Best smart speakers

In the battle of the voice assistants, who reigns supreme?

Georgia Dixon
Digital Content Editor
Read More
February 26, 2021
4 min read

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One in seven Australians have already committed to the smart speaker life, with 79 per cent opting for Google Assistant, 7 per cent Alexa, and 3 per cent Siri. Stats aside, there are now so many smart speakers on the market that it can be pretty tricky to know which is best for you. To help make that decision a little easier, we spent weeks testing out all the smart speakers on the market to narrow down which one is worth your money.

Best smart speaker overall

Amazon Echo

If you’re looking for a great all-rounder to start building your smart home ecosystem, the current-gen Amazon Echo is undoubtedly the best smart speaker available.

In terms of sound quality, it’s second only to the Bose Home 500 (see below), able to crank the volume super loud while still delivering thumping bass. It’s also got a neat design with all the controls you need conveniently located up top.

Alexa is better than ever, and with multiple Echo smart speakers, you can have two-way conversations with people in other rooms, make announcements and control your other smart devices (like light bulbs, doorbells, security cameras and more).

At just under $150, it’s impressively feature-packed for something so budget-friendly.

Runner-up: Google Nest Audio

While it was just knocked out of the top spot by Amazon’s stellar smart speaker, the Google Nest Audio is still a great option, particularly for those already ingrained in the Google ecosystem. If you’ve got a Chromecast or TV that supports Chromecast, it’ll play a lot better with Google Assistant than it will with Alexa. It’s also priced the same as the Echo at $149 (although some retailers offer it cheaper), so ultimately, it comes down to whether you prefer Google Assistant or Alexa. If you haven’t tried either before, you can download their respective apps for free before you commit.

Best budget smart speaker

Amazon Echo Dot

It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that our top pick’s baby brother is also our top pick in the budget category. The only real difference between the two is size, but even so, the Echo Dot is still impressively powerful for its diminutive stature. We also like that Amazon opted to keep the same design for its mini speaker as its flagship, meaning the lineup looks far more cohesive than it has in previous generations.

Not only does the Echo Dot deliver similarly high-quality audio as its big bro, but it’s also capable of everything the Echo can do, from making announcements to being a control centre for all your smart home devices. Plus, it’s only $79, so it’s a great alternative for those looking to stay under the $100 mark.

Runner up: Google Nest Mini

Again, this comes down to a matter of preference. If you prefer Google Assistant, go with the Nest Mini. However, the Echo Dot pushed the Mini into second place thanks to its superior sound quality (and the ability to go impressively loud for such a tiny thing). Like the Echo Dot, the Google Nest Mini can do all the same things as its bigger sibling and costs $79, so it’s a good option as a secondary smart speaker.

Best-sounding smart speaker

Bose Home 500

If money is no object and you only want the best, the Bose Home 500 smart speaker is for you. At an RRP of just under $600, it’s one of the most expensive smart speakers available in Australia. However, you do get the high-quality audio you’d expect from Bose, and for some, that price just might make it worth it - especially if you plan on listening to a lot of music.

Aside from the sound, we loved the design of the Bose Home 500. We tested the Lux Silver model, and it sure lives up to its name. With a seamless matte aluminium grille covering the speaker and a small LCD to show whatever it is you’re listening to, it actually makes quite an attractive feature.

The Bose Home 500 also offers you the luxury of choice, with both Alexa and Google Assistant built-in, so you’ve got the best of both worlds.

Runner-up: Amazon Echo

While it’s priced at a quarter of the Bose Home 500’s RRP, the Amazon Echo punches well above its weight when it comes to audio quality. It can’t quite reach the same insane volume of the Bose Home 500, nor can it mimic the sound signature for which Bose is known, but it can still produce well-balanced audio with surprisingly deep bass. If you want something that sounds good but won’t cost as much as a return flight to Bali, the Amazon Echo is your best bet.

Best smart speaker for multi-room

HomePod Mini

As much as we loved the HomePod Mini, some of its features are limited to users who have multiple units. However, if you’re looking to set up a nice multi-room group, the HomePod Mini really shines when it’s paired with some buddies.

Despite its small size, the HomePod Mini can really fill a room with sound - and it sounds damn good. While you won’t be able to control Spotify with your voice (only through your device), Siri can help you with just about everything else.

What makes the HomePod Mini such a multi-room powerhouse is its seamless hand-off and intercom features. To transfer whatever you’re listening to from one room to another, all you have to do is say, “Hey Siri, move this to the kitchen” and your music, podcast or audiobook will follow you. You can also broadcast voice messages to every (or a select one) speaker in your home, and you can do it from the speaker itself, or pretty much any compatible Apple device (including your Apple Watch) by saying, “Hey Siri, Intercom dinner’s ready”.

Runner-up: Amazon Echo and Echo Dot

Yep, these guys again. While Apple’s take on multi-room functionality is a bit smoother and more user-friendly, Amazon still does a good job. You can’t hand off whatever you’re listening to to a different speaker, but you can simply ‘pause’ it on one and ‘play’ it on another. And, like the HomePod Mini, you can use your Echo or Echo dot to broadcast announcements to other speakers. You can even ‘drop-in’ on another speaker, allowing you to have a two-way conversation with whoever’s in that room.

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Build your smart home

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Georgia Dixon
Written by
Georgia Dixon
Georgia Dixon has over seven years' experience writing about all things tech, entertainment and lifestyle, with bylines in TechLife magazine, 7NEWS and Stuff.co.nz. In her spare time, you'll find her playing games and daydreaming about good food, wine, and dogs.

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