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Are you looking for the best smart speaker of 2018? We’ve got you covered.
We all love to listen to music, but what if your speakers could offer you more than just great sound?
Imagine adding another dimension to both home entertainment and home control, combining the ability to listen to music with the ability to perform other personal and household tasks.
Welcome to the next big thing in home entertainment — smart speakers…
- 1 What is a Smart Speaker?
- 2 What Makes a Good Smart Speaker System?
- 3 Signs of a Bad Smart Speaker System
- 4 Best Smart Speakers of 2018
What is a Smart Speaker?
So much more than just an audio speaker, smart speakers contain built in artificial intelligence (AI) — usually in the form of voice-controlled personal assistants — which allows you to not only listen to your favorite tunes on your phone or PC just by asking, but also to control other smart home devices you might own.
That means you can potentially do things like turning on mood lighting, setting timers and alarms, turning up the air-con or down the thermostat, as well as reminding you of appointments in your diary, booking a plane flight or an Uber, tuning into popular radio stations, or getting you the latest weather reports — just by talking to your smart speaker.
Simply use the appropriate ‘wake word’ and your wireless speakers will listen and respond to your every whim.
Different smart speakers perform different tasks depending on the AI technology they use, and can also only function to their full extent if your home is set up with other smart devices.
Each different AI technology works with different services and apps, with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant currently offering the best smart home and app integration.
Apple’s Siri is hot on their heels though…
What Makes a Good Smart Speaker System?
What you want to get out of your smart speakers will define which ones are best for you, but here are some important points to consider…
Let’s not forget that above all else, smart wireless speakers are still, well, speakers, so quality of sound is important.
Smart speakers that can bang out your best tunes with great sound quality as well as offering other smart features are a good place to start.
If your home is blessed with a lot of other smart gadgets such as smart lighting, security systems, smart thermostats and climate control, robot vacuums and more (or it will be in the future) then you’re going to need your smart speaker to be able to integrate with the widest range of smart home devices possible for maximum convenience.
Equally, the greater the number of apps and services that are compatible with your smart wireless speakers, the more use you will get out of them.
Some smart speakers are better communicators than others, and those with less developed voice recognition technology may be frustrating for some users.
The quality of the built in microphones and voice sensors is also important, as some have better range than others.
The best smart speaker will understand you with ease from right across the other side of the room.
How do you want your speakers to connect with your existing devices?
Wireless smart speakers need to connect easily to the internet via your smartphone or PC in order to function correctly, and some connections are better than others.
Bluetooth is the most common and reliable way for smart speakers to connect to other Bluetooth devices, as it requires no internet connection. However, you will be limited to connection only when you’re in range of the other device.
Wi-Fi is good but requires an internet connection to work and can sometimes be patchy, although it does offer the best sound quality and the widest range of connection when the internet connection is strong and reliable for all devices.
NFC (Near Field Communication) is very effective but your phone or PC need to be right next to your wireless speaker in order for it to function correctly.
The best smart speakers will be able to connect using both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, as well as potentially also using NFC capability.
One smart speaker is great, but the best smart speaker systems can be added to with additional speakers and / or devices to expand their range of connectivity and grow with your smart home as it evolves.
Superior smart speakers will have plenty of accessories and additional speakers available to extend and enhance the smart sound system within the home.
Signs of a Bad Smart Speaker System
- Poor audio quality
- Limited connectivity options
- Doesn’t link to other smart speakers
- No voice control
- Poor voice recognition
- Lack of compatible smart devices and / or apps and services
Best Smart Speakers of 2018
Smart technology is evolving every day – for the better.
Here are the 8 smart speakers that are causing the most buzz right now…
Amazon have reworked the original Amazon Echo with Alexa to create one of the best smart wireless speakers around.
Using Amazon’s Alexa AI, the all new Echo features voice control and can be connected to over 10,000 different compatible smart home gadgets to help you manage your home to the max from the comfort of your couch.
It features far-field voice recognition, which uses 7 built in microphones to capture your voice and understand your commands from any direction — even if you’re playing your music at top volume — and what’s more as time goes on it learns to adapt to your personal speech patterns, offering top notch voice recognition.
As for audio, it features a Dolby 2.5 inch woofer and 0.6 inch tweeter for decent quality sound.
This smart speaker also has no shortage of apps — with over 50,000 Alexa skills (apps) available to choose from in the Amazon Skills Store. Plus, she learns more every day…
Take a look at how the device is improving:
The classy, compact design can be customized to suit your home decor with a range of colored fabrics and finishes.
It can also be connected with other compatible Echo devices around the home to allow you to play music anywhere within your home.
- 360° audio
- Integrates with a ton of smart home devices
- Excellent voice recognition
- Can be connected to other Echo speakers around the home
- Huge range of apps available
- Totally hands free
- Fun for all the family to use
- Comes in a range of finishes
- Good value for money
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity
- Can’t answer more complex questions
- Sound quality doesn’t have the same degree of fidelity as more expensive, specialist audio equipment
Google Home is the main competitor to the Amazon Echo and, instead of Alexa AI technology, it features the Google Assistant.
Like Alexa, Google Assistant is compatible with a huge number of devices and apps already, and more compatibility is being added every day.
We think the AI is slightly more intelligent with Google Assistant than Alexa, and it offers the same level of voice recognition.
Just like the Echo, Google Home isn’t as strong in the audio field as it is in pure artificial intelligence. But it will certainly prove more than enough for most people, if not the more ardent audiophiles among us.
- Sophisticated look
- Compact with a small footprint
- Great alternative to Amazon Alexa
- Mini version is also available for a lower price
- Google have an excellent reputation for being on the cusp of new AI technology
- Marginally better voice recognition and AI than Alexa
- Up to 6 people can link their accounts to one Home device
- Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity available
- Audio quality not as good as the Sonos offerings
- Slightly more expensive than the Echo
If it’s high fidelity sound you’re after in a smart speaker, then the Sonos One should be on your radar.
With Amazon Alexa built in, it works just like the Echo in terms of controlling other compatible smart home devices but with better quality sound that truly fills whatever room you’re in.
It’s boasting 2 class-D digital amplifiers, one tweeter, one mid-woofer, adjustable bass and treble controls, 6 far-field microphone array and responsive audio chime.
Plus, it can connect wirelessly to other Sonos speakers throughout your home to create a real integrated sound system. And if you want instant stereo sound, just pair it up with another Sonos One in the same room.
You can manage the speaker and Alexa through the intuitive app.
- Excellent sound quality for a small speaker
- Quality construction
- Compact design
- Available in a choice of 2 colors
- Available in multi-room sets
- Perfect for music lovers
- No Bluetooth
- More expensive than the Echo
6 custom designed drivers,3 mid-woofers and tweeters inside the Sonos Play:5 combine to deliver powerful audio with incredible bass and clarity.
If you are lucky enough to own more than one Sonos speaker, you can group them to the same network to pump the same songs throughout the house.
This of course is in addition to being able to add an Amazon Echo speaker to the sound system network for the added benefit of voice control — unfortunately, this Sonos smart speaker doesn’t come with Alexa already built in like the Sonos One above.
As with the Sonos Play:1 and Play:3, the Sonos Play:5 uses the Sonos Wi-Fi streaming technology, but also features Apple AirPlay 2 support which allows you to wirelessly send audio from your iOS devices to the Sonos app.
The rectangular black unit can be positioned either horizontally or vertically in any space without compromising sound quality.
- Stylish design
- Superb, powerful sound quality
- Good wireless functionality
- Simple to set up
- Support for lots of streaming services
- Excellent app
- Expandable to multiple rooms
- No Bluetooth
- Amazon Alexa isn’t built in (although is compatible with it)
The pint sized cylindrical Etekcity RoverBeats T3 works using enhanced CSR 4.0 Bluetooth technology for a strong connection and multiple Bluetooth device compatibility, and also features a supplementary auxiliary port.
The single 3W speaker can be charged via the supplied USB cable to provide an impressive 8 hours playback time.
Small enough to be carried in your bag, the RoverBeats T3 is a truly portable wireless speaker, and as an added bonus it benefits from a built in microphone which allows you to handle calls hands free when connected up to your smartphone.
The major pro of this smart speaker is its incredibly low price.
- Convenient small size
- Very portable
- Easy to pair with other Bluetooth devices
- Battery holds charge well
- Very affordable
- Built in microphone
- Great sound for the small size
- Easy to set up and use
- Can only pair with one device at a time
- No buttons on the unit to change music tracks
Smaller than the Amazon Echo, the unit of the Amazon Echo Dot (2nd Generation) features an action button, volume controls, and a button to control the microphone, as well as LED lights which let you know when it is active.
Just like the Amazon Echo, this wireless smart speaker uses the Alexa smart assistant with voice control, and can command other smart devices in the home as well as using all those clever and convenient Alexa skills.
The real difference between Amazon Echo and Amazon Dot is the speaker.
If you’re not so worried about super quality sound, and are more concerned with smart home integration, then the less powerful speaker of the Echo Dot will not be an issue for you.
Even though the speaker may not be quite as powerful, the Echo Dot is designed to connect easily to existing home speakers via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or cable.
- Fantastic voice recognition
- Can be linked to other Echo smart speakers
- Compatible with a wide range of smart home devices
- Access to a huge range of apps
- Affordable price
- Bluetooth and Wifi support
- Nice, sophisticated design with a small footprint
- Speakers aren’t very powerful when compared to more expensive speakers on this list
- Music can’t be synced across multiple echo devices
Just like the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, the eufy Genie wireless smart speaker has Alexa built in, which means it benefits from nearly all the available Alexa skills as well as being able to control all Alexa compatible smart home devices, using only the sound of your voice.
Connect to the eufy app via your Android or iOS smartphone to set up the Genie and access Alexa.
Shaped like a hockey puck, the eufy Genie features far field microphones for voice recognition, and a 2W aluminium cone speaker for reasonable sound quality for such a small sized audio device.
This smart speaker also features an auxiliary port, which means that you can plug it into larger speaker to boost the sound.
- Slightly better sound quality than the Echo Dot
- Easy to install and set up
- Sleek, attractive design
- Capable of controlling compatible smart home devices
- Straightforward smartphone app
- Doesn’t support Alexa calls and messaging
- Lacks Bluetooth connectivity
- Speaker isn’t very powerful
KitSound Voice One is an intelligent wireless speaker equipped with Amazon Alexa AI technology to enable voice commands for all kinds of requests, as well as the option to operate the speaker by remote control.
Two 2.5 inch drivers and a large bass port give a sound output of 20W, which is distributed on both sides of the wedge shaped design to provide almost 360° sound.
Wirelessly connect up to 8 Voice One smart speakers together to play music in every room of the house.
Another cool little plus point for this wireless smart speaker is that it features a USB socket specially designed for charging USB devices.
- Features both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
- Useful USB port
- Can be connected to a network of other Voice One speakers
- Reasonable audio quality
- Can be used to control smart home devices
- KitSound app works well
- Attractive design
- Easy to set up
- Voice recognition could be better
- Construction is a little flimsy
- Bass can be overpowering
Which do you think is the best smart speaker?