• Bose Home Speaker 300

  • Bose Portable Smart Speaker

  • Nest Audio

  • How We Tested

  • What You Should Know About Smart Speakers

  • Other Smart Speakers We Tested

  • More Articles You Might Enjoy

Our Favorite Smart Speakers of 2021

  1. Best Overall

    Bose Home Speaker 300

    Pros

    • Bluetooth capable

    • Alexa or Google Assistant

    • Physical preset buttons

    Cons

    • None that we could find

    Skip to the full review below
  2. Best Value

    Google Nest Audio

    Pros

    • Great sound for the money

    • Fast Google Assistant

    • Stylish, compact design

    Cons

    • Microphones aren't as sensitive as they could be

    Skip to the full review below
Bose Home Speaker 300
Credit: Sarah Kovac / Reviewed

The Bose Home 300's sleek design fits in well with most decor.

Best Overall
Bose Home Speaker 300

We weren’t sure what to expect upon opening the Bose Home 300 for testing, but we were pleasantly surprised on almost every level. While the sound quality can’t quite compete with the (much larger) Echo Studio, the Bose Home 300 allows users to choose between Alexa or Google Assistant; it has handy preset buttons on the top of the speaker; and it can stream audio over Bluetooth, AirPlay, WiFi, or via an old-school auxiliary cable.

Through its app and smart assistants, the Bose Home 300 can play music from a large number of streaming services, such as Spotify, TuneIn, Amazon Music, Tidal, Pandora, and even Apple Music via Airplay or Bluetooth. The compatible music and podcast sources will vary a bit depending on which smart assistant you choose (you can only use one assistant at a time, however it is very easy to switch in the Bose app).

Though not any larger, this speaker is much louder than most of the other smart speakers we included in this roundup. While the audio quality isn't what we'd call exceptional, it is definitely sufficient for the way most of us use our smart speakers.

Read our full review of the Bose Home 300

Pros

  • Bluetooth capable

  • Alexa or Google Assistant

  • Physical preset buttons

Cons

  • None that we could find

Bose Portable Home Speaker
Credit: Sarah Kovac / Reviewed

The Bose Portable Home is easy to transport, thanks to its compact size and swivel handle.

Best Portable
Bose Portable Smart Speaker

The Bose Portable Smart Speaker is a whole lot like the Bose Home 300. The shape is different, but it’s wrapped in a similar aesthetic, uses the same app, and can work with either Alexa or Google Assistant. This wireless speaker pumps out a lot of sound for its size, and it manages to balance portability and durability surprisingly well. The swivel handle on top makes it very easy to carry, and with its water-resistant design, this speaker is at home outdoors or poolside.

The Bose Portable Smart Speaker's battery lasts for several hours of high-volume music, and if you have another Bose speaker at home, it is capable of being grouped for multi-room music. The optional charging cradle also makes it super easy to grab on the way out the door.

The Portable Smart Speaker has a sturdy, thoughtful design, and it's a pleasure to use in any situation.

Read our full review of the Bose Portable Smart Speaker

Pros

  • Alexa or Google Assistant

  • Bluetooth capable

  • Rugged design

Cons

  • Expensive

Nest Audio
Credit: Reviewed / Rachel Murphy

Nest Audio offers incredible value for a smart speaker, striking an ideal balance between room-filling sound and smarts.

Best Value
Nest Audio

Nest Audio, Google’s latest smart speaker, is an upgraded version of the Google Home but with a focus on sound and faster Google Assistant response times, all for less than $100. Its performance and cost make the Nest Audio an easy pick for the best value on the market.

Touting a sleek new design, the Nest Audio comes in five colors and has three hidden touch controls on top that play or pause music and control the volume. While the bass could be deeper, the speaker puts out crisp and clear sound, even when cranked all the way up. Where this speaker really shines, though, is the Stereo Pairing feature, which allows you to sync two Nest Audio speakers in the same room in stereo. It can also be paired with other Nest speakers for sharp, multi-room audio.

Using the same machine learning chip as the Nest Mini, the Nest Audio's Google Assistant responds quickly (an important factor when choosing a smart speaker). And while it doesn't come with any USB-C or auxiliary input ports, it supports both WiFi and Bluetooth connection, unlike the Sonos One.

Overall, the Nest Audio is a great option for anyone looking for a smart speaker for around $100 that packs in smarts and ear-pleasing sound.

Read our full review of the Nest Audio

Pros

  • Great sound for the money

  • Fast Google Assistant

  • Stylish, compact design

Cons

  • Microphones aren't as sensitive as they could be

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How We Tested

The Tester

I’m Sarah Kovac, and I am the smart home editor here at Reviewed. I’ve been sharing my home with various smart speakers for several years. I use them to control my lights, schedule appointments, lock my door, and get the weather forecast. I’ve used smart speakers to test all the smart home products I’ve reviewed, so I understand how these speakers and their integrated voice control assistants interact with all aspects of a smart home. I even occasionally use Bixby. I'm legit.

The Tests

We were already intimately familiar with many of the speakers included in this roundup, as testing smart home products requires using a variety of smart speakers on a regular basis. Creating a meaningful testing rubric, however, proved to be a somewhat difficult task, as each of these speakers have different use cases and excel in different categories.

The two main criteria we ended up settling on were the speaker’s ability to be useful in a smart home setting, and its capacity to be used by the widest variety of people. As far as audio quality, while some are obviously better than others, most of the speakers we auditioned will perform just fine in the average home.

You probably don't care if a speaker can stream music from 12 different services or allows you to choose between two different assistants. You want a speaker that works with your preferred assistant and your preferred streaming service or music source. The winners we selected offer the largest variety of ways to use them, so chances are our winners will work nicely with whatever setup and services you already have going.

What You Should Know About Smart Speakers

Brand Matters

If you already have smart speakers in your home and use them to communicate with features like Alexa’s Announcement and Drop-In, Google Assistant's Broadcast, or speaker-to-speaker calling, you will probably want to go with an actual Amazon Echo or Google Nest speaker as opposed to a third-party brand with Alexa or Google Assistant but in.

Some third-party speakers don’t have all of the same communications capabilities as their Amazon and Google counterparts. This seems to be more of an issue with Alexa devices than Google Assistant ones, but if you're not intending to use your speaker this way, it's not going to matter which brand you choose. Let me tell you, though, using the speaker to announce or broadcast a message can be life-changing if you have kids ("Dinner's ready!") or realize too late that there's only a single square of toilet paper left on the roll.

Alexa vs. Google Assistant vs. Siri

While Alexa is certainly the most popular smart assistant on the market currently, in our experience Google Assistant tends to be a bit more intuitive and easier to converse with. After using both digital assistants extensively, the majority of our regular smart home writers have bought Google Assistant speakers for their own homes, like the Nest Hub Max smart display.

That being said, Alexa has far more skills (functions that you can choose to enable or disable in the app), and many of us have been around Echo speakers long enough that we’ve learned how to speak fluent Alexa.

Choosing a smart assistant ultimately comes down to personal preference and what other smart home devices you have (or plan to have).

Those who are committed to Apple's ecosystem will definitely be attracted to the HomePod Mini's solid sound quality and built-in Siri. Unfortunately, Apple’s proprietary approach to technology has made it difficult for smart home companies to make their products compatible with HomeKit (the platform that enables you to use Siri to control your smart devices). You can technically run an entire smart home over Siri—you just don’t have a lot of options.

If you're just starting out with smart home tech, we recommend going with a speaker that has either Alexa or Google Assistant over Siri.

Smart Speakers and Privacy

If you're researching smart speakers, bringing an ever-listening, WiFi-connected device into your home might (should!) be a concern. We know that Amazon and Google review and store voice recordings to improve smart assistant accuracy, and there have been instances when Alexa and Google Assistant have misheard commands, leading to some scary invasions of privacy.

That being said, there are steps you can take to protect your privacy from Alexa and Google Assistant. You'll want to pay attention to the setup process in the speaker's associated app, as you'll get the chance to opt out of voice recording storage and review. You can also hop into the settings later to delete voice recordings and adjust other privacy options.


Other Smart Speakers We Tested

Sonos Move

The Sonos Move is the first offering from the brand that supports Bluetooth streaming. This is a big deal, because it opens up a world of streaming possibilities that aren't supported by Sonos' app.

The Move has impressive sound, a very handy charging base, good battery life, and of course it fits into the much-beloved Sonos ecosystem to interface with speakers like the Sonos One, the Ikea-branded Symfonisk, and even the Sonos Arc Dolby Atmos soundbar.

The one real gripe we have about the speaker compared to the Bose Portable Home is that the Move doesn't feel particularly rugged. It’s heavy, so it feels like one good drop on a hard surface would do some serious damage. It has a cutout on the back that allows you to get a solid grip on the speaker if you’re carrying it around, but it’s not as secure in the hand as the Bose Portable Home’s top handle.

In addition, the price is considerably higher than the others we tested, and while Sonos speakers are quite popular, we feel the Sonos ecosystem can be a little finicky if you don’t have it set up just right.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this speaker, and Sonos fans are surely rejoicing over the Bluetooth feature.

Pros

  • Bluetooth capable

  • Alexa or Google Assistant

  • Portable

Cons

  • Geared toward Sonos users

Amazon Echo (4th Gen)

A larger version of the Dot, the new Echo looks nothing like previous generations of Echo speakers, taking on an even more modern and minimal aesthetic as a fabric-covered orb. The status light ring is now around the base of said orb, which is a little more difficult to see from across the room, but it also has the smart home hub capabilities of the previous Echo Plus, and it comes loaded with a new processor that speeds up Alexa's response time.

The sound on the 4th gen Echo is certainly respectable, though it can’t compete with the bass produced by larger speakers like our favorite, the Bose Home 300. But committed Alexa users won’t be disappointed in this new Echo, using it solo, as a stereo pair, or for multi-room music.

Pros

  • Aesthetically pleasing

  • Zigbee hub

  • Clear, relatively full sound

Cons

  • Distorts at top volume

Sonos One (Gen 2)

The Sonos One long reigned king of the third-party smart speakers, but it’s no surprise that competitors didn't allow it to corner the market for long. The top contenders in this list come in at about the same price as the One, and with similarly good sound quality.

The One does produce slightly crisper sound than all of those we tested except the Echo Studio. But the difference in sound is not pronounced enough to matter for most of us, and you'd probably only notice if you had the speakers set up side-by-side, as we did.

That being said, the only thing that kept the Sonos One from being our top pick was the lack of Bluetooth compatibility, which is especially convenient when you have other people over who want to share their music. In addition, either you love the Sonos app, or you find it unintuitive. Our smart home editor is in the latter group.

Read our full Sonos One review here

Pros

  • Great sound quality

  • Alexa or Google Assistant

Cons

  • No Bluetooth

Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)

There are three versions of the Dot: the Dot, the Dot with Clock, and the Dot Kids Edition.

The Dot with Clock has a numerical display on the front that shows the time or status of timers you've set, while the Kids Edition is covered in fun animal designs and comes with a free year of Amazon Kids+ programming and a 2-year guarantee (because kids aren't easy on tech!).

Dots have always had a sleek aesthetic, but the new orb-like design is as minimal as it gets. The Dot looks like a small mesh ball, and with three color options, it will blend nicely with most décor.

Playing bass-heavy tunes makes for a somewhat disappointing experience, acoustic tracks sound pretty respectable.

You just can't expect mind-blowing sound from a speaker barely larger than a baseball, but the Dot allows for a surprisingly decent listening experience, especially when linked with another Dot as a stereo pair. And while larger, more expensive speakers like the 4th-gen Echo or the Bose Home 300 will deliver far superior sound quality, the Dot is certainly sufficient for smart home control, Alexa interactions, and background tunes at dinner.

Read our full review of the Echo Dot

Pros

  • Good value

  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Weak bass

Amazon Echo Studio

If you’re looking for the best sound quality in a midrange smart speaker, and you don’t mind being stuck with Alexa, the Echo Studio is absolutely the best pick.

This speaker is considerably larger than all the others we tested, but the additional size allows for deeper bass, better clarity, and immersive sound. The Studio is also unique in this space as it is designed to deliver 3D sound, thanks to its Dolby Atmos compatibility, including an upward-firing driver that bounces sound off your ceiling to better immerse you.

Usually, we think of surround sound in reference to movies, but there is an entire genre of music that takes advantage of technology like that in the Echo Studio to deliver sound that seems to come from everywhere–even above you, though at the present it's limited to a small list of artists and streaming services, such as Amazon Music Unlimited. Regardless of whether you use this speaker to play 3D music, the sound it delivers will be satisfying.

Pros

  • Exceptional sound

  • Dolby Atmos

Cons

  • Larger than competitors

Marshall Uxbridge Voice

While the Marshall brand is associated with guitar amps and bass cabinets, its recent offering to the smart speaker market shows that it's serious about competing with established smart speaker brands like Sonos. The Uxbridge Voice can be purchased with either Alexa or Google Assistant preinstalled, and the sound quality is alright.

It's the aesthetic of this speaker that really sets it apart from the crowd. Like the rest of the Marshall speaker lineup, it's designed to look like a vintage amp, and even the controls on top for volume, treble, and bass look a bit like guitar frets.

We loved the look of this smart speaker, but it’s not for everybody. And if sound quality is at the top of your smart speaker wish list, you might be slightly disappointed with this one. Marshall does offer the Action II Voice and Stanmore II Voice, the latter of which is an absolute belter. Both come with voice assistants and considerably more power, though they're a lot larger than your average smart speaker.

Pros

  • Comes with either Alexa or Google Assistant

  • Bluetooth capable

Cons

  • Sound quality just so-so

Amazon Echo Flex

We knew there was no way the Echo Flex would win this roundup, but it is such a unique offering that we felt it was worth including.

The Echo Flex is slightly larger than a deck of playing cards, and it plugs directly into an outlet like a nightlight. It takes up zero space on the counter, and you can choose to plug an optional motion sensor or smart nightlight into the speaker. The add-ons snap into the top and can be controlled through the Alexa app.

If you’re short on space but you want Alexa in a room, the Flex is an excellent solution. As you would expect for its size, the sound quality is bad. But it’s perfect for controlling your smart home, checking the weather, listening to the news, etc.

Pros

  • Hangs from wall plug

  • Night light and motion sensor add-ons

Cons

  • Poor sound quality

Google Nest Mini (2nd Gen)

Google’s smallest smart speaker is the perfect entry point for someone who is new to smart home or wants to have several smart speakers throughout the house. While it won't compare favorably to some of the larger (and pricier) speakers on our list, the latest version of the Mini has surprisingly good sound for such a small package.

Most notably, the speaker is one of the most affordable you’ll find, even when it’s not on sale (which happens fairly often). If you're looking for easy access to Google Assistant without spending much cash, the Nest Mini is the way to go.

Pros

  • Small Size

  • Attractive

Cons

  • None that we could find

Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)

The Dot (3rd Gen) may be an older model Echo speaker, but it still gives you access to all the standard Alexa features at a fraction of the price of its larger siblings. However, with the price break, you do have to sacrifice sound quality. The small speaker delivers noticeably low-quality audio playback, though this generation presents a major improvement in that area over its predecessors. There is, however, a 3.5mm input on the back and Bluetooth connectivity, so you can easily connect it to any existing speaker for a boost in audio quality. The speaker is a good pick for college students, people on a budget, people who aren't 100% sure if Alexa is right for them, and Echo enthusiasts who want to fill their home for less.

Pros

  • Affordable

  • Good starter speaker

  • Bluetooth connectivity

Cons

  • Low-quality sound

Apple HomePod Mini

The Mini sounds bigger than its size. It’s probably more reasonable to compare this speaker's sound with that of the 4th-gen Echo than with the Echo Dot, the latter of which is about the same size as the HomePod Mini. This new HomePod almost seems like a speaker twice its size that’s been hit with a shrink ray.

Most people who are interested in smart home technology would be better served opting for an Echo or Nest Audio, either of which offer great sound and far more smart home options, for the exact same price as the Mini. Or, you could pay half of that and get an Echo Dot or Nest Mini.

However, if you use Siri often on your iPhone or iPad and don’t mind looking a little harder for compatible smart tech, you might really love the HomePod Mini. Apple’s products tend to work really nicely together, and they do what they do very well. If you’re OK with fully committing to Apple’s ecosystem, then don’t hesitate. The HomePod Mini is for you.

Read our full review of the HomePod Mini

Pros

  • Great sound

  • Compact

  • Multi-room listening

Cons

  • Siri only

  • Requires iOS device

Meet the testers

Sarah Kovac

Sarah Kovac

Editor, Smart Home

@sarahkovac

Sarah Kovac is an award-winning author and smart home editor for Reviewed. Previously, she worked with a multitude of outlets such as Wirecutter, TIME, PCMag, Prevention, The Atlantic, Reviews.com, CNN, GOOD, Upworthy, Mom.me, and SheKnows.

See all of Sarah Kovac's reviews
Rachel Murphy

Rachel Murphy

Senior Staff Writer

@rachel_murphy

Rachel Murphy covers smart home for Reviewed. She holds a journalism degree from the University of Central Florida. Previously, she worked as a freelance writer for several major outlets and as an associate editorial producer for ABC News' Good Morning America.

See all of Rachel Murphy's reviews

Checking our work.

We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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