward to future designs incorporating even more recycled and recyclable materials.

Pros:

  • Fantastic sound for the price
  • Understated design
  • Multiple color options
  • Intuitive touch controls

Cons:

  • Some software glitches

Best Smart Speaker for Google Assistant

Nest Audio

Filling a niche

Nest needed to add a quality mid-sized smart speaker to its lineup, and it knocked it out of the park with the Nest Audio.

Best Sounding Amazon Alexa Smart Speaker: Amazon Echo Studio

Echo Studio on wood tableSource: Android Central

The Echo Studio is Amazon's first big bet on big sound. Think Apple's HomePod, but bigger, with arguably more room-filling sound and at about half the price.

It's no coincidence that this product follows hot on the tail of Amazon's HD music service launch. It has three midrange 2-inch speakers, a 1-inch tweeter, a large 5.250-inch woofer, and Dolby Atmos technology, making it more than capable of handling high bitrate music formats that have been mastered for 3D music.

The Echo Studio also has a nod to smart home management and security, with a physical microphone mute switch and a built-in Zigbee smart hub. Amazon recently introduced a new program it calls "Certified for Humans," which aims to help smart device partners make their setup and user experiences much easier for novices. In the interim (and for older smart devices), the Zigbee hub should help make that smart device setup and interoperability much easier.

Like all Echo devices, you can pair two Echo Studio speakers together for stereo sound, or you can group them with other speakers in multi-room groups. You can also pair them with your Fire TV for a richer TV viewing and listening experience.

There are a few drawbacks to these big boys. They are bulky, weighing in at eight pounds each! They are also the most expensive Echo speaker on the market to date. But for what you get, I think they're worth it.

Pros:

  • Multi-directional, immersive sound
  • Supports multi-room audio
  • Can be paired with another Echo Studio or Fire TV
  • Supports multiple music services, Airplay 2
  • Physical microphone mute switch
  • Built-in Zigbee smart home hub

Cons:

  • First-gen product
  • Most expensive Echo device

Best Sounding Amazon Alexa Smart Speaker

Amazon Echo Studio

Great alone, or with friends

The Echo Studio is about providing the best sound possible, whether on its own or paired with others.

Best Sounding Google Assistant Smart Speaker: Sonos Move

Sonos Move standing up outsideSource: Daniel Bader / Android Central

The Sonos Move appears to have met or even exceeded expectations as the outdoor speaker that many audiophiles have been waiting for. It brings the great sound quality that Sonos is renowned for, as well as Sonos' great connectivity and multi-platform, multi-assistant support.

As with other Sonos speakers, the Move works just as well with the Google Assistant as it will with Alexa, and it can handle Apple's AirPlay 2 support on WiFi. Perhaps most interestingly (to me) is that it is one of the first Sonos speakers to be able to stream via Bluetooth (though Sonos advises you do this only when out of WiFi range, as Sonos streaming still works best over WiFi).

This portable speaker is durable too. It comes with an IP56 rating, which means it can tolerate a fair amount of outdoor moisture, including humidity, rain, snow, and sea spray. It's not quite as tough to take a tumble as the Ultimate Ears speakers, but it can certainly hold up to extreme heat and cold, as well as UV rays (bet you never thought your speakers needed sunblock too!).

This outstanding outdoor speaker's biggest drawbacks come down to its size (it's a bit of a chunky monkey) and its price. The Move weighs in at almost 7 pounds, which is more than double what another outdoor speaker like the Ultimate Ears Blast weighs. It's also more than four times as expensive as the Blast and twice as much as the indoor-only Sonos One (2nd Gen)

Pros:

  • The best sound in a portable speaker
  • Built-in handle for easy transport
  • Up to 10-hour battery life
  • It has Bluetooth!
  • It's tough with water and dust resistance

Cons:

  • Even though it's technically portable, it's still pretty big
  • Available in your favorite color, as long as it's black
  • Very expensive, particularly for a portable

Best Sounding Google Assistant Smart Speaker

Sonos Move

The best portable speaker

The Sonos Move is a bigger, better-sounding Sonos One that you can abuse — and leave the house with.

Best Amazon Alexa Smart Speaker Value: Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (4th Gen)

Echo Dot With Clock 4th Gen 1Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central

Amazon didn't have to do much to update the fourth-generation Echo Dot, but did it ever! Amazon brought the new spherical design down to the Echo Dot line, including the Echo Dot Kids Edition and Echo Dot with Clock.

Even though all the fourth-generation Dots got the same revamped styling, everything else about the Echo Dot with Clock is the same as with the Echo Dot (4th Gen) except for the "clock" part. Amazon brought its nifty LED clock to this device, which it features behind the fabric cover on the Dot. It sounds simple, but this little adjustment makes it much more useful as a smart speaker and even better value for the money than before.

The LED display can't show you notifications or much text, but what it can do is still helpful. It can show you the time, all the time, which is so much better than calling out to ask Alexa. The display can also show you the weather and any timers that you have asked Alexa to set. Such a simple upgrade that goes such a long way!

Pros:

  • New spherical design
  • Available now in two colors
  • Subtle LED clock display
  • Snooze functionality at a tap
  • Retains all of what's good about Echo Dot (4th Gen)

Cons:

  • Display can't show notifications
  • Moving the light ring to the bottom may make it more difficult to see

Best Amazon Alexa Smart Speaker Value

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (4th Gen)

Now even more perfect for your nightstand.

This small Echo speaker comes with an LED clock, making an already fantastic value even better.

Best Google Assistant Smart Speaker Value: Nest Mini (2nd Gen)

Nest Mini (2nd Gen) lineupSource: Android Central

Nest followed a time-honored formula with the look and design of the Nest Mini (2nd Gen): If it ain't broke, don't fix it! Formerly known as the Google Home Mini, the new Nest Mini follows the first generation's design cues, with some subtle but important tweaks.

For starters, the fabric mesh covering the exterior of the product is made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles (more of this, please!). Nest also updated the pink and blue colors to have a more subtle shading (now Coral and Sky), and it added a nook on the back of the device so that you can easily mount it to your wall.

The biggest improvements are on the inside (where it counts). The speakers are much better, and Google claims they are capable of twice the bass as before. There is one more microphone than the previous model, so the Google Assistant can hear you even better than before. The Nest Mini also has an updated processor, which means the Google Assistant should be able to handle requests much more quickly, accurately, and securely.

As with the third generations of the Echo and Echo Dot (sans clock), the Nest Mini does not have any sort of display, save for the basic LED touch controls on top. Speaking of those touch controls, some have reported that they can be a bit unresponsive and fidgety, so keep that in mind when considering this otherwise solid speaker.

Pros:

  • Upgraded processor
  • Now can be wall-mounted
  • Fabric cover made from recycled materials
  • Better bass for fuller sound
  • One more microphone than the previous generation

Cons:

  • Touch controls are not great
  • No information display
  • Still fewer microphones than Echo Dot

Best Google Assistant Smart Speaker Value

Nest Mini (2nd Gen)

Improved assistant and better bass

There isn't much room in such a small device for large improvements, but somehow Nest pulled it off.

Best Google Assistant Smart Speaker Display: Nest Hub Max

Nest Hub MaxSource: Android Central

While Amazon started its smart display product lineup large with the Echo Show (1st and 2nd Gen) at 10 inches and then started making smaller smart screens, Google/Nest approached the problem from the other end. The first Google Home Hub (now Nest Hub) was a mid-sized form factor, and now Nest has followed that up with a much anticipated Nest Hub Max, which comes in at around 10 inches.

What makes the Nest Hub Max such a great product is not just its beautiful touchscreen or its surprisingly good-sounding speakers. It's all of the great Google-y and Nest-y features that come with it. With its built-in Google Photos integration, this device makes an amazing smart picture frame. Its Face Match feature lets it recognize individual faces and family members and show them their daily itinerary (multi-user support for the win!). There's simply no better way to watch YouTube videos in the kitchen while prepping your next meal.

One of the more intriguing features of the Nest Hub Max is its Nest smart home integration. Not only does the device function as a smart home hub and controller, but with its front-facing camera, you can actually turn it into a Nest camera to monitor your space (requires a Nest Aware subscription). Our initial review of the Nest Cam feature considered it not quite ready for prime time, though your mileage may vary.

Pros:

  • Cool new Face Match feature
  • Physical microphone and camera cover switch
  • Google Photos integration

Cons:

  • Nest Cam feature not fully-baked
  • Rear-firing speakers could be better

Best Google Assistant Smart Speaker Display

Nest Hub Max

More Max to love.

Improved speakers and a larger screen combine seamlessly to make a solid upgrade from the original Nest Hub.

Best Amazon Alexa Smart Speaker Display: Amazon Echo Show 8

Amazon Echo Show 8 on sidetableSource: Android Central

In the Echo Show 8, Amazon took the best features of its other products in the line and brought them to this mid-sized smart screen that I like to refer to as the "Goldilocks" speaker. It's not much bigger than the Echo Show 5, but it is substantially smaller than the Echo Show (2nd Gen).

This device has the safety features introduced in the Echo Show 5, like the physical shutter for the camera and physical mute button for the microphone, as well as the same high definition screen of the Echo Show (2nd Gen). Its speakers and camera are much better than the little Show 5's, and unlike the Nest Hub, it has a front-facing camera for video chatting.

This is a great device to put on your desk, bedside table, or even in the kitchen without compromising space or taking up too much room. With Amazon's Ring and EEero integration and Alexa Guard features, it also makes a super-smart home automation hub. That home hub would be a little more useful if you could adjust the viewing angles, but this feature is sadly not included. However, you can purchase an Amazon or third-party Echo Show 8 stand to accomplish this.

Amazon recently announced a new addition to the Echo Show lineup in the form of the Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen). Once that device is available, we'll evaluate it against the Echo Show 8 to determine the best Alexa smart speaker with a screen.

Pros:

  • Sits in the "Goldilocks" zone of Echo Show devices
  • Disable camera/mic with one switch/cover
  • Cheaper than the competition

Cons:

  • Can't adjust viewing angles without a stand
  • No Dolby processing built-in

Best Amazon Alexa Smart Speaker Display

Amazon Echo Show 8

Not too big, not too little, this size is just right

The Echo Show comes to a more natural size that's easier to place than the 10-inch Echo Show.

Best Smart Speaker for Kids: Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition (4th Gen)

Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition (4th Gen)Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central

Amazon has created parallel product lines for its Fire tablets and the Echo Dot that it calls its Kids Edition devices. Generally speaking, these come in more playful colors and feature kid-friendly content, strong parental controls, and even stronger product warranties. Oh yeah, and they're more expensive than the "regular" versions of the products.

What you get for the increased price, though, is value and peace of mind. The Echo Dot Kids Edition (4th Gen) comes with one year of Amazon Kids+, which is Amazon's curated service of kid-friendly and age-appropriate content. In addition to kiddie music, stories, and audiobooks, and many kid-friendly skills can be used on this Dot as well. Amazon Kids+ makes parental controls easy, allowing them to set time limits, content, and purchase restrictions.

Just as important as controlling what content your kids have access to is protecting the device. Let's face it; kids destroy things. The Echo Dot Kids Edition comes with a two-year worry-free guarantee, which means that Amazon will replace the device if it breaks, no questions asked!

Pros:

  • New spherical design
  • Fun animal prints
  • Comes with kid-friendly content
  • 1 year of Amazon Kids+ included
  • 2-year worry-free guarantee

Cons:

  • More expensive than regular Echo Dot

Best Smart Speaker for Kids

Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition (4th Gen)

Alexa fun for the whole family

This little speaker comes in fun kids' designs and features access to tons of kid-friendly content and parental controls.

Best Outdoor Smart Speaker: Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST

Ultimate Ears MegablastSource: Ultimate Ears

One of the biggest drawbacks of smart speakers is their lack of portability, particularly when it comes to the great outdoors. One of the best and most rugged portable speakers on the market is the Ultimate Ears Megablast. You can feel confident bringing this speaker with you to your next pool party or picnic since it has an IP67 water-resistance rating and can be immersed in water up to one meter for 30 minutes. It's shockproof, too, so you don't have to worry if it takes a tumble off of the tailgate!

The Megablast is not only tough, but it sounds great too. It has a crisp and loud 360-degree sound with a deep bass response and a 16-hour battery life to keep the party going outside. When the battery gets low, there is an available base charging unit that you can purchase so that Megablast can sit on the charger and stay in operation, allowing you to top off your power quickly without fiddling with a USB cord. If you want to really amplify the sound, you can pair it with other Ultimate Ears speakers or up to seven other Megablast speakers for a neighborhood block party!

The Megablast is optimized to work with Amazon's Alexa smart voice assistant right out of the box. You can ask Alexa to change the song, set a timer, or order pizza with just your voice, which is very handy when your hands are all messy.

We don't have a lot of bad things to say about the Megablast. One thing to keep in mind is that, because it is battery powered, you'll need to remember to charge it every once in a while (not a concern for stationary, plugged-in speakers). It's also quite pricey, but trust us — it's well worth it if you're after loud, booming sound.

Pros:

  • Hands-free Alexa voice control
  • Battery-powered and rechargeable
  • Pair up to eight Ulitmate Ears speakers
  • Waterproof and nearly indestructible

Cons:

  • Needs to be charged occasionally
  • Fairly expensive

Best Outdoor Smart Speaker

Ultimate Ears Megablast

For the outdoor adventurer.

The Megablast is a great device for the outdoors. It has 360-degree sound, 16 hours of battery life, and is water-resistant.

Bottom line

There are great Bluetooth speakers out there, but you can go even further and get a smart speaker. If smart speakers excite you, then this is a great time to be a consumer. There are more options out there that are more affordable than ever before. The tricky part is that many of them are increasingly platform-specific, so if you are all-in on Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, that may sway you one way or another.

If you want a good-sounding smart speaker with platform and assistant flexibility, we recommend going with the Sonos One. It works with both Alexa and the Google Assistant, has the most content partnerships, and sounds great.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Jeramy Johnson is proud to help to Keep Austin Weird and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about Amazon products and services, he's defending his relationship with his side-chick Alexa to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.

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