Best Smart Speakers of 2022
Models from Amazon, Apple, Google, and Sonos deliver sound quality, value, and in one case, a convenient screen
Today’s smart speakers are much more versatile, better-sounding, and yes, smarter than the original Amazon Echo.
But while consumers shopping for a smart speaker now have a wealth of truly great options, that diversity makes finding a model with the right design, the right features, and the right price more of a challenge.
Best Portable Smart Speaker
A really good-sounding but somewhat large travel companion, the Sonos Move features a rechargeable battery and a recessed handle for easier carrying.
The model doesn’t need WiFi because it’s Bluetooth-compatible, which allows easy streaming from a smartphone. But the size and 6.6-pound weight make it better suited to a quick trip from the family room to the patio than a ride to the shore in your beach bag.
As with Sonos’s other models, the Move can also sit at the heart of a WiFi-powered multiroom system that allows you to listen to the “How Did This Get Made” podcast in the kitchen while your significant other streams Alicia Keys upstairs. The Move can even add Bluetooth pairing to an existing Sonos system, so you can play music directly from the song list on your phone.
Like the Sonos One, the Move works with Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant. You can also stream music to it through Apple AirPlay, but there’s no built-in support for Siri.
Best Smart Speaker With a Screen
Amazon’s Echo Show 10 features a large 10-inch touch-screen display that uses motion-sensing technology and a silent electric motor hidden in its base to follow you as you move around. It’s great for reading a recipe or watching a quick how-to video in your kitchen, tasks that you might otherwise consign to a phone or tablet, but with the Show 10 there’s no need to touch the screen with messy hands.
Our testers found the model to be super-easy to set up and use, and quite versatile. The sound quality is fine, but it falls a little short of the previous generation Show, largely because of a slight plasticky distortion in the midrange.
Before you buy it, though, make sure you have the space to safely set up the Show 10. The instructions advise you to map out an area roughly the size of a beach ball and keep it clear. We discovered that if items—like a metal travel mug or a large bottle of oil—are placed too close to the Show 10’s screen, the powerful motor can knock them over, which could pose a safety hazard.
For some, the specter of a screen with a camera that tracks your movements in a room may also be a little unnerving, although there’s always the option to turn off the device when it’s not in use.
Best $100 Smart Speaker
The latest orblike Amazon Echo tops its predecessor, the classic cylindrical Echo, in a number of important ways. The sonics are significantly improved, with a strong but slightly boomy bass and enough volume to fill a midsized room. Our testers also found that two Echo speakers sound good when paired in stereo, delivering you-are-there appeal.
Best-Sounding Smart Speaker
With the departure of Google’s great-sounding Home Max, the latest iteration of the Sonos One inherits the title of the best-sounding smart speaker in our ratings.
Our testers found the Sonos One’s sound to be clear and detailed, so you can hear nuances like a singer breathing or a pianist creaking the pedals. The bass is tight and has an impact in a way that’s likely to get your foot tapping (or other body parts shaking), though the speaker’s modest size prevents it from delivering bass that’s super-deep.
And two Sonos Ones are better than one, our testers report. Because the speaker is monophonic, the sense that the musicians are in the room with you improves a lot when the model is stereo-paired with a second one.
The Sonos One is also one of the few smart speakers that offers multiple options for digital assistants. It’s compatible with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, but not Apple’s Siri. You can stream music to the device via Apple’s AirPlay, though. And, of course, the model can be incorporated into a versatile multiroom system with other Sonos speakers, working compatibly with the company’s recent nonsmart wireless speakers.
If you’re looking for the best possible smart speaker sound, another option is to pair a cheap smart speaker like the Echo Dot (below) or Google’s Nest Mini with a top-rated Bluetooth speaker such as the Edifier S1000MkII. That’s an easy way to add AI power to a great-sounding music setup for relatively little money.
Best Google Smart Speaker
The Google Nest Audio replaces the old Google Home, which resembled an old-school air freshener, and adds an all-new design, with a separate tweeter and woofer replacing the single driver of the old model.
Some people like Google Assistant better than Alexa, but it comes down to personal preference. Alexa smart speakers have a wider variety of skills, but some users find Google’s interface to be more natural and easier to use.
While Google has touted the Nest Audio’s sonic performance, our testers found that the gains are more modest. The speaker generates enough volume for a midsized room, but the midrange is a little hazy and there’s some sizzle on the high frequencies. While it’s better than that old Google Home, the Nest Audio still can’t compete with the best-sounding smart speakers. It also doesn’t sound quite as good as the similarly priced fourth-gen Amazon Echo.
Best Cheap Smart Speaker
In the end, the device doesn’t have to be all that savvy to be a smart speaker. Most of the artificial intelligence magic happens on company servers beyond the speaker itself. And so a small and very inexpensive option like the Amazon Echo Dot can perform most smart speaker functions just as well as a top-of-the-line model.
The latest Echo Dot is easy to recognize, with new globelike styling that replaces the hockey-puck design of previous generations.
The sound quality has improved with this update, too. The speaker provides more extended treble and deeper bass than its predecessor.
It’s still not an ideal choice for cranking out “Since U Been Gone,” but it’s fine for listening to podcasts or maybe some background tunes while you do the dishes. If you want an Amazon speaker and plan to play a lot of music, you might consider the larger and better-sounding fourth-generation Echo or the even-better-sounding Echo Studio.
The Echo Dot can also provide an inexpensive way to add smart speaker functionality to a better-sounding wireless Bluetooth speaker you already own. You can do the same thing with Google’s Nest Mini, which is similarly inexpensive but sounds worse on its own than the new Dot does.
Best Speaker for Apple Fans
If you’re all about Apple, the HomePod Mini is the company’s only smart speaker option now that the better-sounding but more expensive HomePod has been discontinued.
The Mini has sleek, spherical styling and is a solid option for controlling Apple HomeKit smart home products and services such as Apple Music. The Mini also offers voice control for other music services, including Pandora and iHeart Radio, and can integrate with Apple CarPlay, allowing you, for example, to ask Siri about the traffic on your morning commute, and then send directions to your car’s infotainment system.
In terms of sound quality, our testers found the HomePod Mini to be nasal and congested with tubby bass. Sonically, it’s closer to much less-expensive smart speakers like the Echo Dot and Google Nest Mini. The Mini is okay for podcasts or background music in a small room, but it leaves much to be desired when playing your favorite tunes. And unlike those other inexpensive smart speakers, the Mini can’t be paired via Bluetooth with a better-sounding wireless speaker, so you’re stuck with that lackluster sonic performance.
What Makes a Great Speaker?
Do you know the difference between good speakers and excellent speakers? On the “Consumer 101” TV show, a Consumer Reports expert, Elias Arias, explains to host Jack Rico the art of identifying quality devices.