Best Smart Speakers of 2021

Find out each brand's specialties in our comparison of the best smart speakers.
Best overall
Sonos One (Gen 2)
Sonos One (Gen 2)
4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Best audio
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Alexa and Google voice controls
  • Icon Cons  Light
    No Bluetooth
Best budget
Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)
Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)
4.3 out of 5 stars
4.25
  • Icon Cons  Light
    Good audio
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Alexa voice controls
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Bluetooth
Best voice controls
Google Nest Audio
Google Nest Audio
4.3 out of 5 stars
4.25
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Better audio
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Google voice controls
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Bluetooth
Best portable speaker
JBL Link Portable
JBL Link Portable
4 out of 5 stars
4
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Better audio
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Google voice controls
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Bluetooth
Best for HomeKit
Apple HomePod mini
4 out of 5 stars
4
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Better audio
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Siri voice controls
  • Icon Cons  Light
    No Bluetooth

At SafeWise, we tend to focus more on the home automation and home security advantages of smart speakers. But guess what else we’re suckers for? Audio quality. That’s why we chose the Sonos One (Gen 2), which produces rich audio—at both high and low frequencies—that most folks will enjoy.

Sonos One also has a superpower: it uses both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice controls (sadly not at the same time). This means you can choose your preferred voice assistant to manage your smart home. Read our full comparison to see how other smart speaker brands stack up and which tasks suit them best.



Compare smart speakers

Product
Price*
Voice assistant and smart home
Speakers
Wireless music streaming
Learn more
Best overall
Sonos One (Gen 2)Sonos One
(Gen 2)
Amazon,
Google
Tweeter,
Mid-woofer,
Amplifiers (2)
Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2
Best budget
Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)Amazon Echo Dot
(4th Gen)
Amazon1.6 in. front-firing speakerWi-Fi, Bluetooth
Best voice controls
Google Nest AudioGoogle Nest Audio
Google0.75 in. tweeter,
3 in. woofer
Wi-Fi, Chromecast, Bluetooth
Best portable speaker
JBL Link PortableJBL Link Portable
Google1.9 in. transducerWi-Fi, Chromecast,
AirPlay 2, Bluetooth
Best for HomeKit
Apple HomePod mini
AppleFull-range driver,
passive radiator (2)
Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2

*Amazon.com list price as of 08/26/2021 at 3:52 p.m. (MT). Read full disclaimer.

Smart speaker reviews

1. Sonos One (Gen 2): Best overall

Best overall
Sonos One (Gen 2)
Sonos One (Gen 2)
Our Rating
4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5
$225.00

Amazon.com list price as of 08/26/2021 at 3:52 p.m. (MT). Read full disclaimer.

This one’s for the music lovers. We chose the Sonos One (Gen 2) for our audio quality pick thanks to tons of online reviews praising its balanced performance with music. It costs around $200, which is on par with the Amazon Echo Studio.

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Rich, balanced audio performance
Pro Bullet Reasonably priced
Pro Bullet Alexa and Google Assistant built in
Pro Bullet Apple AirPlay 2 support
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet Alexa and Google don't work simultaneously
Con Bullet No Bluetooth audio
Bell
Sonos Move

The Sonos Move (about $600) is essentially a portable version of the Sonos One. Its battery lasts up to 11 hours, it supports Bluetooth audio, and it's weather resistant so you can enjoy music poolside.

Sonos One can also link wirelessly to other Sonos speakers for a whole-home audio system. Now your music doesn't need to stick to a specific room. In our experience, Sonos does multi-room audio better than Echo and Google. We also like that this speaker works with Apple AirPlay 2, allowing you to play tunes from your favorite Apple devices.

We absolutely love its two major voice assistant platform options: Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. This is the kind of flexibility that defines a standout smart home device.

Although the two voice platforms live in the same house on the Sonos One, they don't speak to each other, so you need to toggle between them in the mobile app if you plan to use both. We recommend trying out both when you first buy the speaker and choosing one that makes sense for your needs.

While the Sonos One includes a Bluetooth radio, it doesn't stream audio from smartphones like you'd expect. You should plan to use supported mobile apps and services like Spotify, YouTube Music, Amazon Music, and Sonos Radio.

Light Bulb
Works with Sonos

Sonos even supports smart home devices independently from Alexa and Google—like Lutron, Alarm.com, Brilliant, and IKEA Home Smart, to name a few.

2. Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen): Best budget

Best budget
Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)
Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)
Our Rating
4.3 out of 5 stars
4.25
$49.99

Amazon.com list price as of 08/26/2021 at 3:52 p.m. (MT). Read full disclaimer.

Amazon Echo smart speakers could dominate this entire list in almost every way. Instead, we chose the attribute that best describes them: value. Nothing screams this more than the Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen), which costs around $50 and is a gateway to the broader Alexa ecosystem.

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Affordable
Pro Bullet Best smart home compatibility
Pro Bullet Seriously cute
Pro Bullet Tons of Echo models to choose from
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet Clunky in-app smart home controls
Con Bullet No portable Echo speaker
Bell
Amazon Echo (4th Gen)

The $100 Amazon Echo (4th Gen) is a bit larger than the Echo Dot but sports the same ball-shaped design. That bigger size packs in a 3-inch subwoofer and two 0.8-inch tweeters for great audio performance. It also has a built-in Zigbee smart hub that controls devices like smartbulbs, smart locks, and smart plugs.

This Amazon Alexa smart speaker boasts a seriously cute spherical shape (especially the $60 Echo Dot Kids Edition—go Team Panda!). Its front-firing speaker projects sound out into a room rather than at the ceiling like older puck-shaped Echo Dots. The audio quality doesn't match larger speakers, but it's more than enough for most folks, especially at this price.

Alexa's smart device compatibility is still the best in the business, with more brands supporting Alexa than Google Assistant or Apple HomeKit (Siri). But if you read our Google vs. Alexa article, you probably know we're not fans of the Alexa app's clunky smart home controls.

Alexa doesn't really have a portable Alexa speaker you can take on the go (we miss you, Amazon Tap). But Amazon sells a vast selection of smart speakers. And, overall, we think that Echo smart speakers are the best choices for most folks since they balance price and quality—even if they don't quite match pricier audiophile brands like Sonos, JBL, and Bose.

Check out our Ultimate Guide to Alexa and Amazon Echo to learn more about Amazon's smart home offerings.

3. Google Nest Audio: Best voice controls

Best voice controls
Google Nest Audio
Google Nest Audio
Our Rating
4.3 out of 5 stars
4.25
$99.99

Info current as of 08/26/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

In our experience, Google Assistant's voice controls outperform Alexa because they make it easier to issue multiple commands and offer more accurate answers to questions. That's why we chose the Nest Audio (about $100) as our favorite smart speaker for voice controls.

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Excellent voice controls
Pro Bullet Attractive design
Pro Bullet Strong audio performance
Pro Bullet Intuitive in-app smart home controls
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet Not a ton of bass
Con Bullet Less smart home compatibility than Alexa
Con Bullet Fewer music services than Alexa
Bell
Google Nest Mini

The Google Nest Mini costs around $50, making it a great Echo Dot alternative for folks that prefer Google Assistant. We especially like the wall-mounting notch on the back—you don't need a third-party mounting bracket, unlike the Echo Dot.

Google took four years to replace its Google Home speaker—this new version sports a more attractive design, fabric coverings, and improved sound quality. But it doesn't pack the bass of premium speakers like the Sonos One.

We love that its app controls for smart home devices are a little easier to use than Alexa's. But Google Assistant fails to match the smart home selection and compatibility of Amazon Echo, which had a two-year head start into the category.

Google also supports fewer music streaming services than Alexa (more so since discontinuing Google Play Music this year). While it supports popular services like Spotify, TuneIn, and Pandora, it's missing heavy-hitters like Apple Music and Amazon Music. In any case, we think that Nest Audio is the best smart speaker for voice controls and Google purists.

Learn more in our Ultimate Guide to Google Assistant and Google Nest Products.

Light Bulb
Google Nest Hub Max

The Google Nest Hub Max (about $230) is our favorite smart display because it supports so many video streaming services. These include big names not available on Amazon Echo Show smart displays like HBO Max and YouTube. Plus, its integrated camera works with Nest Aware cloud storage as a security camera.

4. JBL Link Portable: Best portable speaker

Best portable speaker
JBL Link Portable
JBL Link Portable
Our Rating
4 out of 5 stars
4
$179.00

Info current as of 08/26/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

There's a fair amount of competition for portable speakers with built-in voice controls, but we think that the JBL Link Portable (about $180) is the cream of the crop. Not only does it use Google Assistant, our favorite digital assistant, but it's also waterproof and has glowing reviews for audio quality.

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Excellent audio performance
Pro Bullet Lightweight, compact design
Pro Bullet Waterproof
Pro Bullet Google Assistant voice controls
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet Shorter battery life than competition
Con Bullet Less powerful bass than larger portable speakers
Notepad
Secretly a Samsung smart speaker

Samsung owns Harman International, which manufactures JBL and Harman Kardon products. While we may never see the mystical Samsung Galaxy Home smart speaker with Bixby, Samsung fans certainly have some good options to choose from.

We like that the JBL Link Portable is fully waterproof. If the rain starts falling, just pack up your picnic to some tunes and grab the speaker before you head out. It also has a compact design that isn't too bulky to throw in a bag and even looks great indoors on a charging dock.

At 1.6 pounds, it's one of the lightest portable smart speakers we looked at, especially compared to the 6.6-pound Sonos Move and 3.3-pound Sony Extra Bass. Unfortunately, that lightness results in low battery life (just eight playback hours). Most larger smart speakers can last as long as 12 hours.

Because it's a smaller speaker, you don't have access to the booming subwoofer that heavier portable speakers offer. Fortunately, this isn't too big of a deal for folks that want some bass but not enough to rattle windows. In the end, the JBL Link Portable is a worthwhile purchase when you want a Google smart speaker on the go.

Bell
JBL Link Music

The JBL Link Music doesn't have the portability of its colleague. But it's an affordable indoor smart speaker with decent sound quality and a chiclet-style design that predates the Nest Audio by a year.

5. Apple HomePod mini: Best for HomeKit

Best for HomeKit
Apple HomePod mini
Our Rating
4 out of 5 stars
4
$99.99

Info current as of 08/26/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

From an audio perspective (especially in pairs), the HomePod mini is probably one of the best smart speakers you can buy. It achieves this rich audio thanks to full-range driver and a two passive radiators. Though the size keeps it from topping the Sonos One.

You can use the HomePod mini as a hub for HomeKit devices like smart locks and security cameras. While we love how convenient the Apple Home app is, HomeKit-compatible devices are among the most expensive you'll find on the market. It's light-years behind Alexa and Google in both compatibility and affordability.

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Excellent audio performance
Pro Bullet HomeKit smart hub
Pro Bullet Siri voice controls
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet Requires Apple device to use

The Apple HomePod mini is a bit of a black sheep among smart speakers; not only is it the only speaker with Siri voice controls, but it's also exclusive to Apple users. You can't even go through setup unless you have an iPhone or iPad. This isn't a problem for iPhone users, but HomePod mini misses a huge swath of the market because Apple is the paragon of incompatibility.

At $100, this smart speaker is very competitive with the Amazon Echo and Google Nest Audio. This make more sense for casual Apple fans unwilling to spend $300 on the original HomePod (now discontinued). Overall, if you're an iPhone user and want one of the best music experiences, it's hard to go wrong with the HomePod mini.

More brands we considered

Bang & Olufsen

Amazon.com list price as of 08/26/2021 at 3:52 p.m. (MT). Read full disclaimer.

The Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (around $250) is a portable Alexa alternative to Google-powered JBL. It's just as compact but sports an 18-hour battery life and is a bit lighter. It just missed being our top portable pick thanks to a price tag that's 25% higher than JBL.

Sony

Amazon.com list price as of 08/26/2021 at 3:52 p.m. (MT). Read full disclaimer.

Sony stands out for its Extra Bass portable Amazon Alexa speaker: the XB402M  (about $250). We like that it's water resistant, have colorful LED lights, and can last up to 12 hours on a charge. But it's not something to carry around in a bag. It clocks in at 3.3 pounds—twice as heavy as JBL—and isn't as compact.

Final word

We think that the Sonos One is the best smart speaker for most folks since it gives you remarkable audio quality and your choice of voice assistant. If it's too expensive for your tastes, there's no shame in choosing the Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) or Google Nest Audio, which are just as worthwhile.

When it comes to building your smart home, smart speakers are the tip of the iceberg. Check out our related articles below to discover your next smart home product you didn't know you needed.

Smart speaker FAQ

The defining attribute of a smart speaker is voice control (and the internet connectivity behind it). This means you can play music, activate smart home devices, and ask for information using the sound of your voice. Smart speakers also have a mobile app, but voice controls are generally more convenient.

Here are some ways to jumpstart your search:

  • Voice assistant: Look for a smart speaker that includes your preferred voice assistant. The basic functionality of digital assistants is comparable, but there are subtle differences in compatibility and performance.
  • Music: If you're a music connoisseur, most smart speakers that cost $100 or more are great for this. Many cheaper smart speakers work fine for music, but don't expect a ton of bass or volume.
  • Smart home: If you're into smart home controls, focus on compatibility with your favorite smart home devices. It's okay to buy a cheap smart speaker ($50 or less) if music isn't your primary goal.
  • Aesthetic: If you're into interior design, choose a smart speaker to match your style. Most models are available in multiple colors, and there are attractive options for every major smart assistant.

Yes, smart speakers always listen for specific wake words like “Alexa,” Hey Google,” and “Hey Siri” so they know when to act. Fortunately, you can quickly delete recordings and adjust privacy settings using the app for the virtual assistant equipped with your smart speaker. Most speakers also have a physical mute button that turns off voice commands altogether when you don’t need them.

Smart speakers can usually make outgoing phone calls, though this feature isn’t available in every country. Alexa supports calls in the US, UK, Canada, and Mexico, while Google Assistant can call numbers in the US and Canada. Siri requires an iPhone to make phone calls.

How we reviewed

We researched and chose seven voice-controlled speakers (down from over 70) with callouts to other models that deserved at least a passing mention.

  • We saved smart displays for later review, but we might shout out a few where relevant—this cut 13 products and two brands: Facebook and Lenovo.
  • We also ruled out streaming devices and soundbars—so Roku, TiVo, and NVIDIA aren't on this list.
  • Then, we removed all smart speakers over $300, which are mostly upgrades of less expensive speakers from brands like Bose, Harman Kardon, JBL, and Sonos.
  • Next, we skipped dual-purpose smart speakers like Ecobee thermostats and some Google Nest products.
  • Finally, we curated representative products that embody each brand's strengths.

While we tested some of these speakers in-house, we didn't test them all. We researched customer reviews and online audio communities to fill in the gaps for a more comprehensive perspective. Learn more about our ranking philosophy.

Related articles on SafeWise


Disclaimers

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon. This content is provided “as is” and is subject to change or removal at any time.

†Google, Google Nest, Google Assistant, and other related marks are trademarks of Google LLC.

John Carlsen
Written by
John Carlsen
John is a technology journalist specializing in smart home devices, security cameras, and home security systems. He has over eight years of experience researching, testing, and reviewing the latest tech—he was the Smart Home Editor for Top Ten Reviews and wrote for ASecureLife before joining SafeWise as a Staff Writer in 2020. John holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications, Journalism emphasis from Utah Valley University. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, photography, cooking, and starting countless DIY projects he has yet to complete.

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