Smart Speaker Buyer's Guide

Smart Speaker Buyer's Guide

Smart Speakers have been on the market for around seven years and remain one of the most popular home purchases and gifts. And why not? They provide personalised music and audiobook listening, information and advice, fun and games, and much more, all from a tiny box that anyone can talk to. 

A guide to smart speakers

As devices that can do so much, there’s a constant push for the latest smart speaker. From turning on the lights and starting the robot vacuum to helping people with mobility or accessibility issues with their daily tasks, smart speakers can play a role in everyone’s life. 

People often have two or more around the home as they have upgraded to smaller models, those with larger speakers or more powerful editions, while some brands have found new niches for bedroom and bathroom use. 

Major brands like Apple, Google and Amazon dominate the smart speaker market due to the background AI that handles voice requests and delivers services. But others are taking an interest and delivering lower-cost, better-sounding or more innovative devices. Most units have a ring of microphones to capture your voice from around the room and small but powerful speakers with internal designs to spread sound. 

This creates several questions that buyers need to ask before choosing a smart speaker, which we cover in this guide. Do you only want to listen to music? Will a screen help your experience? And what sort of services do you want to use?

Which provider for your smart speaker?

Amazon kicked off the smart speaker revolution in 2015 with the Amazon Echo, powered by Alexa’s smart AI. Favoured by Amazon account holders, it can provide alerts about incoming parcels or services as well as deliver a full roster of media or other services. 

Apple launched Siri with its iPhone 4S model, but it was inevitable that the voice service would get its own home hardware. Yet, Apple’s HomePod, launched in 2018,  is more of a high-quality music speaker and only has limited smart home services.

Google got into the smart speaker market in 2017 to ensure its Google Nest Home service wouldn’t miss out. Its lower-cost pricing encouraged others to support smaller cheaper devices. 

Other providers include Sonos and Yamaha, packing in their high-end speaker technology for a big sound musical experience. If you have a preferred brand, then you need to pick a budget or product size and you are good to purchase. 


Model

Specification

Features

Cost

Amazon Echo Dot 4th Gen Smart Speaker 

Size H8.97, W10, D10cm.

3 internal speakers.

Bluetooth compatible.

3.5mm AUX in.

15-watts


Colours: black, white, blue


Supports Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify and others

£39

Amazon Echo Dot Smart Speaker 

Size H4.3, W9.9, D9.9cm. 1x2-watt internal speaker.

Bluetooth compatible.

3.5mm AUX in.

1 amplifier channel.

Frequency 100Hz-20000Hz.

Colours: plum, white, charcoal, heather


Receive and make phone calls

£34

Apple HomePod Mini Smart Speaker 

Size H8.43, W9.79 cm

1 internal speaker.

Compatible with iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Bluetooth compatible.

Frequency 50Hz-60Hz.

Colours: white or space grey


Glowing top panel
Streams third-party music over AirPlay

£99

Google Nest Mini Smart Speaker


Size H4.2, W9.8, D9.8cm.

1 internal speaker.

Compatible with iPhone .

Bluetooth compatible.

Lightning connector.

Colours: white or charcoal

£49

Amazon Echo Show 8 Smart Speaker


Size H20.8, W10.6, D20.6cm.

8-inch HD screen

2 internal speakers.

Bluetooth compatible.

3.5mm AUX in.

20 watts power.

1 amplifier channel.

Colours: Black or white

£99

Sonos Five Wireless Smart Speaker


Size H203, W364, D154cm.

6 internal speakers.

Compatible with iPhone and iPad.

3.5mm AUX in.

Bass reflex.

Colours: Black or white 

£499


Choose what level of audio fidelity you want, and pick the right brand and budget for you. 

Note that some smart speakers are available as part of smarthome starter kits with popular smart light bulbs if you want to start off a smart home project, or just want a bulb that does disco lights in time to the tunes you play. 




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