Best Smart Speakers of 2021

Good sound that works with a smart home comes at a price.
  • Best Value
    Excellent sound
    Sonos policies
  • Best Smart Hub
    Smart home hub
    More expensive
  • Best High-End Option
    High-end speaker
    Not as widespread
  • Best Budget Pick
    Fraction of the cost

If you love listening to music, it makes sense to get a smart speaker that you can control with your voice. Or, if you have smart lights and smart locks, you might like smart speakers as your next step in creating a connected home.

To help you choose the best option, we’ll talk about the best smart speakers and why we like them.

Best smart speakers of 2020 comparison
ModelImagePriceVoice assistantLearn more
Sonos OneSonos One$199.00AlexaView on Amazon
Echo StudioAmazon Echo Studio$199.99AlexaView on Amazon
Apple HomePodApple HomePod$299.00SiriView at B&H
Google Nest MiniGoogle Nest Mini$49.99Google AssistantView at Best Buy List Prices (as of 12/14/2020 12:45 MST) Full disclaimer

Sonos One: Best value

Get Sonos sound with Alexa assistance at a reasonable price.

With Sonos One, you get superior sound with Alexa built right in.


  • Excellent sound
  • Alexa built in
  • Sonos partnership with Ikea


  • Sonos update policies

What we like

You don’t need to buy a separate Echo to control your music.

The Sonos One is first and foremost a speaker, so the sound is much better than what you get with some products. And Alexa’s already integrated, so you don’t even need to buy a separate Echo to control your music. Your voice works with the speaker alone.

Finally, Sonos is working with Ikea to create furniture with smart speakers. So if you decide you want some new Swedish furniture, your Sonos One should be compatible already.

Sonos One price and features
ModelPriceSmart home integrationsLearn more
Sonos One$199.00Alexa, Google Assistant, Sonos, Apple Airplay 2View on Amazon List Price (as of 12/14/2020 12:45 MST)

As you can see, this speaker costs a lot but isn’t crazy expensive. You get high-quality sound without breaking the bank!

What we don’t like

In the past, Sonos quit updating the software for previous speaker versions. With that behavior pattern, there’s a chance that if you get a Sonos speaker, it’ll become outdated before you’re ready for an upgrade.

Still, the risk is worth it in most cases, because this speaker is awesome.

Info Box icon
Sonos app
You can get the Sonos app from Google Play or on the App Store.

Echo Studio: Best smart hub

If you want full home control with your speaker, try Echo Studio.

Unlike Sonos, Amazon usually stresses “smart,” not “speaker.” But the Amazon Echo Studio makes good use of both aspects with a top-notch speaker that also works as a smart home hub.


  • Smart home hub
  • 3D audio
  • Major compatibility


  • More expensive than other Echos

What we like

A lot of smart home hubs (including some Echo models) have average speakers. We love that Amazon put sound first by creating a super speaker–smart hub combo. The Echo Studio even has 3D audio.

Pin icon
What’s 3D audio?
In real life, we naturally experience audio in 3D (from all directions). 3D audio speakers try to mimic that effect.¹
Echo Studio price and features
ModelPriceSmart home integrationsLearn more
Echo Studio$199.99Ring, Wyze, Arlo, Ecobee, August, Schlage, Yale, Philips Hue, LIFX, Sengled, Kasa, and moreView on Amazon List Price (as of 12/14/2020 12:45 MST)

As you can see, the compatibility of this thing is nearly endless. Echo was the first smart speaker on the market, and it shows by the sheer magnitude of products it connects with.

What we don’t like

The Echo Studio is one of the more expensive Echos, and it’s hard to justify the cost. You can get the same level of smart home control with an Amazon Echo Dot. You just won’t get as good of sound.

Heads Up icon
Other Amazon Echo smart speakers users love
A lot of consumers and reviewers love the sound of the original Amazon Echo. And since the tiny Amazon Echo Dot got a new and improved speaker, people are having a better listening experience with that one too. (Especially with the version with the smart display clock.)

Apple HomePod: Best high-end speaker

“Siri, find me something that costs a lot.”

If you’re looking for something expensive and exclusive, look no further than the Apple HomePod. This futuristic-looking speaker has a higher price point than our other recommendations.

It’s also perfect for Apple evangelists.


  • Easy iPhone compatibility
  • High-end speaker


  • Not as widespread as Echo or Google Home
Apple HomePod

What we like

“Cheap” doesn’t always carry the day. Sometimes you want something a little bit fancier. Enter the Apple HomePod. It looks super-duper nice and has the price point to prove it.

We also dig the quick compatibility with iPhones, iPads, and Macs. Specifically, HomePod works with Apple devices newer than the iPhone 5, the 2nd-generation iPad Air, and the 6th-generation iPod Touch. It also works with all iPad Pros. Just make sure your device is running the latest version of iOS.

It’s incredibly convenient to have that compatibility, considering that the iPhone 7 is the most popular phone in the world.²

Apple HomePod price and features
ModelPriceSmart home integrationsLearn more
Apple HomePod$299.00Abode, Apple TV, Apple Airplay, Ecobee, Lutron, Kwikset, Logitech, and moreView at B&H

List Price as of 12/14/2020. Offers subject to change.

What we don’t like

Siri may be the most popular smartphone assistant, but she hasn’t caught on as much in the home automation world. Most smart home products are compatible with Amazon Alexa, with Google Assistant, or with both. It’s much more uncommon for a product to be compatible with HomePod/HomeKit.

In short, the main compatibility you get with Apple HomePod is the connection to other Apple products.

Google Nest Mini: Best budget pick

The Google Nest Mini is inexpensive but small.

If the idea of spending $100+ on a smart speaker makes you cringe, we suggest the Google Nest Mini. This tiny speaker doesn’t cost much (relatively speaking), works as a smart home hub, and is compatible with a lot of products.


  • Fraction of the cost
  • Smart home hub
  • Major compatibility
  • Multiple colors
  • Wall mount


  • Small
Google Nest Mini

What we like

Seriously, this is one of the cheapest smart speakers you can buy, but it still works well. And as a Nest Hub, it’s a one-shop stop for connecting and controlling Google Assistant–compatible products.

And, if you want, you can even mount it to the wall!

Info Box icon
Google Nest Mini colors
You can get a Nest Mini in a bunch of different colors, including a stunning sky blue.
Apple HomePod price and features
ModelPriceSmart home integrationsLearn more
Google Nest Mini$49.99Arlo, August, Chromecast, Apple TV, Honeywell, Nest, Abode, ADT, SimpliSafe, Philips Hue, LIFX, Sonos, and moreView at Best Buy

List Price as of 12/14/2020. Offers subject to change.

Like Echos, Google Homes and Nest Hubs are compatible with heaps of smart home products. You’re pretty much guaranteed to find a smart thermostat, smart light bulb, smart plug, or smart security system that will work with the Google Nest Mini.

What we don’t like

We were honestly surprised to learn that this speaker is the Google Assistant pick for so many people. It’s smaller than the other speakers, so the sound quality isn’t as good as the bigger Google Assistant devices. There just isn’t as much space to resonate.

Other smart speakers we like

These runner-ups didn’t make it into the top four, but we still like them.

We considered more than 30 speakers. Not all of them could be winners, but here are a few we like enough to mention separately.

Sonos Beam

If you want the ultimate home theatre, consider the Sonos Beam smart soundbar. You get that sweet Sonos sound in soundbar form. And, like with the Sonos One, Alexa’s built right in.

Bose Portable Home Speaker

The Bose Portable Home Speaker is our favorite portable speaker we’ve seen. It works with Alexa and Google Assistant, it has Bluetooth connectivity, and it’s water-resistant.

Plus, the sound is fantastic (as we tend to expect from the Bose name).

Marshall Stanmore II Voice

If aesthetic is the most important thing to you, we recommend the Marshall Stanmore II Voice. Or almost any Marshall speaker at all, really. These vintage-looking speakers have us drooling based on their looks alone.

Just be prepared to spend a lot; the Marshall Stanmore II isn’t cheap.

Heads Up icon
One or the other
You have to pick between Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant with Marshall. It sells different speaker versions that are compatible with different voice assistants.

Ultimate Ears Megablast

This speaker appears to be virtually indestructible. If you for some reason want a speaker that can be immersed in water for half an hour (maybe you’re a part-time mermaid?), this is for you.

Oh, and it also has Alexa.

Recap: Which smart speaker is best?

When considering every piece of the puzzle, we recommend Sonos One as our top choice.

When it comes to smart speakers, you have lots of different options. It all comes down to what you want.

As a reminder, here’s what we’re digging.

Sonos One: Best value—Great sound and Amazon Alexa control without selling off the family farm? Yes please.

Echo Studio: Best smart hub—Get the smart home graces of an Echo with studio-level sound thrown in.

Apple HomePod: Best high-end option—Spend a little more to get this quality Apple speaker.

Google Nest Mini: Best budget pick—Cut the expense while still getting the power of Google Assistant.

If you realized you’re looking for more of a smart home hub than a speaker, here’s our smart hub review.

Is your house ready for a smart speaker?

To use your smart speaker to its fullest capacity, you need a reliable internet connection. You also need fast internet with lots of megabits per second if you use your speaker as a smart hub.

Recommended internet plans for smart speakers
ServicePlanPriceDownload speedDetails
Xfinity Internet - WestBlast! Pro Plus$74.99*400 MbpsView Plans
Verizon Fios Home InternetInternet 400/400$64.99/mo.400 MbpsView Plans
AT&T FiberAT&T Internet 1000$60/mo.940 MbpsView Plan
Data effective 11/04/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement.
w/ Auto Pay + taxes & equip. charges.
Ltd. avail/areas for 12 mos, plus taxes & equip. fee. Autopay & Paperless Bill req'd. $10/mo equip. fee applies

Smart speaker FAQ

Does a smart speaker need a screen?

No. Actually, most smart speakers come without a smart display. However, some of them have mobile apps that you can access through your phone.

Which virtual assistant is the best virtual assistant?

That’s hard to say in today’s market. Voice assistants keep getting smarter and more articulate, with evolving features like bilingualism and voice recognition.

We’ll make it easy and say that we’ve noticed that Amazon’s Alexa has the best spatial awareness, while Google is better with imprecise wording. We haven’t spent as much time with Apple’s Siri (yet), so we can’t speak much to her. And Cortana is … Cortana.

What makes a speaker smart?

In this review, we’re defining a smart speaker as a speaker with some type of voice command or voice control. The voice control can either be built in or provided by a connecting smart device.


  1. Wikipedia, “3D Audio Effect,” January 2020. Accessed August 3, 2020.
  2. Audrey Conklin, Fox Business, “What Is the Most Popular Smartphone in the World Right Now?” April 27, 2020. Accessed August 3, 2020.

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